On land Wanaka has hiking, mountain biking, and off-road tours. In the water you can go kayaking, canoeing, and paddle-boarding. In the air you can go skydiving or para-gliding. If you are visiting during the winter you could enjoy skiing and snowboarding.
There are so many things to do in Wanaka, New Zealand for outdoor enthusiasts, it’s like a dream for most people. If you aren’t an outdoor enthusiast or if like me you just aren’t capable, there are still fun things to experience. There are no city buses to get around with though, just taxis and walking.
I’m not generally a fan of puzzles but even I had fun the afternoon I spent at Puzzling World (website). Outside there is a giant maze to walk around and entertain yourself with. Inside, there are fun illusion rooms. Plus, inside there is a café and shop area where you can shop, eat, and sit to play puzzles you might have never seen before. I did it all. And I enjoyed every bit if it.
Okay, I should say I was enjoying the outdoor maze until I got all cocky about my abilities close to the finish. That’s when it went downhill. I couldn’t figure out how to get out and it ended up taking me a lot longer than I thought it would or should. There was a lot of disappointment in myself because of that.
After the internal shame of the maze challenge I went inside to have a snack, rest, and work on a puzzle. It was a simple wooden puzzle with pictures of New Zealand symbols on each piece. Or so I thought. Sure, maybe to other people that puzzle was simple but to me, it was challenging. I could not win no matter how many times I tried.
After more than an hour with that wooden puzzle I gave it a break and visited the illusion rooms. Those were fun. Figuring things out in this part of the building was finally less challenging for me and I was back to feeling smart again. Also, the bathrooms were the best thing ever. The optical illusion paint job was outstanding. I even posted on Facebook from my seat on the toilet.
Once finished in the illusion rooms, with my ego bolstered, I sat down to work on that wooden puzzle again. For close to another hour. I had to admit defeat when my friend texted me to say she was on her way to pick me up. So, I bought the puzzle to bring back to Canada. Where I have still not been successful. I might have hidden it in the closet though.
Cinema Paradiso Movie Theatre
In the research I did before I went to Wanaka, I found the Cinema Paradiso (website). A small movie theatre that has couches and partial cars for seats and turns watching a movie into an entire experience. Yes, you read that right, couches and partial cars. They also have regular cinema seats but why would you use them if you could sit in comfort on a couch. Or feel like you are in a drive-in theatre sitting in a car. I tested out the view from the car and while it was fun, I chose to watch the movie in comfort on a couch.
Cinema Paradiso serves the regular cinema items like snacks and beverages. But they also serve homemade ice cream (they even had a Paradiso flavour), baked goods, burgers, nachos, pizza, salads, wraps, and the best part, alcohol. Local wines, beer, and cider. Seriously at this point I hope you’re thinking, wow I can enjoy dinner, drink some alcohol, and sit on a couch all while watching a brand new movie. Because yes you can. Apparently in winter, people will bring their own sleeping bags to get extra comfortable (don’t worry I think they heat the theatre).
But wait, it gets better. They show the movies at Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka with an intermission. During intermission you can go to the bathroom or get more food and drinks. Maybe another alcoholic beverage. Plus, they even sell warm, freshly baked cookies during this time.
If You Want To Go
It really was as awesome as it sounds. I saw a New Zealand film called Pork Pie (2017). It was a great film; I loved it, and highly recommend it if you have the chance to see it. Having never seen the original I can’t compare them for you but I can tell you the 2017 version was fun and very entertaining.
I was told they recommend you book or purchase your movie tickets for Cinema Paradiso in advance as it can get quite busy. According to their website you book by phone and leave a message. Include your name, movie you want to see, the number of tickets needed, and a contact number they can call you back on if the movie is sold out.
Wanaka is a small town so you won’t find big shopping centres or big named shops but you will find small, locally owned shops that sell amazing products. Merino wool is one of the big things you find everywhere but there are other clothing shops and outdoor adventure shops to visit too. Reese Witherspoon was in town filming ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ while I was there and I heard of her local shopping trips on several days.
