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There are so many things to do in Wanaka with kids that you will want to spend at least a couple of days enjoying this beautiful lakeside town in New Zealand’s South Island. We share our favourite family activities in Wanaka to help you plan the ultimate stay.
A Guide To Wanaka New Zealand
Wanaka is located approximately an hour from Queenstown, with many people choosing to visit just as a day trip from Queenstown or when passing through on their way north.
There is a tranquillity about Wanaka that makes it really beautiful.
However, it is also a very family-friendly town with so many things to do in Wanaka with kids!
But first, let’s plan the essentials of your Wanaka stay!
Places To Eat In Wanaka
If you are looking for where to eat in Wanaka, there are plenty of great options. For finer dining, restaurants and trendy cafes, you will find many great choices across the street from Lake Wanaka.
Taking a stroll along here is a great way to discover some great local cuisine or fresh seafood. In fact, that should be on your list of what to do in Wanaka!
Some popular choices of places to eat in Wanaka are:
- Francesca’s Italian Kitchen – Italian
- Kika – European & local
- Bistro Gentil – French & European
- Big Fig – Mediterranean
- Kota Bar & Grill – Local & International
For something a little more casual, you can’t go past picking up a feast of fish and chips from Erik’s Fish and Chips van. The food van is permanently located in the middle of town, on Ardmore Street and is a popular choice for locals and visitors.
Even in winter, you will find fish and chips a popular choice in New Zealand (much like our home in Australia), so we couldn’t pass up the chance to try the award-winning seafood during our stay.
Wrapped in paper and ready to take down the beach for a beachside fish and chips banquet by the lake, or just as easy to take back to your accommodation or campsite as we did with the kids in our campervan before making our way to our next stop on our road trip route.
Sometimes you need a night off cooking in the van!
Where To Stay In Wanaka
While many people opt to visit Wanaka from Queenstown as a day trip or as they pass through, there are options available to stay in Wanaka so you have time to visit more of the local Wanaka attractions.
Hotels in Wanaka
For hotel accommodation in Wanaka, check out these great choices:
- Lakeside Apartments – Central location, great views of Lake Wanaka, swimming pool.
- Clearbrook Motel Wanaka – Close to city centre, restaurants and more.
- Edgewater – Located on the edge of the lake, less central but still within walking distance to many facilities.
For a budget-friendly alternative, check out the many private rentals and holiday homes available in Wanaka on Airbnb.
Camping In Wanaka
While you will not find much in the way of freedom camping in and around Wanaka, you will find a few options within an hour away if you are looking to keep your costs as low as possible.
Alternatively, there are several holiday parks and paid campgrounds available in Wanaka that are reasonably priced. Here are some options:
- Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park & Motel
- Lake Outlet Holiday Park
- Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park
- Mt Aspiring Holiday Park
You may need to phone to confirm a booking as not all holiday parks have campsite bookings available online. Alternatively, check out our recommended camping apps for New Zealand too.
Top Things To Do In Wanaka
Wanaka is a great place if you want to enjoy the fresh air, great outdoors and lake views. The whole town is built around Lake Wanaka and it is a breathtaking sight, no matter what time of year you visit.
Here are the best things to do in Wanaka for a memorable trip:
Kayak Lake Wanaka
No visit to Wanaka would be complete without getting out onto the water and there is no better way to do it than a kayak. Book yourself a kayak tour that takes you to some of the most scenic areas on the lake.
Any chance to cruise the lake is something you won’t want to miss, but during the warmer months, kayaking is by far your best chance to get a little more intimate with Wanaka Lake.
A full or half-day tiki tour gives you a guided tour around the lake, suited to the activity level of the participants. This is a leisurely way to get out on the water and get up close and personal to the scenery.
Be Puzzled At Puzzling World
Puzzling World is an iconic family-friendly Wanaka attraction that is well worth the visit. Especially if you are looking for fun things to do with kids in Wanaka. We spent half a day being entertained and educated at the many displays within Puzzling World.
From the many optical illusions and interactive displays, kids (and adults) will be fascinated from the moment they start their journey into the various rooms.
And the fun doesn’t end indoors either. Wander outside and try to crack the mammoth maze. It takes around 90 minutes on average to complete. We are sad to say we only managed 50% before the kids were ready for a food break.
Even the cafe brings new fun with a collection of wooden puzzles and games to play while you dine. We loved this!
Then finish with the opportunity to snap some iconic Wanaka photos with the famous leaning tower of Wanaka and several other optical illusions to pose with.
188 Wanaka-Luggate Hwy (Hwy 84), Wanaka 9382
Go See That Wanaka Tree
Some places are iconic for a really simple reason and That Wanaka Tree is one that brings in a lot of crowds each year. More than you would expect for a tree, but if you fancy yourself a bit of a travel photographer or Instagrammer, the tree is a must-visit Wanaka site!
