What do you do, in one of the most beautiful places in the country, when you only have 4 hours?
The sun was high in the sky, all four windows were rolled down on the car and we melted our way into Wanaka just in time for lunch. No sooner had we passed the requisite Welcome to Wanaka sign than we realised we should have stayed here. Preferably for several days. It was one of the hottest days of the trip and the kayaks skimming across the top of the perfectly still lake looked mightily attractive (even though we had four days of kayaking to come later). You know we like slow travel, so it was a huge oversight on my part to think we would get away with only stopping in Wanaka for lunch en route to Glenorchy. Hindsight – it’s 20/20.
We pulled up at Pembroke Park on the sea front and hauled the chilly-bin onto the beach. Stuffed rolls. An apple. A tall bottle of water. We got to scoffing our lunches down before the ice packs melted – again. While we ate, we each chose one activity to do in Wanaka: tracking down a tree for Rachel and attacking the Puzzling World maze for Tiernan.
That Wanaka Tree
Some love it, some loathe it, but I totally ship the Wanaka Tree.When a photo of this tree, standing alone against a misty backdrop, won Landscape Photo of the Year in New Zealand Geographic it became the mission of thousands to take their own version. During my pre-trip Instagram binges, this tree came up a lot. Sign me up, I said!
After lunch had been consumed, we walked almost the entire length of Roy’s Bay to get to the spot Google Maps was indicating. A little pin prick just off the beach.
On such a wicked summer’s day, I knew we couldn’t expect to be ‘alone with the tree’. Although my faith in humanity was temporarily restored (it’s normally non-existent) as all the enthusiasts stood in a respectful arc, not messing with each other’s shots. The long-suffering spouses sat in the shade or waded in the shallows.
Apparently, Wanaka is particularly great for courteous photographers. Because it’s so picturesque, they are out in force, approaching the landscape as an opportunity to perfect their skills as artists. This is no ‘mindless rabble’ of tourists with the Kodak-chromosome (spot the Lord of the Rings ref.).
To be honest, Wanaka is so naturally beautiful that the photos basically take themselves. Even if you are not confident with your photo skillz, stop here – it’s a great place to practice.
Even though I could not get any ‘smooth water’ in my shots (forgot the screw for my tripod back in Ireland) I am pretty happy with my #thatwanakatree shot.
An hour later we were back on the road again, but there was one important stop to make before leaving town.
I sometimes wonder if teamwork is our forte. We were certainly put to the test at Puzzling World.
Puzzling World was recommended to Tiernan by his mother. Tiernan loves puzzles so we purchased a Combo Ticket, giving us access to the Great Maze and the Illusion Rooms. I would recommend just going for the maze, although Tiernan really enjoyed the illusion rooms and says you should see both. The illusion rooms take you through a kind of history of illusions. The Hall of Faces, that follows you around the room, and some cool forced perspective stuff that makes you feel like either a Hobbit or a Balrog, were some of the cooler parts.
The maze was absolutely packed with people and, I have to admit it, quite a bit of fun. I am short enough to not be able to see over the fences and even when you are up high the maze is so extensive it’s hard to think your way out from above. If you were to lay the paths out end to end, the maze come in at 1.5km long.
There are two ways to tackle the maze: hitting all four towers (blue, green, red and yellow) in no particular order, or to up the difficulty, ticking the towers off in a particular colour order. The minimum run time recommended by Puzzling World is 30 minutes so, naturally, Tiernan wanted to do it in 20. There are emergency exits for the frustrated or time constrained.
We made pretty good time and got an epic tan in the process! Tiernan’s made a video about it over on our YouTube Channel by the way we have YouTube):
Next Time We Want To…
Since there is still so much left to do in Wanaka we’ve made a little list of the things to include on our next visit.
- Climb to the much-photographed view at the top of Roy’s Peak
- Kayak on the lake
- Visit the Wanaka Lavender Farm: If there is one side trip I regret not making, it is this one. How cool does this place look? They have posh tea and it looks like somewhere in the south of France. If anyone is going there, please let me place my orders with you! The beautiful shop sells relaxing and fragrant lavender stuff.
If you’ve been to Wanaka before, what else have we missed?
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