Guest Traveller Olivia Collins is a Melbourne-based mother of two, piano teacher and artist who is always planning the next weekend or holiday adventure with her husband and young family. Olivia and her husband recently took a break from Melbourne to travel to Wanaka, on the South Island of New Zealand, for a friend’s wedding. Let’s join them…
My husband and I arrived in Wanaka a little worse for wear after having caught the midnight flight on the Thursday before the Labour Day Long Weekend in Melbourne. However, tired eyes could not detract from the spectacular scenery that greeted us!
Monumental mountains, endless expanse of blue sky, and lush green pine forests at the water’s edge made for a Monet-like first impression of this stunning part of the world. The picturesque views and invigorating fresh air quickly whisked away any post-flight fatigue, and we soon found ourselves enjoying the sights and surrounds of wonderful Wanaka with our friends.
We had a jam-packed itinerary planned and an optional daily schedule organised by the Bride-and-Groom-to-be who were to tie the knot at Wanaka’s Rippon Hall on the Sunday. All 160 guests had flown into Wanaka for the wedding and so no time was lost in organising the best local finds at which to wine, dine and chillax in the two days prior, as well as outdoor activities through which to truly enjoy Wanaka’s spellbinding natural beauty.
From cocktails at the boutique bar overlooking Lake Wanaka – The Gin and Raspberry, to home-brewed ales and hearty pub food at Speight’s Ale House on the main street, a refreshing tipple, delicious meal and cliched beautiful sunset horizon was never far away during our weekend in Wanaka.
There is truly something for everyone in this naturally rich and completely unspoilt tourist town. Wanaka’s main town boasts wonderful boutiques, museums and art galleries for the culturally inclined; the world-class vineyards, restaurants, breweries and distillery offer a huge array of natural produce for the gourmet travellers; and outdoor-enthusiasts will be endlessly entertained with all the mountain biking, walking, hiking, kayaking, paddle-boarding, jet-boating, skiing, snowboarding, canyoning, skydiving and off-road and airborne adventures on offer.
So, apart from getting there as soon as possible, what are my top tips for travellers to Wanaka?
Olivia’s Top Five Tips for Getting the Most Out of Wanaka:
- Wanaka is an easy one-hour drive from Queenstown Airport. Qantas runs direct flights to Queenstown departing from Melbourne and Sydney daily. (After having left our flights to the last minute and experienced a 3-5am stopover in Auckland in the wee hours of the morning, I would recommend flying directly if you can!). Pre-book your car hire in advance for ultimate ease. Budget Rent a Car Costs less than $100 a day (it cost us $366 for four days) and given the expansive surrounds, it is the best way to see as much as you can.
- Airbnb has some wonderful finds for couple- and family-friendly accommodation. I was fortunate to come across The Strawbale Cottage and our host Emily was beyond helpful and our every need was catered for, even anticipated. Set amidst the mountainous countryside on a rustic small acreage yet only a five-minute drive into town, the Strawbale Cottage was a heavenly find, and what pinterest enthusiasts dream of: A picture-perfect and cosy retreat in an absolutely idyllic location!
- For the best fish and chips you have ever tasted, Erik’s Fish & Chip van on Wanaka’s main street (Ardmore Street) has you sorted. The Salt & Pepper Calamari is honestly to die for. It is difficult for me to decide if this or Lake Wanaka is actually the town’s main attraction.
- If you have a couple of hours to spare in Queenstown, I highly recommend a trip to Onsen Hot Pools (a scenic, 10-minute drive from Queenstown city centre). This really is paradise in a hot tub! Boasting idyllic private cedar-lined hot pools overlooking the Shotover Rover, and a newly opened massage facility, a spa and treatment package here was the relaxing end hubby and I needed to our whirlwind weekend away! And did I mention the view – how’s the serenity?!
- And I’ve saved the best till last. No trip to Wanaka is complete without a walk, bike ride, paddle board or kayak around Lake Wanaka. The water is pristine and despite the 9-degrees-Celsius outside temperature, most desirable to swim in, even in March! Family-operated and friendly Lakeland Wanaka Kayak Rentals operate all year round (excluding Christmas Day & New Year’s Day morning) and can be found right off the lakefront of Wanaka or, alternatively, you can pre-book your water adventure with them here. Paddle out solo, kayak with your partner, or hire a boat with a group of friends – whatever you do, be sure to spend some time on the water – and say hi to the famously instagrammed ‘Wanaka Tree’!