A Trip To Wanaka, New Zealand

Wanaka. It sounds a little like something a lazy used car salesman would say. “Well… do you wanaka or don’t ya?” But in actual fact it’s one of the most glorious places I’ve ever been on this whole, hurtling rocky planet.

It’s on New Zealand’s South Island, just over an hour’s drive from Queenstown. It’s the New Zealand you see in New Zealand tourist videos. It’s lush and rolling and glorious in just about every way – from the people to the produce to champagne that comes in beer bottles (I’ll get to that).

But most of all, it’s perfectly placed for a Goldilocks vacation. Not too big, not too small; lots of activities, plenty of opportunity for down time; just a couple of hours flight, feels a million miles away. Being so close to Queenstown, it’s also got something to prove – something to say. And that something is, “Hey, bro – we don’t rest on our laurels, eh. We’re out there, crafting laurels as we speak.” And a place like that is a place worth visiting.

But the real reason to go there? For the people, if I’m honest. I was in Wanaka for all of three days (filming for the series Beauty & The Backpacker – you can see episode one featuring Wanaka here) but I still keep in touch with the people I met there almost a year later. Is that not a rare treat?!

While Wanaka is the name of the town, you’re essentially going to Lake Wanaka, the portal to Mount Aspiring National Park. It’s world famous for both alpine and aerial sports so if you’re into skis, planes or anything else that flies over or down a mountain, then this is for you. If you clicked on the link to our new show above, you know I’m not… and yet – a great time was had by all. Here are some of my highlights…

#1 Our lunch at Minaret Station – this is arguably one of the most exclusive dining experiences in the world. You can only get there by helicopter for starters. And once you do… you basically morph into Jennifer Aniston. You can also stay overnight in one of the chalets. Exxy? Sure. But worth it? I think Jenifer Aniston might have actually stayed here so probably.


#2 Flying over the insanely good looking Lake Wanaka in an old-timey bi-plane. Classic Flights can even provide you with a slap-up champagne brunch in your own private field. If I had to guess how many people had proposed on this bunch I’d estimate somewhere around 4987.

#3: The food! And the beverages! Although when I say beverages I mostly mean Speight’s. The South Island’s liquid claim to fame. But also make sure don’t miss Rippon Winery. Be sure to try the Emma’s Block pinot noir – they named it after me. I assume.

#4 The Cardrona Hotel – technically just outside Wanaka but definitely worth the drive. I won’t even explain the bras. I’ll let you find out them all by yourself. (Hot tip: pack an old bra.) 

#5 Skydiving over Middle Earth. I’m not sure if this how the Lord of The Rings guys got those shots but good LORD it’s impressive.

#6 That Wanaka Tree. It’s probably Lake Wanaka’s most famous resident. Basically: it goes out of the water, no one knows why and it’s the most Instagrammed figure in town.

#7 The lake itself. Any words I use here will be meaningless so just feast your eyes below…
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Start planning your own trip at lakewanaka.co.nz.

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