I’m talking about the charming lake-side village of Wanaka, about an hour drive from Queenstown on New Zealand’s picturesque South Island. On my first trip across the ditch recently I discovered this hidden gem surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps.
There is a reason why film-maker Peter Jackson was inspired to film his famed Lord of the Rings trilogy in this part of the word – it is a purely magical destination.
As I drove over the hill into Wanaka I was greeted by the spectacular snow-capped mountains and Lake Wanaka sparkling in the sunshine before my eyes. This would be the incredible backdrop for each activity I did on my visit. But first it was time to settle into the warmth of my accommodation, Wyndham Vacation Resorts Wanaka, just a short stroll from the shores of Lake Wanaka.
Wyndham Wanaka’s contemporary design blends in perfectly with its natural alpine surrounds and the spacious studio rooms and apartments each have a balcony or private courtyard with many taking in views of the surrounding mountains.
There is a barbecue area and swimming pool with slide for the warmer months as well as a hot tub and steam room for winter that are the perfect way to end a day of skiing, and an open fire place to keep you warm while still enjoying the beauty of the outdoors.
The resort also features Rafter’s Restaurant, and with new award winning Head Chef, Stefan Link now on board, guests will get a taste of the best fresh local cuisine and wines from the Otago region.
During my visit I took a cruise on Lake Wanaka with Lakeland Adventures, strolled along the walking trails soaking up the surrounds and sampled the best food and wine the region has to offer. There are many fantastic restaurants, cafes and wineries around town to discover. I also had the chance to experience a local high country sheep farm with Cardrona Marino Lamb including a 4WD tour across the mountains, enjoying a picnic lunch in the spectacular high country along the way.
Wanaka is a year round destination and visitors can enjoy world-class skiing on the nearby ski fields of Cardrona and Treble Cone in winter, an array of water sports on the lake, hiking and mountain biking in the warmer months and for the more adventurous a number of adrenaline-pumping activities nearby such as jet boating and bungee jumping.
It is worth mentioning that New Zealand’s Southern Lakes region including Wanaka was named one of the World’s Top Ten Regions to Visit in Lonely Planet’s new book, The Best in Travel 2012, and I certainly agree.
Words by Stacey Grims
Wonderstruck by Wanaka – New Zealand