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31 BEST Things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand (2024 Guide!)

31 BEST Things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand (2024 Guide!)

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Wanaka is a tiny, gorgeous town surrounded by the Southern Alps. Despite having a population of less than 10,000 people, the town really is an adventure lover’s paradise! From mountain carting down the very steep Cardrona mountain to jet boating the longest river in New Zealand, there really are tons of fun tours and things to do in Wanaka.

I’ve always thought of Wanaka as a town that’s both quirky and undeniably beautiful. In fact, I’d live in Wanaka in a heartbeat (but don’t tell Queenstown!).

They say the best things come in small packages, and the small town of Wanaka certainly delivers on that front. I dare you to read this article in full and not want to visit Wanaka at the end.

Here’s my guide to the 31 best things to do in Wanaka!

Don’t have time to read the full article? My absolute favorite things to do in Wanaka include:

  1. Hike Roy’s Peak for the amazing view of the Southern Alps.
  2. Take photos and try the lavender ice cream at Wanaka Lavender Farm.
  3. Go skiing at the Cardrona Ski Resort.
  4. Sample Central Otago wines on this full-day winery tour.
  5. Get a thrill and enjoy the epic views while quad biking on this Cardrona Valley tour from Wanaka.

The BEST Things to do in Wanaka

1. Hike Roy’s Peak

The famous Peak on the Roys Peak track.
The view most people come for on Roy’s Peak

Not for the faint-hearted, this famed hike has easily the most famous viewpoint in all of New Zealand near its summit. Roy’s Peak Track is a favorite with Instagram-lovers due to the phenomenal view of the Southern Alps from the famous viewpoint.

This view alone makes it one of the best hikes on the South Island and easily one of the most popular things to do in New Zealand. But don’t be fooled by its popularity, you have to work for that view!

Roy’s Peak is a 16-kilometer (10 mile) trek that takes around 7 hours to complete. The hike itself is mostly uphill with the odd viewpoint along the way, but for the majority of the hike, there isn’t a whole lot to see. For such a steep hike, the track is wide and well-trodden – so, that’s a plus.

Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks with you, as like many of the popular hikes in New Zealand, there’s no shop or café at the summit or on the way up. You’ll find the trailhead only 5 minutes out of Wanaka on Wanaka Mt Aspiring Road.

Important: Roy’s Peak is closed from the 1st of October to the 10th of November every year for the lambing season.

2. Explore the Wanaka Lavender Farm

Bailey walks down a row of lavender at the Wanaka Lavender Farm
In summer the colors are amazing!

Lavender is, in my opinion, the world’s most photogenic flower – it really pops on camera! So, as you can imagine, the photo opportunities at the Wanaka Lavender Farm are endless. Spread across 20 acres (8 hectares), the farm is also home to yummy lavender ice cream as well as Lakes Honey. And if you’re traveling with little ones, there’s an on-site petting zoo to keep them busy!

The best time to visit is from November through to the beginning of March when the lavender is blooming. Entrance fees to the Wanaka Lavender Farm are $15 NZD per adult in the winter and $7 in the summer.

Related Read: The Wanaka Lavender Farm is one of the best stops on the scenic drive from Wanaka to Mount Cook, as well as the drive from Wanaka to Christchurch – find out what the other best stops are in my blog!

3. Visit #ThatWanakaTree

The lone Wanaka Tree during the day
Unfortunately, the tree has lost a few branches since this photo. The worst part is that it was vandalized!

#ThatWanakaTree is a tree so famous that it has its own hashtag. This lone willow tree is the most photographed tree in New Zealand and visiting is one of the best free things to do in Wanaka!

That Wanaka Tree is located a short walk from Wanaka town center along the lakefront to Roy’s Bay. Just look out for the crowds gathered on the edge of the lake, and you’ve likely found it.

The best times to visit are at sunrise or sunset for that gorgeous glow on Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps behind the tree. This spot is one of the reasons Wanaka is considered one of the most romantic getaways in NZ. At sunset though, be prepared for a large crowd!

4. Go Skiing at Cardrona

A lady sits on a seat at the top of Cardrona Ski Field
Spring skiing at Cardrona

Did you know that Cardrona Ski Resort welcomes the most skiers each year of any ski field in New Zealand? Cardrona is ideal for beginners with its wide and open terrain, but it’s also popular with intermediate skiers and the more advanced.

Cardrona has a gondola as well as 2 high-speed quad chair lifts, with lots of runs ranging from green to black. Be aware, that over the Australian and New Zealand school holiday period from late June to early July, Cardrona gets really busy.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of the snow on Cardrona is machine-made. This may be disappointing for skiers who have previously skied in Canada, the USA, and parts of Europe, so something to keep in mind!

If you have little ones, the Ski School Program on the mountain is excellent. Cardrona also has childcare facilities if you wish to ski child-free.

The access road to Cardrona Ski Field is winding and for the most part – a gravel road, so be very careful driving up and down. Alternatively, shuttle buses are available from both Wanaka and Queenstown for about $40 NZD for a return ride.

If you really love skiing in New Zealand, then you can visit more ski fields than just Cardrona. In fact, there are four ski fields near Wanaka that are all under a 40-minute drive from town! Hit up Treble Cone Ski Area, Snow Farm (for cross-country skiing), or Soho Basin for a unique snowcat skiing experience.

Related Read: For more info on Cardrona Alpine Resort, read my blog about skiing in Queenstown!

