Beaches aren’t the first things that come to mind when thinking about Wanaka, an inland mountain tourist town famous for hiking and skiing. Lake Wanaka dominates the area and features some stunning beaches, and nearby Lake Hawea has good ones too. Looking for the best beaches in Wanaka? You’ve come to the right place!
Lake Wanaka sits just in front of the main part of Wanaka and the beach is a great place for a swim, a sit-down by the water or a stroll. You can grab a drink or something to eat and get a view of the water or get a burger or a pie and eat it at the beach. If you’re lucky you might see a nice sunset!
That Wanaka Tree
From downtown Wanaka you can walk (or ride your bike) for miles around the shores of Lake Wanaka. A good spot to seek out is the famous tree in the lake. It’s a nice section of beach and the tree looks great in photos — definitely a busy spot though!
That Wanaka Tree to Glendhu Bay
From there you’ll find lots of beach areas along the walking / cycling track heading towards Glendhu Bay. There are some good views on offer, especially in winter when there’s some snow on the mountains.
Glendhu Bay has long been known as one of the best beaches in Wanaka, and it’s easily my favourite. The water is really clear (and cold I’m sure) and the views are awesome. There’s a big camping ground at Glendhu Bay but not really any other development — a good place to relax for a few hours with a picnic!
The Other Side
If you’re in town and head in the opposite direction from That Wanaka Tree you’ll find a few quiet beaches. These beaches are nice enough but didn’t quite stand out compared to the ones mentioned earlier. There was meant to be a photo here but I lost them!
Mou Waho Island
There are a few islands in Lake Wanaka, with Mou Waho being the best to visit. It’s well-known for the short walking track to a viewpoint. The boat drops you off at a beautiful beach, definitely one of the top beaches in Wanaka. There are a few other islands to explore too — we’ll be doing that this summer.
Lake Hawea is a short drive from Wanaka and is just as picturesque. There’s a walk (Gladstone Track) which takes you a few kilometres around the lake and you’ll see some great beach views along the way.
It’s kinda one big beach — you can see it at various points, and if you’re driving you can park in a few different areas. Kite Surfers Beach, Scotts Beach and John Creek are some good beach areas to check out.
What Are the Beaches in Wanaka Like?
Lake beaches are often rough and rocky, and that’s true for the beaches in Wanaka. What you sacrifice in sand you receive in views though — the views from these beaches are stunning. If you’re looking for the best beach in Wanaka I’d go for Glendhu Bay and the beaches in Hawea. Don’t stress too much if you don’t have time to visit these beaches though as the main beach in town is great as well.
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our South Island travel guide!
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