The alpine township of Wanaka, sits on the shores of our 4th largest lake of the same name. The town name comes from the Maori word “Oanaka” which means “The Place of Anaka” who was an ancestral chief in the area. When discovered by Europeans in the mid 19th century, it was originally named Pembroke. It was renamed to Wanaka in 1940.
Wanaka is famous for a bunch of things. Firstly, its incredible scenery, with beautiful mountains and the lake itself both featured in various scenes of the LOTR trilogy. Second, it’s the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. Third, it’s home base for our exceptional, world-class, Cadrona, and Treble Cone ski fields, and finally, the infamous biannual Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow
Warbirds Over Wanaka runs around Easter every second year. If you’re travelling around the central lakes region of the South Island during this time, why not pop by for a look-see.
The first day of the event is much like a carnival come exhibition. Market stalls are on-site and it’s also the opening date of the regional Food and Wine festival. Most importantly, a variety of classic and vintage transportation (air and land) will be available to have a gander at. While there is no official airshow scheduled, those scheduled to fly in the shows over the following two days will be rehearsing through the mountain valleys.
The other 2 days will follow a similar format. As well as all the exciting events from Day One, the scheduled airshows commence. The morning features classical fighter craft and a helicopter show. In the afternoon there are shows from both the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. Check out the military re-enactments over lunchtime on days two and three. These feature vehicles from both World Wars as well as military horses and an authentic mess tent. A fantastic and professional glimpse into another era.
The airshows run from 10am – 4pm. For more information, check out the full schedule.
Getting to Wanaka from Queenstown is easy. Simply take State Highway 6 in the opposite direction from the Queenstown township and follow the signs toward Wanaka. Don’t go along the Crown Range. The drive takes just over an hour, or an hour and a half if you stop at the bakery in Cromwell.
The drive between Christchurch and Wanaka is a scenic one. It’s just over 400 kilometres, or a five-and-a-half-hour drive. Take State Highway One until you get to the Geraldine turn-off at Rangitata. Then follow State Highway 79 past Geraldine to Fairlie. Once at Fairlie, you want to take State Highway 8 west toward the Lindis Pass. Follow until you get to Tarras and turn west at Bells Lane and follow the signs until Wanaka.
TOP 10 Holiday Park – Wanaka
Wanaka TOP 10 Holiday Park is a handy location between Wanaka and Queenstown, and like all TOP 10 Holiday Parks, it has both tent and powered sites as well general motel style accommodation if you’re taking a car, all of high quality.
Check out our route planner for more accommodation options available en route to Wanaka from Christchurch.
Puzzling World – An fun and cheap facility with illusion rooms, a maze, a great café and various mind puzzling puzzles available to take home at the gift store.
Kids Bush – A short drive along the lakeshore, just beyond “The Neck” where Lakes Wanaka and Hawea almost meet, there’s a short 30-minute walk and picnic area. A great way to kill a sunny day.