Wanaka is a favourite place of ours. So we rented a house in Albert Town for a week and asked my cousin and his wife to join us. We had a great week there, in flawless weather, with energetic days and some not so energetic.
Wanaka is not hopelessly crowded like Queenstown is, and if you want to explore Queenstown, it is not so far away. In Wanaka it's easy to hike and to explore. No pressure - but our week flew by.
We drove to Queenstown Airport and back to collect our guests. The shortest and most scenic route to Wanaka from Queenstown is following the Crown Range Road up the escarpment - traversing some impressive switchbacks - through the farmland at the top, then through the Crown Range itself to the Cadrona Valley and past the Cadrona pub.
Stopping at the Cadrona pub is practically obligatory. It's historic, and doesn't look too impressive from the road, built as it is in the economical settler's way, right against the road itself. But out the back is a handsome beer garden, complete with an old truck that maybe they will restore one day.
It attracts interesting visitors too - motorbikes and antique cars when we were there. And inside there is this rather gross boar's head trophy on the wall to prove it's "real men" territory.
We actually stayed in Albert Town, a 10 minute drive away from Wanaka itself, on the banks of the Clutha River. It's a pretty area, with walks on the river and around the lake front. The weekly craft market in Wanaka was worth attending - colourful mugs and beads, and highly whimsical tea pots. We had a nice house to stay in for the week too.
Rob Roy Glacier and the trail leading to it are in the Mt. Aspiring National Park. We drove up the Matukituki Valley - a deceptively level drive but one that is enclosed with impressive mountains on each side, then crossed the river on a footbridge and headed up a moderately steep trail to a wild mountain valley headed by impressive glaciers and waterfalls, along a vigorous stream shaded by native beech forest. It took a couple of hours to reach our lunch spot in the alpine meadows. Another two hours and I was pleased to plod across the river again, back in the valley.
Possibly the finest day hike we have ever been on.
We took the other route into Queenstown, heading out past the airport then following the Clutha River south and the Kawarau River west to Lake Hayes, then further west into Queenstown. Lake Hayes was a peaceful haven for ducks and sunbathing cormorants.
Lake Wanaka was less peaceful, at least near the bustle of Queenstown, with the lake steamer Earnslaw competing with jet boats showing off after returning from excursions through the Shotover Canyons, and parasailing boats busily towing customers suspended from parachutes.
We took an excursion cruise up the lake on the steamer to the Walter Peak sheep station and back. The Earnslaw steamer is historic; launched in 1912, she has been restored to her original condition - which means she is the only hand fired steam ship in the southern hemisphere. She is a lovely old boat.
We took the gondola to the top of Bob's Peak too, to enjoy the spectacular views of the lake and the "Remarkables" - the mountain range to the southeast.
On another day, we drove through Queenstown and on up the north arm of the long lake to Glenorchy, where more jet boats offer excursions up the Dart River. We just watched from the river bank though, as we had other plans that day - to hike the east end of the Routeburn Track.
Inspired by our hike to Rob Roy, we had a leisurely afternoon hike up the eastern part of the Routeburn track. We had hiked part of the Routeburn before, at the west end, so by the time this day was over we had perhaps hiked two thirds of it. If one was feeling really energetic a one way hike of the entire trail was only 30 km. But you would have to have a willing volunteer to meet you at the other end - and by road it's about 300 km.
We hiked as far as Routeburn Flats, through beech forests and open grassland, before stopping for a late lunch. Maybe we should have gone further, as the Routeburn Falls were just a bit further - but we did not know that at the time.
Rosemary found the Toy Museum more appealing than my proposal to go to the Warbirds Aircraft Museum, so she went without me. If there had been time, I would have gone too, but her photos showed me what I missed. From the Belle of the Ball, Henry VIII, to assorted clowns and a strange yellow robot guitar player. And a strange bottle for precious booze. Was this a toy?
The Warbirds Aircraft Museum at the Wanaka Airport was more my style. Numerous restored aircraft, and more actively being restored.
It has become even grander since we were there, and now includes restored vehicles, but it was impressive then too.