Wanaka is without a doubt a photographer's paradise, there’s no two ways about it. You can tell by the amount of professional photographers who not only host their workshops here, but come here to get shots for their portfolios in their “spare time".
I have been lucky to meet these 3 pillars of photography in Wanaka so far, Joshua Cripps, Chris Burkard and Trey Ratcliff. If you don’t know who these people are you should look them up right now!
1. That Wanaka Tree
The most famous tree in the World known as That Wanaka Tree
A short 5 minute walk away from the Stoney Creek Car Park the Wanaka Tree is one of the biggest names in New Zealand’s landscape photography circles. In my opinion it’s most beautiful, and most popular, in Autumn when the leaves turn gold. Each year this happens around mid to late April.
In the morning it can be busy here, arriving ten minutes earlier than planned could secure you the exact spot you want.
2. Roys Peak
Pioneered by local wedding photographers for decades this ridgeline on Roys Peak (Or the nearby Coromandel Peak) has recently seen a huge boom in popularity. The undulating pathway is around a 2-3 hour hike away from the Roys Peak Car Park. During New Zealand’s main tourism season in December/January queueing to take this photo is not uncommon.
Alternatively, if crowds aren’t your thing, Isthmus Peak, another hike in the area, offers just as good, if not better, views of ridgelines and rocky outcrops. Plus you’ll encountered a tiny fraction of the amount of people. This is what makes in one of the best hikes on New Zealand’s South Island.
3. Glendhu Bay
Driving west from the townsite around the shoreline of Lake Wanaka you’ll get to Glendhu Bay after around 10 minutes. There’s an extremely popular campsite there and with views like this it’s popularity is easily justified.
4. Bremner Bay
Within walking distance of the centre of Wanaka, Bremner Bay is great for a stroll, a picnic, a refreshing swim in the shallows or a session of photography.
On a still day you’l be treated to stunning reflections.
5. Mount Iron
A small hill that overlooks Lake Wanaka to the west and Albert Town to the north east, the summit of Mount Iron is a common dog walking spot for locals and a beginner ski slopes in the winter. To reach the summit takes around 45 minutes.
If someone wants to buy me this house then they are more than welcome.
6. Treble Cone
Awesome landscapes in the Treble Cone Ski Field
The closest ski field to Wanaka, Treble Cone offers the largest off-piste ski area in New Zealand. From Wanaka it’s around a 40 minute drive to the main building. From there scenic rides on lifts are available if you aren’t a snowboarder or skier. The road is only open in the winter and the hike takes around 3 hours one way.
7. Lake Hawea
Situated only a short 15 minute drive north east from Wanaka, Lake Hawea is Lake Wanaka’s little sister. Numerous photography spots are available from the pebble beach, to the western shores and lots of road side pull outs. You’ll drive past this lake if you’re following my Two Week Road Trip Itinerary for Photographers coming to New Zealand.
Bonus: Aurora Australis or the Milky Way
Wanaka does lie far enough south that if a big aurora storm hits the Earth the Southern Lights are visible (providing there's no cloud coverage). It's a rare sight but exceptionally beautiful. Keep an eye out on the aurora forecast whilst you're in New Zealand. You never know, the stars might align for you.
Wanaka isn't a dark sky reserve like Tekapo but roughly 10,000 people who call Wanaka home don't create that much light pollution. The Milky Way season is between March and October as there's more nighttime hours and the Earth's tilt means the Core is above the horizon more of the time.