At first, I was planning 2 nights in Te Anau but once I saw photos of Lake Wanana, I decided to re-adjust my plan so I can stay at Lake Wanaka for 1 night. It was a 3 hours drive from Te Anau to Lake Wanaka was a very scenic one, so far the most the scenic long drive of our South Island trip! We passed through endless farms of cows and sheep to hills that looked like a painting like this one:
We came to a stop for sheep crossing!
Woah so many sheep!
And a must stop at the Devil’s Staircase lookout on Highway 6 overlooking Lake Wakatipu and the “S” curve highway! The lake was sapphire blue!
It’s one of the most beautiful highway I have ever seen! Please plan extra time for the drive because you’ll be slowed down by the incredible scenery!
From Highway 6, the GPS led us to Crown Range Rd (a shorter way through the mountain) to Wanaka. This road zig-zagging up the mountain with once again magnificent views. What I like about it is it has plenty of lookouts for you to safely pull over your car to take photos. Looking down at the town underneath:
As we went up more and more, we saw further away places and mountains!
On one of the lookouts, it has a narrow path to walk up for panoramic views of both sides!
The patches of fields looked like patterns on a quilt!
Crown Range Rd cutting through mountains:
Near Cardrona, we passed by a long fence covered with bras!!! We pulled into the parking lot so I can check it out (Jason and my brother stayed in the car)…what are those for?
I have seen fences filled with locks around the world but this was the first time I have seen filled with bras!
Ahhhh this is to support the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation! The short minutes I was there taking photos, two women came up and one of them took off her bra to hang it there!
Shortly, we arrived at Lake Wanaka and of course it was late lunch time! We had lunch at Shinaburo Korean Eating House with excellent food!
The beef bulgogi, it looked big plate but actually quite small! Brother ordered the stone pot rice with unlimited sauce haha!
My very yummy noodle soup! After the tourist trap Chinese restaurant in Te Anau, this is so much better!
…and cheaper too, lunch was $63 NZD. After lunch, we walked back to get our car, parking spaces can be an issue here!
We drove to the Moorings Motel and Apartments only a few steps away to check in. Parking was included so it was nice to leave the car and explore the little town by foot. This “motel” was night and day compared to the motel we stayed last night at Te Anau!
If all motels are like this one, I would glad to stay at motels on every trip to save money!
It has lake view too!!! Can’t beat a $125 USD per night with a lake view room!
There are many hiking trails in this area and the one I picked is a “moderate” hike with panoramic views at Mount Iron. We drove to the trail head, parked next to a very cute tree with hanging red fruits/flowers!
I decided to leave my sneakers in the car, my toes like to be airy and stay cool LOL….but regretted later….
The first section of the hike wasn’t bad and then the start of zig-zagging up the mountain….it was quite steep!
The views of Wanaka town was spectacular!
There, I saw the lake and the snow capped mountains on the very back!
It’s this steep!!!
My brother helped out by carrying my purse so I can just carry my heavy DSLR camera to take photos!
We took a few short stops to catch our breathe, yea it was not an easy hike!
We finally reached the end of the zig-zagging up but we were not done yet awww! Rest stop again but this time has a bench!
Keep walking….the clouds moved in, bad for photos but good for hike. There you can see Lake Wanaka on the left and Lake Hawea on the right!
After 45 minutes or so we reached the top with a 360 degree view of the lakes, mountains, and towns!
We sat there to wait for the clouds to move out but didn’t have luck 🙁 It would be more colorful with the sun! The area around Lake Wanaka must be very pretty at winter when the mountains covered by snow!
A circle pointing the direction of the mountains near by.
The views were amazing up here, worth the hike!
But make sure to not follow the sign to go back down….best to walk back down on the same route that you walked up because the way that the sign directing to go down is much more steep, narrow, almost no views, and much further!!! This was when I regretted not to wear my sneaker! Instead of wonderful views of Lake Wanaka and the town underneath our footsteps, we walked pass this:
And this is the “best section” of the path with stairs….otherwise steep and narrow road!
Yikes, those rocks didn’t look too stable…
We finally got down to the bottom of the mountain….
but still a long way to get back to the parking lot!
Once again, please do not follow the sign to the route going down, take the original route that lead you up the mountain, it’s much easier, shorter, and scenic!
We finally made it back to our car and a closer look at the hanging fruits!
The hike round trip took us a good 2 hours or so and then we drove back to town again. The town shopping center:
It was not easy to find parking here but we did found a spot eventually and checked out the town.
Real estate, retirement home anyone?
Our goal was to search for the Lone Tree that was why we didn’t park our car back at the motel and walk out. The tree, according to the receptionist, is on the other side of the lake. We drove pass the pier…..
where tourists were feeding the birds and ducks there….
We parked next to the Wanaka Station Park and walked down the beach to find “The Lone Tree”…you see that tree surrounded by water down there?
There, that’s the famous “The Lone Tree”. In google map, it’s called “That Wanaka Tree”!
It was windy so it had some waves instead of a perfect reflection!
Low tide so I was able to walk out to the tree yay!
Me & The Lone Tree in Lake Wanaka:
It’s very unique that it’s the only tree in the lake! Isn’t this the most photogenic tree? I agree! I was thinking to come again for sunset and sunrise but both times were very cloudy that I know for sure I won’t be able to have the colorful sunset/sunrise 🙁
Next, we drove down the Lakeside Rd to Eely Point Recreational Reserve:
But the views were distracted by those trees!
It’s a popular biking route so be careful of bicycles!
First time I have seen a completely white bark tree!
And this huge tree, hum…how old it is?
Low tide dried up the lake to create this little beach:
We were getting tired after the 3 hours drive, 2 hours hike, and checked out this and that around Lake Wanaka so we headed back to our motel to rest a bit before walking out for dinner. While Jason was taking a break, I went on searching for where to go for dinner. There are very highly rated Indian restaurants in Wanaka and I finally persuaded Jason to have a try at Indian cuisine 🙂 The Spice Room:
To start, refreshing mango lassi for drinks and yummy garlic naan. We ordered the jalfarezi curry with chicken, a seafood curry dish (that I forgot the exact name), and the mixed grill tandoori platter:
Mixed grill tandoori platter, it was sizzling hot!
The spice was tasteful and not too spicy so suitable for Jason. He liked the garlic naan, it was soft and filled with fried garlic taste. Jason’s first Indian restaurant experience was definitely positive and now we have one more cuisine to choose from whenever we are dining out haha! Dinner was $107 NZD for the dishes we ordered and 3 mango lassi.
Lake Wanaka was a very scenic lake town surrounded with mountains, I wished that I can visit during winter times surrounded with snow-capped mountains. Is it worth to detour our route to stay one night here? Definitely! The only disappointment was cloudy skies on both sunset and sunrise times so I wasn’t able to get the dreamy and colorful photos of the lake and the Lone Tree. I checked out the sky at night too but no chance of seeing the Milky Way. Despite of not having the best weather, the surrounding area was still amazing, Plenty of easy to moderate to experienced hiking trails around and not to mention great choices of food from authentic Korean to Indian cuisines 🙂
Stay tuned for our last chapter of our New Zealand trip – Queenstown! Subscribe to my blog for the latest trip reports!