Eight-Time World Champion Surfer and Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific Ambassador, Layne Beachley, shares her story of a recent trip to Wanaka.
Speak to anyone that has been to New Zealand and the minute you mention you are going to visit Wanaka the response is always, “It’s so beautiful. You are going to love it!”
They are not wrong. This place is extremely beautiful. The picturesque, undulating topography is breathtaking; it has to be seen by the naked eye to be truly appreciated. Photos just don’t do it justice.
The flight through the valley into Queenstown was a clear indication of what to expect. Green lush valleys and paddocks, surrounded by barren hard rock sheer mountain faces and glaciers and crystal clear blue sunny skies… Queenstown certainly turned it on for our arrival!
Day one was a day spent on the river. Wanaka River Journeys took us on a jet-boating adventure up the Matukituki River, through the Matukituki Valley to the bottom of Mount Aspiring Glacier, followed by a relaxing walk through the old beech tree forest and the “hobbit” forest. There are over 100 species of moss in this forest so I attempted to spot and count them. That is the Gemini in me shining through. The river looks exceptionally inviting for a quick dip but no one took up the opportunity. This was a great way to appreciate the enormity of the glacier from directly below, learn some local history combined with random Lord of The Rings location spotting and some fun jet-boating. I thoroughly recommend this on a sunny day. If that wasn’t enough activity for one day, we grabbed bikes from reception, a bottle of champagne and went for a ride around the lake to find a secluded romantic picnic spot to soak in the magnificence of the surrounds.
Day two involved hiking or “tramping” as it’s affectionately called in NZ. There are an abundance of hikes to choose from and after speaking to other guests at the resort we decided to head towards Mt Aspiring National Park based on their recommendation… and challenge to tramp up to the top faster than them! Yes, I am still very competitive.
Signage is limited at best so turn right out of the resort, drive all the way to the end of the road and all of a sudden you will find a car park. It’s 50 kilometres away and 30 kilometres of that is on gravel roads winding through thousands of acres of farmed paddocks filled with cows, sheep and deer, so keep an eye out for cheeky animals that think the grass is greener on the other side.
The hike up to the Rob Roy Glacier is not for the faint hearted. First you have to cross a suspended swing bridge, which tests those that are afraid of heights. Every 30 metres is another spectacular photo opportunity so make sure you have an abundance of space and battery in your camera. It is a 10 kilometre round trip that takes every minute of the three to four hours suggested on the map. The moist narrow walk way winds up the side of a mountain through rainforest, along side a river torrent from the melting snow on the glacier above. This is a stunning walk and well worth the effort! Take a packed lunch (something light to carry of course) and find a perch once you reach the lookout to absorb the sheer magnificence and scope of the glacier from up close.
The hike down is just as fun and works another part of your legs so prepare yourself for a full body workout. We braved the iciness and decided to take a quick dip in the river just to refresh and invigorate us for the long journey home. The water was about eight degrees but after 10 seconds I was too numb to determine just how cold it was. It certainly made us feel alive!
Day three was much more relaxing. While the sun was still shining we decided to ride our bikes up to the oldest winery in the Central Otago region, Rippon Vineyard and Winery for a wine tasting, then rode down hill to Edgewater for a sumptuous lunch on the river. The first two days took its toll so we took it easy for the rest of the afternoon, which is also one of the great things to do in Wanaka… relax and do nothing!
Day four took us to the surrounding historical town of Cromwell (pronounced ‘Cromel’) and friendly home-grown wineries, care of a great little wine tour company called Funny French Cars wine tours. They pick you up in an old school open top Citroen 2CV and drive you to wherever you wish to go. The region is obviously known for it’s pinot noir and we share a love of rosé so we chose out of the way wineries such as Aurum Wines, Wooing Tree Vineyard and Georgetown. For a traditional fish and chip meal, we had lunch at the old pub in Historical Cromwell Town. It was a terrific way to spend the day, see the sights and let someone else drive!
Day five consisted of packing up, saying goodbye to our wonderful hosts at Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific Wanaka and driving into Queenstown for lunch at Amisfield Winery. It’s a lovely winery with great food but if you choose not to buy a bottle of wine, expect to pay for the tasting.
If Wanaka is on your bucket list, tick it off sooner rather than later. If it isn’t, put it on there and get on over there!
Five days just isn’t long enough, which is reason enough to visit again.
Craig and his team at the resort are incredibly helpful and accommodating and they have everything you could possibly need.
One of the most beautiful places I have ever been, Wanaka will certainly be a destination that I will return to in the very near future.