For a small town, Wanaka is full of activities to keep you busy off the slopes. With a thriving cafe culture, an impressive line-up of restaurants, and countless boutique shops to explore, the compact downtown is a great place to relax and soak in the views. Or try one of these top Wanaka activities to make the most of your down time:
With its distinctive leaning tower beckoning from the highway, Puzzling World is a great family destination that lives up to the hype.
Be sure to bring a camera. From tilted rooms to confounding sculptures, the displays here are life-sized and interactive—and guaranteed to mess with your head! As an added bonus, the maze is a great way for your kids to let off a bit of steam.
The Central Otago region was once thought to be unsuitable for wine growing—until a number of wineries sprang up in Wanaka and Queenstown and proved the experts wrong with their complex, distinctive vintages.
There’s no better place to taste the Central Otago flavours than Rippon Winery, where the views are as good as the wines! Perched on top of a hill overlooking Lake Wanaka, Rippon Winery is the only vineyard located within walking distance of the township.
Home to the biennial Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow, Wanaka is famous for its fighter planes. From WWI-era aircraft through to modern jets, you can see some of the most iconic planes at the Warbirds and Wheels museum. And if that isn’t enough, the museum is also home to a fantastic collection of vintage cars!
Finish off your experience with a visit to the 1950s Retro Diner, which serves breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the whole family.
For a more kid-friendly version of the Warbirds museum, the National Toy and Transport Museum boasts a fantastic collection of cars, aircraft, trucks, motorcycles, and more, plus enough toys to keep your young ones busy for hours. With indoor and outdoor play areas and an extensive store, you will want to allow plenty of time to explore!
This is a perfect rainy-day option.
After a long day of skiing, you may want to stop at the new Cardrona Distillery, where you can taste an array of spirits unlike any you’ve tried before. Be sure to check out the barrelhouse, where liquors are aged to perfection for up to ten years!
This atmospheric cinema does things the old-fashioned way, with small theatres and a more intimate experience. From the sofas used for seats (plus an old car, so you can pretend you’re at a classic drive-through!) to the freshly-baked cookies at half-time (be sure to order ahead), Cinema Paradiso is not just about the movies. But the film selection is great as well—check the movie times in advance, as all of the new releases are sure to be playing.
If you still have energy left after a few long days on the slopes, you will find an impressive array of activities at Have a Shot. With a mini-putt, rifle and archery ranges, clay bird shooting, a unique spongeball-cannon battlefield, and a giant pool table combined combined with croquet mallets, you’re guaranteed to have a blast! Note that only the mini-putt is suitable for kids under the age of 8.
Wanaka has no shortage of bars to visit for après-ski after a long day on the snow. Many have live music and games; check out the local Messenger (a free magazine) for the weekly event schedule. Popular options include the Bullock Bar, Fitzpaticks Irish Pub, the Water Bar, Woodys Sports Bar, Speight’s Ale House, and Ruby’s Cinema & Bar.
The best way to enjoy the lakeside beauty of Wanaka is with a stroll along the Millennium Walkway, which starts at Roy’s Bay and continues to follow the lakefront all the way to Glendhu Bay (a popular campground in summer). If you walk far enough (about 10 minutes), you can actually take a side track right up to Rippon Winery!
Along the way, you’ll have the chance to photograph the famous Wanaka Tree, a half-drowned tree that creates the perfect frame for the spectacular setting.
Wanaka is an outdoor-lover’s paradise—and that isn’t just confined to skiing. If your legs have a bit more life left in them, you could rent a bike and explore one of the many local trails (options include scenic routes like the Millennium Walkway as well as more technical tracks such as those in Sticky Forest and Dean’s Bank).
Or you could take a walk along one of the nearby tracks—Mt Iron is the easiest, as it sits right behind town, but Roy’s Peak is also a classic option (beware the possibility of snow at the top). The walk to Rob Roy Glacier is one of the best day trips around, if your car can handle the fords and gravel road on the way to Mount Aspiring National Park.
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