Article Explore Lake City Wanaka
Driving to Wanaka from the West Coast, the route will guide you through stunning landscape. Unfortunately, the weather was rather bad during our drive and we couldn’t see the whole beauty. Having said that; even on that rainy and cloudy day, we had some spectacular views. We would recommend taking a whole day for this part of the itinerary because there are lots of little things to explore or places to take a picnic break. You will get the chance to stop at different waterfalls, pools and lookouts. Just to name a few: Ship Creek, Billy Falls, Thunder Creek Falls, Fantail Falls, Haast Pass Lookout, Blue Pools Walk.
As soon as you reach Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea you have to focus on your driving and take extra care because the scenery is breathtaking. Better take some time and stop at the different lookouts to enjoy the landscape around you.
We recommend you visit the i-site and the Department of Conservation Info Center to get to know more about the area. The DOC Info Center is a great place to plan your hikes, since they can provide you the most recent information about the track conditions, weather forecast and further advice for the area. There are plenty of hikes and walks around the lakes and through the closely located Mount Aspiring National Park. We were especially interested in the Rob Roy Track through the National Park, but found out in the DOC Info Center that the track was closed due to a recent landslide.
We chose to stay at the Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park, a great Campground with a beautiful view of the mountains and great facilities including spa, sauna and free unlimited wifi. It is a short 5 minute drive to the town center and the holiday park even provides shuttles to Wanaka township almost every hour.
The town center of Wanaka offers a variety of bars, restaurants and cafes close to the lake, combined with ski, snowboard and mountain bike rentals and stores. There are three different ski fields in a close 40-minute drive distance around Wanaka, which makes it a perfect base to stay for ski vacation. The ski season in that area is between June and mid-October. In the afternoon, the bars were packed with people, enjoying a drink in the sun and the waterfront of the town had a cool and vibrant ski field atmosphere.
We started our first day with the Mount Iron Loop Track that takes a total of 1-2 hours back to the carpark. The walking track is an easy start to get an overview of Wanaka and enjoy the view over the lake. Right next to the Mount Iron carpark, you will find Wanaka’s infamous Puzzling World which includes a great maze and illusion rooms with many puzzle opportunities for all ages. We spent the rest of the day strolling around Wanaka and exploring the local shops and cafes.
We initially planned on hiking either up to Roy’s Peak or Isthmus Peak on our second day. We came, however, to the conclusion that we did not feel fit enough to do either one of those walks. Both peak walks are considered as hard and require a climb of more than 1,000 meters in altitude. In comparison, the Tongariro Crossing made us climb around 750 meters. In the end, everyone has to decide individually if they are fit and eager enough for those peak walks.
As an alternative to the peak walks, we found the Rob Roy Track (which was closed unfortunately) and the Minaret Burn Track, which we chose for our second day. It took us about 20 minutes to drive up the lake to the start of the track. The full track takes about 5-6 hours, along the shore of Lake Wanaka and through the Mount Alta Conservation Center to reach the Minaret Burn. We decided to do the 4 hour return walk to Colquhouns Beach and back to the carpark. The first half was already great, but the closer we got to Colquhouns Beach, the view and the area around us became even more beautiful and stunning. The entrance to the beach was easily overlooked and it seemed that we were one of the few people during the last months that visited this remote part of Lake Wanaka. We only encountered a couple at the carpark when we arrived and didn’t meet or even see anyone else during our whole 4 hours walk. We can highly recommend this walk to everyone who feels themselves not fit enough for the peak tracks or likes to walk along the lake through the beautiful landscape. We rewarded ourselves with some award-winning ice cream and sorbet at Patagonia Chocolates, which was pricey but totally worth it. The next day we continued driving to Queenstown.