5. Check out the Cardrona Bras

Two people at Bradrona near Wanaka, New Zealand
There are so many bras!

A cheeky stop along Crown Range Road that links Queenstown to Wanaka is the Cardrona Bras! The bras are located next to Cardrona Distillery just down the road from the Cardona Hotel.

The cause of some local controversy, it is believed the first bras appeared on the fence here in late 1998. Today, Cardrona’s population of bras has grown to thousands and the donation box at the site has raised thousands for cancer research. The stop has become so popular with tourists that the town of Cardrona has earned the cheeky nickname ‘Bradrona’.

This 6-hour Wanaka highlights tour visits some of the most famous spots here in town, including the iconic bra fence. You’ll also get to stop by the Cardrona Hotel for a drink, have many opportunities to take photos, and get to learn about the local gold mining community – neat!

It’s a popular tour for families, as well as those looking to explore at a relaxed pace. I love that it’s capped to just 11 people too – it really makes the whole experience feel super personalized, and you can ask all the questions you want! Tickets for this tour cost $209 NZD and can be booked online here.

6. Take in the views on the Rob Roy Glacier Track

Views of Rob Roy Glacier from the trail
What a view!

A relatively easy hike that’s an hour’s drive from Wanaka, the Rob Roy Glacier Track is a favorite of mine. As the name suggests, the main drawcard of this hike is the chance to see active glaciers.

The drive to the trailhead of the Rob Roy Hike is equally as stunning, as it brings you along the Matukituki Valley. The valley is home to all kinds of local flora and fauna, including the cute South Island robin and the photogenic paradise shelduck!

This 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) hike takes about half a day to complete (so, allow up to 4 hours). The track is located within Mount Aspiring National Park, with glaciers, waterfalls, and high mountain peaks! As mentioned, the active glaciers here are the flavor of the day on this hike. From the viewing points on the trail, you can listen for avalanches and other signs of movement within the glaciers.

This is a relatively easy hike, with a gradual incline towards the glacier viewing point. Worth noting is that, unlike Roy’s Peak, this hike has lots to see along the hike itself – so, be prepared to stop and take photos constantly.

If you can think of nothing better than a long holiday exploring the best hikes New Zealand has to offer, then this 23-day hiking experience might just be what you’re looking for! All accommodation is arranged, with most meals included, so you can totally relax and experience some really incredible hikes.

From the Rob Roy Glacier to Abel Tasman’s magical coastline, this tour’s itinerary is honestly so jam-packed it’s difficult to even pick a favorite day! You can check availability and learn more about this tour online here.

7. Happy hour lake cruise

Cruise on Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
Photo credit: Lake Wanaka Cruises

Relax with your drink of choice and catch the evening light in the Southern Alps (an excellent photo opportunity) on an hour-long cruise on Lake Wanaka. Did I mention that it’s happy hour on board the entire time?

Plus, this isn’t just any old boat – it’s a luxury catamaran.

Keep an eye out for #thatwanakatree and snap a unique photo of it from the water! From your starting point, your captain will transport you up to Waterfall Creek and then to Ruby Island. There are some pretty impressive views of Stevensons Peninsula, Beacon Point, and Eely Point along the way – it’s really cool to see them from a whole new perspective!

Remember, your ticket also includes a complimentary cheeseboard as well as a wine or beer, but further drinks can be purchased onboard at the bar. Tickets cost just $61 NZD, which I think is pretty great value considering the entire experience! You can check availability and reserve your spot online here.

Related Read: You can also go on a lake cruise in Queenstown!

8. Drive the Crown Range

View of Queenstown from Crown Range Road, New Zealand
What a view!

Drive the highest main road in all of New Zealand! A road trip from Queenstown to Wanaka on Crown Range Road is a staple on almost every Queenstown itinerary. Full of narrow twists and turns, this drive is not only one of the best things to do in Queenstown, but one of the best things to do if you’re renting a car in New Zealand!

You’ll certainly want to stop at some of the viewpoints along the way – one of the most popular is the viewpoint halfway up the hill called Arrow Junction Lookout after you take the turn-off near Lake Hayes in Queenstown. This viewpoint has an awesome view of Arrowtown and Lake Hayes.

Then, at the very top of the hill is another viewpoint and from there you can walk to the Crown Range Summit. So, park your car and continue along the narrow track for an equally great view of the valley.

If you plan on driving the Crown Range during the winter months in NZ (especially between May and September) be sure to bring snow chains as this road can get particularly snowy and closures are common. In winter, you should always check Crown Range Road conditions before you set off.

Related Read: For another epic road trip, check out the scenic drive from Queenstown to Mount Cook. Along this route, there are plenty of things to do and see.

9. Test your nerves and go skydiving

Skydiving at Wanaka
Photo credit: Skydive Wanaka

Depending on how brave you’re feeling – this skydiving experience in Wanaka gives you the choice between a 9,000 ft (2,743 m), 12,000 ft (3,658 m), or 15,000 ft (4,572 m) tandem skydive. But in all seriousness, if you’ve made the decision to skydive in New Zealand in the first place, you’re pretty dang brave in my opinion!

As I’ve mentioned numerous times already, the scenery in Wanaka is outstanding – so, what better way to see it than by jumping out of a specially designed fixed-wing plane? From your awesome vantage point high up in the sky, you’ll spot lakes, the Southern Alps, the Clutha River, and even see as far as Mount Cook!

