New Zealand | Wanaka


new zealand, south island, wanaka, lake wanakaLake Wanaka.Wanaka wasn’t meant to be a destination in and of itself — merely a waypoint en route to the next place on our itinerary, Glenorchy, which we visited on our 2015 trip and ended up being our favorite freedom camping spot. But once we got to Wanaka and realized how beautiful it is and how much there is to do, we fell in love.In love!Wanaka is sort of like a mini Queenstown. According to our NZ Frenzy guidebook, “People flock to Queenstown for partying and excitement, whereas people in Wanaka relax and enjoy the simple natural beauty. There are plenty of walks/drives/explorations to be had in and around Wanaka, but very few commercialized adventures/tours/rides/etc compared to Queenstown.”new zealand, south island, wanaka, lake wanakaThe beautiful Lake Wanaka is framed by peaceful beaches and snow-capped mountains, with a great running/biking path around the perimeter. We went on a couple 5- to 7-mile out-and-back runs along the lake. There is one main “downtown” area of cafes, restaurants and shops with scenic lakefront zealand, south island, wanaka top 10 holiday park, wanaka, wilderness campervanAfter two nights of freedom camping and visiting Glacier Country, we decided to book a spot at the Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park — definitely the most scenic holiday park at which we stayed on both trips. The town of Wanaka is within a freedom-camping-restricted zone, so it’s mostly holiday parks for lodging options until you get a few kilometers out of zealand, south island, hiking, diamond lake, rocky mountain loop trackView from the Rocky Mountain Loop Track.Before we checked in to the holiday park, we drove straight to a day hike recommended in our NZ Frenzy book: Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain Loop Track, a difficult 7-kilometer, 2.5-hour loop. It’s a pretty steep climb from the trailhead to the top — but oh, are the views worth it. (That’s where the photo of me above was taken, as well as two of the photos from my Singapore, New Zealand & Australia: By the Numbers post.)new zealand, south island, rippon vineyard, wanaka, wilderness campervanRippon Vineyard.From the trail carpark we headed to Rippon Vineyard, which was conveniently located across the street from our holiday park. We did a wine tasting, sampling a white blend, sauvignon blanc, two types of pinot noir, riesling and gewürztraminer. We bought one bottle of gewürztraminer and one bottle of the 2013 pinot zealand, south island, wanaka, iron mountain, hikingView from the Iron Mountain track.We finally checked into the holiday park, where we did laundry, made dinner and enjoyed some New Zealand wine. We also planned the itinerary for the rest of our trip, including making a reservation at the one holiday park at Milford Sound, Milford Sound Lodge.The next morning, after packing up the campervan, we had breakfast at a cute cafe called Relishes, went grocery shopping and took a walk along the lake. After some afternoon coffee and ice cream at Patagonia Chocolates, we hit the road. That was supposed to be the end of our time in Wanaka, but we returned a week later after adjusting our itinerary due to the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Kaikoura, in the northeast part of the South Island. More on that zealand, south island, wanaka, iron mountain, hikingView from the Iron Mountain track.We were glad for the opportunity to spend a little more time in Wanaka, even though we had to backtrack on roads we had already driven a week earlier. New Zealand is so beautiful and scenic that with the exception of certain stretches of highway, every drive is pleasant (says the passenger/navigator).Upon arriving to Wanaka, we went on a 10-kilometer out-and-back run along the lake, and then did a short (5-kilometer) hike up Iron Mountain, which sounds much more daunting than it really is. It’s more of a hill than a mountain, but the top boasts beautiful, 360-degree views of the town and Lake zealand, south island, hiking, diamond lake, rocky mountain loop track, freedom camping, wilderness campervanFor our second night in Wanaka, we decided to freedom camp instead of stay at the holiday park. Freedom camping is allowed in the carpark for the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain trails, which was only about 10 kilometers outside of Wanaka town proper. Kail grilled us steaks and we made plans for the next day, when we’d head to Lake Tekapo via some day hiking.I made us breakfast in the campervan, then we went on a shorter run along the lake (about 8 kilometers). After emptying/refilling the requisite tanks at the town’s public dump station, we stopped for coffee at Patagonia cafe again (and to use the internet so I could keep up with my school assignments — my least-favorite part of this trip). Then we were off for the final part of our adventure.In my next post, I’ll backtrack and cover the week in between our two stays in Wanaka, which includes Glenorchy, Te Anau, Milford Sound and the Fortrose Cliffs.See more photos from New Zealand.The Details: Diamond Lake/Rocky Mountain Loop TrackGPS Coordinates: -44.651161, 168.959499Google Map: Difficult 7-kilomer, 2.5-hour loopThe Details: Iron MountainGPS Coordinates: -44.693787, 169.155326Google Map: Moderate 5-kilometer, 60-minute loop

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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