Wanaka is about an hour and a half drive from Queenstown. New Zealand is one of those places where the journey to your destination is just as amazing and beautiful as everything else. The itinerary looked something like this: leave Queenstown around 10am, arrive in Wanaka at 11:30am, lunch, and then hike.
Wanaka's town centre is quiet and small and it's really nice to just chill and take in the sights. There are plenty of cafes around to grab a coffee and a bite - I would suggest the Big Fig. There's plenty of parking along Ardmore Street where you can enjoy uninterrupted views of Lake Wanaka, right at its shores.
I initially wanted to do the Rob Roy's Track but you definitely need a 4WD to get there as there are at least 5 water crossings along the way. In winter, there is also the potential for ice and snow on the roads so snow chains are a must. Instead, I headed to the Rocky Mountains trail which starts off at the Diamond Lake Conservation area which is only a 20 minute drive from town centre. Hot tip: when it comes time to choose either the west or east route on the trail, go with the one that doesn't say 'Lake Wanaka View' on the sign post in winter. They are both steep but one has more black ice than the other which means it's much safer to climb up that route rather than down. This track takes about 3 hours return during the cooler season due to the severity of the ice - mind you, I'm no expert at hiking so extra caution was taken, I had no spikes and I stopped a lot for photos. I did see some locals walking as if there was no ice at all.
To summarise, this track is gorgeous and challenging. There are many sections where you are walking on steep, skinny tracks on the edge of the mountain - it won't be fatal if you fall, but it will hurt. When you get to the top, there are 360 degree views of Wanaka and its famous lake. It's worth all your efforts.
Lastly, if you time it right, you can catch the sun setting over the lake on your drive back to Wanaka town centre. There are plenty of places to stop over and take some photos. Scroll down to see ...