One Day in Wanaka - A Relaxing Guide on Things to Do Around Lake Wanaka

One Day in Wanaka

A Relaxing Guide on Things to Do Around Lake Wanaka


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From hitchhiking to climbing a glacier in Franz Josef, we are back for another entry of New Zealand's Solo Traveler's Journal. This time we will be exploring the mountainous landscape of Wanaka, where the South Island's nature truly shines.

Wanaka is considered to be one of the hidden gems in New Zealand. Since Queenstown is only a few hours away, most people tend to skip Wanaka and go straight to Queenstown. If only these people knew what Wanaka offers, they would have to think twice.

A Month In New Zealand On A Budget.

New Zealand Travel Video

The Kiwiland from Pete R. on Vimeo

Getting to Lake Wanaka from Franz Josef Glacier

I have a confession to make. I screwed up. I chose the wrong side to sit on a bus from Franz Josef to Wanaka and missed all the opportunities to get a photo of one of the best roadside scenery in the South Island. If you are traveling by bus from Franz Josef to Wanaka, situate yourself on the left-hand side instead of the right or you will be a sad panda like I was. Here is why:

The route from Franz Josef to Wanaka took me south along the west coast, with a view of the Tasman sea on the right. That is good and all but when we drove deeper in-land along Mt Victor, I saw nothing but mountainsides, not a very impressive view of Lake Wanaka and that was it. On the other hand, if I sat on the left, I would see rolling hills, beautiful cliffs, running rivers, and best of all the magnificent view of Lake Hawea.

Now that you know, don't make the same mistake as I did!

I continued my journey down south with the Intercity bus again because the Naked Bus don't run that often on the west coast

I continued my journey down south with the Intercity bus again because the Naked Bus don't run that often on the west coast. Our first stop along the way was the Thunder Creek waterfall. It was a beautiful day.

Another stop was during lunch time and I reunited with Maya whom I met in Nelson and again in Franz Josef

Another stop was during lunch time and I reunited with Maya whom I met in Nelson and again in Franz Josef. It was a long ride from Franz Josef so a great company helped a lot

Where to Stay in Wanaka

We arrived in Wanaka at around 4PM, said good bye to each other and I headed to YHA hostel in Wanaka, dropped my things off and naturally, head off for the closest mountain, Mt Iron

We arrived in Wanaka at around 4PM, said good bye to each other and I headed to YHA hostel in Wanaka, dropped my things off and naturally, head off for the closest mountain, Mt Iron.

Hiking Mt. Iron

A 45 minutes walk led me to this wonderful 360° view of Wanaka and its surrounding

A 45 minutes walk led me to this wonderful 360° view of Wanaka and its surrounding. That was when I realized why Wanaka is a ski town. The town is surrounded my mountains in all directions.

As I was about to go down the mountain, I received great news from my good friends Megan and Viola

As I was about to go down the mountain, I received great news from my good friends Megan and Viola. They had "stalked" me to Wanaka and were staying at the same hostel I did. I ran down to meet them, and we hung out for the rest of the night.

Unfortunately, they were with The Stray bus so they were stuck to their schedule and had to leave the next day to some weird forest

Unfortunately, they were with The Stray bus so they were stuck to their schedule and had to leave the next day to some weird forest. I was a bit sad to be honest, but my adventure continued.

Attempt to Climb Roy's Peak (Failed)

 Day 18: Lake Wanaka

Since I extended my time in Franz Josef for a day, I had only one full day left in Wanaka (I paid full price for my hostel for the day I missed though) so I spent that day walking around the crystal clear Wanaka lake.

At first I was anticipating to climb Roy's Peak but found out that the track was closed for lambing from the 1 October - 10 November

At first I was anticipating to climb Roy's Peak but found out that the track was closed for lambing from the 1 October - 10 November. There are 364 days in a year and I chose the 10 days they closed the track..

The Lone Tree of Lake Wanaka

But nothing could stop me from exploring Wanaka

But nothing could stop me from exploring Wanaka. I went out and walked around the lake. The water was crystal clear!

The infamous lone tree in Wanaka Lake

The famous lone tree in Wanaka Lake. This particular place was well known among photographers because of the perfect composition, all created naturally.

I found a swing that goes out to the water

I found a swing that goes out to the water. I was tempted to swing myself into the beautiful lake but the thought of being frozen to death stopped me. It was still pretty cold then.

Walking Around Lake Wanaka

Let's go kayaking!

Let's go kayaking!

After an hour walking, I decided to turn back and backtracked to the other side of the lake instead

After an hour walking, I decided to turn back and backtracked to the other side of the lake instead.

It was cloudy in the morning but as the day progressed, the sun started to show itself more and more

It was cloudy in the morning but as the day progressed, the sun started to show itself more and more. I love it when it is sunny in New Zealand. It means that I can interact with nature however I like.

The beautiful lone tree in Lake Wanaka

The beautiful lone tree in Lake Wanaka. Nature is truly the greatest artist of all!

The other side of the lake

The other side of the lake.

As I was walking alone, I and another girl occasionally made eye contact as we were the few who were walking around the lake that day

As I was walking alone, I and another girl occasionally made eye contact as we were the few who were walking around the lake that day. I decided to talk to her and we went off for a walk together. Meet Janika from Germany.

Janika spoke a bit of english but we did get along quite well

Janika spoke a bit of english but we did get along quite well. It is funny to think how the world feels so small when we are traveling. People from across the globe can befriended in minutes.

We stopped at the lookout point, had some potato chips (I always carry it with me when I was in New Zealand), and sat there quietly, absorbing the unbelievable view

We stopped at the lookout point, had some potato chips (I always carry it with me when I was in New Zealand), and sat there quietly, absorbing the unbelievable view.

After a few hours, Janika and I said goodbye to each other, went separate ways and that ended my time in Wanaka. I wish I could stay longer but Queenstown was waiting for me, and I needed to see what all the hypes were about regarding Queenstown as the capital city of adventure. Do you think Queenstown will live up to the hype? Stay tuned!

3 Days in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Further Reading for Backpacking in New Zealand

I’ve spent 5 weeks backpacking in New Zealand and I have written a ton more about my journey traveling throughout New Zealand from the North Island to the South Island that you might help in your trip planning.

Here’s a selection of articles about New Zealand:

The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.


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