How Wanaka Became NZ’s New Adventure Capital
With its bungee jumps, giant swings, jet boats and ski fields, Queenstown isn’t known as the adventure capital of the world for nothing. Until recently, nearby Wanaka was typically likened to a more low-key cousin – a place to chill out, connect with nature and escape Queenstown’s crowds. But Wanaka has been busy cultivating its own brand of adventure tourism.
Beyond the phenomenal hiking, mountain biking, climbing and canyoning options, there’s a new waterfall via ferrata (the world’s highest) and a new jetboat, walk and pack-raft day trip (a New Zealand first). Wanaka Heli Hikes has recently joined the party, offering guided hiking and glacier trekking in remote corners of the nation’s Southern Alps that can’t be accessed on foot.
One of the best activities in the region is free: downloadable from the Department of Conservation website, the excellent Wanaka Outdoor Pursuits brochure details 26 excellent hiking trails, many of which can also be biked, with the great new Wanaka Tracks app available free on iTunes.
Wanaka’s tourism industry has been going for broke. In December it topped the nation for percentage growth in visitor spend over the preceding two years, and while the town of around 10,000 permanent residents used to struggle during off-peak periods, occupancy in the November shoulder season has increased by 40 per cent over the past three years.
“The last couple of years have seen Wanaka really take off,” Lake Wanaka Tourism’s James Helmore says. “Cool new activities, eateries, craft breweries and bars have created new energy.”
Original article by Sarah Reid, Evening Standard, June 5, 2018.