Wanaka is a stunning alpine town nestled in the Southern Alps and overlooking Lake Wanaka. Despite its growing tourism industry, Wanaka managed to maintain a small-town feel with a friendly community and a relaxed pace of life. It’s a great town to base yourself in for a couple of days to relax and do some of the best hikes in Wanaka. From easy lakeside walks to strenuous hikes taking you high up in the mountains, Wanaka has it all. Roys Peak, Isthmus Peak and Rob Roy Glacier track are some of the most beautiful and popular hikes in Wanaka. But in this ultimate guide you will find many more great options. From easy walks to more demanding hikes in Wanaka.
THE BEST HIKES IN WANAKA
Isthmus Peak Track – One of our favorite hikes in Wanaka
Isthmus Peak track is one of our favorite hikes in Wanaka. Only a 15-minute drive outside the town is the trailhead of Isthmus Peak track located. With stunning views on Mount Aspiring National Park, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, the Isthmus peak track is a must-do. The trail is easy to follow and a well-maintained wide gravel path. But with 16 kilometers out and back and 1250 meters vertical incline, you will have to put in some effort to get to the summit! Nevertheless, it is worth the climb and is also a fantastic alternative to the more popular Roys Peak Track.
Distance & difficulty Isthmus peak: 16 km (9.9 miles) out and back with 1250 meters (4,100 feet) incline over 8 kilometers. With that being said, you can expect the Isthmus Peak track to be a hard hike
Duration Isthmus peak: 6 – 7 hours to complete.
Note: The Track is closed for the lambing season from 20 November until 20 December.
How to get to Isthmus Peak Trailhead
Isthmus Peak trailhead is a 30-kilometre drive from Wanaka and a 1.5-hour drive from Queenstown. Having your rental car is the best option to get there.
There are two car parks across the street from the trailhead so there will be enough space if one of them gets full. One of them is a small car park and another one a bit further down the road is much bigger. From the car park, the trail is clearly signed. For the first 200 meters you will walk along the road but you’ll quickly get to the sign of entering Matatiaho Conservation Area where the stunning hike begins.
Rob Roy Glacier Track – The most varied hike in Wanaka
The Rob Roy Glacier track is a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) return hike in Mount Aspiring National Park that takes you to a dramatic alpine landscape that includes snowfields, glaciers, river valleys and waterfalls. This breathtaking hike near Wanaka includes all the nature elements that is New Zealand in our opinion. Lush native beech forest, gushing waterfalls, crystal clear glacier rivers, sheer rock cliffs, dramatic alpine landscapes and a hanging glacier. The Rob Roy Glacier trail is one of the most beautiful day hikes near Wanaka and even in the whole South Island of New Zealand.
Distance & difficulty Rob Roy Glacier Track: The 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) return track is graded as intermediate and is suitable for people with a moderate level of fitness. You gain around 410 meters (1,345 feet) of elevation along the Rob Roy track.
Duration Rob Roy Glacier Track: Approximately 3-4 hours to complete.
How to get to Rob Roy Glacier track
Located in remote Mount Aspiring National Park, the easiest way to get to the trailhead of Rob Roy Glacier track is by car. The destination you’ll have to type into Google Maps is Raspberry Creek Carpark. The car park is located around 50 km / 30 miles from Wanaka and takes about an hour and 20 minutes drive to get there.
From Wanaka, take the Wanaka – Mount Aspiring Road (also known as the Matukituki Valley Road) for approximately 60 minutes. The last 30 km / 18 miles of the drive is on a gravel road which slows down the journey. Another very important thing to know before you go is that you’ll have to cross some rivers so renting a car with high clearance is highly recommended. Be extra cautious after heavy rainfall, because then the small rivers can get deeper making it more dangerous to cross.
Once you arrive at the car park, you will see the trailhead to the Rob Roy Glacier Track clearly signposted. There are public toilets and information panels available.
