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With the base of Mount Aspiring National Park on Wanaka’s doorstep, renting a bicycle isn’t such a bad idea. Soon mountains will surround you and then swing bridges will connect you to the trails, which you’ll embark on foot.
Rent a bicycle and explore along the shores of Lake Wanaka, and out along the Clutha River toward Albert Town. There are many places to rent bikes and get trail maps including Outside Sports (17 Dunmore St.) or Thunderbikes (16 Helwick St.) Both the Deans Bank Track near Albert Town, a scenic 11½ km (7 miles) intermediate-level loop track, and the Plantation or "Sticky Forest," as locals call it, have good networks of mountain bike trails for all abilities.
Locals will tell you that fishing on Lake Wanaka and nearby Lake Hawea is better than at the more famed Taupo area. You won't want to enter that argument, but chances are good you'll catch fish if you have the right guide. Fishing is year-round.
Hatch Fly Fishing Wanaka. If you've always loved the idea of fly-fishing but wouldn't know where to start, Craig Smith is a superb guide and a really nice bloke who's happy to teach the basics. You can opt to get dropped in to your fishing spot by helicopter or jet boat, and there are even overnight camp outs available. Rates include lunch and all equipment, as well as pick up and drop off. 03/443–8446 or 027/646–9419. www.hatchfishing.co.nz. From NZ$690 per day; $750 per couple.
Lake Hawea Fishing & Farmstay. Harry Urquhart has trolling excursions for rainbow trout, brown trout, and quinnat salmon on Lake Hawea. He's been doing it for 25 years and knows his stuff. He even offers a money-back guarantee: if you don't catch any fish you don't have to pay. He also has self-contained accommodation. 03/443–1535 or 027/440–3070. $NZ300 for a 2-hr trip or $400 for 4 hrs (for up to 5 people).
Wanaka Fly Fishing. Wanaka Fly Fishing provides instruction, guided trips, and wilderness fishing safaris, including a heli-fishing option. Rates include gear, transport, lunch, flies, and photos. 03/443–7870. www.fly-fishing-guide-wanaka-new-zealand.co.nz. NZ$460 half day for 2; $760 full day.
If you're not keen on hiring a guide, you can rent fly-fishing gear and buy your fishing license at Hamills (10 Helwick St.) or Lakeland Adventures in the Log Cabin on Ardmore Street.
Alpine Kayak Guides. Exploring this stunning region's rivers with Alpine Kayak Guides is a must while in Wanaka. This company caters to smaller groups, which means a lot of attention for beginners. You'll learn how to glide into a calm eddy, to wave surf, and to safely charge down the center of the white water; if that's what you want to do. All your gear's provided, right down to the thermals under your wetsuit. They do tailor-made trips into other areas, too. 119 Main Rd., Wanaka, 9301. 03/443–9023. www.alpinekayaks.co.nz. From NZ$165 for half-day.
Pioneer Rafting. At Pioneer Rafting you can do some white-water rafting at a calmer pace. Lewis Verduyn is New Zealand's leading eco-rafting specialist. His highly informative eco-rafting adventure, suitable for most ages, retraces a historic pioneer log-raft route. Both full-day and half-day trips are available, and leave from the Visitor Information Centre in Wanaka. Lake Wanaka i-SITE Visitor Centere, 103 Ardmore St., Wanaka, 0343. 03/443–1246. From NZ$145.
The weather around Wanaka is clear much of the time, which has allowed it to become a scenic-flight base for fixed-wing planes and helicopters. Flights take in Mt. Cook and the West Coast glaciers, the Mt. Aspiring area, Queenstown, and Fiordland.
Aspiring Helicopters. It may be hard to believe the scenery can get any better but fasten your seat belt and prepare to be enthralled. Aspiring Helicopters does scenic and adventure trips ranging from a 20-minute local flight to a 2-hour trip to Milford Sound. If you can, take the longer flight to Milford that goes via Mt Aspiring; it includes landing at a high alpine lake and on a glacier. If you're after the serious wilderness spots to climb, ski, bike, fish or hunt— they'll take you there, too. 03/443–7152. www.aspiringhelicopters.co.nz. From NZ$170 per person.
Wanaka Flightseeing. Wanaka Flightseeing runs small Cessna aircraft to all the hot spots. Wanaka Airport, 10 Lloyd Dunn Ave., Wanaka, 9382. 03/443–8787. www.flightseeing.co.nz. From NZ$240.
With reliable snow and dry powder, Wanaka has some of the best skiing and snowboarding in New Zealand. Cardrona and Treble Cone are the two biggest winter-sports resorts, and Snow Farm specializes in cross-country ski. For more information about skiing and snowboarding in the area, check out www.lakewanaka.co.nz.
Cardrona Ski Resort. Cardrona, 34 km (21 miles) southwest of Wanaka, is great for familes with its wide open trails, a kids' ski school and activity center, plus kid- and beginner-friendly lifts, and food outlets. A special "heavy metal" trail pours on the rails and jumps and there are two half pipes, that are well used by international snowboarding teams (American snowboard star Shaun White landed his first back to back cork 10-80 in competition on one of them). The season is roughly mid-June–early October. A bonus at Cardrona is the 12 apartments up on the mountain, but you'll need to book early to get in. Daily shuttles are available from Wanaka, Queenstown, and Cromwell. 18 Dunmore St., Cardrona Valley, Wanaka. www.cardrona.com. One-day lift pass NZ$99.
Treble Cone. Treble Cone, 19 km (11½ mi) west of Wanaka, is the South Island's largest ski area, with lots of advanced trails and off-piste skiing. You can purchase a single-day lift pass, or if you're planning to ski a few days you can buy a Flexi pass, which makes it a bit cheaper. You can call their Snow Phone to get up-to-date snow reports or check their website. If you're not a skier it's still worth getting a scenic chairlift ride on the home basin chairlift; the view is sensational. 03/443–7443 Snow phone and main number. www.treblecone.com. Single-day lift pass NZ$96.
Skydive Wanaka. New Zealand is definitely the place to experiment with wild adventures. If you've considered skydiving you can jump from 12,000 and 15,000 feet with photos or a DVD of your exploit for an extra fee. Wanaka Airport, Hwy. 6, Wanaka, 9305. 0800/786–877 or 03/443–7207. www.skydivewanaka.com. From NZ$329.
The Mount Aspiring National Park provides serious hiking and mountaineering opportunities, including Wilkins Valley, Makarora River, and Mt. Aspiring tracks and trails.
Diamond Lake Track. The complete Diamond Lake Track takes three hours and starts 25 km (15½ mi) west of Wanaka, also on the Glendhu Bay–Mt. Aspiring road. The track rises to 2,518 feet at Rocky Peak, passing Diamond Lake along the way. If you've got time for only a short walk, take the one that heads to the lake; it takes only 20 minutes. The Diamond Lake area is also popular with mountain bikers and rock climbers. Matukituki Valley Road, Wanaka, 9382. 03/443–7660. www.doc.govt.nz.
Lake Wanaka Outlet Track. You get maximum views for minimal challenge on one of the prettiest local trails, which meanders along the Clutha River from the Lake Wanaka Outlet to Albert Town. This is a kid-friendly route, and also fly-fisherman-, bicyclist-, and picnicker-friendly. It takes about an hour one way. Outlet Track, Wanaka, 9382.
Mt. Iron. If you have time for only one walk, Mt. Iron, rising 780 feet above the lake, is relatively short and rewarding. The access track begins 2 km (1 mi) from Wanaka, and the walk to the top takes 45 minutes. You can descend on the alternative route down the steep eastern face. Wanaka.