Wānaka is one of the top hiking destinations in New Zealand (and the world) and it can be tough choosing the right track. The best walks in Wānaka include long slogs up mountains, relaxing lakeside wanders, overnight treks to mountain huts and everything in between.
These short walks in Wānaka are suited to a wide range of travellers. Most start close to town, but some involve some travel.
Walks Around Lake Wānaka
There are walking / cycling tracks around a lot of Lake Wānaka, especially the bit between town and Glendhu Bay. You can join up with these tracks from various points. That Wānaka Tree is the biggest attraction in these parts, you’ll probably the crowds before the tree!
The track to Diamond Lake is part of the Rocky Mountain Track. If you don’t feel like a proper walk then Diamond Lake is the place to stop — it’s a tiny lake with some nice views from above.
Mount Iron is a small hill in Wānaka and is a popular sunrise spot. It’s a lot shorter than the other “sunrise” tracks but obviously the views aren’t quite as good.
Lake Hāwea is a small town 15-minutes from Wānaka. The lake is just as beautiful as Lake Wānaka but the town is way quieter. The Gladstone Track follows the lake for quite a while, but there are heaps of entry points making it easy to do short sections.
Blue Pools + Other Walks Nearby
The road from Wānaka to Haast (West Coast) is one of the top road trips in New Zealand. One of the best places to stop is the Blue Pools, a pristine section of river with some of the clearest water you’ll ever see.
There are also several waterfalls close by, including Fantail Falls and Thunder Creek Falls. If you’re not driving all the way to Haast it’d be worth doing this part as a day trip from Wānaka — try and go on a sunny day if possible!
Mou Waho Island
You can catch a boat to Mou Waho Island, one of several islands in Lake Wānaka. Once there you’ll find a track up to one of the best viewpoints in the Wānaka region. We haven’t visited the other islands but Stevenson Island is on our list for our next trip.
The day walks in Wānaka include two of the most iconic walks in New Zealand (Roys Peak and Isthmus Peak) and a couple of shorter half day walks.
The walk to the top of Roys Peak is one of the most popular things to do in New Zealand. Don’t let the fact it’s a social media star put you off — it’s easily one of the best viewpoints in New Zealand.
The walk could be considered boring though, as it’s pretty much straight up a mountain, and if you’re doing it for sunrise (which you should) you won’t see much for the first few hours. All that will fade from your memory once you see the view at the top.
Isthmus Peak is another stunning walk, rising from the Lake Hāwea to a viewpoint taking in both lakes (and lots of mountains). It’s another popular sunrise hike. We did it in winter and it was freezing up there — well worth it for the views though!
The Rocky Mountain Track takes you high above Lake Wānaka for more awesome views. It’s not as spectacular as Roys Peak and Isthmus Peak but it’s easier — more a half-day walk than a full one.
Rob Roy Glacier
This is another shortish (three – four hours) day walk in Wānaka, but it does take a while to drive to. The road is picturesque too, and the track with its glacier views is one of the best in the region. We did the Rob Roy Glacier Track in winter and the light wasn’t great — summer seems a lot better.
If you’re keen to do an overnight walk in Wānaka there are a few choices. You could do Liverpool Hut and French Ridge Hut, which both start close to the Rob Roy Glacier Track. We haven’t done these yet but Liverpool Hut is in the plans for this summer.
Brewster Hut is another good option for an overnight hike. It’s close to the Blue Pools (Makarora) — I’ve seen some amazing photos from this track (we’ll also hopefully do it this summer). You’ll need to book these huts in advance, but if you’re going to do it on a weekday you should be able to book it a day or two before (which allows you to plan around the weather). There’s also the multi-day Gillespie Pass Circuit.
Other Walks in Wānaka
Other walks in Wānaka include the track from Albertown to Lake Hawea (we did a short section of it), Breast Hill and the Luggate Creek Track. There are heaps of others too I’m sure — there’s almost endless opportunities for hiking in this region. This post should be a good start!
Are you planning a trip to Wānaka? Check out our Wanaka travel guide!
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