Walking In Wanaka
If you are short on time, or you don’t have transport, the following tracks start in or, near Lake Wanaka town itself and won’t take long to wander along
If you want to experience the Central Otago region but aren’t so fussed about the adrenaline pumping adventure-packed options that Queenstown offers, nearby Wanaka is a great alternative, with the same stunning scenery but a slightly gentler pace than its neighbour. And there is no better way to explore some of the magnificent vistas Wanaka has to offer than on foot with some of the local walks.
Whether you are a Sunday stroller or a full on hiker, there is something for you in the Wanaka area. If you don’t have access to transport, there are plenty of walks that start right near the town centre, but if you can get a car or take a tour further afield you’ll be well rewarded with great views and lovely fresh air.
If you are short on time, or you don’t have transport, the following tracks start in or, near Lake Wanaka town itself and won’t take long to wander along. Remember, especially in the higher areas, that the weather can change dramatically so be prepared. Pack food and water and wet weather gear if necessary and check the signs at the beginning of the tracks for any warnings.
Millennium Track/Waterfall Creek:
This track starts right in town and winds its way around the lake towards Waterfall Creek. You can stop here or continue through the fields to take in the view.
A short drive from the town centre, this flat and easy track is popular with walkers and cyclists. It is also an excellent spot for trout fishing. The walk from the outlet to Albert Town takes about an hour one way, and the track is even suitable for pushchairs.
This is a great option if you want a good view of Wanaka but you don’t have much time, or you aren’t big on hiking. Starting close to Wanaka, this track is uphill but isn’t too steep and is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. At the summit, you get 360-degree views over the lake and of the surrounding ranges. You’ll probably need to dodge the locals getting in their exercise on the way up and down.
If you have time to venture a little further, either in your own transport or as part of a tour, then the following tracks give you a real sense of the natural beauty of the Wanaka surroundings and Central Otago region. You’ll need a reasonable standard of fitness to do the first two on the list, but you can always stop often on the way up and pretend you need to take a photo of the view. Actually, the views are so good you won’t need to pretend, you’ll have your camera out plenty!
Around 30 minutes drive from the town, this peak climb is a good alternative to the Mt Roy/Roy’s Peak track which is becoming increasingly busy. The track is steep, but you are rewarded with fantastic views of both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.
Rob Roy Glacier Track:
About an hour’s drive from Wanaka town this track offers the best of alpine scenery. The walk starts at Raspberry Creek with a track along the crystal clear Rob Roy stream before crossing a swing bridge and entering the beech forest. Above the tree line experience the spectacular views of the Rob Roy glacier. The track is relatively steep and will take around 3 to 4 hours in total, and you will need to be moderately fit.
If you don’t do much hiking you will likely get worn out on the way up - keep going, the view will be worth it - and the tantalising glimpses of the glacier as you head up should be enough encouragement to get to the top. Watch out for the Keas (mountain parrots) as they are very persistent and often take a liking to tourists’ lunches and backpacks. A flatter alternative in the area is the walk to Aspiring Hut, and you can stay in the hut overnight if you wish.
A short drive towards Haast in the Makarora region are the Blue Pools. The track meanders through native bush and across a swing bridge, ending at beautiful pools of clear blue water. The walk only takes about 10 minutes and in summer you can swim and picnic at the pools.
If you are a more serious hiker, the region provides a number of more challenging tracks including the 2-day Cascade Saddle route and the 10-hour Skyline Route. These are for experienced trampers and are generally recommended as summer walks only.
Sometimes you need your walk to have a purpose, and there isn't any better purpose for a walk then transporting yourself to the picturesque surroundings of Rippon Vineyard, apparently one of the most photographed vineyards in the world.
Follow the Waterfall Creek track along the lakeside and when you hit the vines, find the goat path up the hill towards the winery. Here you’ll find wine tasting and perhaps even leave with a bottle or two to add to your luggage.
Writer: Arwen Hann