Little Wanaka, with a big heart
Where is it?
In the land of the ‘long white cloud’ you’ll notice these floating around when you come to New Zealand. Fly into Christchurch and enjoy a stunning 6 hour drive past the beautiful turquoise lakes of Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. While your journeying it’s worth a stop-off at Mt Cook National Park along the way to experience a night under the stars in a world renowned dark sky reserve and step your way along the Hooker Valley Track.
You’re 2nd option is far less driving, fly into Queenstown (the party capital of the Southern Alps), take a short hour drive over the Crown Range, a beautiful mountain road with many an option to pull over for a cool shot. Also along this road I photographed the infamous southern lights late into the night.
What pursuits can you do here?
The list feels pretty endless, so I’ll try not to literally write a list. If like us you love the snow, then the region has an array of options filled with the white-stuff ready for you to shred. Cardrona, Remarkables and Coronet are well equipped resorts for all levels, good parks and pretty cool ski-touring/split-boarding options beyond the resort boundary. TrebleCone and the further afield Ohau are great options for the freeriders hunting the steeper terrain and more advanced backcountry.
As an alpine region the mountaineering options here are very good. The town of Wanaka is a short drive away from the Aspiring national park, where you can find a number of DOC mountain huts to pitch-up for a day or two while you head off on your summiting objectives. The region is also close to the Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier, both are pretty well equipped for ice-climbing adventures. Equally if you just enjoy a great hike, there are a number of multi-day hikes in the region with huts dotted along the route.
Here is a quick slice of other options, mountain biking (many trails!), climbing, kayaking (hire from the lakefront), paragliding and the many bungee jump locations around Queenstown.
If you have some epic adventuring goals and want to up your skill levels, the Aspiring Guides team are a great group to speak with. This winter they helped us build-up backcountry skills to navigate avalanche terrain safely, a great course. On the edge of the town is the Department of Conservation office, this team can give you helpful info on the best hikes around, buy your DOC hut vouchers, and support you with up-to-date assessments on the conditions of the tracks (very weather dependent in NZ). Lastly if you want to get yourself deeper into the mountains for some unforgettable powder runs, Heli-boarding operations are in full swing here (we done it, and it rocked! But equally emptied our bank account).
Great photography locations
Now you’ll see many people arrive in Wanaka and race to take a photo of ‘that Wanaka tree’ and yep on a good day it can look pretty cool, but let’s get more creative here. Hike the Isthmus Track (40 mins out of town), near the summit you’ll reach a ridgeline where you can see Wanaka lake on one side and Lake Hawea on the other and yep you’ll want to hang-around for sunset. Then head-over to Glendhu Bay and catch the sun set behind the Treble Cone ridge for a perfect sunflare lake reflection. It’s been mentioned so many times before, but the view from the top of Roys Peak will make your eyes water, it’s hyped but it’s worth it! You’ll regret it if you don’t go up. Finally, take the drive down to the Raspberry Creek car park along a dirt track road to explore the Matukituki Valley.
Brilliant Social Assignments for Wanaka
The very understated Clutha River Outlet Track is a short hike, but walks you next to crystal clear blue glacial waters, the clearest you’ll find! Then there’s the hidden river surf spot, which we can’t share the location of here, but it's around. If you’re here for ski-touring, then New Zealand has just released a great guidebook with tons of brilliant and lesser known tours for the hardened backcountry rider. Lastly if you love a good suspension bridge photo, there are a few here, go find!