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High Country Heritage in Lake Wanaka

The Lake Wanaka region has a rich and colourful history, from its earliest nomadic people; to the pioneering European settlers and the gold rush; right through to the emergence of the popular visitor destination of today.

A testament to the vivid heritage of New Zealand, the region has seen its share of settlers. There is evidence of a spiritual and healing village at The Neck (between Lakes Wanaka and Hawea) of the earliest people to inhabit this land – the Waitaha Nation. To early Maori it was a place of learning and relaxation, a welcome stop on their journey to collect pounamu (greenstone) from the mountains and river valleys in the Southern Alps.

In the early 1860’s gold was discovered in the rivers and mountains of the Lake Wanaka and Central Otago regions. Thousands of gold prospectors from as far afield as Europe and China flocked to the regions establishing settlements and staking claims on the land. The remnants of these villages can still be found today in the Cardrona Valley near Wanaka, and many other places in the region. The iconic Cardrona Hotel is a legacy of this era with its historic restaurant and bar, and provides a fascinating glimpse into yesteryear.

Where once was gold there are now thriving high country stations, farms and ski areas. Mountain bike, hiking and walking trails also wind through old gold tailings and historic farmland, and vineyards sit among the strikingly sculpted landscape created by the thirst for gold.


4WD Tours
4WD Tours
Get off the beaten track and explore the Lake Wanaka region with a local guide.
High Country Farm Tours
High Country Farm Tours
Farm tours in the Lake Wanaka region take people back in time to a simpler way of life.
Photographic Tours
Photographic Tours
Capture your breathtaking holiday in the Lake Wanaka region with a personalised photographic tour
High Country Horse Riding
High Country Horse Riding
The Lake Wanaka region offers some of the best high country horse trekking in New Zealand.
High Country Quad Biking
High Country Quad Biking
From one hour rides to exclusive tours just for you...
High Country Mountain BIking
High Country Mountain BIking
Several different mountain biking options which allow you to enjoy the unique high country tussock terrain.
High Country Walking & Hiking
High Country Walking & Hiking
For easy walks and longer hikes amid some of the most dramatic and gorgeous views in New Zealand.
Skiing & Snowboarding
Skiing & Snowboarding
Pure mountain air, crisp sunny days and breathtaking visitas all around you

Search the listings below to find options to suit. Just click on a tab or use the drop down options to refine your search. You can also read stories from our Lake Wanaka blog and find recommended trips to suit any travel style or stay length.

More information on High Country - Cardrona valley, Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
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Overlooking Lake Wanaka our guided ride takes you on a scenic trek through Rippon Vineyard. Enjoy the panoramic views and experience a wine...

PO Box 693, Wanaka

Our small-group, authentic Farm Safaris and exclusive Photography tours explore the best of Wanaka's raw natural beauty. Travel private back-roads on one of...

11 Sandy's Lane, Wanaka

We are the specialist backcountry adventure retail store in Wanaka. Our specialty in winter is ski rental for the fields and the backcountry...

17 Dunmore Street, Wanaka

Release specialises in luxury tailor-made holidays for friends, families and corporate organisations wanting to experience the best of Wanaka. At Release Wanaka we...

, Wanaka

From $395 NZD

Visitors to 'The Cardrona' explore and experience a unique slice of high country heaven by guided tours on horseback or quad bike. Exclusive...

2125 Cardrona Valley Road, Wanaka

From $99 NZD

TripAdvisor rating: 5.0

Ski field at your door! Enjoy a one minute walk to the lifts, the independence of self-catering and the convenience of having mountain...

PO Box 117, Wanaka

From $250 NZD

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5

New Zealand's fun and family friendly ski area located between Queenstown and Wanaka. With gentle, wide open trails for beginners, 4 dedicated kids...

18 Dunmore Street, Wanaka

From $52 NZD

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5

Visit some Wanaka's most enchanting and spectacular locations with acclaimed professional photographer and naturalist - Gilbert van Reenen on an exhilarating personalised off-road...

RD 2, Ballantyne Road, Wanaka

Gallery Thirty Three - Wanaka's only Contemporary Art Gallery, exhibits an exciting group of contemporary New Zealand artists in a range of media...

33 Helwick Street, Wanaka

Small on numbers, big on satisfaction. Guided tours for all abilities including: cycling lakeside trails, heli biking and backcountry rides.

We offer a...

99 Ardmore St, Wanaka

From $150 NZD

TripAdvisor rating: 5.0

Half day (2 hour) treks twice daily. Bookings essential. Minimum of 2 people. Transport from Wanaka available.

2416 Cardrona Valley, Wanaka

Proudly representing some of New Zealand’s luminary photographers, the gallery features a selection of landscape, travel, adventure and fine art photography – available...

Shop 7, Spencer House, Wanaka

Stunning upstairs waterfront gallery with Lake Wanaka and NZ landscapes from some of the country's best impressionist artists, also bronze sculptures, wood, ceramics...

UPSTAIRS,4 Helwick Street, Wanaka

From $5 NZD

Relax, indulge and enjoy... perky pinots... scrumptious local produce... Lord of the Rings landscapes... behind the scenes stories.... dramatic props... hidden havens... historic...

272 Ballantyne Road, Wanaka

From $189 NZD

TripAdvisor rating: 5

Walking along Lake Hawea’s eastern shores there are great views up the Hunter Valley and on a clear day, to the west, as...

Ardmore Street, Wanaka

The Wanaka end of the challenging, multi-day Motatapu Track provides an enjoyable day or overnight walk into the Fern Burn Hut. It begins...

Ardmore Street, Wanaka

Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka are glacial lakes, long and narrow and carved from ice. Situated almost side by side topographically, the two...

, Wanaka

The highest paved road in New Zealand, the Crown Range Road connects Wanaka and Queenstown. It reaches an altitude of 1,121 metres and...

, Wanaka

One of New Zealand’s most photographed hotels, the Cardrona Hotel has the grand status of being among the oldest and most iconic in...

, Wanaka

Chain Hills and Coal Creek Conservation Area
Turnoff SH8 onto Goodger Road and, depending on the season and road condition, drive along the unsealed...

Ardmore Street, Wanaka

Arts & Heritage Itinerary

Find out more about our arts, culture and heritage itinerary around the Lake Wanaka regions

Adventurers Itinerary

Find out more information on an adventure holiday around Wanaka