Tours & Things to See in Wanaka, New Zealand
Wanaka has a lot of outdoor adventure activities for you to enjoy but they also have local tours for tourists to get a better look of the surrounding landscape and area. I didn’t do any of these things but I wish I would have at least gone on a tour. It is such a beautiful area of the country with lakes and mountains.
Maybe you would prefer one of the wine and food tours instead. Or a photography tour. The Lake Wanaka website has many options for you to choose form.
I didn’t eat out much while I was in town but I did treat myself a few times.
A wonderful sweet treat shop for your visiting pleasure is Patagonia Chocolates (website). Besides desserts, breakfast, and other baked treats, they also create chocolates and ice cream. They call their ice cream soft clouds. It’s what I tried on my visit and it was delicious. Their artisan ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt have won awards so you know you are getting tantalizing flavours that treat your taste buds. Hokey Pokey is a flavour only found in New Zealand and it’s one I recommend.
Oh, they also do this whole coffee roasting thing too if that is for you.
Patagonia also has other locations. Including Queenstown airport where I tried their amazing hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was staying warm in a big pot that they ladled into mugs to serve. There are actually three locations in Queenstown but I only visited the one.
In beautiful, historical Arrowtown I once again I enjoyed their ice cream. Delicious, refreshing ice cream on a warm sunny day is a rarely a bad thing.
Black Peak Homemade Gelato
The day I was shopping in Wanaka I also stopped to get a few pictures printed to send home for family & friends. Beside the photo printing place was Black Peak Homemade Gelato (website) and they were selling milkshakes. Mmmmm….just because the weather wasn’t hot didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy a milkshake. And enjoy it I did.
I went with the flavour created in, and only available in, New Zealand. Hokey Pokey. Hokey Pokey is vanilla ice cream with pieces of honey comb so you might find it elsewhere but it probably won’t be called Hokey Pokey. I also got some Whitaker’s Hokey Pokey Chocolate while in New Zealand so it isn’t just an ice cream flavour.
At Black Peak there are milkshakes available and thick-shakes. The milkshakes are made by blending vanilla ice cream, milk, and flavoured syrup. The flavours offered though are different and enticing. The thick shakes are your choice of ice cream or gelato flavour blended with milk.
As per their website, all the gelato and frozen yoghurt is homemade. It’s made in-store using a 70-year-old recipe with a vintage gelato machine and using as much local produce as possible.
Doughbin Bakery & Cafe or The Bakery Wanaka
Winning Vegetarian Pie
I’m Canadian on the West Coast and other than the meat pies in the frozen food section of the grocery store, we don’t really have a lot of savoury pies. Or if we do, I’d never checked them out because there usually isn’t anything vegetarian.
My friend told me there was a bakery in Wanaka that had a vegetarian pie and it was an award-winning one at that. First, the word bakery usually gets my attention but then also being able to try a vegetarian pie, something I hadn’t done before, I was quite excited. I didn’t run to Doughbin Bakery & Café aka The Bakery Wanaka (website), but I hustled.
I was not disappointed either. This vegetarian pie made by Kai Pai was delicious. Maybe I have nothing to compare it to but let’s just say if I had the chance to eat a vegetarian pie again I would jump at it. Kai Pai has set my expectations high. I also picked-up a few other treats while I was visiting this bakery and everything I tried was delicious.
While I didn’t take advantage of even a portion of what Wanaka, New Zealand offers, I enjoyed my time spent there and the things I did. I flew from Auckland to Queensland via Air New Zealand and used Alpine Connexion shuttle service for the 45-60 minutes drive to Wanaka. Actually, I used Alpine Connexions to get back to Queensland where I rented a car and drove to Christchurch. From Queensland to Wanaka though I’m not sure who I took. I stood at a stop in front of the Queensland airport and got on a shuttle that arrived to pick people up. Hehehe!