- New zealand
One Day in Wanaka
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.
New Zealand Travel Video
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. 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. 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.
Hiking Mt. Iron
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. 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. I was a bit sad to be honest, but my adventure continued.
Attempt to Climb Roy's Peak (Failed)
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. 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. I went out and walked around the lake. The water was crystal clear!
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 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!
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. 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. Nature is truly the greatest artist of all!
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. 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. 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.
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!
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:
- Looking for a complete travel guide to spend one month in New Zealand on a budget? A Month In New Zealand On A Budget - The Perfect Backpacking Itinerary.
- New Zealand has a special place in my heart. It is one of the most memorable trips I have ever done and here are 10 things I love about New Zealand.
- If you are planning to start traveling in New Zealand from North to South, Rotorua is a great place to visit on your way South from Auckland. Here is a travel guide on things to do in Rotorua.
- Did you know that you can climb Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings in real life? Along the Tongariro Crossing trail, you have the option to summit Mount Ngauruhoe which was used as a reference for Mount Doom in the movie. Here a travel guide on how to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in one day.
- Crossing from the North Island of New Zealand to the South is an experience in and of itself. See how to cross from the North Island to the South Island in New Zealand here.
- One of the first big city you will travel in the South Island is Nelson which has a laid-back vibe while Motueka, a sister town makes a great base to traveling to Abel Tasman National Park. Here’s a quick travel guide on things to do in Nelson and Motueka.
- One of the best Great Walk you can do is in the Abel Tasman National Park and you can do parts of it in one day. Here’s a complete guide on how to hike parts of the Abel Tasman Great Walk in one day.
- The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is not very popular among travelers, making it a great place to go off the beaten path. Here’s a travel guide on things to do, and where to go in West Port, New Zealand.
- Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, a question that has been asked for as long as travelers start traveling in New Zealand. It doesn’t really matter which one you pick as both are a great place to go ice climbing. Here’s a travel guide on how to go ice climbing on Franz Josef glacier with Ice Explorer.
- Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world. If your body can endure it, you can find it in Queenstown. Here’s a 3 days itinerary on things to do in Queenstown.
- Queenstown is also one of the best places in the world to go skydiving. Here’s my experience skydiving with the NZONE in Queenstown.
- The Milford Sound is touristy, there’s no denying it and you are not wrong to be skeptical but I can assure you, it is worth the hype. Here’s a travel guide on which cruise to pick for the Milford Sound and how to get there.
- One of the best Great Walk in New Zealand you can do is the Routeburn Track. Here’s a complete 3 days itinerary and travel guide on how to trek the Routeburn Track.
- Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand, and the best way to see it is to hike the Hooker Valley trail. Here’s a travel guide on visiting Mt. Cook and hiking the Hooker Valley trail.
- Dunedin is a great place to end your trip in New Zealand. After all the adventure you have been through, here’s how to spend 5 days in Dunedin, taking it slow and seeing the city at your own leisure.
- Not convinced by my words about New Zealand? Come follow me and I’ll show you New Zealand in 70 photos.
- You can see all my New Zealand travel guides and related articles on my New Zealand Travel Guide page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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