145km (90 miles) S of Haast; 117km (73 miles) N of Queenstown
Either you warm to Wanaka (pop. 7,000), or you don't. It's often seen as a very quiet, less self-important version of Queenstown, or to put it another way, Queenstown, circa 25 years ago. Often overlooked by visitors on the move between the West Coast and Queenstown, Wanaka is the perfect place to spend a couple of days recharging. There has been a huge amount of growth in the town in the last 10 years, with much-needed new accommodations, restaurants, shops, and tourism operators opening for business.
And one last key thing to remember about Wanaka, which is often overlooked in favor of Queenstown in relation to Milford Sound: If you plan to fly to Milford, keep in mind that if you fly from Wanaka instead of Queenstown, you will get a longer flight over a different route -- one that takes in great swaths of the Mount Aspiring National Park, not seen on the Queenstown flights.
Lake Wanaka Tourism is another of the six members of the government's Environmentally Sustainable Tourism Project. Sustainable Wanaka has over 65 registered charter members in accommodations, retail, transportation, and activity businesses. Check www.sustainablewanaka.co.nz for charter member listings.