It’s no secret that Lake Wanaka is one of the prettiest lakes in New Zealand. You’ll get great views of it from town, from the mountains above and from the road when driving towards the West Coast or to Rob Roy Glacier. But what’s a trip on the lake itself like? We recently did a Lake Wanaka cruise to Mou Waho Island and it was a special experience – keep reading to see if you might want to do the same!
Lake Wanaka Cruise
The Mou Waho Island tour starts off by the shores of Lake Wanaka, just across the road from all the shops, restaurants and bars. There are several companies to choose from – we went with Lake Wanaka Cruises (we paid our own way). We did the trip on a frosty May morning and the lake was looking about as good as it ever could. The water was still, there was snow on the mountains and some of the autumn leaves were still hanging in there.
It takes about an hour to cruise from Wanaka to Mou Waho Island. There’s a lot to see along the way, and the last bit reminded us a lot of “the sounds”, Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. Such a scenic boat trip! You’d be happy with just the lake cruise, but there’s something even better to come.
A Short Walk on Mou Waho Island
The boat pulled up at a stony beach, and from there it was a short uphill walk towards a viewpoint overlooking the island. There were some good views along the way and our guide, Tim, talked a bit about the history of the island as well as some of the creatures who call it home (mostly wekas and wetas — one is a bird, the other is a bug).
After a while we came to a small lake, which is the biggest reason this place has become famous over the last few years. It makes for a striking scene at ground-level, especially on a calm sunny day, but the most impressive part is the viewpoint above it.
The Mou Waho Island Viewpoint
It’s a short walk up from the lake to the viewpoint, and up there you’ll get some of the most impressive views imaginable of Lake Wanaka. The small lake on Mou Waho Island provides an interesting foreground, and Lake Wanaka, surrounded by mountains, is always a treat to see. After lots of photos, it was a quick walk back down the hill to the boat.
The Return Journey
The cruise back to Wanaka was just as scenic as before, but everything looked a little different and you’re facing the opposite way! It was also warmer – those early starts in late autumn / winter can be harsh.
We started to get some good reflections on the way back too – the perfect way to end one of the best day trips we’ve done in New Zealand (or anywhere else in the world).
- The Weather: There were only six of us on this tour and we were all buzzing about the experience. We had perfect weather and the ideal light for photos, which made things extra special, but I reckon it would have been a great trip regardless. If you can though, leave it a little late to book your tour (especially in these quiet tourist times) and try and be flexible with which days you can do it.
- Costs: We paid $159 each, but you could probably do it cheaper in summer (some of the tours don’t run in winter).
- How long does it take? The tour takes around four hours – you’ll be on the island for around 90 minutes (or slightly longer) and the walk is easy for most levels of fitness. We did the 9 am tour and got back just before 1 pm.
Other Things to do in Wanaka
Wanaka is the place to go for hiking. Roys Peak is one of the most iconic day walks in New Zealand and there are several other highly rated walks to check out. There are also scenic drives, ski fields, vineyards and so much more. Check out our post about the best things to do in Wanaka.
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary!
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