Otago Wānaka

The 12 Best Wānaka Walks

May 15, 2022

Plan your next stroll, tramp or hike with these amazing Wānaka walks. There’s something to suit every type of traveller in and around this beautiful region.

Wānaka is a popular resort town located in the South Island of New Zealand.

Set on the beautiful Lake Wānaka, it is known as the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park, so naturally, it boasts spectacular scenery and incredible walks.

The town is famous for its stunning lakes, snow-capped peaks, and the famous ‘Wānaka tree’, of course!

Heading out on one of the many Wānaka walks is the perfect way to explore the area and take in its beauty.

Enjoying the views from the top of Roys Peak.

The Top Wānaka Walks

With so many awesome Wānaka trails to choose from, how do you know which ones to choose?

This guide covers the best day hikes situated near this beautiful town and will give you enough information to decide which is right for you.

Whether you’re looking for a quick stroll or a challenging tramp, there is something for everyone.

So, let’s dive into the best Wānaka tracks and trails!

Easy Trails

1. The Outlet Track

Distance: 3 km return (1.8 miles) one way
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated time: 1 hour (2 hours return)

The Outlet Track is one of the most popular short Wānaka walks as it’s an easy trail with stunning views.

The trail can be started at Lake Wānaka Outlet Road or Albert Town, depending on which way you want to walk it.

As you walk this path, you’ll head along the Clutha River and can admire the beautiful scenery along the way.

The Outlet Track is popular with both walkers and cyclists. It is incredibly flat, making it suitable for wheelchair users and strollers too. It really is the ultimate family-friendly hike.

2. Waterfall Creek Track (The Lone Tree)

Distance: 2.5km (1.5 miles) one way
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated time: 1 hour (2 hours return)

The Waterfall Creek Track takes you to one of the most photographed places on the South Island – the iconic ‘ that Wānaka Tree’.

Starting from Roys Beach, this trail heads to Wānaka Station Park before winding along the lakeshore. This is where you’ll get to see the famous tree (and let’s face it, where you’ll probably snap a photo).

After spending some time admiring #thatWānakaTree, the track will take you through Edgewater and Ribbon Vineyard before finishing at Waterfall Creek.

From there, you’ll enjoy scenic views of Ruby Island.

If you want to extend the walk, you can carry on along the Glendhu Bay Track too, or double back to return to where you started.

3. Beacon Point Walk

Distance: 1.5km (0.9 mile) one way
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated time: 30 minutes (1 hour return)

The Beacon Point Walk links Bremmer Bay and Beacon Point.

This shoreline track is suitable for all fitness levels, ages, and mobility levels. In fact, the path is so flat it’s also great for strollers and people in wheelchairs.

Although this is one of the shortest walks in Wānaka, it offers beautiful views of the lake and surrounding peaks.

If you’ve only got a short amount of time in the area, then this is the trail we’d recommend. Not only is it stunning, but you’ll be able to squeeze in another Wānaka activity or two whilst you’re in town.

Or, if you want to lengthen your hike the Outlet Track is just a 30-minute walk from Beacon Point.

4. Gladstone Track

Distance: 6.5km (4 miles) one way
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated time: 1.5-2 hours

The Gladstone Track starts from Hawea Dam and then follows the shoreline of Lake Hawea.

It’s one of the easiest Wānaka walks, and the scenery is beautiful. You’ll get to see mountain peaks, rolling meadows, and of course, beautiful Lake Hawea itself.

Although the Gladstone Track only takes about 1.5 hours to complete (one way), you can easily make it stretch longer as there’s plenty to see. You can even make a day of it if you’d like.

We recommend visiting by the cute fish and chip shop along the way and finishing a spot on lakeshore to sit back and relax.

Related: The best restaurants in Wānaka.

Moderately Challenging Tracks in Wānaka

5. Mount Iron Loop

Distance: 4.5km (2.7 miles) return
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated time: 1.5 hours

The Mount Iron Loop is a popular choice for those looking for a short hike with scenic views. It’s also easily accessible from town, which makes it a convenient choice.

Mount Iron itself is a glacier-carved rocky knoll that’s relatively easy to walk up, however, there are a few steep sections. Once you get to the top though, you’re in for a treat!

From there, you’ll get breathtaking views of the Pisa Range, the Southern Alps and the Upper Clutha Basin. You’ll also spot views of Lake Hawea, Lake Wānaka and Mount Aspiring National Park.

Most of this track works its way around the base of Mount Iron, so you don’t have to worry about 4.5km of uphill slog!

The Mount Iron Loop has to be one of the best short Wānaka walks so make sure you check this one out.

6. Sawyer Burn Track

Distance: 5km (3 miles) return
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated time: 3.5 hours

If you’re looking for beautiful walk in the Southern Lakes area (and you are, because you’re reading this article), then the Sawyer Burn Track is a great choice.

The hike starts from the Kidds Bush Recreation Reserve and takes you through a beautiful beech forest, zig-zagging up the hill.

You’ll be walking through the forest right up to the bush line, where you’ll get stunning views of Lake Hawea and its scenic mountain backdrop.

The Sawyer Burn Track is suitable for most fitness levels. It includes some fairly steep track but the trail is well-formed and doesn’t require any technical experience, so it’s just a matter or stopping when you need breaks.

