Wanaka: Rich rewards

By Mike Yardley

Richly blessed by nature's seasonal brush, the alpine town of Wanaka is one of New Zealand's most majestic playgrounds.

In the golden glow of long and lazy summer nights Wanaka really hits top gear with its abundance of magical attractions and adventures in the great outdoors.

The clear waters of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand's fourth largest lake, sparkle on the edge of the laid-back town.

Unlike Queenstown, its hyped-up sibling across the Crown Range, this lakeside town still beats to an easy, stress-free tempo.

Wanaka throbs with soft-adventure in summer, whether it be swimming, fishing, kayaking or mountain-biking.

Guided trout fishing is a popular option, as are the guided kayaking tours. Or you can simply hire a kayak for just $10 an hour and loll about on the lake.

Check out one of New Zealand's best boutique movie theatres, Cinema Paradiso. Comfy sofas, home-made icecreams and freshly baked cookies are all part of the package.

For family fun, Puzzling World has been messing with people's minds since 1973, with a mesmerising maze, bizarre buildings and all manner of illusion-based encounters.

Warbirds over Wanaka, the International Airshow, is a signature event that roars into life every second Easter, with the next in 2014.

To capture a taste of the full-throttle adventure head to Warbirds and Wheels, a magnificent collection of fighter planes and classic cars.

But the wrap-around alpine splendour will be calling.

For an exhilarating foray into Mt Aspiring National Park, Wanaka River Journeys offers half-day wilderness excursions that jet you up the Matukituki River, featuring The Lord of the Rings locations, hanging glaciers, ice-sculpted landscapes, forest walks and the majesty of 3033m Mt Aspiring.

Another wilderness encounter can be experienced by taking a short drive past Lake Hawea to Makaroa and its surrounding valley.

The alpine vistas are breathtaking, with snow crowning the peaks even in summer.

And be sure to pop into the Makaroa Country Cafe, a quirky highway pit-stop, curiously festooned with hundreds of vehicle licence plates from throughout the world.

Don't leave Wanaka without stretching your legs on the Mt Iron walkway. Delivering panoramic views across Lake Wanaka, the two-hour walk gradually climbs through open pasture and mauka scrub on the western slopes of Mt Iron. There are highly informative displays about the area's natural history and its layout. From the summit, the track descends the eastern slopes, taking you back to the carpark.


Edgewater Resort

There's nothing quite like awakening to the glistening light of a new day at picturesque Edgewater Resort, nestled on the southern shores of Lake Wanaka.

The expansive property prides itself on its inviting accommodation and enticing seasonal menu.

The resort has 65 spacious self-catering suites and apartments.

Each suite has a master bedroom, a separate living/dining area with kitchenette, excellent laundry facilities, and they all have a balcony or patio overlooking the lake.

The resident ducks are extra-friendly, to the point of tapping their beaks on your ranchslider in a shameless bid to cajole you to share your breakfast with them.

Edgewater has a very fine restaurant and cafe. The menu in Sargoods Restaurant changes with the seasons. My picks for summer would be the southern blue cod and the Cardrona Valley merino lamb steak.

Additional facilities at Edgewater include a tennis court, sauna and playground. Kayaks and mountainbikes are available.

Right next door to Edgewater is the gloriously undulating Rippon Vineyard and Winery, where 15ha of vines weave their way up from the shore.

The cellar door and winery are open daily through summer from 11am to 5pm.

- Hamilton News

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