Top 10 Activities in Wanaka

One of the most visited towns in New Zealand, tourists and skiing enthusiasts make their way to this small South island town year-round to enjoy the world-class ski fields and amazing alpine scenery. However, there is much more to Wanaka than just he

One of the most visited towns in New Zealand, tourists and skiing enthusiasts make their way to this small South island town year-round to enjoy the world-class ski fields and amazing alpine scenery. However, there is much more to Wanaka than just heading for the snow. Read on to find out our top 10 best things to do in Wanaka!

1. Roy's Peak And Mt Iron Hiking Trails

One of the first things on most people bucket list when they arrive in Wanaka is to find a way to get up high and soak up those stunning views of Lake Wanaka and its majestic surrounds. One of the most common ways to do that is to take a walk.

Unsurprisingly, there are many walks in and around Wanaka (this is NZ, after all), but a couple of the most popular are the Roy's Peak and Mt Iron hikes. The Roys Peak track is definitely a bit on the challenging side – it will take you the best part of a day for the round trip (5-6hours) with the possibility of snow at the peak if you are hiking in the winter months.

Whereas the Mt Iron loop track is much easier to manage with only a 2 hour turnaround. Both options offer 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape, including the picturesque mountains, Lake Wanaka and the township. Promise you won't be disappointed!

2. Puzzling World

In the mood for something a bit different? Head on over to the quirky Puzzling World attraction on the Wanaka-Luggate Highway. Puzzling World is a Wanaka-style amusement centre that includes a 3D maze, optical illusion rooms, puzzling rooms, and abstract buildings such as the "Leaning Tower of Wanaka".

Entry to Puzzling World is set at a reasonable $25 per adult and $18 per child, and the facility is open every day from 9 am until 4.30 pm, except Christmas Day. Enjoy this mix of interactive activities and intellectual challenges for as long as you want and exercise both the body the mind!

Best of all, you can take this one on the fly as bookings are not required. Wholesale group rates are available. If you've caught the puzzling bug, check out the online store for puzzles, oddities and more!

3. Canyoning

Looking for a way to really immerse yourself in the stunning scenic landscape that Wanaka is famous for – literally? Then canyoning is the activity for you! This amazing day out will take you on some of the most memorable adventures of your trip to Wanaka.

After donning a nice thick wetsuit (to protect you from the cold), you will explore the incredible forest lined waterways and their impressive rock formations on foot by abseiling down waterfalls, sliding down smooth rock faces, jumping into crystal clear rock pools, zip lining and swimming as you make your way through the deep canyons.

There are multiple canyoning operators in Wanaka, with beginner, intermediate and advanced options for either half-day or full-day trips. All equipment is usually provided, except you will need swimwear and a towel. Prices range from $200 per person up to $600 for the longer full-day trips. Be aware that high rainfall and bad weather may mean the activity is cancelled for safety reasons. Canyoning is only available from October through to April.

4. Heli Skiing

For any avid skier or snowboarder, heli skiing is the premium off-piste snow experience. Heli access to fresh untouched powder, huge vertical descents, rugged backcountry terrain, no crowds, and free rein on the slopes to carve up your own path is the ultimate way to enjoy the Wanaka region.

Right in the heart of the magnificent Southern Alps, Wanaka offers up some of the best heli ski and snowboard terrain in New Zealand. The vast and diverse landscape extends out in and around Mt Aspiring National Park.

Heli-skiing or heliboarding isn't the cheapest of activities, but the rewards are worth it! Prices range from around $1000 for a 3-4 run day up to $2000 for daily run packages, or you can look at premium private charter options for groups of 4 to 8 people, which offer whole day packages and unlimited runs. Harris Mountains Heliski and Southern Lakes Heliski both have a base in Wanaka and are a great place to start your heli skiing adventures.

Please note: Heli skiing is very much a weather dependent activity as mountain weather can be harsh and unpredictable; however, don't worry full refunds will be given if adverse weather conditions prevent flying on your day.

5. Indoor Rock Climbing

Suppose the weather isn't cooperating, or you just feel like escaping cold for a while. In that case, the indoor rock climbing arena at Basecamp Adventures Wanaka is the perfect activity for you.

The indoor climbing facility is equipped with something for everyone; for beginners, give the good old clip-n-climb walls a go and race your friends to the top. Or for the more advanced practice your skills on the Sport Wall, or try your hand at Bouldering in the Boulder Cave, complete with a variety of wall slopes ranging from vertical to 20 degrees.

