The journey from Franz Josef to Wanaka is one of the most scenic drives you’ll do with Stray, but you don’t have to worry about soaking it all up through the bus window. All Stray passengers are guaranteed one night in Wanaka and most end up staying a lot longer than planned. There is so much to see and do that it’s impossible to squeeze everything in on a minimum time plan, which is why I strongly urge you to hop off in Wanaka.
Here’s just a taster of what to expect from this idyllic little town:
Strap yourself to a beautiful stranger, jump out of a plane at 12,000 or 15,000 ft and live to tell the tale! Wanaka is the perfect place to skydive if you want to witness breathtaking scenes as you plummet towards the ground.
Learn to Fly
Ever dreamt of being a pilot? Now you can be – well, for 30 minutes at least. Learn to Fly in Wanaka gives you the opportunity to take off, fly and land a plane all on your own! Okay, there’s a professional sitting next to you to guide you through it, but you really do have full control. With every package you get to bring a passenger along for FREE! That’s right – you can force your new Stray BFF to put their life in your hands as you soar through the skies above Wanaka. What are you waiting for?
Hikes and walks
The Stray bus will stop at Mount Iron on the way out of Wanaka – you’ll have the option to choose between this walk and Puzzling World. It’s an easy track that can be completed in around 1 hour and 30 minutes and provides some great photo opportunities. On a clear day, the views are pretty awesome so if the sun is shining then there’s no excuse not to give this walk a go.
Thanks in part to all those epic Instagram shots, this hike is becoming increasingly popular and it’s obvious as to why. The views at the top of Roys Peak are second to none. With 360 views of Wanaka and the surrounding areas, it’s one of the best ways to see the town. If you’re in good shape you can do the return walk in about 5-6 hours, but some people find that 7-8 hours is a more reasonable time frame. Either way, you definitely need to dedicate a whole day to this walk which means that hopping off the Stray bus is a must!
Full disclosure: Roys Peak is a tough, uphill climb with barely any flat terrain so be prepared with plenty of water and layers for all temperatures. I personally think it’s tougher than the Tongariro Crossing, but other people beg to differ – I highly recommend giving both a go and making your own decision. It’s 100% worth all the blood, sweat and tears and, in my opinion, is easily one of the best spots in New Zealand. It can get busy on weekends and holidays though, so try to go during the week if you want to score the whole place to yourself.
‘That Wanaka Tree’
An absolute must-see in Wanaka and another Instagram favourite, ‘That Wanaka Tree’, is just a 10 minute walk from the centre of town. It looks picture perfect at all times of day but you should definitely try to watch at least one sunset or sunrise by the lake before hopping back on the Stray bus!
Chilled out days
Stray shenanigans wearing you out? How about a night in with cookies and a movie? Paradiso Cinema (just opposite BASE backpackers) is the best cure for backpacker exhaustion. Choose your film, get comfy on the quirky sofas and old car seats and definitely don’t forget to buy some hot cookies during the interval (yes, there’s an interval!).
Like brain teasers, illusions or just the weirdly wonderful? Then Puzzling World will be right up your alley. (It’s also your alternative option if you don’t fancy climbing Mt Iron.) There’s a giant 3D maze, a ton of interactive optical illusions and even puzzles to solve while you sip your coffee in the cafe. It’s a great way to pass an afternoon and have a laugh with your new Stray family. If you love all things silly then this is 100% the activity for you!
Cruise around Lake Wanaka
Got a few hours to spare and not sure what to do? Why not visit one of the many little islands on Lake Wanaka and enjoy views of the surrounding mountain ranges from the lake on a scenic boat cruise. Sit back, relax and soak up the scenes from the top deck or be brave and take a dip in the lake (more recommended in summer). Some companies even offer food/drinks as part of the tour! Cruises depart daily from the main dock.
Wanaka Bike Tours
Stray Journeys passengers have a scenic bike ride included in their tour, but hop-on, hop-off passengers are also more than welcome to join in the trail riding fun (just book through your driver guide). These bike tours cover all of Wanaka’s highlights with plenty of photo stops and the added bonus of being able to stretch your legs and fit in some exercise after sitting on the bus all morning! There are options for all riding levels too, from easy, wide trails to single track mountain biking to NZ’s highest heli bike experience.
Kayak, stand-up paddle, parasail or pedal boat your way along Lake Wanaka. All of these options are available down on the waterfront. It’s an affordable and fun way to spend time out on the water, which is one of the best ways to experience Wanaka.
With two top notch ski resorts right on its doorstep (Cardrona and Treble Cone), Wanaka is a snowsports haven during the winter. There’s a different vibe in town in winter, but quality time in Wanaka is an absolute must for anyone who loves snow. Time to carve some fresh lines and shred some pow-pow, dude…
Are you convinced yet? You’ve gotta be! Wanaka is an incredible town with a gazillion must-do activities. Be sure to save a few spare days (or weeks, or months, or YEARS) for when you fall in love with this place and can’t bring yourself to leave so soon. Stay magic, Wanaka – We love you! ❤️
Tara Manjunath is a 22 year old, trilingual Brit residing in Auckland, NZ. Despite studying politics, the creative world is where she feels most at home. When she’s not working at Stray HQ, you can find her hula hooping, perfecting her yoga poses or stocking up on peanut butter supplies. She’s lived in Spain and Russia, backpacked through Latin America and road tripped through NZ… just to name a few things! Follow her adventures at sojourneywithme.com.