First published on 13 Aug 2012.
Wanaka’s southern neighbour Queenstown steals the limelight when it comes to New Zealand’s Southern Lakes region. But with great skiing at six nearby locations, spectacular scenery and exceptional wines, the smaller of the two resort towns is the place to base yourself.
At Cardrona, Time Out’s favourite ski field in NZ. Expect groomed trails minus the hordes right across the mountain from Skyline to Captain’s. The mountain has a great ski school and lift passes are just NZ$90 per day. Crown Range Rd, Cardrona. +64 3 443 7341. www.cardrona.com.
If skiing or boarding aren’t your thing – or you’re looking for something different on the slopes – try out SMX snow bikes by 3ski. These three-ski, mountain bike-style contraptions offer a combo of skiing, boarding and downhill riding and are easier to master than all of the above. In fact, you’ll be riding down blue runs an hour after jumping on one for the first time. Crown Range Rd, Cardrona. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.3ski.com.
At the base of the mountain, the Cardrona Hotel is the perfect spot for a pint of Speight’s Gold Medal Ale or a glass of Central Otago pinot noir after a long day on the slopes. The lamb shanks are a must-eat and there are 16 ensuite rooms out the back. Crown Range Rd, Cardrona. +64 3 443 8153. www.cardronahotel.co.nz. In town, there is a good range of accommodation options – from luxury digs to B&Bs – and our bang-for-buck is the lodge-style Wanaka Homestead. The property is close to the lake, features comfortable country-style rooms and importantly, has a hot tub. 1 Homestead Cl, Wanaka. +64 3 443 5022. www.wanakahomestead.co.nz.
For a great meal, head to the Cow, the Wanaka outpost of Queenstown’s best pizza house, where the signature pies are Bolognese and Her Majesty’s. Post Office Ln, Wanaka. +64 3 443 4269. www.thecowrestaurant.co.nz. For local meat, game and great pinot noir, head to Botswana Butchery next door. Order the French onion soup and the wild Fiordland vension rack. Post Office Ln, Wanaka. +64 3 443 6745. www.botswanabutchery.co.nz. Downstairs, classic cocktails reign supreme at Barluga, especially the Martinis and Negronis. Post Office Ln, Wanaka. +64 3 443 5400. www.goodbars.co.nz.
Off the slopes, there are two must-do activities – jetboating and wine tasting. Wanaka River Journeys offer an adrenaline-pumping adventure: one minute you’ll be screaming up the glacier-fed Matukituki River in a jetboat and the next you’ll be walking through a forest that’s millions of years old. 99 Ardmore St, Wanaka. +64 3 443 4416. www.wanakariverjourneys.co.nz.
Central Otago is home to Australasia’s finest pinot noir producers and within 30 minutes of Wanaka you’ll be tasting a number of the region’s top drops. Book a wine trail tour with Funny French Cars where you’ll be sipping the likes of Maori Point, Wild Earth, Maude, Rockburn and Northburn Station and cruising around in vintage Citroen 2CVs. +64 3 27 3866 932. www.funnyfrenchcars.co.nz.
Getting to Wanaka is easy. Air New Zealand (www.airnz.com.au) flies to Queenstown and Wanaka is then a one-hour drive over the Crown Range Road or a 1.5-hour drive via Cromwell. For more, visit www.purenewzealand.com.