Wanaka is a little slice of paradise in the South Island of New Zealand. The idyllic town is situated on the lakefront and away from the hyper buzz of Queenstown. If Queenstown is your Friday night, Wanaka is your Sunday morning – slow paced, calm, and bubbling with an infectiously homely vibe. The scenery truly is second to none and the community is a tight knit group of families who welcome newcomers during the winter season. It’s peaceful here, and it’s the kind of place where you can always hear the birds chirping over the sound of car engines.
It’s not surprising Wanaka is so popular. In the winter months, the quaint town is crawling with seasonnaires spending their days up at either Treble Cone or Cardrona Mountain, and their nights either serving or enjoying drinks in local bars. Comparatively, throughout the hotter months, Wanaka is a fleeting breath of fresh air for travellers experiencing New Zealand through the means of Kiwi Experience, or something similar. Fleeting it may be but, for many, its impression will be ever lasting.
Nestled among a valley of mountains, Wanaka boasts scenery which makes it difficult not to stop and stare. For a town with no traffic lights and where traffic is a rarity, venturing anywhere usually takes longer than expected – for no other reason than it is breathtakingly beautiful. It feels rude not to take a minute out of your day to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature. There are dozens of spots surrounding Wanaka itself where you can escape to, and chances are – as there are so many tranquil and hidden spots – they won’t be crammed with people, in fact more likely than not you’ll end up basking in your own solitude.
An unrivalled paradise for the outdoors fanatic, there truly is something for everyone – on a casual Saturday afternoon you might witness para gliders landing in the centre of town, jet skiers and kayaks on the lake and people paddling out to Ruby Island. It is a constant hub of activity with bars lining the lakefront where people huddle after their days to grab a cold beer, while soaking up the last hour of the days sunlight. In a nutshell, Wanaka allows you to spend the day skiing up at the glorious nearby mountains, to then return to the lake side and enjoy a BBQ with some beers in the evening sunshine. It is a bubble of activity coupled with a chilled vibe.
Naturally, the individuals who decide to build a life here all have a passion for nature and the outdoors. With such immense beauty and the opportunity to try numerous, exciting new sports, why would you want to stay indoors?! The people who have built a life here create and reflect the towns chilled out bubble. Rather than the common sight of people in suits heading to work, it’s much more likely to witness people wandering around barefoot and in shorts – even in winter. There is a distinct lack of competition in terms of consumerist items, and in its place a passion for second hand goods, for sharing and passing on, for lending a hand when you can – a beautiful community outlook which is getting rarer and rarer to find.
Living in Wanaka is a lifestyle choice – for most, it’s not the place to chase your dream job, but it is the spot to secure the dream lifestyle. Wanaka means having the ability to take powder days off work when the mountains get a big dump of snow. It’s the place where, for your kids, school skiing is pretty much compulsory for one day a week throughout winter. Wanaka is a much needed breath of fresh air – one away from obsessive academic pressure often put on kids, and in its place a redirected emphasis on the importance of lifestyle, and balance. The mountains, the lake, the beautiful hikes…they are all calling you, and it would be rude to say no.
So yes, living in Wanaka may mean sacrificing a fast paced career but, I have found, that living in this pocket of the world inspires individuals to go beyond the rat race, to take their own ideas and creations and release them into the world. In my eyes, Wanaka reminds each person to step back from that consumerist lifestyle we are all too easily caught up in, connect with nature, and take a minute for yourself. Go on an adventure, or simply sit outside and enjoy the beautifully peaceful place the lucky people who live here get to call home. On a hot, sunny day at 5pm, there are few places I’d rather be than sat at the lakefront with an ice cold cider!
An endless playground for the adventurous souls. A nonjudgmental haven for the dreamers of this life. A roaring fire for those harboring that creative spark, just waiting for it to ignite.
Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman
Be weird. Be wonderful. 🙂