Wanaka is a delightful lakeside town in the Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. It is situated at the southern end of Lake Wanaka, surrounded by mountains, and is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. Wanaka is primarily a winter ski resort town, but has both summer and winter seasons based around its many attractions. Its population of almost 4,000 swells to around 20,000 in peak season, with domestic and international tourists.
Wanaka (originally called Pembroke) was settled during the gold rush in the 19th Century. Its present site was first surveyed in 1863. Tourism began in the town in 1867 with the opening of the first hotel, by Theodore Russell. Pembroke was renamed Wanaka in 1940.
The adventure paradise of Queenstown is 120km to the south west, while in the north the Haast Pass cuts through the Southern Alps near Makarora. Other delightful towns to visit while you enjoy your stay in Wanaka include Cromwell and historic Arrowtown.
Wanaka enjoyes a continental climate, with four distinct seasons. The spring months (September – December) are normally the wettest, with annual rainfall of 682mm, which is half the national average. Wanaka experiences hot and dry summers with temperatures into the high 30s with an average of 24 degrees celcius. Winter days are often calm and clear with highs of around 10 degrees celcius.
There are a number of excellent restaurants, cafes and shops in Wanaka. Other unique attractions include Puzzling World with its 3D maze, optical illusions and leaning tower and the classic Paradiso Cinema, with seating consisting of old couches and a car.
There are a number of excellent wineries in the region, including the well-know Rippon Vineyard and Anthem, and ofcourse the famous Amisfield Bistro just over the hill in Queenstown.
Wanaka is home to world-class hiking, mountain biking, mountaineering, fishing, paragliding, kayaking, rafting, jetboating activities, and an amazing array of pursuits of adventure-seekers from the world over! Lake Wanaka is popular for waterskiers, wake boarders and sailors.
Wanaka has the largest range of snow activities of any town in New Zealand, including Treble Cone, Cardrona, Snow Park and Snow Farm. Wanaka is the main accommodation provider for these resorts and the town is at its peak in the winter high season (July – September).
The biennial Warbirds Over Wanaka air show is not to be missed and features many historical aircraft. Over 80,000 visitors attend the air show, traditionally held at Easter. The Festival of Colour is a wonderful celebration of the visual and performing arts, held in alternate years.