Roys Peak Track – Best Sunrise hike in Wanaka
Roys Peak is one of the most famous hikes in New Zealand. With stunning views over Lake Wanaka and the snow-capped peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park, Roys Peak will be etched in your memory. It’s a bucket list experience for many travelers coming to New Zealand. Although it can be crowded along Roys Peak track because it’s the most popular walk in Wanaka, there are options to beat the crowds. But you’ll have to be early. Hiking Roys Peak before sunrise is a magical experience to see the first light peaking over the mountains. But with 8 kilometers and 1,258 (4,127 feet) meters elevation one way, you can expect Roys Peak hike to be hard. Nevertheless, it is worth the effort for the incredible views and experience.
Distance & difficulty Roys Peak: The total distance of Roys Peak is 16 kilometers out and back with 1,258 meters (4,127 feet) elevation gain over 8 kilometers. Therefore you will need to be reasonably fit to hike Roys Peak and definitely bring (more than!) enough water.
Duration Roys Peak: It will take around 6 to 7 hours to complete the hike.
Note: The track is closed for lambing season from 1 October to 10 November.
How to get to Roys Peak Trailhead
Roys Peak Track car park is easy to find as it is located along the Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road. From Wanaka, it is only a 5-minute drive to get to the trailhead, but from Queenstown it will take you about an hour. There are 100 parking spaces available which might sound like a lot. But because of Roys Peak popularity, the parking lot is usually full by 9 AM! So if you’re not coming early enough, you either have to wait for someone leaving, or take the shuttle from Wanaka with Ritchies shuttle service.
The first sunrise hikers are usually back around 10 AM, so if you’re lucky with not too many other cars waiting you can snag a parking space. Don’t even think about parking along the road because it’s not only dangerous as people are driving super fast here, but you can also get a hefty fine.
Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track
Diamond Lake Walk and Rocky Mountain Summit Track are two separate hiking trails near Wanaka that can be easily merged in a day hike. The Diamond Lake track is a relatively easy 1.5-hour return walk that takes you through native bushland to a lookout point over picturesque Diamond Lake. The Rocky Mountain track is a bit more challenging 7.1-km loop trail that takes about 3-4 hour and takes you up to the summit of Rocky Mountain at 775 meters in height. With stunning views over Lake Wanaka , this is one of the best walks in Wanaka with a short distance.
There are several options to do this trail as two hikes can be merged into one. Here are the options:
- Diamond Lake Circuit Track: 45 min return, 2.5 km
- Diamond Lake Lookout: 1 hr return, 2 km
- Lake Wānaka Lookout: 2 hr return, 5 km
- Rocky Mountain Summit Track: 3 hr return, 7 km, 500 meters incline
How to get to Diamond Lake Wanaka & Rocky Mountain trailhead
The trailhead of Diamond Lake Walk and Rocky Mountain Summit track are located along the Mount Aspiring Road on a 15-minute drive from Wanaka. The track starts from the car park at the end of Diamond Lake Road, which is well-signposted from the main road. Here you enter the Diamond Lake Conservation Area which is an area of 7,500 hectares and includes Diamond Lake, Rocky Mountain, and several other nearby peaks, lakes, and valleys.
Waterfall Creek Track – That Wanaka Tree walk
The Waterfall Creek Track is one of the shortest walks in Wanaka taking you along the lake. Starting near #thatwanakatree at the West End of Roy’s Bay, this easy lakeside track passes the famous Wanaka Tree and Rippon Winery. It’s a very easy track and was our favorite afternoon walk while we were staying in Wanaka. You can meet plenty of locals or travelers along the lake enjoying the last sunrays at Roys Bay.
Also with sunrise this is a famous place for photographers to capture the Wanaka Tree. If you come to Wanaka and haven’t seen the Wanaka Tree… You haven’t been to Wanaka!
Grandview Mountain Track – One of the less crowded hikes in Wanaka
The Grandview Mountain Track is a moderately difficult track with some steep and rocky sections located in Hawea township. The trail leads you up along a gravel farm road before opening up to expansive views of the surrounding mountains, Lake Hawea, Lake Wanaka, and Mount Aspiring. The 1,000-meter (3,281 feet) elevation gain over 18 km return (11.2 miles) makes the Grandview Mountain Track a hard hike, but the spectacular views are worth the effort. The Grandview Mountain Track is way less popular than the famous hikes in Wanaka such as Roys Peak and Isthmus Peak. Therefore, if you love the less crowded trails, the Grandview Mountain Track is one for you!