Lesser known fact – you can reach a speed of up to 200 kmph (124 mph) when you skydive, that’s 200 feet (61 m) per second!

The minimum weight to go skydiving in Wanaka is 30 kg (66 lbs), and individuals weighing more than 95 kg (209 lbs) are subject to a Tandem Master assessment at check-in. Children over 6 can jump the 9,000ft option, provided they weigh more than 30 kg (66 lbs).

Prices are from $479 NZD for the 15,000 ft dive, $379 NZD for the 12,000 ft dive, and $289 NZD for the 9,000 ft dive. You can book your skydive in advance, so you don’t chicken out too!

10. Get tipsy on a wine tour/tasting

View of the vines at Rippon Winery in Wanaka
Rippon Winery is gorgeous.
Bailey and her partner smile at the camera with two glasses of red wine
My partner and I love a good wine tasting!

It’s no secret that Central Otago wines are among the most celebrated in the world. In fact, there are over 120 celebrated vineyards in this region (which includes Cromwell, Gibbston Valley, and Bannockburn). Gibbston Valley wine tours are some of my favorites and they often include sightseeing throughout the area as well.

Depending on how many wineries you want to visit/how much wine you want to taste, a good option is to go for a half-day or full-day tour! Not only is transport pre-arranged (very helpful after a few glasses!), but having tried these experiences myself, these are some of the best tours in Wanaka as they felt super streamlined without any waiting around.

If you’re a little shorter on time, then I’d suggest giving a half-day tour like this 4-stop boutique wine tour a go. Probably my favorite part about this tour (except for the beautiful wine, of course) was our super knowledgeable guide, who was really friendly and happy to answer any questions that we had about the wine, as well as Wanaka in general!

This tour also starts at around 1 pm, so by the end of the day you’ll be back in town in time for dinner. Talk about the perfect way to end the day! Tickets for this tour cost $269 NZD per person and include all transport – you can check out available dates and reserve your spot hassle-free online here.

If you’ve got a little more time on your hands, then a full-day wine tour here in Wanaka is a must! This 6 to 7-hour wine experience visits up to 6 boutique wineries and is a bit more slower-paced than the half-day tour. That said, all transport is included (including hotel pickup and drop-off), as well as a gourmet lunch with incredible vineyard views – talk about a spot to remember!

Tickets for the full-day tour cost just $335 NZD per person with all the goodies I’ve mentioned, as well as commentary from your local tour guide, all included in your ticket. I love that there’s a maximum of 8 people per group – it’s the perfect number to get to know everyone without it feeling crowded. This is a popular tour though, so don’t forget to book your spots in advance!

11. Drink local craft beer

Rhyme and Reason Brewery
Nothing beats New Zealand craft beer! Photo credit: Rhyme and Reason Brewery

Craft beer is almost a religion in New Zealand (and one we enthusiastically follow!), with most towns and cities producing their own craft beer. In fact, Wanaka is actually home to the most breweries per capita in New Zealand. To many, this alone makes it a top spot to visit on the South Island.

In Wanaka, a trendy local brewery that we love is Rhyme & Reason on Gordon Road. Here, they offer ten taps of their own beers, and sometimes a guest beer may appear behind the bar. A top tip for beer lovers is to book in advance for a tour of the brewery – these cost $25 NZD per person and also include beer samplings! You can book your tour on their website.

Wanaka Beerworks is another great spot that’s located at 891 Wanaka-Luggate Highway and is home to the super-popular Brewski and Jabberwocky beers. Since 1998, the guys at Wanaka Beerworks have certainly helped to put Wanaka on the craft beer map. They also run brewery tours which include samplings of their famous beers!

If you ever happen to be in Wanaka for the first week in December – then buying a ticket for the Wanaka Beer Fest is a must. Here, over a dozen of the country’s best and most-awarded breweries serve up the very best in craft beer. All this and more against the backdrop of Mt Iron, the Pisa Ranges, and Roy’s Peak! Tickets for this event typically cost around $50 NZD per person.

Related Read: For beer lovers, be sure to read my best places to drink craft beer in Queenstown guide.

12. Visit a local café

A cup of barista made coffee
Mmmm, coffee!

I’ve always said that nobody does coffee better than the Kiwis (sorry, not sorry Italy!). But in all seriousness, you can even grab an epic flat white at most gas stations across New Zealand. I think it’s fair to say that Kiwis are indeed very fussy about their coffee.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Wanaka is no stranger to great coffee! One of my all-time favorite cafés in Wanaka is The Coffee Shack on Brownston Street, which is open Monday to Friday from 7 am to 1 pm. The friendly folks serving up these epic brews never fail to put a smile on my face whenever I visit, and I’m sure you’ll be smiling just as much as me after one sip too!

Ritual Espresso on Helwick Street is another great coffee stop that’s just around the corner from Big Fig (one of my favorite local restaurants!). They also serve an awesome selection of crepes, sandwiches, and toasted paninis – a must if you’ve got a big day of adventuring ahead of you. They’re open daily from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Last but definitely not least, Curbside Coffee & Bagels on Ardmore Street is the perfect stop if you’ve got an early start ahead of you and need to grab a coffee for the road. They’re open daily from 7 am to 2:30 pm, and as you might have guessed, serve some delicious bagels – my favorite is the smoked salmon!

