“The best way of learning about anything is by doing”
As cliche as it sounds Wanaka, in New Zealand, really is the most welcoming and picturesque destination. The town is perfectly positioned overlooking a stunning alpine lake and is shadowed only by the majestic mountains surrounding it. It may be smaller in size to neighbouring Queenstown but we have discovered the area in its entirely is oozing character and charm. It is easy to see how it is the only ski town in the southern hemisphere to be listed in the National Geographic top 25 ski towns.
Here is an article full of useful links and advice for those of you looking to visit this scenic area. If you are a new reader to this blog then ‘welcome!’ thanks for dropping in. You might like to read the first New Zealand article published called Getting There which, although is based around staying in Queenstown, has other useful information (such as items to pack) for a family winter holiday.
The simplest car hire option is to choose a business located at the airport so you can hop off the plane, jump into your car and your holiday is underway. These companies are a good place to start when beginning your research – Ezi Car Rental and Apex Rentals which we have used and been happy with. Suggestions to think about when making your choice are:
- Snow chains included
- Roof racks for boards
- Bolts for car seats (see more about preparation for travelling with children in the Getting There post)
- Four wheel drive options to ensure you make it up the mountain during the majority of weather conditions
- Size – consider how much luggage you need to transport to your accommodation and how much equipment you will require to carry for your day trips
There is no shortage of accommodation options to choose from in the region. You can stay in the town of Wanaka or surrounding villages, secure a limited apartment actually on the slopes of the Cardrona Ski Lodge or at the base of the mountain. We stayed at Bellevue house in the peaceful village of Lake Hawea, approximately 10 minutes drive from Wanaka.
Bellevue house is positioned over looking the lake and is a fully furnished ‘Family Home’ style of accommodation for a group of up to 10 people. The huge yard is perfect for children to run around and explore while adults can relax in front of the open wood fire, sit quietly and enjoy watching the ever changing landscape of the lake and snow capped mountains or, if they are lucky, sneak off across the road to the local tavern.
The local New World is a full sized supermarket and stocks specialty items such as gluten free and other allergen conscious products, wine, beer and spirits (generally the most economical place to stock up) and even your favourite magazine to read during any down time.
When it comes to eating out Kai Whakapai (meaning food made good) Cafe and Bar attracts a consistent crowd year after year and remains the local go-to cafe. The casual atmosphere invites you to either sit, relax and enjoy the view of the lake or get social and catch up with friends. Trip advisor has given this place a certificate of excellence and they have award winning local beer on tap.
For a casual night out in the town of Wanaka I can suggest starting your evening with drinks upstairs at the Gin & Raspberry bar watching the sunset over the lake. Post office lane is a quirky place to experience next, the Barluga bar offers choices of sitting inside or alternatively relaxing in the lounges outside by the open wood fire.
I suggest you give in to the temptation created by the delicious smell of garlic wafting from The Cow Restaurant next door. You’ll struggle to go past the starter of freshly baked bread, followed by a delicious wood fired pizza. Make sure you wear layers in the winter months as the roaring fire inside the quaint stone building is plenty warm enough to keep you comfortable.
If you are looking for a little something extra after dinner to finish your casual evening the Trout Bar does a great mulled wine and cider which is the perfect accompaniment for one of their delicious desserts.
HITTING THE SLOPES:
SKI GEAR HIRE:
Pre hiring your boots and boards online is generally one way to save on ski gear hire and many places will even deliver directly to your hotel room to make getting set up even easier. You will find the range available for hire is comparable to your skill level and ability with the hire prices reflecting this.
We were more than happy with the professional service we received and the gear we hired from Base this season. They were more than flexible with our package, as far as having a day off was concerned and matched us up with comfortable fits right from the start. Outside Sports provided a discount on the online order submitted by my Sister and her family and there was no hassle filling the order once arriving in store. They were completely approachable in regards to billing for consecutive and non consecutive days as well as in the manner they treated the situation of big-blizzard-disappearing-board. But that is a whole other story…
CARDRONA – official closing day for 2015 Winter season is 11 October
Cardrona is approximately 35 minutes drive from Wanaka. The road up to the mountain is kept in great condition and you can expect to experience spectacular views on a clear day. The base itself reminds me of a quaint European style village, complete with five cafes and restaurants. The 345 hectares provides 25% beginner, 50% intermediate, and 25% advanced runs. The unique facility enjoyed at Cardrona is the Parks and Pipes which offer beginner through to absolute pro level opportunities to, well, cruise over cautiously or go all in and perform moves like a super star!
Lift pass, ski/boarding lessons and kids facilities can be pre organised online, from the office in Wanaka or once you get up to the mountain. The Flexi Pass was a great option as it allowed us to travel between Cardrona and Treble Cone on consecutive and non consecutive days. Within our group we utilised adult snowboard lessons, Ski Kindy and Skiwees 4 Day Camps which were all extremely beneficial.
Those of you following conversations with my sister on Instagram have already seen why it is mandatory to stop in at the Cardrona Hotel at the end of a big day. For those who missed it click here and I’ll let the photos do the talking…
TREBLE CONE – official closing day for 2015 Winter is 27 September
Treble Cone is approximately 35 minutes drive from Wanaka. The 10% beginner, 45% intermediate and 45% advanced runs make up 550hectares of skiable terrain, the largest in the South Island. While you are on the slopes it honestly feels like you are part of a painting so, allow extra time to complete your first few runs as there will be photo stops. Once you get a handle on the front runs there is a whole other world of backcountry to explore which is truly spectacular.
The free lift for beginners is a nice little extra at this mountain and kept our little groms happy and relatively independent for hours, as did watching the Kea bird outside scoping out left overs from the cafe’s.
Links for lift pass can be found here and the mountain also has ski lessons and childminding facilities available. Again keep in mind the flexi pass so you can travel between Treble Cone and Cardrona.
I hope all this information and linking has been helpful for those heading over to the ‘land of the long white cloud‘. Although our family holiday in Wanaka was planned to coincide with the winter ski season I have it on good recommendation that many a traveller has arrived in the winter and found themselves pulling up stumps and staying on to enjoy the summer months as well. Either way you can’t go wrong so, all that is left for me to recommend is to HAVE FUN!
But wait – lastly some news hot off the press…
I have come to appreciate there is really nothing more liberating than having a complete sort out of your worldly belongings, securing your ‘must keep’ treasures into storage and leaving the country armed with just a suitcase (or two). This is exactly what we have recently done – moved to the UAE. It is the Year where ‘Less is More‘ after all…
Instagram is my favourite social media platform to share images and therefore is the place where you can find out more on our UAE Expat Chapter – as well catch up with other moments from New Zealand under the hashtag #ournz2015.
Can I help with any questions…or is there something important I missed?
Love to have you join the conversation.
Happy travels everyone!