Wanaka

New Zealand

Wanaka is an excellent base for skiers thanks to two great ski resorts within a short drive, a beautifully serene setting on the shores of Lake Wanaka and a little town with a lot going for it.

Scout Loves

  • A peaceful and beautiful setting on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
  • Don’t be fooled – the sleepy-looking town can be quite a party town at night.
  • The choice of two of the South Island’s best ski resorts – Treble Cone, which advanced skiers will love, or Cardrona which is popular with families and beginners.

Scout Tips

  • The accommodation options are fairly limited – while there are some fantastic boutique lodges, it’s screaming out for a great hotel.
  • If you are staying for a week and want to dine out every night you may find the restaurant and bar options a bit limited.
  • Be careful driving to Treble Cone resort.

Scout Review

When most people think of skiing in New Zealand they almost always default to Queenstown. Yet, less than an hour away, with equally good ski resorts (if not better), Wanaka is an excellent alternative. Nestled on the shores of Lake Wanaka with spectacular views of snowy Mount Aspiring and several big mountain ranges,  it is incredibly picturesque.

The small town is simpler and much quieter than busy, bustling Queenstown. Yet it has some excellent choices for dining (don’t miss Francesca’s – probably the best Italian in the South Island) and some great bars that provide a lively apres scene. Not surprisingly Wanaka has grown in popularity over the past few years and you’ll find everything you need for a great ski holiday. There’s a good range of stores for a bit of retail therapy (for supplies, Mediterranean Market has wonderful fresh produce and imported goods) and for those with a higher budget there are several heli-skiing operations.

For skiers who want a bit of flexibility a great option is OnePassNZ. Once loaded with cash, it can be used for day tickets at Treble Cone or Cardrona (plus several other South Island resorts) as well as lessons, rentals, food and a ton of other off-mountain activities. The pass also covers Snow Farm which boasts more than 40kms of groomed trails for cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, sledding and dog-sled tours. It’s a fun day out and alternative to the main resorts.

When to go

The ski resorts are open from late June until early October. The most reliable snow is in late July and August. The first few weeks of July are busy with New Zealand and Australian school holidays.

Wanaka Accommodation

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While there are quite a few options in the Wanaka area, quality accommodation is pretty limited. Beyond the dated motels there are several small boutique lodges, a few apartments and a good hotel option. The majority of the Wanaka lodging allows easy walking access to the restaurants, shops and cafes, and are a great option for those wanting to avoid the fast paced Queenstown area and ski nearby Treblecone and Cardrona.

Here are a few of Scout's top accommodation options in Wanaka:

The Edgewater - Edgewater is a simple but great mid-range hotel located right on the lake and a short distance from downtown Wanaka. Edgewater lives up to its name – with all rooms providing views of the lake and the snowcapped mountains.

Alpine Resort Wanaka - The apartments at Alpine Resort Wanaka offer everything you need for a comfortable home-away-from-home, perfect for families or groups of friends who want a nice apartment for a longer stay. Tucked into a residential area not far from downtown Wanaka, Alpine Resort is full of nice little surprises.

Wyndham Vacation Resorts - Just a short distance out of Wanaka, Wyndham Vacation Resorts is a timeshare style of property featuring self-contained apartments. The apartments range from studios to 3 bedrooms, and being located an easy 20 minute walk or 2 minute drive from downtown Wanaka, it's a perfect option for families and couples.

Scout can book full packages to New Zealand including lift passes, rentals and accommodation. We are unable to help with bookings for accommodation only. Please use the general inquiry form on the contact us page to inquire about New Zealand ski packages.

Resort Activities

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Wanaka offers plenty of skis-off activities; not quite the jam-packed list of its action-packed neighbor, Queenstown, but still great. There’s sky diving, scenic flights, jetboating and Puzzling World which, as its name suggests, has puzzles and optical illusions as well as a big maze.

There are several heli-skiing operations that use Wanaka as a base. Read our profile on Southern Lakes Heliski to get a taste of a day out.

Getting There and Around

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Although it has a small airport, the best way to get to Wanaka is via flights into Queenstown. Air New Zealand, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly into Queenstown directly from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. There are many daily regional flights from main NZ cities Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. Wanaka is about a 60-minute drive from Queenstown Airport.

If you are staying in Wanaka town you won’t need a car as pretty much everything is accessible by foot. Look at your hotel profile carefully as some are a short drive out of town.

There are several options for getting to the ski resorts from Wanaka:

To Cardrona and Treble Cone Yello! has scheduled and chartered options. A round trip from Wanaka is $35 adult/$28 child.

For Cardrona these operators also offer shuttles:

Alpine ConneXions Snow Shuttle has daily transfers.

Ridgeline Adventures offer private transfers.

For Treble Cone these operators also offer shuttles:

Kiwi Discovery (one pick-up at 8.45am). 

Treble Cone mountain resort also offers two shuttle services (8.45am and 9.30am) from the base of the mountain road, meaning you have to get your own way to the turn off, but let someone else do the tricky, winding dirt road 7km up to the resort base area ($12pp return, $35 family).

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