13. Frisbee golf

Disk golf at Wanaka in Wanaka, New Zealand
Photo credit: Disc Golf Wanaka

Frisbee golf is similar to golf in the sense that both can have 9 or 18 holes, but in this game, you throw a frisbee (also known as a disc) at a target! It’s a very popular sport, particularly on the South Island of New Zealand.

You can choose from two Frisbee golf courses here in Wanaka – Lismore Park and Eely Point. Eely Point is just a few minute’s drive from Wanaka town center. It’s a wooded course, similar to the Queenstown Gardens course (if you’re familiar with this popular course in Queenstown). It’s a little more difficult than Lismore, so it’s more suited to those who are familiar with the sport of Frisbee golf.

Lismore Park has 18 baskets and gorgeous views of Mount Aspiring and Roy’s Peak. Being just a short 5-minute walk from the town center, it’s super easy to reach and is a fun day out if you’re looking to stick a little closer to town!

You can rent your Frisbee discs at Outside Sports on Dunmore St and Racers Edge on Ardmore St.

14. Scenic flight

Views of the Southern Alps on a scenic flight
Flying high on my scenic flight above the Southern Alps near Mt Cook!

A helicopter flight over the Southern Alps, in my opinion, should be added to everyone’s bucket list – exploring untouched valleys and mountain ranges by sky is nothing short of a dream!

You have a couple of options when it comes to scenic flights, either taking a helicopter or a fixed-wing plane. Both offer a pretty unique experience, and it honestly comes down to personal preference. Although if I had to pick my favorite, I’d probably choose a helicopter flight, as there’s nothing cooler than landing at various spots for an epic photoshoot!

Helicopter flights from Wanaka

You definitely don’t have to break the bank when it comes to choosing a scenic flight, and this 35-minute scenic flight with an alpine landing is a great budget-friendly option. It flies into the stunning Mt Aspiring National Park, where you’ll land high on a glacier overlooking the Alps – talk about an awesome spot for some photos!

You’ll also be equipped with 2-way headsets, so you’ll be able to chat to your pilot during the flight, and learn all about the area as you go. This is honestly the best as you can ask all kinds of questions – so don’t worry if you think they might be silly.

It’s also one of the best things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park. When I did a scenic flight in Mount Cook, it was also 35 minutes, which to me was the perfect amount of time. Tickets for this experience cost $450 NZD per person and can be booked online here.

If you wish to be in the air for longer, you can explore even more of Mt Aspiring with this 1-hour helicopter ride. In my opinion, this would be my recommendation for a full experience that won’t feel as rushed as some of the shorter flights. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy two separate landings and really take in all those epic views.

Tickets for this experience cost $595 NZD per person, and you can book your spot on this tour here. Just don’t forget to bring your camera for this one!

Fixed-wing flights from Wanaka

If you don’t fancy a helicopter ride, then a fixed-wing plane may be the better option for you. These aircraft are larger than helicopters with 12 passenger seats typically. It is also more similar to your standard commercial airplane – which may make you feel more comfortable.

For the full Milford experience, this 4-hour scenic flight and cruise actually lands in Milford Sound, where after a 45-minute plane ride you can relax aboard a scenic boat cruise! With the chance to spot dolphins, penguins, and seals, this is definitely a tour for the wildlife lovers out there. Plus, after the cruise, you’ll board the plane once more for the return journey – how cool is that?

You can easily reach the meeting point a mere 10-minute drive from Wanaka, and with tickets priced at $645 NZD per person, this is definitely one of those unforgettable holiday activities! This is a super popular experience though, so don’t forget to book your spot online in advance.

Another popular option is this half-day scenic flight experience that includes a 25-minute flight plus a self-guided hike and jet boat ride. I haven’t tried this one myself, but I’ve heard from friends who have been on it that it’s a ton of fun, especially for nature lovers and thrill-seekers. Tickets cost $520 NZD per person, so don’t forget to check out available dates before they sell out!

15. Go Quad Biking

The Cardrona atv tour
Photo credit: The Cardrona

Whether it’s zipping through the jungles of Central America or exploring the trails here in New Zealand, I absolutely love the thrill that quad biking gives you! It’s got to be one of the most fun ways of getting off-road, which is why I’m always on the lookout for the best quad experiences wherever I go.

So when I found out about this Cardrona Valley tour from Wanaka, I knew I had to give it a shot. I mean, it’s not every day that you get to go quadbiking on top of mountains, after all! With over 170 5-star reviews, I knew this would be a tour to remember.

Lasting around 2 hours, this is an awesome experience to fit into any busy schedule, but don’t let the shorter timeframe fool you – it’s sure to be the highlight of your day. The guides did an awesome job of helping us get comfortable with the quad bikes, especially those in the group who had never ridden one before.

Probably my favorite part about the tour (apart from the epic views!), was that the group was limited to just 8 people, which meant we could ask plenty of questions during our stops.

With tickets costing $359 NZD per person, it’s not the cheapest tour around, but it is by far the best quad-biking experience in Wanaka, and one you’ll remember for a long time!

You can check availability and reserve your spot on this tour here.

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16. Jet boating

Bailey from My Queenstown Diary jet boating in Queenstown
As you can tell, I was a little scared!

Jet boating is a very popular activity in New Zealand, and one sure to get your blood pumping! In Wanaka, you’ll glide through the rivers of Mt Aspiring National Park, including the Matukituki, Wilkin, and Makarora rivers – this is a great experience for the whole family.