Distance & difficulty Grandview Mountain Track: The total distance of Grandview Mountain Track is 18 km return (11.2 miles) with 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) elevation gain making it a hard hike.
Duration Grandview Mountain Track: 5 up to 7 hours to complete.
Note: The track is closed for lambing season from 26 September – 21 November.
West Matukituki Track to Mount Aspiring Hut
One of the shorter overnight hikes in Wanaka is the West Matukituki Track to Mount Aspiring Hut. The 18 km (11.1 miles) (9 km one way) moderate track takes you over grassed farm flats along the river with amazing views down the valley and surrounding glaciers.
The West Matukituki Track also starts from the Raspberry Creek parking lot which is the same as Rob Roy Glacier track. If you’re going to do this track, then make sure to book your stay in the Mount Aspiring Hut in advance.
Because the trail is exposed to the weather elements, make sure to plan this track on a day with little to no chance of rain or wind. You want to layer up anyway because the weather in the mountains can change very quickly.
Distance & difficulty West Matukituki Track to Mount Aspiring Hut: The total distance out and back from West Matukituki Track to Mount Aspiring Hut is 18 km (11.1 miles) which means 9 kilometers one way.
Duration Mount Iron track: 2 hours one way.
Wanaka Skyline Track
The Wanaka Skyline Track is a challenging 23-kilometre one-way track that begins with Roys Peak and then continues the ridgeline towards Mt Alpha (1630m). The track ends at the Cardrona Valley Road and car park, but of course you can walk this track either way. Ideally, you’ve arranged your transport in advance. Fun fact is that this track was more popular back in the day than Roys Peak! So if you have the time to continue hiking after finishing Roys Peak, then carry on for the Wanaka Skyline track!
Distance & difficulty Wanaka Skyline Track: The out and back distance of Wanaka Skyline Track is 23 km with 1,560 meters of elevation gain making it a hard hike.
Duration Wanaka Skyline Track: 10 hours to complete.
Brewster Hut track – One of the most challenging hikes in Wanaka
The Brewster Hut track begins at Fantail Falls which is located in Mount Aspiring National Park. It’s an hour’s drive north from Wanaka and on the way to the West Coast. So you can perfectly add this hike to your itinerary when driving from Wanaka to Franz Josef for example. The 10 km return (6.2 miles) track takes about 5 – 6 hours to complete and you have to be moderately fit as the trip is quite technical.
Although you can do this hike in one day, it is recommended to book the Brewster Hut and plan this track to do overnight. The first sunlight in the mountains is just incredible and it gives you more time to really take in the beauty of Mt Aspiring National Park. This was a tough one but definitely one of the best hikes in Wanaka we did!
The Brewster Hut track starts by crossing the Haast River without a bridge. So if water levels are too high due to rainfall you might not be able to continue the track. Therefore the best time to do Brewster Hut Track is in the summer months. After the river crossing its a steep steady climb through beech forest to the bush line. The 12-bunk Brewster Hut is one of the most beautiful mountain huts in New Zealand and the Brewster Hut Track is considered one of the most popular overnight hikes on the South Island. Therefore you should book your spot in advance to secure a bed. The price is NZD 40 per adult and $20 per youth (11-17 years).
Mount Iron Track – One of the shorter hikes in Wanaka
The Mount Iron track is one of the short walks in Wanaka which only takes about 90 minutes to complete. The 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) loop track takes you to the summit of Mount Iron which offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. You can see Mount Aspiring and the Southern Alps, as well as Lake Wanaka and the town itself. It’s a great spot to take photos, have a picnic, or just sit and take in the beauty of the area. Despite the steadily uphill climb, Mount Iron Track is considered to be an easy hike and is one of the walks in Wanaka you can perfectly squeeze into your itinerary in the morning or afternoon.
Distance & difficulty Mount Iron track: The total distance of Mount Iron track is 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) and while the track goes gradually uphill, it is considered to be one of the easier walks in Wanaka.
Duration Mount Iron track: 90 minutes to complete.
The Liverpool Track begins just like Rob Roy Glacier Track and West Matukituki Track at the Raspberry Creek parking lot. It is considered a hard hike with over 1000 meters of incline and 15 km (9.3 miles) one way. This makes the Liverpool Track another overnight hike near Wanaka. Therefore you should book your bed at the Liverpool Hut in advance because the trail is far too long to do in one day. Adults cost NZD 20 and youths $10 per night.
