After the excitement of Queenstown, I was looking forward to a bit of a break and recovery in Wanaka. Like Queenstown, I’ve driven through Wanaka once before – on the way back from Milford Sound to see #ThatWanakaTree – and if the last place was beautiful, I reckon Wanaka tops it.
Lake Wanaka is right there. The town is smaller, but there’s plenty of space and they make good use of the lake, with plenty of views from the bars and cafes and hotels
Getting my walking boots on
Wanaka has plenty going for it in the looks department, but what about things to do? Well, there’s more than you might think.
With the stunning Lake Wanaka just a stone’s throw away, there’s plenty of water-based activities to try your hand it, but don’t think you’re limited to just the town. Canyoning trips are popular, as is trying the local beer and cycling routes taking you out into the country, you’re not short of options.
I decided to stay local and took some of the many walking routes. Some of these are around the Lake, with the Waterfall Creek Track a good one to start with. On the other side of the lake, you can follow the water to Eely Point Reserve and onwards to Beacon Point Road beach.
Take a gander a little out of town to find Mt Iron, a steady loop that climbs up for panoramic views of Wanaka, the lake and the surrounding areas. On a clear day, you’ll see for miles!
Oh, and don’t forget to check #ThatWanakaTree (which you’ll pass on the Waterfall Creek Track), and if you can get there at sunset or sunrise, you’ll be in for a treat if the weather plays along with you!
Exercising the mind at Puzzling World
Close to the Mt Iron loop is Puzzling World, which I also saw on my last drive through. I knew instantly that I wanted to check this out, my inner geek demanded it.
The place is full of optical illusions and puzzles to trick your mind. Some of it is truly baffling, including a room that sits on an angle! I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but there are a few photos for you to check out.
Not only that, there’s a maze attached, and this is no normal maze. The goal is to reach each corner’s tower and then return to the entrance (where’s there’s an exit gate). To reach each corner is no easy task, but there’s a specific order you can attempt to complete it in, which is harder and longer. I was on the clock and managed to do it in less than half the maximum expected time, but that involved lots of running!
Unfortunately, I forgot to take any pictures. Just take my word for it; it was fun!
For the foodies
I’m not going to do this for everywhere, but there are a couple of places I can wholeheartedly recommend in Wanaka. The first is Kai Whakapai, which sits next to the lake and is full of great food and drink options throughout the day and into the evening. Check out Erik’s Fish & Chips, too. While a true British chippy may not be close, you’ll get a great meal here and compared to some places I’ve eaten it, it’s not too expensive, either!
Last – but certainly not least – is Charlie Brown Crêpes. With both sweet and savoury options, you’ll find something to suit all tastes here and they’re open throughout the day, so whenever it takes your fancy, swing on by!
My first – and only – mountain
So, Roy’s Peak. You might have seen on Instagram (and if not, why haven’t you been following me?!) the views from the lookout and the peak, but that’s only a small part of the story.
If you don’t know, I have crappy knees. They’ve been painful for the last 15-years or so, even just sitting down. Climbing up hills or tackling a lot of steps is probably the worst thing I can do to them, but that’s never stopped me.
So, people had told me about Roy’s Peak and I assumed it was a big hill. Some websites list it as an easy walking trail, while others hard. The truth is in between. It’s an easy trail, yes, but it is a constant incline all the way up, with some parts steeper than others.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it up. Whatever point I stopped at would be enough for me, especially when I realised just how steep it was and how much pressure it put on my knees. Yet, I couldn’t stop. What was listed as a six-hour return trip took me about seven hours, taking into account all the breaks I had. I’m happy with that effort, for what I’ve learned is a mountain that peaks at 1,578m!
You can see just how happy I am, and how exhausted! It was worth the effort, even if I’m still recovering now. That said, I’m never doing another one!
And before I knew it, a week had passed and it was time to get up the West Coast of New Zealand. This is going to be something else.