Lake Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Wanaka — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Lake Wanaka cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake Wanaka

Formed by glaciers thousands of years ago and located on South Island, New Zealand, Lake Wanaka is New Zealand’s fourth largest lake and contains crystal clear water. The name is from the Maori, the first settlers of the area, which means “place of Anaka” who was an early Maori Chief. The lake is fed by the Makarora River and is the source of New Zealand’s largest river, the Clutha.

Lake Hawea, also carved by glaciers, lies beside Lake Wanaka and is separated by a narrow strip of land a little over a half mile wide known as The Neck. It is believed that the two lakes were once connected. Both lakes are dammed at their outlets to control the water levels and to ensure a water flow for Roxburgh power stations.

With pebbly beaches on the shoreline, and magnificent views of surrounding mountains, the lake is the beginning of Mount Aspiring National Park. Mount Aspiring, with its peak at 9,930 feet above sea level, is known and loved internationally by climbers and photographers. If you prefer easy hikes, there are many trails meandering through the park that offers excellent views of the mountains and valleys with campsites for extended stays.

At the southern tip of the lake, is the town of Wanaka whose fortune has changed over the years. In the 1870s, the discovery of gold inspired a rush of interest in the area. As the prospectors left the area, sheep farms and farming became a way of life. But today, Wanaka is a resort region and tourism is the new gold rush. In an effort to keep tourism booming, town leaders know that requires the environment to stay picture perfect. Therefore, the lake is protected by the Lake Wanaka Preservation Act of 1973, which established a group of guardians whose members are appointed by the Minister of Conservation to advise and protect the lake and surrounding area.

During the winter, the Lake Wanaka area is snow lovers paradise with internationally known ski resorts with downhill skiing, snowboarding, heliskiing, tubing, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing and ice climbing. In the warmer months of summer, these same areas become a mecca for mountain bikers, hiking, horseback riding, golf and rock climbing. Lake Wanaka is a top summer choice for swimming, sunning, boating, skiing, kayaking, sailing, and of course fishing for rainbow trout and brown trout. Fly-fishing is extremely popular for skilled anglers along the Clutha River for salmon. Tubing and rafting can be enjoyed along the river also. During the cooler days of autumn, the area seems to turn golden as the leaves of the poplars and willows turn vibrant hues that reflect off the clear water.

Looking for romance? Lake Wanaka has been voted in the top ten most romantic places to visit and is fast becoming a popular destination for honeymoons or those just seeking a romantic get away. You will be able to find many vacation rentals in the lake area from cabins, lodges, to full service resorts that will fit most budgets. Add in some local wines with dinner while gazing at the reflections in lake and life time memories are made.

Whether you are searching for outdoor adventure, majestic mountain scenery, or a romantic get away, Lake Wanaka in South Island, New Zealand will meet all of these requirements. It is all there waiting for you to enjoy!

Things to Do at Lake Wanaka

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Kayaking
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Rock Climbing
  • Ice Climbing
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Horseback Riding
  • National Park

Fish Species Found at Lake Wanaka

  • Brown Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Salmon
  • Trout

Find Places to Stay at Lake Wanaka

If you’re considering a Lake Wanaka lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Wanaka Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Wanaka lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Lake Wanaka Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Roxburgh Power

Surface Area: 47,445 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 915 feet

Maximum Depth: 1,000 feet

Drainage Area: 982 sq. miles

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Lake Wanaka Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


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