This Wanaka Jet boat experience departs directly from Wanaka lakefront and brings you across the lake taking in the scenery there and into the Clutha River (the longest river in New Zealand). It’s here on the Clutha River that your driver will really push the boat to its limits with 180-degree and 360-degree turns – talk about a thrill!

As you speed down the narrow braided sections of the river you may feel as if you’ll crash or even hit the banks on the side, but be assured your jet boat driver is very experienced and is just trying to scare you! Prices for this start at $135 NZD per adult and at $75 NZD per child (4-15). You can book your spot online here!

Top Tip – if you don’t want to get wet, sit on the driver’s side, the driver never wants to get him/herself wet!

17. Lose your mind and your way at Puzzling World

The front of Puzzling World in Wanaka
Over the years, Puzzling World has become a huge place with so many attractions. Photo credit Gracethang Depositphotos

Be a kid for a few hours and bend your mind at Wanaka’s weirdest attraction! It’s home to the Great Maze, which is seriously hard to get out of (believe me – it took me over an hour), with a whopping 1.5 km (1 mi) of passages!

Based in Wanaka for over 40 years, Puzzling World has enough activities for you to easily spend half a day there. It’s a perfect rainy day activity that’s fun for all the family!

One of my favorite things to do at Puzzling World is to visit the Ames Room, which features a technique used in the famed Lord of the Rings film series which makes individuals appear smaller or taller than they are in real life. The technique is known as forced perspective and is so cool to see for yourself.

Also, be sure to take a funny photo with the Leaning & Tumbling Towers outside Puzzling World!

Adult tickets are priced at $27.50 NZD for the Combo Deal (Great Maze & all Illusion Rooms) and $20 NZD for children over 5. Children under 5 go free.

Related Read: For more ideas of things to do in the rain, check out my blog about the best rainy-day activities in Queenstown!

18. Hike Isthmus Peak

View from the top of Isthmus Peak, Wanaka
Isthmus Peak is much less busy but just as beautiful.

A track for advanced hikers due to its steep rocky climbs, Ithumus Peak is one to add to your Wanaka bucket list. Located just 30 minutes from Wanaka, the hike is full of stunning scenery and should take you approximately 6 hours to return. The total length of the track is 8 kilometers (5 miles) each way, so it’s definitely one of the tougher ones on the list!

From Isthmus Peak Trail Small Parking (your starting point), follow the poled track until it widens to a 4WD track. From here, continue uphill to the Skyline Ridge. After the Ridge, follow the signs to your right for the Isthmus Peak Track. Once you’re at the top, you’ll swear you’re on Roy’s Peak (which is why Isthmus Peak is known as the “other Roy’s Peak”).

Important: Isthmus Peak Track is closed every year between 20th November and 20th December for fawning.

19. Hike Diamond Lake Track

Looking over Lake Wanaka on the Diamond Lake Viewpoint Track
Looking over Lake Wanaka! I wish I had better weather!

One of the best hikes in Wanaka, and one of the best things to do while you’re in town, is to hike the Diamond Lake Track. This easy 7-kilometer (4.3 miles) loop track is rated as easy, and as such, can get pretty busy, especially during the summer months.

On your way up, I recommend heading East (to the right) and taking the Rocky Mountain Track to Rocky Peak Summit. Along the way, you will be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of Mount Aspiring, Roy’s Peak, as well as Treble Cone ski field in the distance. Then you can come down the other side and loop back to your starting point.

I’d also highly recommend wearing hiking boots for this track, or waterproof shoes with good soles as it can be very slippery and muddy in parts.

Related Read: For other easy hiking trails nearby, check out my blog about the best easy hikes in Queenstown!

20. Visit Te Peka Karara/Stevensons Island

Stevensons Island cruise in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
Photo credit: Lake Wanaka Cruises

Te Peka Karara/Stevensons Island is an uninhabited gem in Lake Wanaka, home to native birds like the endangered Buff Weka! The 11-acre (4.5-hectare) island has been a nature reserve since the 1920s when its last residents left, now attracting outdoor lovers seeking scenic views and serenity.

The walk around Stevensons Island is very straightforward and is suitable for both children and the elderly. On your walk around the island, keep an eye out for the many native plants and birds. Speaking of birds, Stevensons Island is predator-free, so it has become a bit of a bird sanctuary!

The only trouble is, since it is an island, you’ll need a boat to get out there!

On this 2-hour tour to Stevensons Island, you’ll explore Lake Wanaka on a luxury catamaran and before stopping at Stevensons Island for a nature walk. Along the way, your friendly guide will tell you stories of the interesting history of the island, including its previous inhabitants.

Also, be sure to get a photo of the lake from the unique vantage point at the summit of the island – it’s so peaceful up there.

Tickets for this experience cost $81 NZD per person, with afternoon tea included in your ticket price! You can check availability for this experience and book your spot online here.

21. Hike Mt Iron

The view from Mt Iron in Wanaka
The views from Mt Iron!

If you’re looking for your next great photo stop, Mt Iron is the place to visit!

Rising approximately 250 meters (164 feet) above Wanaka township, the summit of Mt Iron offers some of my favorite 360-degree views of the Southern Alps, Lake Wanaka, and the Pisa Range! It’s also a nice and short 90-minute walking track, just 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from Wanaka town center.

The track begins from the car park off SH84. From here, take the left fork and climb uphill on the western side to the summit. You can then hike back down the eastern side of Mt Iron, following another trail and looping back to where you started.