The trail starts at the West Matukituki Track to Pearl Flat. From there, you cross the swing bridge at Liverpool Stream and continue the steep uphill climb with over 1100 meters of incline to the Liverpool Hut. But you will be rewarded with incredible views over the Matukituki Valley and the golden light of the sunset or sunrise will be worth the climb!
Distance & difficulty Liverpool track: The total distance of Liverpool track is 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) to complete. It’s considered a hard hike because of the distance and 1100 meters incline.
Duration Liverpool track: 6 – 7 hours one way. Therefore it is an overnight hike and you should book the hut in advance.
Meg Hut Pack Track – One of the easier hikes in Wanaka
The Meg Hut Track starts near Cardrona on a 20-minute drive from Wanaka. The 7-kilometre hike gives access to Pisa Conservation Area and is a great walk through the valley along a gravel 4WD road. It will take anywhere between 2 – 3 hours to complete, and if you want to you can stay overnight in the Meg Hut. The Hut has 8 bunkbeds and it’s on a first come first serve base.
Distance & difficulty Meg Hut Pack Track: The total distance of Meg Hut Pack Track is 14 kilometers and is considered one of the easier hikes in Wanaka.
Duration Meg Hut Pack Track: 3 hours to complete.
Glendhu Bay Track
Another option for a lakeshore walk in Wanaka is the Glendhu Bay Track. It connects with Waterfall Creek Track and follows the terraces above Lake Wanaka towards Damper Bay. This little beach is very popular in the summer when locals flock here to swim and relax. The 15 km (9.3 miles) track is considered a moderate hike with some steep sections. But the good thing is that you can combine it with taking a dip in the refreshing water at Glendhu Bay. It will take anywhere between 5-7 hours to complete the track excluding relaxing time at the lakeshore.
Sawyer Burn Track
The Sawyer Burn Track is an 8-kilometre return track. You will first climb through the forest to the bush line where you’ll get superb views of Lake Hāwea and the surrounding mountains. It takes 2 hours to return to the bush line and 5 hours to return to Sawyer Burn Hut. The first part of the Sawyer Burn Track is a wide and easy trail. But the forest path is a zigzag up to the bush line until you get to the Sawyer Burn Hut. The views while climbing become better and better. And on a clear day you might be able to see Isthmus Peak, Mt Burke, and Wanaka basin.
The track starts from the Kidds Bush Recreation Reserve campsite, 6 km along Meads Road – turn off SH6 at The Neck. Since it is a day hike you don’t need to book at the Sawyer Burn Hut.
The Gladstone Track is a stunning 12-kilometre out-and-back walk along the shoreline of Lake Hawea. It’s one of the easier walks in Wanaka and follows the lakeside of Lake Hawea for about 5km. You will pass many beautiful bays and beaches, perfect for swimming on a warm summer day. Surprisingly the Gladstone Track is a varied walk along the lake and a family-friendly activity.
What is the best time for the hikes in Wanaka?
The best time for hiking in Wanaka is typically from late spring to early autumn, which is October to April. During this time, the temperatures are mild and days are longer, providing more time for hiking and outdoor activities. The temperatures during this time range from around 10-25°C (50-77°F) with occasional rain showers.
In the summer months, which are from December to February, the weather in Wanaka is typically warm and dry. This makes the summer months a great time for hiking and other outdoor activities. However, this is also the peak tourist season, and popular hikes can get very crowded.
In the autumn months of March and April the weather starts to cool down, and the foliage begins to change color. This provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains with orange, red and yellow leaves in contrast with the blue lakes. Autumn is a great time for hiking as the crowds start to thin out and the weather is still mild.
Winter in Wanaka, from June to August, can also be a great time for hiking. The snow-capped mountains provide a beautiful backdrop for winter hikes. However, it’s important to note that many of the higher-altitude hikes can be dangerous during the winter months. If you go hiking in winter in Wanaka you should be experienced and properly equipped for winter conditions.
