Easy walks around Wanaka

Wanaka is a lakeside town surrounded by snow capped mountains, one hour's drive from Queenstown. You don't need a car to do walks with great views.

I was walking down the track from the top of Mount Iron and stopped at the bench. The white-capped mountains edged by their green skirts and the stark contrast of Lake Wanaka’s deep blue water sent my heart into my throat.

As Edna St Vincent Millay wrote, “Oh world I can not hold thee close enough.”

I walk every day here in Wanaka and I never have to travel far before I am swept away by this town’s beauty. No doubt, it’s incredible to be able to see it from a boat or a plane, and there are plenty of opportunities to do so, but sometimes it’s the simplest, most basic activity that brings us closest to the earth and our humble relationship with it.  

I can walk from downtown to heart-stopping views without turning the key in my ignition. And so can every visitor who stays a few days in Wanaka.

Mount Iron

The most popular walk with both locals and visitors is Mount Iron. The walk up the front side - the side closest to town - is the most open. The path weaves up the mountain side, increasing its accessibility but it’s fairly steep so anyone a little out of shape should take it slowly, stopping several times to admire the changing views on the way up. 

Two stiles (steps which let you climb over a fence) divide the climb. The first is about a third of the way up. After the second there’s just a tiny distance to go.

From the top, stretching out to the west is Lake Wanaka, to the north-west Dublin Bay and to the North, Lake Hawea. To the south are the Cardrona Valley, the Criffel and the Pisa Ranges. Turn to the east and the landscape flattens into broad plains toward Hawea Flat and Luggate.

Set into the stone plinth is a guide to the mountains in the Southern Alps.

The backside path

There’s also a path on the “backside” of the mountain. It’s slightly steeper, but descends through native bush providing more shade on hot sunny days. Once at the bottom, there’s a bit of a walk to get back to town.

Be sure to take water (there’s no drinking fountain up top), a snack or a picnic. Even if it’s a cloudy day, the landscape and the ever-changing light on the mountains and lakes will make it worth the climb.

There are toilets and a drinking fountain at the bottom of the western track.

Where to stay

When you visit Wanaka, stay with us at Criffel Peak View. We offer B&B and apartment accommodation just a few minutes' walk from the town centre. We've got the local knowledge to help you plan your stay, and can recommend the best walks and activities in the area. Enjoy spectacular views, stylish facilities and warm hospitality in Wanaka, one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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