Admission to Clip n Climb is just $20, which includes your harness hire; if you wish to have a go on the Sport Wall it will be slightly more at $24 plus $6 for shoes. Basecamp Adventures is located at 50 Cardrona Valley Road. It will take you about 30 minutes to walk there from the centre of town or just 5 minutes in the car.

6. Scenic Flights Wanaka

If wildly speeding down the slopes on skis or hanging upside down from a rock is not your thing, enjoying a leisurely scenic flight is another very popular activity in Wanaka. What better way to see the splendour and magnificence of that surrounding landscape than from above in the comfort of a warm cabin?

Take in the snow-capped peaks, rugged mountain ranges, picturesque Lake and get the lay of the land without having to hike/climb/ski or bike tirelessly! Just make sure you have plenty of space on your phone because you won't stop taking pictures the whole time you are up there – for sure!

Scenic flight prices vary depending on the mode of transport and flight path. Here are two examples:

·         Southern Alps Air: 20 minutes 'Local Wanaka Scenic Spectacular' $99 (Aeroplane)

·         Wanaka Helicopters: 25 minutes Wanaka Experience' $250 (Helicopter)

7. Waterfall Climb

Take on the world's highest waterfall cable climb with Wildwire Wanaka and enjoy a challenging unique-to-New Zealand experience! This fantastic climb encompasses three different levels of difficulty and includes traversing rocky ravines, suspension bridges, hidden pools and the waterfall - of course!

After the day's safety checks, an expert guide will lead the way, so there no need to worry; a good level of fitness is required, however, along with sturdy shoes. All climbing and safety equipment is provided, and groups of up to eight are easily accommodated.

The three tour levels include a short 150 metre climb for $199, a following 180 metres (total 320 metres) for $299 and the complete 450 metre climb for $599, which includes a helicopter ride for the descent. The minimum age requirement is 10 years.

8. Paragliding

Experience the tranquil thrill of tandem paragliding and drift over Lake Wanaka while you enjoy the amazing 360 degree views of Lake Wanaka, Roys Peak, and the Matukituki Valley. This beautiful flight experience is like no other, allowing you to enjoy the thrill of flight without a noisy motor or the restrictions of a cabin.

Launching from over 800 metres above the valley, the average flight time is 10-12 minutes, however, on a good day this can be extended. The entire trip from pick up to drop off, including flight time and safety briefing takes around an hour.

Sneakers or running type shoes are the required footwear, and it is advised to bring sunglasses and a jacket for the flight. Tandem flights cost around $299 per person including in-flight photos and videos. See the experts at Wanaka Paragliding for the best deals.

9. Lake Wanaka Cruise

Getting out on the Lake is a must-do when visiting Wanaka, and what better way to do that than on a relaxing boat tour. Cruising on the Lake is the best way to explore the unique islands nestled among the Lake's borders, and the best part is guided tours allow you to disembark and enjoy a nature walk while you are there. 

Wanaka Cruises are the people to see for a range of guided tours ranging from one hour up to three and a half-hour trips. Always book ahead to avoid disappointment in peak season. Prices vary from around $50 per person up to $160 for the longer excursions.

All island walks are not compulsory; you can just remain on the boat or wander about the beach while you wait for the group to return. Cruises are of course subject to favourable weather conditions - remember to take a jacket with you as the wind can be pretty chilly out on the water!

10. Skiing And Snowboarding In Wanaka

We simply can't create a top ten activity list for Wanaka without mentioning the epic skiing options available in the area. Wanaka is one of the South Islands most popular ski destinations, and the snow never disappoints! There are four great ski and snowboard experiences all within 45 minutes drive of Wanaka, they are;

Treble Cone

The largest ski field in the South Island, Treble Cone is famous for its legendary terrain, including long well-groomed runs and some of the best off-piste terrain around.

Cardrona Alpine Resort

One of the best ski fields for beginners, families and intermediate skiers and boarders, Cardrona offers heaps of varied terrain and has four chairlifts running at total capacity.

Snow Farm

Perfect for the whole family, Snow Farm provides a snow covered family-focused Snow Fun Zone for all ages. Enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, stay in a backcountry hut, or just play all day in the Fun Zone!

Soho Basin

A privately operated ski area, Soho Basin offers exclusive access via state of the art snow-cat transportation. A gourmet three-course lunch is included, along with experienced guides and access to the best terrain.

The Wanaka ski season is best from June through to October. Look out for shuttle buses in the township to carry you to and from the ski fields if you don't have a suitable vehicle.

We hope you have enjoyed reading about all the great things to do in Wanaka – need some accommodation while you are here? Join us at Wanaka Springs Lodge and enjoy the warmest welcome in our purpose-built luxury lodge accommodation.

Posted by Rob Haydon on July 13, 2021