Best Walks Around Wanaka
Wanaka is known as the gateway into Mount Aspiring National Park. But there are plenty of things to do closer to Wanaka, too. With the Southern Alps and the Pisa Range towering over this little town, everywhere you go, you’ll find stunning scenery and soul-satisfying diversions.
The town is nestled on the shores of the large Lake Wanaka, making it a wonderful resort town from which to explore this part of the South Island. There are walks here for every fitness and adventure level. Some follow the lake’s flat shorelines, and others cross towering ranges.
Wanaka is one of the most popular spots on the South Island for walking and other outdoor recreations. The environment is everything that you love about New Zealand–warm summers, gorgeous mountain peaks, and stunning vistas.
Tracks in the area range from simple day hikes to multi-day tramping trips. Department of Conservation trails are dotted with huts along the way, most of which are first-come, first-served. Be sure to pick tracks that are congruent with your fitness and experience level to make the most of your day out.
1. Minaret Burn Track
This two to three-hour one-way hike follows a well-formed track along the beaches on Lake Wanaka’s western shore. The car park is located at Homestead Bay, and the main track ends at Colquhouns Beach. It’s a lovely spot for picnicking or swimming. From the beach, there are numerous other tracks you can take, all of varying difficulties.
The beauty of this track is that it follows easy terrain along an undeveloped shoreline of the lake, something that’s not very easy to find. Stunning views greet you at each new turn of the track. There’s no steep climbing since the walk follows an old farm road.
Lots of visitors like to make bonfires on the beach with the plentiful driftwood. It’s an easy enough track that you can pack in your lunch and even include something to grill. And you don’t need to hike the entire seven kilometers to Colquhouns Beach, either. There are plenty of spots to stop right near the car park, especially where the Matukituki River flows into the lake.
2. Roy’s Peak Track
The draw of Roy’s Peak is evident once you see it. From the 1,578-meter peak, you can take in panoramic views that include all of Lake Wanaka and its surroundings to the north and the Southern Alps and Mount Aspiring/Tititea to the west. This is a tougher track, taking five to six hours and covering 16 kilometers one way. It can get chilly on the mountain quickly, even in summer, so dress appropriately.
Roy’s Peak is one of the most popular walking spots in the area, and the car park can fill up by mid-morning on some days. Most people recommend sharing a ride or biking to the trailhead. If you’ve admired photos taken on walks around Wanaka, you’ve probably seen photos of Roy’s Peak. You should also know that there is no shade and no water on the track, so be sure to bring a hat and lots of water.
It’s worth pointing out, also, that there are plenty of beautiful hikes in the area. Roy’s Peak is all about the view from the top–the scenery getting there is just so-so.
3. Diamond Lake
Diamond Lake area has several DOC tracks that you can choose from, including circuits and lookouts. You can spend anything from 45 minutes to up to three or four hours exploring the area. From the parking area, a four-wheel-drive track leads up to the lake. From there, you can follow the marked tracks easily.
The main Diamond Lake circuit goes around the lake, or you can wind your way up to a lookout above or to a lookout above Lake Wanaka. The lake circuit is easy and mostly level, but the lookouts are moderate climbs with lots of stairs. You can also go all the way up to Rocky Mountain’s summit via a loop track. The summit is at 775 meters, and it’s rated as a moderate to challenging walk.
The wonderful thing about Diamond Lake is the variety of sights you get out of this one day hike. If you’re up for the challenge of heading for the Rocky Mountain summit, you’re in for one of the best hikes of your life. Not only will you see breathtaking scenery, but the track is also a circuit which always makes for a more interesting trek.
4. Mount Iron Track
Just east of the village you’ll find the car park for the Mount Iron Track. This is a one and half hour loop that covers 4.5 kilometers. Along the way, it climbs to the 548-meter summit of Mount Iron, a glacier-carved rocky knoll near town. From its top, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Wanaka, Hāwea, all of the surrounding peaks in the Pisa and Southern Alps, and the Cardrona and Clutha Valleys.
This hike might lack the fanfare of the other more popular tracks in the area, but it’s close to town and a quick and easy walk. The rewards are stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding landscapes. For a quick walk after lunch, or if you’re on a tight schedule, this is a great spot to keep in mind.
5. Motatapu Track
The Motatapu Track is a challenging multi-day tramping path, but if you park near the Wanaka end, you have the option for doing a pleasant out-and-back of whatever length you choose. You can walk three to four hours and cover the seven kilometers to the Fern Burn Hut. Fern Burn is one of the closest tramping huts to the town of Wanaka, so if you’re in the mood for an overnight, this is a great option. And since this spot is a little lower than many of the popular alpine huts, you might have it all to yourself.
While much of the landscape around Wanaka lacks dense forests, this hike is a little different. The path winds through a dense beech forest and crosses ridges with gorgeous views of Wanaka and the Alps.
6. Breast Hill Track
We’ve saved the best for last. Breast Hill is a beautiful spot to see all of the best things that the Wanaka region offers. It’s got some steep switchbacks that get your blood pumping, but overall it’s not too technical or challenging. The vistas from the top are well worth the efforts, though.
The fabulous thing about hiking in the Breast Hill area is all of the options you have. If you’re out tramping, there are hut options and connections to longer trails. The entire area is part of the national trail Te Araroa – The Long Pathway that covers the country’s length.
The hike here leads from Timaru Creek Road to the Pakituhi Hut, a three to four-hour hike covering four kilometers. Along the way, you’ll enjoy amazing views of Lake Hāwea and even the distant Mount Aspiring/Tititea.
From the hut, you can either follow a four-wheel-drive track or trek the Breast Hill Track to the 1,578-meter summit.
You can access the same area via the Grandview Mountain Track from the south end, another beautiful spot. The trip from the parking lot to where it connects with the Breast Mountian track takes about two to three hours, covering nine kilometers.
This is just a shortlist of our favorite walks around Wanaka. Once you get here, you’ll start finding your favorite places too. Book a stay with Bachcare and set up your hub for exploring all of the great hikes the area has to offer.