Located on the South Island of New Zealand, Wanaka is a quaint lakeside resort town surrounded by the most beautiful scenery imaginable. The town itself overlooks Lake Wanaka and is bordered by the Southern Alps of New Zealand. The towering mountain ranges make Wanaka a haven for skiers, snowboarders and winter holiday enthusiasts. Wanaka is a great base to visit the South Islands well known ski resorts Cardrona & Treble Cone; or adventurers can travel further south towards Queenstown and ski Coronet Peak and The Remarkables.
Wanaka caters to singles travellers, couples, families, groups and school ski trips, with a range of accommodation to suit all budgets. The vast terrain available in the region is ideal for all levels of experience, with runs for beginner skiers, through to advanced terrain suited to advance level ski and snowboarders. Having access to so many ski resorts, Wanaka is also ideal for groups with mixed ski or snowboard skill level; groups can split up to visit different mountains easily. There is a selection of accommodation options in Wanaka, from budget accommodation through to luxury hotels. There are plenty of runs for avid skier or snowboarder to explore, as well as activities for any non-skiers visiting during winter.
From Wanaka’s budget accommodation, hostels and lodges to Wanaka’s luxury resort style hotels, there is an excellent range of accommodation to choose from. Hostels, lodges and backpackers cater to price conscious travellers while higher end travellers can stay in Wanaka’s selection of holiday homes, luxury apartments and resorts. Wanaka also offers a range of 2 star to 5 star hotels with great winter deals over ski season. For couples, families and groups who want self-contained facilities or need extra space, there are a variety of self-catering apartments in Wanaka or holiday homes to choose from. The cheapest time to visit Wanaka is usually early or late in the ski season. It is often better value to book a ski package deal and always advisable to book early, especially if travelling over peak holiday dates.
For more information on Wanaka accommodation click here.
Wanaka is a stunning place to ski or snowboard, with panoramic lake views from the top of Cardrona and Treble Cone, there are photo opportunities at every turn. With several world-class ski resorts within close proximity, Wanaka is a skier or snowboarders ultimate snow holiday destination! Skiing and snowboarding are the most popular winter activity in the region and has access to some of the premium options for New Zealand Skiing. Cardrona Alpine Resort is 20 minutes from the centre of Wanaka with 2 pipes, multiple terrain parks, 400 hectares of terrain and impeccable family facilities, it’s no surprise that Cardrona is one of New Zealand’s favourite ski resorts. In 2020 Cardrona also purchased neighbouring Treble Cone ski resort, so visitors can now ski both peaks on one lift pass. Treble Cone is the perfect addition to a Wanaka ski holiday, with the largest skiable area and longest vertical rise in New Zealand, Treble Cone ski field is also well-known for its off-piste terrain and uncrowded runs. While Treble Cone may be paradise for intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders, beginners are looked after, with a designated learner area.
For those that don’t mind a slightly longer commute, Coronet Peak Ski Resort is located about 1 hour 20 minutes from central Wanaka & The Remarkables Ski Resort is about 1 hour 30 minutes from town. One thing is certain, Wanaka in an unforgettable snow holiday destination.
For more information about Wanaka’s lift passes click here.
Most visitors to Wanaka hire a car from either Queenstown Airport or Christchurch Airport. This is also a convenient option to commute to Wanaka’s ski resorts. For anyone who does plan to self-drive, it is essential to carry If you don’t feel comfortable driving up the steep mountain roads, both Treble Cone and Cardrona ski resort offer transport options from Wanaka or the bottom of the mountain.
The closest airport to Wanaka is Queenstown Airport, flight time into Queenstown is roughly 3 hours from Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney. These flights can be expensive over peak winter travel dates or school holidays, so we recommend considering flying into Christchurch or Dunedin if you are budget conscious. Located in the South Island of New Zealand, Wanaka is a 55 minutes’ drive from Queenstown, just over 3 hours’ drive from Dunedin, and about 5 hours’ drive from Christchurch.
The majority of visitors to Wanaka hire a car and drive from their chosen airport. It is important to make sure your hire car has snow cover, roof racks and snow chains. Ski season is from late June through to early October. Each resort has slightly different opening dates & dates may vary slightly each year. Peak travel to Wanaka is in July and August, so if you are looking to avoid the crowds ski early or late in the season. Due to the increasingly popular family facilities available at Cardrona Alpine Resort, it is advisable to also travel outside of Australian and New Zealand school holiday dates if possible.
School groups and clubs often visit the Wanaka during these holidays as well, so if you are planning to travel during this time, it is essential to pre-book nice and early.
Wanaka is a premium alpine skiing and snowboarding destination, but there are plenty of other winter activities to enjoy while holidaying in this beautiful part of New Zealand. Visitors can try snowshoeing and dog sledding at Snow Farm, over have a snowball fight at the Snow Fun Zone. For adrenaline seekers, try ice-driving or take a scenic flight around Wanaka and finish on a glacier. For wine lovers and beer connoisseurs, the Otago region also has a variety of Wineries & Breweries to explore. Another great activity to add to any Wanaka holiday is a visit to the Cardrona Distillery, take a tour and learn about the distilling process and finish with a tasting of their in-house liquors, vodka, gin and delicious Cardrona single malt whisky.
Après ski in Wanaka can be tailored to any budget or vibe, from upmarket wine tasting rooms to well-established pubs and breweries!
On-mountain après can be enjoyed at the top of McDougall’s Chondola at the Vista Bar, sit on a beanbag with a glass of Mumm champagne or cold craft beer and people watch from the top of Cardrona. If beanbags aren’t your seat of choice, The Lounge is another slope side après option, located at the base area of the mountain.
If you head back into Wanaka, The Bullock Bar in town is a local favourite and great if you are after a casual pub atmosphere. If you are chasing a cocktail, Lalaland Lounge Bar Wanaka or Bar Number 8 both have a great view of the lake and delicious selection of cocktails to choose from. Finally, no visit to ‘Cardies’ would be complete without a visit to the Cardrona Hotel. This iconic hotel is on the road out of town and it’s almost essential to stop for a drink and a cheeky photo for the gram.
For a small town, Wanaka has a delightful selection of dining options! We asked our team of ski specialist their opinions to collate our list of the best restaurants in Wanaka.
The Mezz in an awesome alpine restaurant located on Cardrona, offering full-service breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a bar for those seeking the full après ski experience. If you love tapas-style dining then you will love Wanaka’s Kika, a restaurant with great food, excellent service and even better wine! Another must-try Wanaka restaurant is Big Fig, they do amazing slow-cooked meats and Lebanese inspired veges. A great budget-friendly dining option in Wanaka is Brownston Street Food Trucks, specifically the tacos at Burrito Crafts truck should not be missed. Food trucks are great for families too, as you can all get something different. These are only a few of the delish dining options in Wanaka.
If you have a favourite restaurant in Wanaka that you want added to our list, let us know!