Wanaka is a town situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand. It is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park.


A tree in a lake surrounded by mountains
Summers in Wanaka have picturesque vistas such as this tree

Wanaka shares many of the characteristics that draw millions of tourists to Queenstown each year – the mountains, the lakes and the outdoors – yet it enjoys a far smaller profile. In many ways it's the little brother to Queenstown – many would say the cooler little brother. While it doesn't have as many hotels and restaurants or the large bar scene, it still has a few great attractions of its own, and respectable eating and nightlife.

During winter, Wanaka is used as a base for skiing and working in Cardrona, Snowpark/Snowfarm and Treble Cone and has a true 'ski town' vibe. During the summer it's a busy holiday town for New Zealanders; many of the houses in town are baches (holiday houses). Lake Wanaka, New Zealand's fourth-largest at 192 km2 (74 sqmi), is also a popular boating destination (it's warmer than Lake Wakatipu), as is the nearby Lake Hawea.

Wanaka is pronounced wanna-ka (wanna as in wannabe). Many international tourists before have made the mistake of pronouncing Wanaka as if it rhymed with tanker, much to the locals' amusement.

Get in

Wanaka from Mount Roy

By plane

The closest international airport is in Queenstown which services flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, plus domestic flights are handled from Auckland and Christchurch. Wanaka Airport is also served by at least two flights most days from Christchurch by Air New Zealand.

By car

Wanaka is a two-kilometre detour off State Highway 6, via State Highway 84. From State Highway 8, Wanaka is a 30 km detour via State Highways 8A, 6 and 84.

Approximate distances and times (non-stop):

By bus

Several bus companies connect Wanaka with Queenstown, Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Christchurch and Dunedin. Most buses arrive and depart from the Log Cabin at 100 Ardmore Street, on the lakefront opposite the Wanaka i-site information centre.

Get around

Lake Wanaka view

Wanaka is compact and located on the lake shore. It is an easy walk to shops and restaurants and a number of operators offer car or mountain bike hire. Also, if you're interested in getting around the area, perhaps visit Lake Hawea, there is a new local carpool system that works on a gold coin donation for a ride.



Wanaka is a mecca for outdoor adventure; day hikes, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, boating on the lake or rivers, horsetrekking, skydiving, scenic flights and more. There is also a range of hiking and mountaineering in the rugged and spectacular Mt. Aspiring National Park World Heritage area; and skiing in the nearby skifields - Cardrona, Treble Cone, Snowpark/Snow Farm, and further afield near Queenstown Coronet Peak and the Remarkables. The multitude of activities in Queenstown are also just an hours drive away, so its possible to base yourself in Wanaka while heading over there for the day to hit up the activities on offer.



There is a New World supermarket a block back from the lake for all your food supplies.

Shopping opportunities are limited, as you would expect in a town the size of Wanaka. There is a good range of ski/snowboard/outdoor and also clothing shops to get you prepared for the mountains.







For luxury or more upmarket stays, there are several excellent lodges.

Go next

Routes through Wanaka

Fox Glacier Haast  N  S  Cromwell Queenstown

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.