What to See in Wanaka in One Day

Date: 14th February 2020

Wanaka is a growing township for outdoor and adventure enthusiasts, situated in the Otago region of the South Island in New Zealand. Surrounded by stunning mountains and a lake beside the township makes it perfect for both summer and winter activities, as well as popular attractions such as Roy’s Peak, Rob Roy Glacier or Isthmus Peak. Although these tracks are great, we wanted to give you a local’s list of places to see in Wanaka if you’re only spending one day here and want to see a range of things which most wouldn’t think to do in a day.

That Wanaka Tree in autumn with snow on the mountains
That Wanaka Tree in autumn with snow on the mountains

Ruby Island

Found only 1km of the mainland, Ruby Island is the closest and most accessible island out of the four which are situated within Lake Wanaka and is the smallest by far, measuring to be roughly 3 ha.  This destination is popular spend the day at because of its accessibility by kayak (or bring your boat and tie it to the small boat ramp), facilities offered and the fact that you can bring your dog too. The Ruby Island Management Committee has been looking after the island since 1995 by replanting with natives affected by past fires and offering access to a toilet and barbeque on the island.

A Lake in a Lake at Mou Waho Island

Mou Waho Island is a 120 ha of scenic reserve & bird sanctuary controlled by the Department of Conservation. At the pest-free island, you may be lucky enough to encounter a rare flightless Buff Weka and other species such as the mountain stone wētā and the Southern Alps gecko. Arethusa Pool (known as Moutimu to Maori or sometimes Paradise Lake), is a lake found 150m above lake level on Mou Waho Island within Lake Wanaka.

Take a water taxi to this island and enjoy its 3km return walking track up to a viewpoint of Arethusa Pool and lake Wanaka. If you want to make the trip more extended, bring some lunch and use the barbeque situated on the island for free.

Scenic Reserve on Te Peka Karara Island

Te Peka Karara Island, otherwise known as Stevensons Island is a great place to unwind for 24hrs in Wanaka – if you even wish to spend the whole time on the island, you can camp here overnight too. This 65-ha pest-free island was crucial during the 1990 Buff Weka Project which transferred them from the Chatham Islands into a purpose-build predator-free enclosure here. Once you’re on the island, relax at the incredible beach as long as you can, before taking a short walk. This 1km walk through native bush brings you to some great views seen at the top of the island (roughly 300m above lake level). 

Sunset from Mt. Iron

Towards the end of your day, find somewhere close, yet still high up to enjoy the sunset from in peace. Somewhere closer to Wanaka township like Mt Iron is perfect for a quick walk to a great sunset view in town – at the top, you’ll find some chairs and panoramic views to enjoy too. Mt Iron Track takes roughly 1.5hrs to complete the 4.5km loop track. If you’re after a slightly longer walk, leave your car behind and walk from town – the track is around a 20 minutes’ walk from Wanaka township.

Stargaze at Eely Point with Fish & Chips

Finally, to end the day on a high note, watch the stars and moon at night from Eely point with some fish and chips from Erik’s. Eely point is a popular boating and picnic area, which is why it can be busy on a nice day. Instead, miss the crowds and save it to enjoy with a classic kiwi dinner. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy Wanaka’s clear night skies with some dinner because of the picnic platforms and the short walking track which is 1km into town. From Erik’s Fish and Chips, just head 200 meters towards the waterfront, then turn right onto the walking track which will take you to a choice of spots.

Posted in: Quick Bites

Erik's Queenstown
13 Earl Street
T: 03 441 3474
12.00pm – 9 pm everyday
*Opening hours vary depending on the time of year
Erik's Wanaka
54 Ardmore St
T: 027 570 5514
Mon: 4pm - 8pm / Tue: Closed / Wed, Thurs: 4pm - 8pm / Fri,Sat,Sun: 12.00 noon - 8.30pm
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