Flights to Wanaka: Extreme sports, extreme leisure
There's a whole lot of attitude in Wanaka, the tiny alpine town perched on the shores of glacial-blue Lake Wanaka. Backpackers and locals wake up with coffee in organic cafés and later chill over Kiwi ales in cosy pubs. If they seem too relaxed to be part of the action around here take a closer look. You'll spot goggle marks and stray belays everywhere; tell-tale signs of serious rock-climbers, snowboarders and skydivers.
Back to nature
Flights into Wanaka soar above icy glaciers, piercing alps and shimmering blue lakes. Kayak the clear waters of Lake Wanaka then wash up on its stony shore for a bracing picnic. Make friends with a cheeky Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot. Just don't let your sandwiches out of your sight for a second. Snow bunnies in the know will point you to the Expressway ski run at Treble Cone, with its sweeping vistas of massive peaks rushing down to glistening blue lakes.
Wanaka is no one-trick pony when it comes to adrenaline. Helicopters swoop you through snow-capped peaks into the forested valleys of Mount Aspiring National Park. Jet boats skim over shingle shallows centimetres deep on the Matukituki River. Get high all by yourself: shimmy up random schist outcrops in Matukituki Valley then abseil straight back down again.
Warm tired tootsies by the fire with a chi-chi après-ski cocktail, or get rowdy in a bar with the late crowd. Time your Wanaka holiday for the party of the season in February. Live Kiwi music, from reggae to pop, raises the roof at the Rippon Festival, where party-goers compete in the tanning, drinking and dancing stakes, all on the shores of beautiful Lake Wanaka.
Where? Wanaka nestles in the Southern Lakes region right against the Southern Alps, the 450km long mountainous backbone of New Zealand's South Island.
Population: Wanaka's population has nearly doubled to 5,000 in the last 10 years, thanks to a fast-growing tourism industry.
Key dates: Aviation pioneer Sir Tim Wallis launched the first Warbirds over Wanaka Show in 1988, attracting 14,000 spectators. The biennial event is now the largest 'war birds' air show in the Southern Hemisphere.
Did you know? Wanaka was originally called Pembroke, after a British Colonial Secretary. In 1940 it was renamed Wanaka; a corruption of 'Oanaka', which means 'the place of Anaka', a local chief.
Make like an 80s movie star in your private outdoor hot tub at boujis Whare Kea Lodge. Or show off with VIP status at chi-chi Edgewater Resort. Host après-ski cocktails for 50 of your closest friends without even taking your ear-warmers off.
The atmosphere at Kai Whakapai is so laid-back you'll suspect there's something groovy in the air conditioning. Mull it over while chewing into a deliciously rustic pizza served at snail’s pace. Go upmarket at Missy's Kitchen for great lake views.
Shopping in Wanaka
Our shopping picks might have you leaving Wanaka with a luxuriously silky possum shawl from Fine Wool Wanaka, high-tech merino undies from Base, or a gorgeous Kate Sylvester party frock from 47 Frocks.
While everyone else is being all rugged and drinking beer like it's drying up, elegant you can sip a dry martini and watch an art-house film at Ruby’s. Alternatively, steam up your goggles skulling mulled wine at cosy Cardrona Hotel.
Enter Puzzling World with any trace of vertigo and you may as well just lie down and tremble. Otherwise, face distorted reality as physical dimensions turn against you. Fresh air and fine views might restore equilibrium at Glendhu Bay and Lake Wanaka.