Contact Deep Canyon (tel. 03/443-7922; www.deepcanyon.co.nz), pioneers of the sport in New Zealand. You’ll get a tobogganing, rappelling, and swimming adventure guaranteed to thrill. The 7 1/2-hour Niger Stream adventure costs NZ$240 and includes lunch. Deep Canyon operates November through April and offers a range of day trips, including an introduction to rock climbing, which costs NZ$210 for a full day, NZ$125 for half-day.
There’s a lot of excellent, stable climbing in the area. Wanaka Rock Climbing, 7 Apollo Place St. (tel. 03/443-6411; www.wanakarock.co.nz), can introduce you to all the best places. You’ll pay from NZ$120 for a range of options.
This is an easy adventure for less active people. It’s all about learning as you paddle, and guides will enlighten you about flora and fauna along the way. From September to April, Pioneer Rafting (tel. 03/443-1246; www.ecoraft.co.nz) conducts half-and full-day excursions down the Upper Clutha. This is not white-water rafting, and the trip is suitable for all ages. A half-day trip costs NZ$135 for adults and NZ$75 for children ages 5 to 15 (no kids age 4 and under).
Opportunities abound in the Wanaka area, with plenty of guides operating on the rivers and lakes. Lakeland Adventures (tel. 0508/525-352 in NZ, or 03/443-7495; www.lakelandadventures.co.nz) charges from NZ$330 for guided trout fishing for three people. Southern Lakes Fishing Safaris (tel./fax 03/443-9121; www.southernlakesfishing.co.nz) specializes in fly-fishing for all levels of experience and charges from NZ$675 for a full day for one to two people. Eco Wanaka Adventures (tel. 0800/926-326 in NZ, or 03/443-2869; www.ecowanaka.co.nz), offers a 3-hour boat fishing excursion from 9am, for NZ$195 for adults and NZ$125 for children under 15.
Aspiring Air (tel. 0800/100-943 in NZ, or 03/443-7943; www.nz-flights.com) offers a variety of scenic flights in the Mount Aspiring area from NZ$185 per person. Their Milford Sound flight with included boat cruise costs NZ$445 for adults and NZ$300 for children ages 3 to 13. Alpine Helicopters (tel. 03/443-4000; www.alpineheli.co.nz) can give you a scenic flight over Wanaka for NZ$185 per person; and Aspiring Helicopters, Cattle Flat Station (tel. 03/443-7152; www.aspiringhelicopters.co.nz), has a 50-minute Mount Aspiring and Glacier trip with snow landing for NZ$420. Southern Alps Air, 48 Helwick St. (tel. 0800/345-666 in NZ), has an excellent range of options from short flights at NZ$99 to a Milford Sound flight-and-cruise option for NZ$450 for adults and NZ$275 for children 5 to 15. All passengers get a window seat for superb views over glaciers, snowcapped mountains, rivers, forests, and national parks.
Wanaka Golf Club, Ballantyne Road (tel. 03/443-7888; www.wanakagolf.co.nz), is a challenging 18-hole course with astounding views. There is a well-stocked pro shop and it costs NZ$60 for 18 holes or NZ$40 for 9 holes.
The best jet-boating is with Wilkin River Jets, State Highway 6, Makarora (tel./fax 03/443-8351; www.wilkinriverjets.co.nz), between Fox Glacier and Wanaka. Locals say it’s better than the much-lauded Dart River experience at Glenorchy, near Queenstown. Priced at NZ$98 for 1 hour, it’s also cheaper and offers a mix of thrill riding and the softer approach, so you get a good feel for this remote region. They also offer combo packages that include a helicopter flight, bush walk, and river jet from NZ$359 per person. Wanaka River Journeys (tel. 0800/544-555 in NZ, or 03/443-4416; www.wanakariverjourneys.co.nz) explores the braided Matukituki River and includes a wilderness walk into native beech forest to a waterfall. You have the option of being met at the top of the river by helicopter for a flight into Mount Aspiring’s magnificent glacial areas. The river journey with a wilderness walk is NZ$255 for adults, NZ$165 for children 15 and under; the jet/heli combo is NZ$585 for adults, NZ$355 children 15 and under.
Alpine Kayak Guides, 119 Main Rd., Luggate (tel. 03/443-9023; www.alpinekayaks.co.nz), offers half-and full-day trips on three rivers, ranging in difficulty from beginner to experienced. Trips last 5 to 8 hours and run daily from November to April. Costs start at NZ$155 for adults, NZ$95 for children 14 and over, and include equipment, lessons, and lunch. For NZ$15 an hour, you can rent single or double kayaks for a lake paddle from Lakeland Adventures (tel. 03/443-7495).
The Department of Conservation’s leaflet on bike trails in the Wanaka area is available from its office at Ardmore Street and Ballantyne Road (tel. 03/443-7660). Mountain bikes can be rented from Racer’s Edge/Mountain Bikes Unlimited, 99 Ardmore St. (tel. 03/443-7882; www.racersedge.co.nz), for NZ$65 for adults per day; kids’ bikes start at NZ$30 per day. Good bikes are also available from Lakeland Adventures (tel. 03/443-7495), next door to the information center, for NZ$15 per hour, or NZ$30 for a half-day; and there are excellent (and easy) biking tracks around the lake.
Quad Bikes -- For rugged outdoor fun, Cardrona Adventure Park (tel. 0800/102-122 in NZ, or 03/443-6363; www.adventurepark.co.nz) offers tours on four-wheel all-terrain quad bikes priced from NZ$185 for a 2-hour tour. You must be at least 16 and have a driver’s license. They also have a crazy range of monster trucks that you can ride in or drive, plus go-karts and shorter quad bike rides.
Cardrona Ski Field is 40 minutes from Wanaka on State Highway 89. The more challenging Treble Cone Ski Field is also 40 minutes away. In addition, you’ll find cross-country skiing and heli-skiing in the Harris Mountains. And for Nordic skiing, head to the Waiorau Nordic Field, in the Cardrona Valley.
Walking opportunities in Mount Aspiring National Park vary from easy strolls through lowland forest to tramps on mountain tracks that may take several days. Brochures and information can be obtained from the Department of Conservation office. Eco Wanaka Adventures, 5 Rimu Lane (tel. 0800/926-326 in NZ, or 03/443-2869; www.ecowanaka.co.nz), has a full-day guided Rob Roy Glacier Valley Trek priced from NZ$255 for adults and NZ$175 for children 15 and under. At Diamond Lake, 20 minutes from town, you’ll find the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Track, which takes 1 1/2 hours from the carpark to the summit. For a more remote walk, call Siberia Experience (tel. 0800/345- 666 in NZ, or 03/443-4385; www.siberiaexperience.co.nz), which offers a combo of scenic flight, jet boat, and a 3-hour walk in remote beech forests for NZ$347 for adults, NZ$285 for children ages 3 to 13. Their guided experiences are unique and some of the best in the region. Just make sure you take plenty of insect repellent to keep the notoriously greedy sand flies at bay! Fit, adventurous travelers might like to be tested by a remote wilderness experience with Wild Walks, Level 1, 99 Ardmore St. (tel. 03/443-9422; www.wildwalks.co.nz). Their specialist mountain guides take just five people maximum into remote backcountry locations. Their 3-day Mt. Aspiring Discovery costs from NZ$940 per person; or if you’re very fit, you can tackle New Zealand’s longest guided trekking adventure, the 8-day Gillespie-Rabbit Pass Traverse for NZ$2,450 per person.
But if all you really want is a light amble, follow my footsteps around the lovely, tree-covered tracks of the lake. Start at the information center and simply follow your nose. Even if you don’t exert yourself, it will leave your conscience clear for dinner.