How To Spend a Snowy Weekend in Wānaka

Wānaka's winter appeal doesn’t stop on the hill. The Otago town offers more than meets the eye.

Tree in the Lake Wānaka with snowy mountains in the background. Photograph by Casey Horner.

Words by: Ashlyn Oswalt

Hero photo by:  Casey Horner 

With a charming downtown featuring delightful treats and oddities, there's plenty to do on a snowy, winter weekend in town.  Whether you’re heading there to indulge in some of the best of the Southern Alps winter sports or prefer to relax in a snowy setting, Wānaka is for you.

Man serving beer behind the bar at Rhyme and Reason. Photograph by Ray Tiddy.

Go brewery hopping

Wānaka

There’s something about a winter’s afternoon in Wānaka that makes you feel like grabbing a brew. Start your tastings south of town at Rhyme and Reason. This funky brewery and taproom has tables and chairs inside, close to the brewing action, or outside on their sun-soaked patio, usually near a food truck. Very dog-friendly and full of street art vibes, this little brewery pumps out anything from pale ales to Crema di Limoncello Sour IPAs.

Next, wander up the road to Ground Up, another brewery/taproom combo. With 22 original taps, Ground up isn’t afraid to try new - or mysterious - things from sours and oatmeal stouts to pilsners and farmhouse ales. The tiny space creates a pumping vibe, so get cosy on the couch, grab a burrito from Burrito Craft, and settle in for a wintery Wānaka session. 

Head across town to b.social, b.effect brewery’s taphouse. A lofty and modern space, b.social showcases the b.effect’s epic range, which you can see being made through the glass windows in the taphouse. With a food menu to rival anything in town - think nibbles and burgers - you can easily settle their space for a tasting or two.

Photo by Ray Tiddy.

Hollywood movie stars on a wall.

Catch a movie at an old theatre

50 Cardrona Valley Road, Wanaka

Transport yourself back to a time where the food was simple, the drinks were strong, and watching a movie was a relaxing break from reality. Enter, Rubys Cinema, the perfect way to while away a bad weather day in Wānaka. With plush red leather seats and blankets that beg to curl up, the seating arrangement isn’t the only great thing about Rubys. With a wine and craft beer menu sure to suit anyone’s fancy, popcorn, lollies, and fresh-baked sweets (like homemade chocolate chip cookies), Rubys is just as much about the dining as it is the movie. Even better, the lounge is a treat in itself, so come early or stay after to discuss the film over a cocktail.

Photo by Anna Briggs. 

Crossing country skiing at Snow Farm.

Try out some different winter sports at Snow Farm

Snow Farm Access Rd, Cardrona Valley Rd, Wānaka

Sink your teeth into snow activities at Snow Farm. The Wānaka haven looks down on the Cardrona Valley, offering stunning views as you snowshoe and cross country ski across the groomed tracks. With plenty of tracks for varying skill levels, enjoy a few hours of snowy fun or book a backcountry hut and spend the night. Many tracks are even dog-friendly! If you’d rather not exert yourself too much, there is a Snow Fun Zone with tubing, snow angel making, and more.

Photo by Snow Farm.

Close up of chef plating up a dessert at Ode.

Eat your way across town

Wānaka

Whether you’ve been exerting energy on the mountain or walking around the shops, there’s no denying yourself Wānaka’s culinary delights. Beautiful cocktails and food abound at local’s favourite, Kika. The Italian inspired spot has dark walls and a grand patio, both of which invite lingering. Then try the incredible Asian fare at FuDog, which serves up fine dining in a relaxed setting. You’ll want to make room for the locally-inspired tasting menu at Ode, which features all sorts of delights such as wild shot game meat and ethically caught seafood. Finally, finish it all off with a Black Peak Gelato, which infuses the best of New Zealand’s lolly selection in their Italian-recipe, creamy gelato.

Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Entrance of Cardrona Hotel.

Visit the famed Cardona Hotel

Cardrona Valley Road, Cardrona

A beacon of beauty sitting between Queenstown and Wānaka, the Cardrona Hotel is a spot worth stopping and staying. The hotel’s history dates back to 1863 when lucky miners struck gold in the area. The hotel has only acquired charm in the years since, welcoming weary skiers in for warming pub meals, a cosy atmosphere, and plenty of beds to end the night. With pub favourites like beef Wellington and southern fried chicken, you’ll want to cosy up to the fire and stay awhile.

Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Snowy Cardrona ski field.

Skiing & Snowboarding

Cardrona & Treble Cone, Wānaka

It wouldn’t be a snowy weekend in Wānaka without downhill skiing and snowboarding. The Southern Alps provide epic downhill action at Treble Cone or Cardrona, both offering great days of fun for beginners and seasoned pros. Beautiful views, plenty of pies at the cafe, and runs for the whole family mean an entire day will go by in a flash - tired legs and sore bottoms and all.

Photo by Karen Lau. 

People walking down the alleyway at The Precinct.

Indulge in some retail therapy

Wānaka

If you’re ready for a quiet afternoon walking around the picturesque downtown, it would be wrong to not fit in a little shopping. Start at The Precinct, the new shopping centre opened 2020, is a metropolitan delight, brought to life by a family who wanted to create something exciting out of the old police station. Relax and browse the curated sustainable collection at Revology, located in Wānaka’s Precinct shopping centre. Next, head to The Workroom to find the best in homeware. Located in a former laundromat, The Workroom features unique and quality homewares from around the world, shop on your own or use the team behind this gorgeous shop to design your dream home. Finally, head to 47 Frocks to browse New Zealand designer wares, which doesn’t stop at frocks. Beautifully laid out in a modern, airy space, you’ll find it easy to spend hours pouring over the finest fashions Wānaka has to offer.

Photo by Nancy Zhou. 

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