The next stop was Wanaka New Zealand. This is where keeping track of the towns and names of hikes, places and remembering the places we stayed at start to become fuzzy. There are so many small towns along the way and all of them are known for incredible landscapes and natural wonders. Wanaka is in the Otago region of the South Island and only two and a half hours from Te Anu. It is also known for it’s lakes and mountains but without the craziness of Queenstown. In the winter it becomes a ski town with lots of snow activity choices.
The town of Wanaka is known for their mountains and their lake – Lake Wanaka. There are many tourist in the center of town along with hotels, holiday parks (mobile vans and camper parks), motels and homes. We chose to stay in an apartment style hotel called Wanaka Luxury Apartments. One of the perks of staying here was free bikes to use.
Lake Wanaka is fed by glaciers and the water is perfectly clear. Water spouts are set up in areas of town for people to fill their own bottles at no cost. The water is directly from a natural spring underground. We road our bikes around the lake. A nice walking/biking path has been paved around the lake. Since it is summer, people are along the edges doing everything from swimming to just having a relaxing picnic. I found out that my idol Oprah Winfrey was in Wanaka filming a movie. I went looking for her and calling her name out loud during bike rides. Just knowing she was in the same town was exciting. She was spotted around restaurants and shops but our timing was off actually seeing her personally. Of all my years in the United States this was the closest I’ve been to seeing Oprah in person.
We picked a secluded spot to sit in awe of the mountains and water and were approached from the water by a mother and her four baby ducklings. They came ashore and hung out with us. Luckily I had some bread to give them. Things seem too perfect in New Zealand and it’s such a relaxing feeling just being outside here.
The lone tree of Lake Wanaka was mystifying and beautiful to see. The GPS took us to a residential area that clearly isn’t the place. If you don’t know what it is, it would be hard to find. It’s a tree that is growing out of the lake right at the base of Mount Aspiring National Park. Photographers from all around the world come to this very spot to get the best shot of this tree. Not to mention thousands of people with their smart phones (like me). It is mesmerizing to wonder how it got there and how it’s surviving. Even though it sounds simple (a tree in a lake), it’s another amazing natural thing New Zealand has to show off.
The Fantail Falls is a seventy-five foot waterfall in Mt Aspiring National Park. The hike to get there was 8 minutes and flat. It’s amazing how close these magnificent waterfalls are to the main highway.
Haast pass – under the bridge is a roaring clear blue water powerful waterfall over rocks larger than trucks. This wasn’t even a stop on the list but we pulled over after seeing the signs. It also helped that the trail to the pass was only a quick jump down a few rocks to get to the creek directly. Above the water is a narrow bridge with walls too high to see this from the car.
Thunder creek falls – 2 minute walk from side of the road leading to a waterfall over 100 feet high. Not to mention the vast area of rocks that were once covered in water leading to the waterfall. The waterfall is magnificent and going strong. It’s hard to believe this was so accessible without having to hike all day to get to it. This is the case for many places in New Zealand so far. Nature is on steroids in New Zealand.
Blue Pools walk lead to a suspension bridge over the bluest creek and the shorelines were d cleared with rock formations. The pools part is a deep pool in the river and it was deep. The river water is clear blue and you can see straight to the bottom. A couple of people jumped in (and right out) to get wet and say they did it and a couple of people jumped off the suspension bridge into the freezing cold water. This is one of many of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen in nature.
Breaking up the 4 hour drive to Frans Josef we stayed overnight in Haast. We stayed at a holiday park that also has private rooms. The rooms were immaculate and even have a small kitchenette (but no grocery store within a 50 mile radius). There was a lone horse in an open field next door to the holiday park. I could see him from our room. Thankfully he had a cover on his back and neck to avoid the sand flies. Once he got close to the fence I went outside to feed him an apple. He loved it. Later on I gave him the rest of our microwave kettle corn. He loved the sweet and salty flavors and bobbed his head in a yes every time he wanted more. Who knew that horses loved popcorn?
Next stop is Franz Josef …