How To Spend a Snowy Weekend in Wānaka

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

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

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  winter sports in the Southern Alps or prefer to relax in a snowy setting, Wānaka is for you.

Go brewery hopping

Gordon Road & Anderson Road

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 x Reason. This funky brewery and taproom has tables and chairs both inside, close to the brewing action, and outside on the sun-soaked patio. Very dog-friendly and full of street art vibes, this little brewery pumps out everything from pale ales to Crema di Limoncello sour IPAs.

Next, wander over 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 bite from the on-site food truck, and settle in for a wintery Wānaka session. 

Head across town to b.social, b.effect brewery’s taproom and eatery. A lofty and modern space, b.social showcases b.effect’s epic range, which you can also see being made next door through the glass windows. With a food menu to rival anything in town (think nibbles, loaded fries and burgers) you can easily get comfortable here and stay for a tasting or two.

Photo by Ray Tiddy.

Catch a movie at an old theatre

50 Cardrona Valley Road, Wānaka

Transport yourself back to a time when 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 you to curl up beneath, the seating arrangement isn’t the only great thing about Rubys. With a wine and craft beer menu sure to tickle 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. 

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. This 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 stray too far, there is a Snow Fun Zone with tubing, snow angel making, and more.

Photo by Snow Farm.

Eat your way across town

Wānaka

Whether you’ve been exerting energy up a mountain or walking around the shops, you can't deny yourself from indulging in Wānaka’s culinary delights. Beautiful cocktails and food abound at local’s favourite, Kika. This Italian-inspired spot has dark walls and a grand patio, both of which invite lingering over shared plates. Try the incredible Asian fare at FuDog, which serves up fine dining in a relaxed setting. Finally, finish it all off with a treat from Black Peak Gelato, which even infuses the best of New Zealand’s lolly selection in one of their Italian-recipe, creamy gelatos.

Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Visit the famed Cardona Hotel

Accommodation key icon. Bars key icon. Restaurants key icon.

Cardrona Valley Road, Cardrona

A beacon of beauty sitting between Queenstown and Wānaka, Cardrona Hotel is a spot worth stopping at. 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 meals, a cosy atmosphere, and plenty of beds to end the night. With pub favourites like loaded wedges, garlic loaf and Southern fried chicken alongside the plates that change seasonally, you’ll want to cosy up near the fire and stay awhile.

Photo by Nancy Zhou.

Ski and snowboard the slopes

Cardrona & Treble Cone, Wānaka

It wouldn’t be a snowy weekend in Wānaka without a taste of downhill skiing and snowboarding. The Southern Alps provide epic slope action by way of Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields, both offering great fun for beginners through to seasoned pros. Beautiful views, plenty of pies at the café 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. 

Indulge in some retail therapy

Wānaka

If you’re ready for a quiet afternoon walking around the picturesque town, it would be wrong to not fit in a little shopping. Start at The Precinct, 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 curation of sustainable everyday goods at Revology, bespoke jewellery at Alice Herald, stylish Aotearoa New Zealand and international brands at DEVàL, or even go for a fresh cut at Ukiyo Salon. Next, head to The Workroom to find the best in homeware. Located in a 100-year-old cottage, 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 poring over the finest fashions Wānaka has to offer.

Photo by Nancy Zhou. 

Neat Wānaka Places

Red Star Burgers

Two tall burgers, a plate of salad and basket of hot chips on the table at Red Star, Wānaka.
Place Wānaka
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A Wānaka institution, Red Star has been filling hungry bellies with burgers since 2004.

Dripping Bowl

A staff member holds two bowls, made from coconut husks, of acai topped with crunchy coconut, cacao nibs and buckwheat groats.
Place Wānaka
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Well known for acai bowls, smoothies, divine soups and a niche coffee menu, Dripping Bowl has nutrition and sustainability at its heart.

Wastebusters

Close up of glassware on a table.
Place Wānaka
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When you’re on a ‘reuse, recycle and reduce’ mission, who you gonna call?

FuDog

A dragon print on a wall inside the restaurant.
Place Wānaka
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While their techniques are worthy of fine dining, this restaurant likes to keep dinnertime fuss-free and fun.