From Franz Josef, we hopped on another all-day bus ride to Lake Wanaka, a resort area that serves as the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. With an afternoon arrival, it was all we could do to check in to our hotel (Oakridge Resort Grand Mercure) and walk into town before sunset. It was the quiet season here since most outdoor activities take place when the weather isn’t so cold.
Glacial lakes are abundant in New Zealand. Situated in a broad valley carved out by a glacier during the last Ice Age and flanked by mountains on two sides, some over 6,000 feet above sea level, Lake Wanaka is the fourth largest lake in the country. On the day following our arrival, we took a private boat tour to Mou Waho, one of the islands in the lake, a nature reserve with a hiking trail to Tyrwhitt Peak. Along the way, our guide described the flora and fauna of the island, frequently pointing out many of the native plants, including the manuka bush, source of the prized honey. During tea break, a buff weka, one of the endemic ratites of NZ, approached us as our guide predicted it would.
With less than 24 hours to spend in Wanaka, we had to board another bus to Queenstown.