Considering the best time of the day to go on the hikes in Wanaka we always advise to go for sunrise. But if you’re not an early bird, then afternoon hikes to watch the sunset somewhere on a peak is a great idea as well. Just make sure to prepare yourself with a headlamp and some snacks to keep you going!
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots, but for some of them, you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental in New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for this kind of roads.
We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars. Here you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pickup date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling by campervan is the most popular way for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have the (basic) needs on four wheels. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and connects you fully with nature.
We recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn. They have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, a 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!
Best tours around Wanaka
Wānaka is a popular ski and summer alpine town which is the ultimate hub for outdoor adventures. Closely located to Mount Aspiring National Park there are plenty of tours going from Wanaka to explore this dreamland of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and alpine lakes. From scenic flights, jet boating, parasailing to hiking and biking, there is an activity for everyone. Find here the best tours in Wanaka.
Scenic flight Self-guided Hike and Jet Boat Ride
This action-packed tour lets you explore Mount Aspiring National Park by plane, boat and on foot. Soar over the snow-capped mountains during a scenic flight, hike along the banks of the Siberia River, then hop aboard for a thrilling jet boat ride along the Wilkin River.
Wine Tour with Wine Tasting and lunch from Wanaka
On this afternoon tour, you will visit four boutique wineries in one of New Zealand’s most popular wine regions. You will learn the secrets behind these wines from the winemakers themselves, and stop at one winery for gourmet food with wine matching. Transport from your accommodation in Wanaka is included.
Wanaka Lake boat ride and 4×4 jeep Mountain Adventure
Get away from the crowds on this boat ride and 4×4 day trip from Wanaka. Start with a boat ride across Lake Wanaka and then you’ll hop aboard the 4×4 vehicle and drive up into the mountains. Your guide will tell you stories from Otago’s pioneer history and the gold rush era. Enjoy a delicious picnic with spectacular lake and mountain views.
Half-Day Level 2 Waterfall Climbing from Wanaka
Get the adrenaline pumping with this half day adventurous tour. Climb steel ladders and cross high, narrow bridges over waterfalls, swim in hidden natural pools and enjoy a picnic lunch beside beautiful falls. While no experience is required and full safety briefings are given, this trip is best suited to active travelers who are sure-footed and unafraid of heights.
Jet Boat and Wilderness Walk Tour from Wanaka
Speed along the Matukituki River in Mount Aspiring National Park during this exhilarating jet-boat ride. Admire spectacular landscapes, then hike past forests, waterfalls, and glacier-fed streams before ending your tour.
Feel free like a bird and fly high above Lake Wanaka during this single or tandem flight.
Riverside Biking Tour Lake Wanaka
Go on a stunning guided bike ride along the banks of one of NZ’s most beautiful and powerful rivers. Beautiful vistas and plenty of photo opportunities make this a must-do trip for hiking and nature lovers. A medium level of fitness is required for this 10-kilometre ride.
Best places to stay in Wanaka
Wānaka is a super nice alpine town to stay and a great base to explore the beauty of Mount Aspiring National Park. With stunning views on Lake Wānaka and the surrounding mountain peaks, there is plenty of choice in self-contained apartments, vacation homes or hotels. Find here the best places to stay in Wanaka.
Lakeside Luxury 2 Bedroom Apartment
This gorgeous 2 bedroom apartment is a home away from home with all the amenities you need and a stunning view on Lake Wanaka. With a fully equipped kitchen including a dishwasher, a patio with incredible mountain and lake views, a shared indoor pool and close location to Wanaka town, this luxury apartment is everything you need.
The Edgewater Hotel is great value for money with studios that have stunning mountain and lake views. With a day spa, sauna, tennis court and a a restaurant and cafe, there is nothing you will miss during your stay at the Edgewater Hotel.
Located on a 15 minute drive from Wanaka town, Hawea Hotel is a great budget friendly option. You can still stay close to Wanaka and have lake views, but then on Lake Hawea. All hotel rooms, as well as the on-site restaurant and bar, feature beautiful lake and mountain views. The rooms include a flat-screen TV, private bathroom, a desk and a small seating area.
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the best hikes in Wanaka. Make sure to put as many as possible awesome hikes on your New Zealand South Island itinerary!
There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides and read more!