At the first sign of a cold snap, the buzz is born and there’s an excitement in the air that signals Winter – and the snow – is on its way. Want in on this incredible experience? Check out our list for the best things to do in Wānaka in the Winter.
As you read, remember that the Winter is precious to our region and if you love this season as much as we do, why not consider volunteering or donating to Love Wānaka to help protect this place for generations to come.
We would be remiss to not include skiing and snowboarding at the top of our list. With two dedicated alpine ski resorts and a private ski area, you’ll have access to some of the most diverse terrain in the Southern Hemisphere – all within a short driving distance from town centre.
Cardrona Alpine Resort is New Zealand’s most popular ski area, attracting everyone from the first-timer, to world-famous Olympians and X Games athletes. Right next to Cardrona is Soho Basin, a beautiful private ski area accessible only by private tour and catski operations. And at the other end of town is Treble Cone Ski Area. Treble Cone is NZ’s largest ski area, famous for long runs and legendary off-piste terrain.
Snow Farm, near Wānaka, is the only dedicated cross-country ski area in New Zealand. The 55km of groomed trails are perfect for beginners and experts alike.
If cross-country skiing or skate skiing isn’t really your vibe, then try snowshoeing to explore the high trails.
For the kids (or the kid within) the dedicated Snow Fun Zone is a great place to play. Throw snowballs, build snowmen and make snow angels, then head over to the tubing area for gentle thrills.
An overnight adventure to a backcountry hut is also an epic experience. Snow Farm has three backcountry huts which have gas cookers, log burners and firewood as well as a small range of cooking and cutlery equipment. Make sure you book well in advance!
Heliskiing (or snowboarding) is the bucket list experience for anyone who loves skiing and snowboarding. And in Wānaka, the whole experience is levelled up with epic views, untouched terrain and thousands of kilometres of access to the mountains.
The best part is, you don’t even have to be an expert. If you can comfortably get down a blue run at any of our ski resorts, you can heliski. Each tour can be custom-tailored to any ability level, whether you’re a Sunday ski cruiser or a ripper. Our two heliski tour companies, Southern Lakes Heliski and Harris Mountain Heli Ski have over 40 years experience and access to 700+ runs. Heliskiing in Wānaka – add that one to the list immediately.
This is the moment to create your dream winter adventure. Leave behind your busy life and let Explore Wanaka show you this beautiful part of the world – The spectacular Southern Alps of New Zealand, giving you the opportunity to experience exclusive one on one local knowledge while creating unforgettable memories. Their snow packages include organisation of the best resort for you on the day and the most suitable runs for your riding style and ability. Whether you’re after a day of heliskiing or you just want to ride fun lines on the resort then you are in the right place!
Explore Wanaka also takes care of your transport – airport and daily, all your lift passes (no need to wait in those lines), accommodation from airbnbs to luxury lodging, plus on and off snow guiding daily to ensure you get a genuine and authentic experience.
Once the sun sets and you’re off the mountain, the fun only continues. Après-ski in Wānaka can be as sophisticated or simple as you like. Hang out at the food trucks, drink craft beer, head to a winery, eat at award-winning restaurants like Kika or just head to a bar for a pint or a mulled wine and swap tall tales about neck deep powder.
Want to know more about the best places to après? Check out our guide here.
If you’re feeling like spending a day doing some off-mountain activities (rest up those legs!), we highly recommend wandering the streets of Wānaka town and spending some time checking out the shops. From street-style to high-end fashion boutiques, gift stores and art galleries, Wānaka has a range of places perfect for the shopaholic.
If you’re wanting a more laid-back approach, pay a trip to the cinemas, one of our museums, or try an indoor activity like Crossfire or Puzzling World.