Finding Adventure in Wanaka, New Zealand
Traveling to New Zealand was a dream come true. For years I’ve wanted to visit the beautiful landscape that had captured my attention with photos of rugged coasts, lush forests, and incredible mountain peaks. My desire to visit this land grew every time I met a New Zealander (known as a “Kiwi”) and was taken aback by their incredibly warm and welcoming nature. My ski and adventure vacation to the beautiful community of Wanaka on the South Island of New Zealand did not disappoint.
Air New Zealand offers an incredibly comfortable business class non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand. Highlights from the flight included a fully reclining bed, a delicious four-course dinner, and some of the friendlier staff I’ve encountered. Once in Auckland I transferred to a short flight to the South Island, arriving in Queenstown. I grabbed a quick coffee and hopped in a shuttle to enjoy the last leg of the trip, a one-and-a-half hour scenic drive.
Upon arriving in Wanaka it became instantly clear why they chose to film “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in this amazing landscape. The small town of Wanaka sits on a beautiful, pristine, blue lake nestled between mountains on either side. On arriving at my accommodations at the Te Wanaka Lodge, I was greeted by the family/owners, Mandy and Wayne, and Wayne’s lovely mother Cheryl. This incredible Kiwi family became one of the highlights of my trip. Their warmth and concern for my enjoyment of their town was unprecedented.
The Te Wanaka Lodge offers a perfect location a minute’s walk from downtown Wanaka. The incredibly comfortable beds will put you straight to sleep and make you forget about jet lag completely. A delicious and hearty breakfast buffet is served every morning, complete with made-to-order eggs Benedict with thick slices of bacon and eggs grown on the family’s farm. Tea and coffee are on all day long, and either homemade cake or hot soup is served in the afternoon.
When I wasn’t basking in the comforts of the Te Wanaka Lodge I was overjoyed to be skiing in the month of July. New Zealand is home to more than 25 ski resorts that attract skiers from all over the world. I enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day skiing Cardrona Resort, which is just a 20-minute drive from Wanaka. Cardrona offers modern ski amenities and mostly intermediate to beginner terrain. Being the avid skier that I am I found myself more at home at Treble Cone Resort, a 30-minute drive from Wanaka. Treble Cone offers terrain to suit beginners to the most advanced skiers. The highlights of skiing at Treble Cone are the out-of-this-world views of the endless New Zealand mountain peaks as well as a killer view of the lake. If you find yourself needing an instructor, both resorts offer trained professionals to help you progress your skills or guide you around the mountain.
Wanaka is a world-class playground for the outdoors aficionado. I recommend getting in touch with local Chris Riley, owner and guide of Eco Wanaka Adventures. Chris is an incredible guide who can show you the best of the Wanaka area and also brings a great sense of humor and a joy for the outdoors. Whether it’s fishing, heli-hiking, or an adventure to the glacier that interests you, Chris will handle the logistics and ensure you have a great time.
After a day of adventuring I recommend refueling with some of Wanaka’s best wine and dining at Bistro Gentil. This fine-dining restaurant comes with a relaxed atmosphere and appetizing views of the lake. Sampling of local New Zealand wines and delicious small plates makes for a fun and delicious dining experience. The cheese plate with homemade fig preserves was a highlight.
Wanaka is a special place in the paradise of New Zealand. If you have a flair for natural beauty and adventure, this is definitely a destination to put of the list.