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That Wānaka Tree: New Zealand’s Most Instagram-Famous Tree

That Wānaka Tree: New Zealand’s Most Instagram-Famous Tree

We all want to be famous. Options for achieving this in the modern world include controversial reality TV appearances, doing dumb stuff on social media or being genuinely talented at something. Or you could be a partially submerged willow tree standing alone in Lake Wānaka. That Wānaka Tree has become an Instagram celebrity over the last few years, so on our recent trip to the region (the main purpose of which was to hike Roys Peak) we stopped by to see what all of the fuss is about. Is it cool? Overrated? Just a tree in a lake? Keep reading to find out!

Update March 2020: Someone just cut down one of the branches the tree! It’s still worth a look but isn’t quite as photogenic as it once was.


I admit to being cynical about That Wānaka Tree before I visited. A seemingly nondescript tree that has been hyped up by the Instagram masses seems like something worth avoiding. Also, the only really impressive photos I’d seen of it were taken at sunrise or sunset; the two times of day when pretty much anything looks good. Maybe I’ll start photographing that tree in front of my house at sunrise and it’ll become a thing.

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A crowd at That Wanaka Tree, New Zealand

Visiting That Wānaka Tree

We pulled up at the nearby car park and started walking along the beach, a small mass of people gathering in the distance. And then I saw it. My pulse started rushing. Emotions I never knew existed surged through my brain. A tear slipped through the defenses of my eye, crashing onto the stony beach.

READ MORE: Wānaka Itinerary: How to Spend Three – Seven Days in Wānaka

Or not. I can’t remember what I felt at that moment (even though I wrote this less than 24 hours later) but it was probably the ache of my body after the challenging Roys Peak hike. Having said that, I can see the appeal of That Wānaka Tree. It is kind of interesting to see a lone tree lost in a lake, and it is a good focal point for photos of Lake Wānaka. 

READ MORE: 18 of the Best Things to Do in Wānaka

That Wanaka Tree in Autumn, New Zealand

Getting There

There’s a car park in front of the beach, around a kilometre from downtown Wānaka (where all the shops and restaurants are). You could easily walk along the beach if you don’t have your own transport.

Planning a holiday to New Zealand’s South Island? Check out our South Island Travel Guide!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.