7. Rob Roy Glacier Track

Distance: 10km (6.2 miles) return
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated time: 4-5 hours

The Rob Roy Glacier Track starts from Raspberry Creek Car Park and takes you into Mount Aspiring National Park.

With stunning alpine scenery, lush forest, waterfalls, a swing bridge and glaciers, this hike has it all!

You’ll walk through the valley first before crossing the West Matukituki River. The trail will then take you through a small gorge before you reach the overlook.

From there you’ll get stunning views of the Rob Roy Glacier, so make sure you allow some time to relax at the top… and as there’s a fair bit of up-hill on this tramp, you might need it.

Guided walks are available for this trail but it’s also fine to walk self-guided.

Whatever you choose, don’t forget your camera for this one!

8. Grandview Mountain Track

Distance: 18 km return (11 miles)
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated time: 4-6 hours

If you’re looking for a scenic Wānaka tramp that will let you really stretch your legs, then the Grandview Mountain Track is a perfect choice.

The trail starts from Nook car park and climbs up to the Station Boundary, and then Grandview Mountain.

Grandview Mountain sits at 1398m and offers breathtaking views of Lake Hawea and Lake Wānaka. If you do this hike on a clear day, you might even get to see Mount Aspiring!

You’ll want waterproof footwear for this hike, as the trail requires multiple river crossings.

It’s also important to note that the track is closed between mid-September to the end of October and isn’t recommended during the winter.

Related: Instead of walking Grandview Mountain Track in the winter, why not hit the ski fields instead?

9. Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain Track

Distance: 7.1km (4.4 miles) return
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated time: 2.5-3.5 hours

This loop trail in Wānaka takes you to the beautiful Diamond Lake and the summit of Rocky Mountain.

Although the hike up is quite steep, it’s considered to be a moderately challenging hike. However, if it’s been raining you’ll need to take your time as the path can get muddy and very slippery.

If you decide to tackle this hike then you’ll be rewarded with stunning lookout points at every turn, although the highlight has to be the summit. From there, you’ll get panoramic views of Lake Wānaka and its surroundings.

Did you know? There are a number of tracks in this area that can be combined or walked by themselves. For this reason, this is one of the most versatile walks in the area.

Diamond Lake, frozen over in the wintertime.

Challenging Tramps

10. Roys Peak Track

Distance: 16 km (10.1 miles)
Difficulty: Hard
Estimated time: 5-6 hours

The Roys Peak Track is one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand, and it’s no wonder.

The trail takes you right up to Roys Peak summit which is an impressive 1,578m (5,177 ft), where you’ll get spectacular views of Lake Wānaka, Mount Aspiring, and the surrounding mountains.

The hike up to the top is very steep, and you won’t find much shade on the trail either.

For this reason, make sure you bring plenty of water and wear a hat if you’re planning to do this hike during the summer months.

Though the walk to the top isn’t particularly exciting (it’s just a clay 4WD track, working its way up through farmland), the views make this walk 100% worth the effort.

Don’t let your fitness put you off either. We managed this track (even with a distinct lack of fitness). It took a lot longer but we got there in the end and were pleased did.

This walk has become Insta-famous but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all hype — we thoroughly recommend it!

Pro Tip: The car park for this hike is located right at the trailhead, but it can get busy so we suggest you arrive nice and early.

11. Isthmus Peak Track

Distance: 16 km (9.9 miles)
Difficulty: Hard
Estimated time: 5-6 hours

The Isthmus Peak Track is much quieter than Roys Peak but still offers breathtaking views.

It’s another challenging hike, with the track heading constantly uphill for around 2 hours — so a good level of fitness is definitely required for this one!

You’ll also have to tackle several false peaks along the way, but once you get to the top, it will all be worth it.

Once you reach the summit, you’ll get spectacular panoramic views of Lake Hawea, Lake Wānaka, and the surrounding peaks.

If you’re looking for scenic Wānaka walks (and you don’t mind a bit of hard work), then make sure this one is on your list!

12. Breast Hill Track

Distance: 13 km return (8 miles)
Difficulty: Hard
Estimated time: 8-10 hours

Last but certainly not least, the Breast Hill Track runs from the Dingle Burn Road up to Pakituhi Hut (and beyond).

Although this hike isn’t as long as some of the other Wānaka walks it’s incredibly steep, so be prepared for a challenge. You’ll also come across some narrow parts of the track (with fairly big drops to the side), so just take your time and mind your footing.

However, once you reach the top you’ll be thoroughly rewarded — especially on a clear day.

You’ll get beautiful views of Lake Wānaka, Mount Aspiring, and other nearby peaks so make sure you bring your camera!

Along this track you’ll find two public huts; one sleeps 6 people and the other sleeps 8, so it’s possible to split this track into a multi-day walk.

Pro Tip: If you want to stay the night, we suggest spending it in Pakituhi Hut (the one that sleeps 8), but as it can’t be booked in advance, you’ll need to get there before anyone else.


As you can see there are plenty of Wānaka walks to choose from!

Whether you’re looking to hike up mountain peaks or along stunning lakes, you won’t be short of choices.

There are so many awesome trails available to you, so take full advantage if you’re planning a trip here!

Related: The best things to do in Wānaka.

Incredible views from Breast Hill Track.

Have you ever visited Wānaka before?

If you have – let us know your favourite hikes in the comments below!

Interested in Other South Island Walks?

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply