Winter in Wanaka is heralded by snow-dumps, a buzz in the air and a jam-packed events calendar! There’s no doubt about it – New Zealand certainly springs to life in winter!
For many, the arrival of Jack Frost in New Zealand’s Southern Alps means it’s time to hit the mountains and enjoy snowboarding or skiing, or amp up the fun with tubing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and heli-skiing. But if snow sports aren’t your passion, this incredible region still has an abundance of options for off-piste fun. The lakeside village of Wanaka and neighboring Queenstown are world-renowned destinations offering some of Zealand’s most breathtaking scenery. You’ll also find Michelin star chefs, award-winning restaurants a lively après ski culture.
Wanaka’s National Parks
Wanaka’s spectacular Southern Alps, its picture-perfect lake and the wilderness of the Mt Aspiring National Park attracts travellers the world over. In fact, the region is so strikingly beautiful and offers so much outdoor recreation that it was recently given the honour of the world’s first protected lifestyle reserve.
To fully explore Wanaka, leave plenty of time to explore. The National Parks of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland offer some of the globe’s most breathtaking vistas. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan you’ll probably recognise the dramatic scenery which populated Peter Jackson’s timeless films.
Mt Aspiring National Park is New Zealand’s third-largest World Heritage Area. Boasting high mountains, glaciers and beautiful river valleys, it’s a hiker’s paradise. It also easily accessible from Wanaka, and offers everything from a five-minute walk to overnight adventure in backcountry hut.
In Wanaka, vineyards and cellar doors are plentiful; the much-celebrated Rippon Vineyard is only a ten-minute walk from Ramada Resort by Wyndham Wanaka, and is the perfect place to indulge in a long, lazy lunch.
Some time in Queenstown is also a must-do. It’s one of New Zealand’s top visitor destinations and is just 45 minutes’ drive from Wanaka. Queenstown’s famous shopping precinct offers stylish clothes, one-off designer pieces and the latest ski and outdoor equipment. Its restaurants and bars are also pretty great; in fact, Fergburgers’ burgers are so legendary that they’ve become a tourist attraction in themselves. Alternatively, indulge in sophisticated fireside dining at Rata, run by Michelin star chef Josh Emett.
Queenstown and Wanaka’s winter events calendars are both brimming with festivals, sporting events and family activities. The world-famous American Express Queenstown Winter Festival (June 21 to 30) is an annual highlight, attracting thousands of visitors to the ten-day extravaganza. Known as New Zealand’s biggest winter party, it features be ice-skating, all-star snowboarding, dog derbies and a Mardi Gras spectacular.
If a day or two on the slopes sparks your interest, Treble Cone and Cardrona Ski Fields are both a short drive from Wanaka. Fun and family-friendly, Cardrona has fantastic kids program, including an on-mountain, fully-licensed early childcare centre. Catering for those aged 3 months to 4 years old, Cardrona Kindy will take care of the kids so you can have fun on slopes! For children five years and over, Cardrona has a range of ski and snowboard lessons designed to cater to all levels of ability and confidence.
Treble Cone is the South Island’s largest ski area and offers the longest vertical run in New Zealand’s Southern Lakes. Treble Cone is famous for its long, uncrowded slopes, off-piste terrain, and spectacular views.
Getting to Wanaka
There are a variety of ways to get to Wanaka: air, coach or car. Wanaka has its own airport with daily flights from Christchurch, while the larger Queenstown Airport is just 45 minutes away. Christchurch and Dunedin Airports are within five hours’ drive of Wanaka, and are linked by good bus services. When driving between Queenstown and Wanaka and the ski fields, make sure you carry tyre-chains, just in case the road becomes covered in snow. If you are’re in a rental car, ensure the chains fit before leaving the depot.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to spend your holiday – any time spent in this winter wonderland is sure to result in a suite of magical memories. It’s time to do yourself a favour and book into Wyndham Wanaka for a snowy escape – experience the breathtaking beauty and lively festive atmosphere of New Zealand’s Southern Alps for yourself.