Despite Mt Iron being an uphill climb, it is still considered a relatively easy hike and is suitable for all hiking abilities. I did see a couple of sections of loose rock, but these were small patches and easily avoidable.

22. Rock climbing and Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata Rock climbing in New Zealand
Me, on a Via Ferrata tour in Queenstown.

If you’ve never heard of Via Ferrata before, let me introduce you to your new favorite sport!

Ok, it might not be your favorite, but it’s definitely tons of fun, especially if you’re the adventurous type. It’s essentially rock climbing but using fixed cables, rungs, and ladders to help you traverse the route easily. You basically get the thrill of climbing without having to learn all the technical parts that go into traditional rock climbing!

This 5-hour climbing experience in Wanaka will guide you alongside a beautiful waterfall to spot hidden pools, all while enjoying some truly epic mountain views and a few bridge crossings too. It’s considered to be an introduction to Via Ferrata as a whole, so don’t worry if you’ve never tried it before!

Your expert guide will ensure you feel completely safe at all times and will assist you with your equipment if needed. I actually did Via Ferrata in Queenstown and loved it. We climbed so high, and although a little scary, I felt safe the entire time!

Tickets for this tour cost $336 NZD and you can check available dates online here.

23. Mt Aspiring Canyoning Adventure

Canyoning in Mt Aspiring National Park
Canyoning is one of the most underrated activities you can do in Wanaka!

Canyoning, for those unfamiliar with this activity, is basically a combination of swimming, sliding, climbing, and rappelling across a canyon. It’s certainly for the adventurous, but one I love and have done all around the world!

This full-day canyoning tour in Wanaka is definitely an experience to remember, showcasing the best of what canyoning has to offer. I mean, who could ask for more when it comes to the gorgeous landscape of Mt Aspiring National Park, a super friendly local team of guides, and a well-crafted itinerary?

You’ve got all sorts of mini-activities on the menu, from swimming to sliding to climbing and rappelling! This tour really does offer the whole package, and the best part is that it’s capped to a maximum of 5 people per group, so you’ll be getting personalized attention the whole way.

It’s also designed for people who have had no experience, so this is an awesome start to canyoning if you’ve never tried it before. You may also partake in a few cliff jumps (if you’re feeling brave!).

Be sure to bring a waterproof camera, so you can take plenty of photos! Tickets for this experience cost $450 NZD per person and can be booked online here.

24. Bike riding

A man sits on his mountain bike overlooking Lake Wanaka
Riding is one of the best ways to explore Wanaka

Whether you’re after a casual, scenic bike ride or a more exhilarating mountain biking experience – you will be spoiled for choice in Wanaka. There are heaps of trails that are accessible from Wanaka town center or are just a short drive away.

A firm favorite to cycle among locals is the Pisa Conservation Area, a 30-minute drive from central Wanaka. Here lies 22,000 hectares (over 54,000 acres!) of gorgeous high country with views of Upper Clutha and Wakatipu basins, and even the Southern Alps!

If you’re looking for a trail to start with, I’d suggest the Circuit Track, which is a relatively easy 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) long trail that should take most people between 4 and 5 hours.

To join the Circuit Track, follow the Roaring Meg Pack Track from Tuohys Gully parking lot and on to Tuohys Saddle. This trail does involve a number of fun river crossings but is overall suitable for all levels of expertise!

Cardrona Downhill Mountain Biking

If you want the thrill of downhill mountain biking without the struggle of riding uphill, then head to Cardrona Mountain Bike Park. This operates as the ski field in the winter, but in the summer months, they use the lifts to transport people and bikes up the mountains for downhill mountain biking.

You’ll need a good-quality mountain bike for this, as some of the trails are quite intense. You can save some money by renting your bike and lift pass in one package online here.

Bike the Wanaka and Hawea Trails

For those traveling as a family or those who fancy taking it easy on some nice and simple trails, this half-day self-guided bike rental is a brilliant way to spend some time out exploring Wanaka’s beautiful scenery. You’ll be provided with all the gear you’ll need, including your bike, a helmet, a trunk bag, a repair kit, and more!

You’ll be transported to where the trails start from Hawea, where you’ll then freely make your way back down towards Wanaka, all at your own pace. Tickets for this experience cost $100 NZD per person and can be booked online here.

Private, Safe, Self-Guided eBike Tour

For something a little different, this flexible self-guided eBike tour will have you exploring the best wine, beer, and food that the Wanaka region has to offer! Armed with your very own eBike and a map of the best spots to visit, the day is yours to customize completely, and that includes when and where you want to finish up.

Tickets for this experience cost $195 NZD per person, and you can reserve your eBikes online here.

Related Read: If you’re into cycling and heading to Queenstown, then check out all of the best bike trails in and around Queenstown!

25. Archery at Crossfire Wanaka

archery at Crossfire Wanaka in Wanaka, New Zealand
Photo credit: Crossfire Wanaka

Are you good enough to hit the bullseye?

At Crossfire, you can shoot from a covered booth down a 15-meter (50-foot) alley hoping to hit that bullseye! There’s a selection of archery bows available, from beginner-friendly bows ideal for children or if it’s your first time, to more advanced bows.

The experienced staff are super happy to give you all the help you need before you shoot, so you can be as confident as possible with a bow and arrow in your hand!

