Best Day-Hikes Near Wanaka NZ

My pick of the best day-hikes near the holiday town of Wanaka, taking in walks around Lakes Wanaka & Hawea, & in Mt Aspiring National Park.

Wanaka has a reputation for being the lower-key sibling of Queenstown, and there is much to recommend the area. Many excellent day-walks are one of these things. I had only done a few until quite recently, but on my last two trips down that way I fit in a few others that were real classics. So now I feel ready to compile a best-of list, although I’m sure there are others to add.

The walks on this list can broadly be split into two groups – those around Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, and those in Mt Aspiring National Park. The land around the lakes is generally lacking forest cover, whereas the national park is a bit lusher. There are some tall glaciated peaks in Mt Aspiring National Park as well, so the scale is grander.

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Mt Iron Circuit, Wanaka, Otago NZ

A shortish circuit walk up the glacial landform of Mt Iron (548m), with views in all directions including Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps.

Climbing Mt Iron is a popular circuit walk on the edge of Wanaka. Although there are steep sections it is a reasonably short and straightforward walk through a mix of private and conservation land. There are views in all directions, over Lake Wanaka, farmland, the towns of Wanaka and Albert Town, and various mountains including the Southern Alps. Continue reading “Mt Iron Circuit, Wanaka, Otago NZ”

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range, Makarora, Otago NZ

Really spectacular alpine views of peaks, tarns and down into braided river valleys, accessed on the Mt Shrimpton Track and then off-track to tops.

The Mt Shrimpton Track takes you from lush broad leaf forest, through beech to above the bushline. From there you can wander at will, but a long and fabulous day walk is to keep going upwards to the ridge at about 1900m of elevation. There are spectacular alpine views of rock spires and numerous teal blue tarns, down into the Makarora Valley to the west, and the upper High Burn Valley to the east. My first look at the tarns and spiky peaks was one of those moments I let out a slight gasp of wonder. Continue reading “Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range, Makarora, Otago NZ”

Makarora Bush Nature Walk, Haast Highway NZ

The Makarora Bush Nature walk is a short 1km loop through attractive native forest besides the Haast Highway at Makarora.

The Makarora Bush Nature Walk is a short stroll through attractive native forest, starting on the highway near the DOC office in Makarora. We did it on our way out and then back on the all day Mt Shrimpton Track. I thought it was nice enough to give it its own post. Continue reading “Makarora Bush Nature Walk, Haast Highway NZ”

Red Rock via Shotover Saddle, West Matukituki Valley, Wanaka area NZ

A lesser known day trip to Red Rock (1858m) in the West Matukituki Valley, with excellent views into Mt Aspiring National Park.

For some time I have contemplated doing the highly rated Cascade Saddle walk as a day trip from Raspberry Flats, but the length (~32km?) and reputed danger of descending the route has put me off a bit. I may still get to this classic walk, but in the summer of 2020 I settled instead for this lesser known but excellent day-walk through the West Matukituki Valley up to Shotover Saddle, and then on to Red Rock (1858m). You get spectacular views up and down the valley, of multiple peaks in Mt Aspiring National Park including Rob Roy and its glacier, and nearby Mt Tyndall. A great way to sample the spectacular Mt Aspiring Scenery on a day walk and without undue risk. Continue reading “Red Rock via Shotover Saddle, West Matukituki Valley, Wanaka area NZ”

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ

Sitting almost 1500m above Lakes Hawea & Wanaka, Sentinel Peak (1814m) is a big day out with 360 degree views of the lakes & surrounding peaks.

Some years ago we did a shortish walk to Sawyer Burn Hut, starting at the Kidds Bush Reserve campsite. I had read at that time it was possible to keep going upwards to climb Sentinel Peak (1814m), however we weren’t experienced at off-track tramping so it remained on the wish list. We finally got around to doing this walk four years later, and it was very satisfying. There are views of various mountain peaks, rugged slopes, and both Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. One of the highlights for me was the very attractive summit – both looking at it, and the views from it. This is a walk for the more adventurous hiker, as there is some navigation required, and a couple of places with mild exposure. Nothing too serious though – we’re no mountaineers! Continue reading “Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ”

Breast Hill Route, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ

One of the better walks near Wanaka, rugged Breast Hill (1578m) provides views of Lake Hawea and mountains in all directions.

I first learnt of the track to Breast Hill (1578m) from an Instagram follower who used to live in Wanaka. It was his favourite day walk in the area, and I came across another blogger who rated it highly, so I had to give it a go. It is indeed an excellent walk, especially once you hit the ridge, and then again when you get out of sometimes smelly farmland and into Hawea Conservation Park.  There are great views of Lake Hawea the whole way, of golden tussock grass hills, and of the steep rugged slopes of Breast Hill itself, as well as various mountain peaks all around. Continue reading “Breast Hill Route, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ”

Blue Pools Walk, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

An easy 3km walk to green-blue waters on the Blue Pools Walk in Mt Aspiring National Park, just off the Haast Pass Highway.

When driving from the West Coast to Queenstown I had wanted to stop off and do a short walk to stretch my legs, and the Blue Pools Walk fit the bill. It’s a stroll through mainly beech forest to a couple of swing bridges, the second of which provides views up a gorge filled with blue-green coloured water. These are the so called Blue Pools, although it’s really Blue River, a tributary of the Makarora River. You can drop down to the river bed at the confluence of the two rivers for a different perspective. Continue reading “Blue Pools Walk, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ”

Grandview Mountain Track, Lake Hawea, Otago

One thousand metres of ascent and descent along a vehicle track to the summit of Grandview Mountain provides good views of nearby rugged country, and then extensive views over Lake Hawea and distant high peaks.

On entering New Zealand in March 2020 we were soon hit with increasingly severe restrictions due to the Covid 19 epidemic. Before the complete lock-down we snuck in a final hike to the summit of Grandview Mountain at the southern end of Lake Hawea, a new walk for us. The views from the top were indeed grand, although I most liked the views of rugged country we passed by along the way in the Grandview Creek Conservation Area. Continue reading “Grandview Mountain Track, Lake Hawea, Otago”

Roys Peak Track, Wanaka NZ

Fabulous views over Lake Wanaka are a highlight of this walk up Roys Peak. Just expect to be joined by a few hundred others in peak season!

Roys Peak has become a favourite destination for Instagrammers, attracted by the prospect of epic views over Lake Wanaka. The views are really excellent, but as a hike it can be lack lustre, as at least half of it is through unattractive pasture, and it’s along a vehicle trail the whole way. Still, on a clear day it’s worth joining the crowds of walkers making their way either to the summit, or else to that particular spot about two thirds of the way up where you get a picture of yourself or your friend backed by the best bit of Lake Wanaka.  Continue reading “Roys Peak Track, Wanaka NZ”