The resort town of Wanaka, located on New Zealand’s South Island, is an incredible place to visit. The breathtaking landscape has so much to offer anyone that is a fan of outdoor activities such as walking, skiing, snowboarding or mountain biking. It’s also home to many great cafes, restaurants, galleries and a really funky cinema! One of the best things about Wanaka is its lack of commercialisation, making it a truly authentic and picturesque place to visit. Here are a few of the top things to do in Wanaka in summer, one of my favourite towns in New Zealand and a must on any New Zealand itinerary!
VIDEO: Top Things Do To in Wanaka in Summer
Prefer to watch than read? Then check out this fantastic YouTube video about the top places to visit in Wanaka this summer.
Fun Things To Do in Wanaka this summer
Visit Puzzling World
Puzzling World is a great way to spend a rainy day in Wanaka – or a sunny day depending on your priorities! At Puzzling World (as the name suggests) you have the opportunity to put your problem solving skills to the test by tackling various types of puzzles. If you want a truly interactive experience give the outdoor maze a try as it’s definitely worth the challenge.
Puzzling World is a good place to have fun, experience non-stop entertainment and take plenty of quirky photos – some that made my Dad look like a kid and me look like a giant! It’s great for a family day out with the kids (well, I went when I was 23!!) or just to go with other adults and act like big kids yourselves.
Hike Roys Peak Track
If you’re after incredible views then don’t miss Roys Peak Track. This is an extremely popular hike for tourists and locals to Wanaka alike. The summit of this beautiful hike gives what can only be described as some of the most incredible views of Lake Wanaka and the peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park.
Be prepared however as the trail is a steep ascent and is full of dirt, mud and snow. Another word of advice would be to eat a big breakfast before you head off on the hike and bring plenty of water and snacks – you’re gonna be hungry alright! There are a number of points when the ground is flat along the trail which will allow you to take a much-needed break and munch down those well-earned treats. The last word of advice is to bring some warm clothes as once you make it to the top it might be windy and chilly.
Jump out of a plane!
“Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference”.
These are the wise words I was given before jumping out of a plane from a dizzying height of 15,000 feet over Lake Wanaka! I had being for a freezing cold swim in the lake earlier that morning and my skydiving buddy / guide / lifesaver remarked that I was crazy to go swimming there in February – until I reminded him he jumps out of planes for a living!
The 3 other jumpers casually ‘fell’ from the plane at 12,000 feet but as I had opted for the ultimate adrenaline rush from the altitude of 15,000 feet I had to hold on a bit longer. As the plane slowly climbed higher and higher, and my heart started beating faster and faster at the thought of soon having to jump out, I was given a oxygen mask to wear (as we were climbing to an altitude where it was becoming difficult to breathe). Far from calming me down or making me feel safer, this actually made me nearly poop my pants. Finally we had reached our destination and from the plane we flew. It was the experience of a lifetime and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Lake Wanaka!
Take a Lake Wanaka cruise
Who doesn’t love a good cruise? I do! Lake Wanaka Cruises offer a wide variety of different options, and is a great way to spend a few hours or more depending on where you decide to go. The cruise itself offers incredible scenery and you can choose between visiting a number of different islands. Ruby Island is a beautiful place and has many scenic walking trails.
Moahau Island is a simply beautiful place to visit. The island is perfect for nature lovers and there are loads of incredible birds to be found. The boats are quite comfortable and the lake is calm. The guides are always extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Make sure to book your trip in advance as you really don’t want to be disappointed and not get a space!
Visit the Wanaka War Memorial
If you’re a history buff or just want to pay your respects, it’s definitely worthwhile visiting the war memorial while you’re in Wanaka. From the war memorial, there are some incredible views of Wanaka due to too because of its location on a small hill overlooking the town.
Go mountain bike riding in Sticky Forest
Intermediate to advanced mountain bike riders will love Sticky Forest for its many trails. If you feel like challenging yourself, gear up and head here!