Children over the age of 8 are permitted to join in the fun and prices start at $25 NZD per person for 20 minutes. Shoot as much as you like within the 20 minutes or until your arm gets sore!

26. Eat at Tititea Steak House

t bone steak with shrimp on top
Tititea is the place to go for a fancy dinner! Photo credit: Tititea Steak House

There are some incredible restaurants in Wanaka, and one of the best is Tititea Steak House! At this incredible fine dining restaurant, Tititea is actually the Maori name for Mt Aspiring, referring to how their meats are a cut above, just like the mountain range out the window cuts through the clouds.

It is considered to be the best steak house in Wanaka, and is one of the top 3 overall restaurants as voted by the community in recent years. So it’s safe to say you’ll be in for a rare treat (pun intended!) when you visit.

When you go, make sure to try the slow-roasted Te Mana lamb shoulder, it’s their specialty and just falls off the bone. It’s on the pricier side at $70 NZD, but it’s large enough to share with your date if you’re willing to!

If you want to try a more hands-on experience, you can actually choose your desired cut of meat to be brought to your table along with a 400-degree stone. All you have to do is slice it to whatever thickness you want and cook it until it reaches the level you like. The stone grill options all include a side too.

Tititea Steak House is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm. I’d recommend booking a table in advance to be on the safe side!

27. Watch a movie at Cinema Paradiso

view of the outside of Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka, New Zealand
Photo credit: Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso has to be the cutest cinema in all of New Zealand! This small cinema in the center of Wanaka has just three screens and every movie shown here has an intermission just like the good old days (not that I ever experienced them!).

It’s not your ‘regular’ cinema, though. At Cinema Paradiso, instead of regular rows of seats, there is a selection of comfy sofas, leather armchairs, and even a vintage car that you can sit in to enjoy the movie.

During the intermission, you can head out to the café and grab a warm cookie, hot chocolate, or even a beer. Whatever takes your fancy really! Then, take it back to your comfy sofa and enjoy the second half of your movie.

It’s worth noting that seating is “unallocated” at Cinema Paradiso, so if you arrive early, you get the pick of the comfiest couches and chairs.

Adult tickets cost $17.50 NZD, seniors (Gold Card) $13.50 NZD, students (16+) $15.00 NZD, and youth (under 16) tickets are $12.00 NZD.

Related Read: Just an hour from Wanaka is Queenstown. Here, you’ll also find a boutique cinema along with lots of other indoor activities to choose from in Queenstown.

28. Get your speed on at Highlands Motorsport Park

Drive a Ferrari at Highlands Motorsport Park in Wanaka, New Zealand
Photo credit: Highlands – Experience the Exceptional

Highlands Motorsport Park is the place to be if you love things fast and furious! They’re located in the nearby town of Cromwell, which is about a 40-minute drive from Wanaka. You’ll find high-speed Go-Karts, the unique Highlands Taxi experience, and you can even drive a Ferrari around the custom-built track!

The Highlands Taxi experience is not your typical taxi ride, that’s for sure. If you don’t feel confident driving a Porsche Cayenne yourself, then this experience is perfect for you. For this activity, a driver will take you quickly (and safely) around the custom-built track, reaching speeds of up to 180 km (112 mph).

The Go-Karts are also super fun! It’s a the perfect way to spend the afternoon with some friends. Plus, it’s super affordable at only $49 NZD.

And if you’re simply going along to Highlands with your speed-loving friend or partner and don’t fancy joining in any of the high-speed activities, then there’s a lovely Sculpture Park on-site, a Motorsport Museum, and a café serving hot and cold delights.

Prices depend on the experience you choose. Museum entry is priced at $30 NZD per adult, go-karting is $49 NZD for a 10-minute session (single or tandem), Highlands Taxi costs $129 NZD for up to 4 people, and Supercar Fast Dash is priced from $199 NZD per person.

After enjoying Highlands, why not check out some of the other awesome things to do in Cromwell? This town is often overlooked by tourists, which is a shame since there’s plenty to do and see!

29. Go mountain carting at Cardrona

Bailey mountain carting at Cardrona, New Zealand
I loved it!
Bailey goes mountain carting at Cardrona, NZ
You go so fast!

This is New Zealand’s only mountain carting experience, and it’s available during the summer months. It’s certainly one for the adrenalin-lovers among you. I have experienced this myself, and believe me, the cart’s appearance may fool you – these things go FAST!

You do need to be careful on the Cardrona mountain carts – with all that speed you build up, you’ll need to watch out for those corners! The carts at Cardrona are purpose-built in Germany, with 3 wheels, a low-to-the-ground frame, and two hydraulic disc brakes. Although they are gravity-fed, it really is an experience for adrenaline junkies!

Cardrona has three mountain carting trails to choose from – so keep in mind that some trails may be closed on the day you are there. When we visited, though, all of the trails were open.

Your session runs for an awesome 2 hours and prices are $163 NZD for an adult and $82 for a child aged between 6 and 17 years old. You can check availability and book online here.

30. Eat at the food trucks in Wanaka

food trucks in Wanaka, NZ
It’s a local favorite!
Burrito at food trucks in Wanaka, NZ
The burritos are so good!

The foodie scene in Wanaka isn’t limited just to restaurants, there are lots of great food trucks dotted across town that are a real treat to visit! Tucked away on 51 Brownstone Street is a little food truck park with several food trucks permanently located here. There are a couple of picnic-style benches too, so you can enjoy your food on-site.

