Apologies right at the start for all of the lake photos but there really isn’t anything we can do about it. Wanaka is all about that view which is undoubtedly the most beautiful lake in all of New Zealand so what option did we have?
South from Fox Glacier
After our fabulous couple of days at Fox Glacier it was time to leave the Top 10 park and head south towards Wanaka. It would be one of our longest drives on the South Island probably taking 3 to 4 hours. So many tourists make crazy 8 to 10 hour drives here and miss everything, we try and keep our trips down under 3 hours as we love to stop and explore whenever we fancy. So we planned to hug the coast road down to Haast then cut across along Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.
Unfortunately the weather was awful and visibility was down to nearly nothing so all of the nice viewpoints on the coast road such as Knights Point weren’t worth stopping at. Such a shame but we did dive into Fantail Falls for a look even though it was pouring with rain.
Fantail Falls and Lake Hawea
The impressive Fantail Falls were a little dull and cloudy unfortunately but the river bed and beach were completely different to our previous visit. Now there were hundreds of piles of stones everywhere. We knew these as Inuit stones although I’m not sure that’s what the other tourists called them, think they just liked building stone towers. Pretty impressive though.
Still raining hard we pressed on and stopped at another couple of lookouts that should have had great views. One across the enormous Lake Wanaka, where we would be staying later, and the other across the eerier Lake Hawea.
The first of two stays in Wanaka
We had planned to stay in Wanaka for a week with a couple called Tristan and MJ but had been contacted by our old friend Gill who we met on our first trip to New Zealand. Gill invited us to stay at her place, on the outskirts of the town, and after chatting to MJ we rejigged our week-long stay to split it between the two. Perfect.
Tristan and MJ are a lovely American couple who have recently moved from California and settled in Wanaka and we were staying in their Airbnb room for 3 nights. Comfy room and full use of their open plan spacious house was just what we needed. So after a chat we decided to head down to the lake to see what was occurring, it was New Years Eve after all.
Very busy is what it was and unbelievably the clouds had all disappeared and the sky was blue as we paddled and walked along the lakefront with the hoards of other visitors. It seemed like the whole world had descended upon Wanaka to celebrate New Year. So we grabbed a portion of Fish’n Chips and sat on the beach watching the sunset as everyone prepared to party.
We didn’t make the party however, after the food we slowly wandered back past the live stage and the crazy people and saw the New Year in at our Airbnb. Our hosts were out so we sat in their garden watching the fireworks enjoying a beer. It was so good and so different to every other New Year that we have ever experienced.
Brunch with an old friend
Our New Year started with a brunch invite over to Gills new house to meet her fella Ross. It was under 10 minutes drive and before we knew it we were all sitting out the back of their fabulous house enjoying a drink and chatting. Jo will fill you in on Gill and Ross and the house next time as we were due to be spending 4 nights with them but it was fabulous to see her again and great to finally meet Ross.
Early morning hike up Mount Iron
As the sun continued to shine we decided on an early hike up one of Wanaka’s smaller peaks, Mount Iron. It stood to the east of the town just a short way from our digs so we set off around 8am to do the 1 hour hike up to the top. Even at that time of day it was getting hot and as we climbed the dusty rocky track we found ourselves dripping with sweat and breathing heavily. Some parts were just so steep and rocky but there were people jogging up and down past us constantly. They’re obviously used to it and do it every day.
Anyway when we reached the top the view were even better than expected. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea could be seen as well as the Cardrona and Upper Clutha valleys. Stunning 360 degree views.
After we’d hiked back down and had a spot of late breakfast what else was there to do but head for the lake and spend some quality time just relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. We had our books, some lunch, some water and of course the lake to keep cooling off in.
Eely Point Reserve
Our final morning at MJ and Tristans (wonder what the MJ stands for, we never did find out) was spent just packing and chatting before we headed out to Eely Point Reserve on the east side of Lake Wanaka. More walking and a spot of lunch whilst watching the world go by and chatting about future JWalking adventures before setting off for Gill and Ross’s house early afternoon.
There is something special about Wanaka and the lake, it’s tough to put your finger on it but the way that the lake is bordered by rows of mountains on three sides and seems to disappear into the distance is just awe-inspiring. The town is great with lots to see and do but it’s the beautiful lake that sets it apart. You just can’t stop looking at it.
Next – Wedding Planning in Wanaka
31/12 – 03/01/2018