Take a trip to Mt Aspiring National Park
Mt Aspiring National Park is filled with wild animals, beautiful mountains and rivers. It has a wide variety of hiking trails on offer. One good option is the blue pools trail which is only a 20 minute to half an hour walk through the beautiful rainforest where you can view incredibly picturesque turquoise blue pools.
Unfortunately, the pools are only turquoise blue during good weather, so check the forecast before you head out there. The track to the pools is slightly downward so going back up is a bit more strenuous on the legs. A word of warning – be careful of the sandflies! Long sleeved clothing is a good option to save you from their reign of terror!
Hike Mount Iron Track
If you want to experience the best 360-degree view of the city and its surrounding areas, then a bit of a trek up the Mount Iron Track is what’s recommended for you! And for these views, it’s definitely worth the climb!
Be prepared though, as descending is a bit of a challenge, it’s quite steep and can be a bit slippery so it’s a good idea to wear some good hiking boots! Top tip – it’s best to go early in the morning because there are a lot fewer people around!
Eat some cake at Relishes Cafe
Head to Relishes Cafe which serves up a great breakfast, delicious lunch and has the most amazing carrot cake, too! The restaurant sits overlooking the lake so you can take in the lovely views as you enjoy your meal. There’s a nice seating area and the place has a nice overall feel with a warm and cosy fireplace. Looking for dinner recommendations? Well, the seafood chowder is an absolute must for seafood lovers.
Eat some ice cream at Black Peak Gelato
Black Peak Gelato has an incredible range of ice creams as well as shakes on offer. It’s the perfect place for anyone with a sweet tooth, so don’t be surprised if there’s a long queue during peak hours as it’s extremely popular among both tourists and locals. The portions are very generous so make sure you turn up hungry . There is also a wide range of sorbets for those who want a dairy-free option. A top recommendation has to be the salted caramel or the chocolate gelato – Ferrero Rocher is absolutely to die for. The staff are extremely friendly too and will make you feel really welcome.
Have a hearty meal at Kai Whakapai Cafe
If you’re looking for a good breakfast, lunch or dinner option head to the Kai Whakapai Cafe and Bar! For breakfast, there loads of tasty options but the eggs benedict with salmon is definitely one of the best. If you’re avoiding meat you’re in luck, as the vegan pizza is heaven! There are also a number of gluten-free choices available on the menu. And the tea and coffee is top quality!
Ah, the cinema. Always a fantastic option for a rainy day and why should it be any different because you’re in Wanaka? The Cinema Paradiso in this town is something really special. The staff are incredibly friendly and we love the quirky designs throughout, featuring old cars, antique chairs and couches.
They also offer incredible homemade snacks including freshly baked cookies and ice creams. They also serve pizzas, wine and beer which you can order at the interval in case you missed your chance on arrival! Not a bad deal for 15 dollars a movie! Screenings are of new movies and older ones too. It’s a popular spot, so it’s a good idea to book your seat in advance.
Hit the slopes
New Zealand is famous for its slopes and there are some good options in Wanaka too. Cardrona is a top place to go if you’re skiing in Wanaka, but be warned that it’s extremely busy during the school holidays. Treble Cone is another top ski slope which is a little less busy and a bit more challenging.
Basecamp Wanaka Climbing Centre
If you have the kids with you, then Basecamp Wanaka Climbing Centre will definitely keep them amused. It’s the perfect mixture of challenge and enjoyment for any family day out. The staff are extremely helpful and friendly too.
If you’re after one of the most adventurous things to do in Wanaka, go canyoning with a guide! This is a once in a lifetime sort of trip, so be sure to take a waterproof camera with you. The hike up the mountain has some pretty impressive views but the adventure really starts once you get there.
Deep Canyon canyoning adventures offer a wide variety of options including abseiling, zip lining and rock scrambling. They’re a great company – so adventurous types get booking! The water is extremely cold but the gear offered is of very good quality, so will protect you from getting the shivers!