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10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Wanaka

Tourism NZ

Free things to do in Wanaka (and some cheap stuff as well).

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have an awesome time in Wanaka. With heaps of walks, photo opportunities and some affordable attractions, there are certainly some places where you can stretch your dollars further with these free things to do in Wanaka.

When staying in Wanaka, try to use backpacker hostels and campgrounds to save money on accommodation. We list our favourites in 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Wanaka.

For more ways to save money when backpacking around New Zealand in general, be sure to check out our tips like 11 Ways to Save Money and Stretch those Dollars Further and 11 Backpacker Tips to Save Money on Food.

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1. Take a picture of #ThatWanakaTree

Ok, just get it out of your system! This is your time to shine as the best photographer out of all your friends on Instagram. Whether it’s raining or the sun is shining, it’s impossible to take a photo of #ThatWanakaTree.

Location: From the west end of town, walk to Stony Creek along the lakeshore.

2. Hike Roys Peak

Those views as you reach the summit of Roys Peak are something to cherish forever! Walk through exposed grasslands and tussock hills and zigzag to the 1578m summit. That’s a full day only costing 6km-worth of fuel! (Hitchhike for cheaper results!)

Location: The Roys Peak Track carpark is 6km from the Wanaka on the Mt Aspiring Road.
Tourism NZ

3. Walk or bike around the Lake Wanaka

Walking tracks are plentiful around Lake Wanaka. It’s just a case of walking for as long as you like then returning the same way. From the town, head east to reach the likes of Eely Point, Beacon Point then meet up with a track taking you down the Clutha River. Alternatively, follow the lake from the west end of town to Stony Creek to Waterfall Creek and beyond. Of course, walking is free, but if you want to explore a little further, hire a bike from your hostel which tends to be a little bit cheaper than hiring from a bike store in town.

Location: Start from Wanaka lakefront, Beacon Point Road or Ruby Island Road.

4. Boggle your mind Puzzling World

Illusions, puzzles, giant mazes, tricks and freaky stuff: Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World never has a dull moment. Try to get your bearings in a tilted room, try to figure out the giant maze, and don’t forget to visit the bathrooms! What’s more, for an activity that is around NZ$20, you can consider it great value for money!


5. Hike up Mt Iron (1h30mins loop)

After you are done exploring Puzzling World, across the road is the entrance to the Mt Iron loop walk. A hike up this glacier-carved rocky knoll will reward you with awesome views of Wanaka and its surrounding mountains.

Location: The Mt Iron car park is well-signposted off State Highway 84 just as you leave Wanaka. Find it on the opposite side of the road to Puzzling World.
Oren Rozen on Wikipedia

6. Visit Wanaka Lavender Farm

The vibrant fields of lavender make another awesome free photo opportunity in Wanaka. Walk through the lavender fields, interact with the farm animals, play a game in their gardens and treat yourself to a lavender ice cream. That’s an afternoon well-spent (and inexpensive) in Wanaka!

Location: 36 Morris Road

7. Play Disc golf

It’s disc golf with a lake and mountain view. What more could you want? Hire a disc golf disc from one of the outdoor stores in town (usually about NZ$5) and hit the 18-net course in Lismore Park.

Location: Lismore Park between Lismore Street and Plantation Road.

8. Go to the Farmers Market

Every New Zealand town has one and Wanaka is no exception! Treat yourself to some local produce at the Wanaka Farmers Market, held year-round on Thursdays 3-6pm.

Location: Alongside Bullock Creek, between the Speights Ale House and Francesca’s Italian Kitchen.

9. Hang out by the lakefront

With that view, the lakefront of Wanaka town is not a bad place to be. Get a photo on the jetty, drink some craft beer at the lakefront bars, go for a swim in summer, use the barbecue facilities… The opportunities are endless!

Location: Wanaka lakefront along Admore Street.
Julian Apse on Tourism NZ

10. Go to a hipster cinema

Wanaka is blessed with two cool and quirky cinemas which are far from your normal cinema experience. Cinema Paradiso offers a homely feel with freshly-baked cookies to buy during the interval, while Ruby’s Cinema has a theme of vintage class. What’s more, movies are under NZ$20 making it an affordable activity in Wanaka!

Location: Cinema Paradiso is on 72 Brownston Street and Ruby’s Cinema is on 50 Cardrona Valley Road.

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