The township of Wanaka smiles north across the lake to an incomparable alpine scene. In every shade of blue lift the surrounding peaks, in a tableau often mirrored in the lake’s deep, glistening waters. Compared with Wakatipu, Wanaka’s disposition is softer, more gentle; here the glaciers have more successfully done their work, yielding a planed and rounded landscape contorted only occasionally where harder rocks have obstructed their progress.
As elsewhere in the region, poplars and willows around the lake’s edge render autumn a colourful time for a visit. Large grounds accommodate thousands of summer campers who come to boat, to fish, to swim and to waterski as well as to explore the Mount Aspiring National Park whose headquarters are in the town. Winter visitors are drawn by the skifields of Treble Cone and Mt Cardrona. There is good fishing in Lakes Wanaka and Hawea as well as in many rivers, among them the Makarora and Matukituki.
Wanaka (more correctly Oanaka) is a corruption of the name of a chief who once came here to fish. The township was called Pembroke up to 1940, a name now preserved by the enticing shorefront shopping mall.
‚Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow‘: Every second Easter a remarkable array of vintage military and civil aircraft are drawn here in an event that attracts international participation. Aerobatics, fly-pasts,and formation flying put the vintage planes through their paces. (A working transport museum is near Wanaka airport.)