A combination of stunning alpine views and azure lakes, Wanaka is a magnet for those wanting a truly authentic kiwi ski experience. Check out this ski itinerary for your ultimate winter experience!
Nearest Airport: Queenstown
Best months: July – September
Local resorts: Cardrona and Treble Cone
When you first arrive in Wanaka, you’ll be rendered breathless. The mirrored image of snow-capped peaks reflecting on Lake Wanaka, the beautiful pines standing tall on Eely Point and the relaxing vibe of this small town will capture your hearts at first site.
Come June, the local mountain-biking shops switch personas for ski rental, the watersports instructors switch uniforms for baggy ski gear, and the local shuttle buses fit chains ready for snow-laden streets. But just because the winter visitors have arrived, this doesn’t mean Wanaka loses its humble charm. Come here for a truly kiwi skiing experience.
Day 1: Arrive in Wanaka
Situated on the edge of Lake Wanaka, Wanaka is a boutique-style town giving you the freedom to do your own thing, away from the crowds. It’s located just an hour’s drive from Queenstown, and shuttles are available every day – although hiring a car will allow you more flexibility. Spend some time settling into your accommodation and exploring the local town, before taking photos of (arguably) the most photographed tree in the world and watching the sun set over Lake Wanaka.
TIP: Try one of the boutique cinemas, Ruby’s or Cinema Paradiso, to catch a cosy movie and have a quiet night in.
Day 2 & 3: Cardrona Alpine Resort
Check out the snow report and head towards Cardrona Alpine Resort, approximately 40 minutes drive from Wanaka. The resort is characterised by wide-open basins, fabulous beginner trails, long blue runs and many off-piste slopes, offering excitement for all. If you’re a freestyler you are particularly spoilt for choice with four terrain parks on offer – these parks regularly host global events such as the Burton Open, Winter Games, and FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Cups.
If steep and deep is your thing then you won’t be disappointed with areas like the Powder Keg and Arcadia Chutes – reached off the Whitestar Express Quad. Captain’s Basin is also fun with a variety of lumps, bumps and rollers for freeriders to play on. Pick a line and go for gold, but be cautious as none of the cliffs or small drops are marked.
TIP: On the way home, stop at the Cardrona Bra Fence (Bradrona) – one of many controversial tourist attractions in NZ. Full of quirky charm, passers-by often remove their bras and attach them to this fence, continuing to grow the colourful collection and infamous reputation.
Day 4 & 5: Treble Cone
Treble Cone ski field has some impressive stats (by New Zealand standards) when it comes to size, and we all know that bigger is better! Treble Cone (TC) is the largest ski area on the South Island of New Zealand at 550 hectares, has the longest vertical drop at 700 metres and is famous for it’s long uncrowded groomers.
Some would say TC gets more than it’s fair share of the dry southern powder too, and is notorious for it’s more testing and challenging terrain. With 40% of the resort being marked as “advanced” TC is a dreamland for the competent freeriders and freeskiers. Tackle some steeps, explore the collection of chutes on offer and drop into the deep Saddle and Home Basins.
In the evening try one of the many bars lining the lakefront in Wanaka. Local favourites are Gin & Raspberry and Kai Whakapai, both located on Ardmore Street. Head to Gin & Raspberry for a classy affair, making sure you get in early to grab a seat on the first floor sundeck. Or head to Kai’s if you want a more local flavour, including the delicious Brewski, a beer brewed locally in Wanaka.
Day 6: Other Adventures Near Wanaka
Hike up Roy’s Peak for some of the best scenic views in the world. The 11km track passes through alpine tussock and farmland littered with woolly sheep and mountain goats. Once you reach the peak you’ll be treated with jaw-dropping views of Mount Aspiring and Lake Wanaka far below. Its no wonder this spot is a favorite among landscape and travel photographers.
Alternatively, why not have a champagne picnic on a glacier? Aspiring helicopters offer trips high into the untouched lands of New Zealand’s backcountry peaks. Descend upon Isobel Glacier and marvel at the feeling of being totally isolated, with not another footprint in the snow around you. Heaven. Do a few heli runs if you still have legs left!
Combine this itinerary with the Queenstown Ski Itinerary for a longer winter holiday in New Zealand. Other resorts within an hours’ drive from Wanaka include The Remarkables and Coronet Peak