The tree lives within Lake Wanaka and throughout the year it changes to match the seasons, from blooming leaves to being left sparse and bare in winter. Plus throughout the seasons, you get a different backdrop to match.
A bit of fun, just to say you did! Go early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds although it is not often too busy.
Enjoy The Outdoors
Wanaka, just like the rest of New Zealand’s South Island, is a dream for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors.
Make the most of the fresh air and enjoy the many outdoor activities in Wanaka. There are loads of different walking and hiking tracks to suit all fitness levels and ages.
Some popular hiking trails in Wanaka are:
- Roys Peak Track
- Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain walks
- Mount Iron Track
Wanaka is home to plenty of adrenaline junkie activities too, so if you love to get your heart rate up, you will love some of the many extreme sports and adventure experiences on offer.
Other fun outdoors things to do in Wanaka:
- Wildwire Wanaka waterfall cable climb
- Bike riding
Visit a Playground
New Zealand is home to some pretty cool playgrounds and the big one by the water in Wanaka was a favourite of our kids during our NZ road trip. They spent a couple of hours there, making friends with other kids and enjoying the dinosaur slide.
There is plenty to do for big kids and small kids and the playground is right near the centre of town.
Parking can be tricky if you are in a campervan though. We had to park a little further up the road because it was such a popular area. Even in winter.
Go Jet Boating
This is something you need to do in New Zealand. There are a few different areas you can do jet boating around Wanaka, including Queenstown.
A jet boat tour along the Matukiuki River is one of the longest jet boat tours in New Zealand and a fun half-day tour from Wanaka. Marvel at beautiful landscape as you spin and splash your way down the river.
Top Things To Do In Wanaka In Winter
Wanaka is a perfect winter destination! Close enough to incredible ski slopes and winter experiences that you simply won’t want to miss!
Visit The Snow Farm NZ
If you are visiting Wanaka with kids, you can’t miss a chance to visit the Snow Farm Wanaka. It’s located a bit out of town, but the drive is really scenic.
The Snow Farm is a great place to take kids for a snow experience, without having to spend a fortune on ski gear and lessons. They do offer ski lessons, when snowfall is heavy enough, as well as snowshoe tours.
But the thing we had the most fun doing was sliding down the tubing hill.
This is a really affordable way to give kids some fun in the snow. Even younger kids will enjoy it (although you might want to go tandem until they get their confidence up).
This was easily one of the most memorable experiences for our kids in the South Island and we joined in the fun too.
Snow Farm Access Rd, Cardrona Valley Rd, Wanaka
For updated pricing and snow season information, visit their website.
Hit the Ski Fields Near Wanaka
Wanaka is on the doorstep to some of Wanaka’s best ski fields. One that brings the crowds every year is the Treble Cone, situated around 40 minutes from Wanaka town centre.
The Treble Cone is the largest ski area in the South Island of New Zealand. It has ski trails for every skill level. For ski passes and details, visit the Treble Cone website.
This is by far one of the best things to do in Wanaka during winter if you are looking to hit the slopes!
Visit Cardrona Alpine Resort
For beginners, head to the Cardrona Alpine Resort where they have some of the best learn to ski lessons and beginner tracks for anyone trying skiing or snowboarding for the first time.
They have 4 chair lifts to get you to the different areas and for those of you not wanting to ski, there’s plenty of delicious eats too!
There are shuttle buses to take you to and from all the nearby ski fields.
Take A Scenic Flight With A Glacier Landing
Seeing glaciers up close is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry!
From Wanaka, you can take a helicopter flight through Matukituki Valley into the majestic Southern Alps.
With extensive views from every angle, over snowcapped peaks and mountainscapes, this is absolutely a New Zealand bucket list item to tick off.
Land up high on a glacier for unparalleled views of the Alps and South Island landscapes. Best of all, you don’t have to wait until winter for this experience either! There is snow guaranteed all year round!
Day Trips From Wanaka
There is plenty to do if you want to get out and about from Wanaka for a day too, with day trip options galore!
Of course, one of the best day trips from Wanaka is Queenstown, which is under an hour away and offers a whole new range of family-friendly activities, adrenaline experiences and beautiful scenery.
A visit to Arrowtown is also a bit of fun. Situated around 50 minutes from Wanaka, you could easily combine a visit on your way back from Queenstown.
The town looks like a vision from the past, with a quaint main street and an interesting gold rush history.
You will have no trouble finding the top things to do in Wanaka during your visit, whether you are in town with kids or having an adults-only escape. Wanaka is well worth dedicating some time during your New Zealand South Island explorations!
For more New Zealand planning resources check out these:
- Cost of travel in New Zealand
- Things to do in Lake Tekapo
- Best South Island campsites
- Essential NZ camping apps
- South Island campervan itinerary
- Wilderness Motorhomes review
- Weekend in Auckland