My love affair with Wanaka began when I was just a nipper. Long ago, my grandfather bought two plots of land for his daughters, in a small settlement called Albert Town, located 10km outside of Wanaka. My aunt and her family built a permanent home on one plot of land and we spent many school holidays and Christmases staying with them until my parents built a small holiday home on the other plot when I was eight years old.
I feel, therefore, that I know Wanaka quite well, even though it has changed drastically since I was a child. It still has a slow-paced holiday resort feel to it, which neighbouring Queenstown has lost a little, and I think retained a bit of its charm. I never grow tired of holidaying there, and love it now that we can take our boys to the little house I spent so much time in as a child. We stayed there for a few days on our recent holiday, and it was lovely.
The town is settled by this picturesque lake, with many bays and sheltered inlets that are popular swimming spots; when the wind blows up the lakefront and into the township, it is inevitably more sheltered in the bays. It’s a great spot for swimming in the summer, and you can go boating, jet skiing, parasailing and pedal-boating as well.
There are many fantastic walking tracks in and around Wanaka; a trip to the Information Centre on the lakefront, or the Department of Conservation office at the entrance to the town, is essential if you are planning on doing a bit of walking. Walking the Outlet Track is spectacular, and takes you alongside the Clutha River; the steady climb up Mt Iron is a bit more taxing, but the views from the top are stunning and well worth the feeling of breathlessness.
This is always a bit of a favourite, with young and old. The maze is tricky, and the various illusion rooms inside are always fun. It’s probably more appealing for slightly older kids who will appreciate the illusions; Tiny is still a little bit young to really get it.
Warbirds & Wheels
Whereas Tiny is a bit too young for Puzzling World, the Warbirds & Wheels museum is right up his vehicle-loving alley. Based near the airport, on the way into Wanaka from the Cromwell turn-off, there are loads of old cars, as well as a collection of old planes, all lovingly restored. The 1950s-American-style diner serves a very good coffee and the cheese and bacon scones are pretty good too.
You can’t really visit Wanaka in the winter without visiting Cardrona, Treble Cone or Snow Farm (for cross country skiing). I’ve been to all three, and they all have their good points – dependent on the snow, of course! And aprés ski, if you’re coming home through the Cardrona Valley, make sure you stop at Cardrona Hotel, for a warming glass of something in a quaint setting.
Every two years, at the beginning of February, there is a music festival at Rippon Vineyard. Showcasing the very best of New Zealand music, this is an awesome day-and-night out. Just remember to take loads of sunscreen, wet wipes and your own food, as buying there is pricey. The port-a-loos are a bit gross, but that’s part of the music festival experience, right??!