It’s no secret that Lake Wānaka 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 Wānaka cruise to Mou Waho Island and it was a special experience – keep reading to see if you might want to do the same!
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Note: We paid our own way on this trip.
Lake Wānaka Cruise
The Mou Waho Island tour starts off by the shores of Lake Wānaka, just across the road from all the shops, restaurants and bars. There are several companies to choose from – we went with Lake Wānaka 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 Wānaka 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. 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 are 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, where you’ll get some of the most impressive views imaginable of Lake Wānaka. The small lake on Mou Waho Island provides an interesting foreground, and Lake Wānaka, 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 Wānaka 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).
Where to Book a Lake Wānaka Cruise and Island Tour
Here’s where you can book the Lake Wānaka Water Taxi and Mou Waho Island Tour (tour prices start at $135 each) or the Mou Waho Island 3.5-Hour Cruise and Nature Walk (tour prices start at $239 each, with a guided eco-walk and includes morning tea). The tours are well worth doing considering you get to cruise over Lake Wānaka and explore this unique island.
There are other tours to the islands in Lake Wānaka including the Stevenson Island 2 Hour Cruise and Nature Walk and the Ruby Island 1-Hour Cruise and Photo Walk. Alternatively, you can do a Lake Wānaka Happy Hour Cruise, where you cruise the lake at sunset onboard a luxury catamaran with happy hour drinks on hand.
- The Weather: There were only six of us on this tour and we were all buzzing about the experience. We had perfect weather (check the weather here) 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.
- How long does it take? The tour takes around 3.5 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 Wānaka
Wānaka 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 Wānaka.
READ MORE: 10 of the Best Walks in Wānaka
Are you planning a trip to Wānaka? Check out our three – seven day Wānaka itinerary!
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