Fast food with a difference is how I like to describe it. Some of my favorites here include:

  • Burrito Craft – serving up yummy Mexican fare including burritos and enchiladas. The portions here are huge! They’re closed on Mondays but are open every other day from 12 pm to 8:30 pm.
  • Firebird – KFC-style fried chicken burgers or their “hot boxes” which include fries and dip – pure deliciousness! They’re open daily from 12 pm to 8 pm.
  • Dripping Bowl – is 100% refined sugar-free, and has a host of choices for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarians, and vegans. Dripping Bowl is open from Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 4 pm, and on the weekends is open from 8:30 am to 3 pm.

31. Play in the snow at the Snow Farm

Cross country skiing
I much prefer downhill skiing, but it’s a great workout!

Have you ever thought about giving cross-country skiing a try, but never got around to it? Or maybe you’re a seasoned pro looking for your next great slope?

Trying a full-day ski experience skiing at the Snow Farm in Cardrona is a great introduction to the sport because included in the price you get a one-hour lesson for beginners! After the lesson, which happens daily at 10:30 am, you are free to explore the cross-country trails on your own.

A full day is priced from $109 NZD, which gives you 7 hours in total on the trails – not bad value if you ask me.

Of course, as the name suggests, this experience is only open during the winter months (June to September). With that said, it’s ideal for the whole family, especially for the very little ones, because if I’m honest, there isn’t a whole lot for your tiny tots to enjoy in the adventure haven that is Wanaka. At the Snow Fun Zone, you can build a snowman, make snow angels, and throw snowballs!

Also at the Snow Farm is the Tubing Hill. Luckily, your Snow Fun Zone Pass includes the use of the tubes. Due to the limited number of tubes, during busy times you may need to share your tube with others. This is so everyone can get a turn.

Prices are from $20 NZD per person for a day pass to the Snow Fun Zone (for both children and adults).

Related Read: On a budget? There are lots of free and cheap things to do in Wanaka too!

Where to Stay in Wanaka

Room at the Archway Motel
One of the single rooms at the Archway Motels & Chalets
Kitchen at the Manuka Crescent Motel in Wanaka
Our room at Archway Motels & Chalets had a full kitchen!

There are tons of places to stay in Wanaka. Seriously, you’ll have so many options that it can be overwhelming. Luckily, I’ve stayed in Wanaka countless times and can recommend the accommodation options below:

Hawea Hotel – $

The Hawea Hotel is the perfect budget option for anybody looking to save a few dollars. That said, the rooms are really comfortable, clean, and offer incredible lake views! It is likely the best value for money hotel in Wanaka, with all rooms including a flat-screen television, a private bathroom, and a balcony too.

A one-night stay here starts from around $180 NZD per night, with budget dorm rooms as well as double rooms and family rooms available. You can check your dates and reserve your room here on Booking.com.

Archway Motel & Chalets – $$

When I travel, I often like to stay in apartment-style hotels so that I can cook my own meals. The Archway Motels & Chalets offers studio apartments, one-bedroom apartments, as well as two and three bedroom apartments for really reasonable prices! These are great for families or people traveling in groups (I stayed here last time I traveled with friends).

The motel is located only a short drive from town in a peaceful area – talk about holiday bliss! Room rates start at around $200 NZD per night, averaging around $350 NZD in the high season. You can check availability and book your stay online on Booking.com here.

Club Wyndham Wanaka – $$$

If you’re visiting Wanaka to relax and spoil yourself, then there’s no question that you should stay at Club Wyndham! This hotel is located right in town only minutes from Lake Wanaka and features an outdoor heated pool, waterslide, hot tub, sauna, and an onsite bar and café.

All rooms here come with a kitchenette or full kitchen, and many also offer lake views. You’ll also have access to their fitness center too if you fancy working up a sweat before hitting the sauna! Rooms here at Club Wyndham start at around $300 NZD and can be booked here on Booking.com.

For more detailed information, check out my blog all about where to stay in Wanaka! It includes different areas to stay in and the best hotels for all budgets!

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

A lady sits in the snow at Roy's peak
Thanks for reading from Roy’s Peak!

In Wanaka and the surrounding area, there truly is no shortage of amazing things to do. Those were 31 of the best things to do, and I’m sure you’ll agree that Wanaka is an exciting place to explore.

Thanks so much for reading my guide to the best things to do in Wanaka. If you found this blog helpful, then browse around, I have so many more articles about Wanaka, Queenstown, and more! I’ve also added a few posts down below that I think you’re going to like.

South Island road trips in New Zealand

Free and cheap things to do in Christchurch

Best hikes in New Zealand

Raliza Kamarudin

Monday 22nd of January 2024

thanks for sharing

Qian

Friday 7th of April 2023

Hi Bailey:

My name is Chen from Brisbane, Australia. My husband and I are going to New Zealand next month, and I have just read your article"31 Best Things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand" in your block "My Queenstown diary". I have noticed that the first photo of the article ( you were standing on the big stone in the lake) was very beautiful, and I was wondering if it is possible that you could tell me where did you take the photo. Your article is an essential travel guide for me; thank you very much, and I cannot wait to see your beautiful country. Have a lovely Easter long weekend. Kind regards

Chen

Bailey

Thursday 20th of April 2023

Hey Qain,

That place is called Beacon Point.

So glad you like the blog!

Enjoy Wanaka Bailey