Sunday, 18 March 2012

Lake Wanaka

 Lake Wanaka

Just arrived in Wanaka after a four hour drive from Fox Glacier via Haast. The weather had changed for the worse and after visiting Franz Josef glacier and yesterday's amazing walks to Lake Matheson and Gillespies Beach, we felt we had done all we really wanted to, so we decided to move on a day early.

We felt a strong need to do something right away, to profit from the extra time in Wanaka, so we got a leaflet of local walks from the local Dept of Conservation office and embarked along what seemed to be a short stroll along the shore of Lake Wanaka. It is a massive lake, 42 km long and 192 square km  in area - the fourth largest in New Zealand. It is said to be 311 m deep. Unlike many other NZ lakes, Lake Wanaka is notable for having a number of islands and inlets, so it has a complex and interesting appearance.

Wanaka town is at the bottom of the lake and the walk simply involves following the shoreline to a landmark known as Beacon Point.

We were staying at a lakeside motel so it was very agreeable to simply exit the motel and turn to the right along the lake shore, looking at the view at the head of this post. A bit behind us on the landward side were houses, some of them quite expensive-looking. We passed a small marina and soon reached the first point of note, Eely Point, a park-like area with grass and large trees.

The shoreline turns sharply here and around the corner is the start of Bremner Bay. The mountainous area opposite, under low cloud, is known as The Peninsular, a large outcrop which juts out into the lake, connected to the surrounding land by a narrow causeway.

Bremner Bay houses a spacious suburb, so there were always scattered houses to the landward side as we strolled round. But after the far end of the bay, the lake shore ceases to be developed and once we had turned a corner to approach the small headland of Beacon Point (the area of vegetation in the photo below), it felt quite isolated with a rocky shoreline and mountains opposite.

This arm of the lake is known as Dublin Bay.

It been a walk of 3.5 miles (measured by the pedometer: 2000 steps per mile) - much more than we had expected from the DOC leaflet, which for such a simple walk was not at all clear. We decided to return by following roads and this cutting off some of the many corners we had turned on the way.

This was a bit boring, but it was interesting to observe the range of houses, from luxury mansions to places little better than shacks - ripe, obviously, for development. Overall, this seemed a pretty prosperous area with desirable houses, many apparently holiday homes. Coming back was only 2.75 miles, which made it worthwhile.

Conditions: cloudy but warm.

Distance: 6 miles.

Rating: three and a half stars.


We saw a number of New Zealand scaup on the lake: a small, mainly black duck with a notable golden eye. In many places on the walk there were wild lupins, which were very pretty, but the highlight was an area of shoreline with these beautiful orange California Poppies. So, non-native, but still lovely.

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