The Insiders' Weekend Guide to Lake Hāwea

A view from above The Camp at Lake Hāwea in Wanaka.

No longer Wānaka's lesser-known neighbour, Lake Haweā is an outdoor lovers' paradise that's evolved into a well-rounded holiday destination, thanks to its hospitality offerings and activities to match its intense beauty and monstrous mountain range. 

With a secret sauna, surrounding peaks, jaw-dropping walks and hikes, coffee caravans and outdoor bars, here's our guide to what the locals have kept under wraps for some time.

A sign saying 'Welcome to Lake Hawea' next to a lake.
Inside glamping tent at The Camp.

Quality Kiwi Camping

First and foremost, you must have a comfy bed and the best view to enjoy your morning cuppa. Luckily, Lake Hāwea boasts a range of accommodation options (and views), but the real dynamite option when staying at Lake Hāwea is the humble camping ground.

Say hello to The Camp, the quintessential Kiwi camping experience. From tents, caravans and tiny houses to cottages, cabins, and luxury glamping, there is something for all types, evidenced by the gathering of lucky folk in the know who swarm here every year. Alongside the staples of any decent camping ground worth its weight in shower coins, The Camp hosts a whole lot more, including a secret wellness spot, Sunday sessions with live music, food trucks and an outdoor bar.

Peaks & Restoration

After your first night in the tent, dome or teepee, it's time for some adventuring. As expected, there are endless opportunities for exploration. Still, Isthmus Peak has to be one of the most desirable thanks to the day-tripping duration and magnificent views over Lake Wānaka, Lake Hāwea and the Southern Alps. Depending on your speed, a 1385m elevation, 16km return summit jaunt can take anywhere from five to seven hours. Breast Hill Track is another standout option for something more strenuous and the bonus of a night in a classic hut. It's part of the Te Araroa Track and is four to five hours (one way) of moderate to difficult terrain, with the rewards of stunning views of Lake Hāwea and the surrounding Southern Alps.

Upon returning to The Camp, is there a better way to thank the body than a sauna? The answer is no. And as luck would have it, there's a wood-fired sauna on the lake's edge. Experience hot and cold therapies by taking a plunge in the lake waters or unwinding at The Secret Sauna while enjoying the stunning views. Book in advance, as it's super popular with the locals too.

Feasting Lake-Style

Now that you've received the health and wellness benefits from The Secret Sauna, it's time to replenish the body with food and drink, and the Hāwea Hotel is a short ten-minute walk away. This historic spot is perfect for a couple of pre-dinner drinks, at the outdoor tables with views of the lake, or the more traditional high tables by the bar. Local craft brewer b.effect has priority on the taps, for good reason, and it feels right to keep it local, considering what you've seen today.

A hop and skip away is Hāwea Store and Kitchen—a combination of grocer, café, restaurant and bar overlooking the lake. We're here for the restaurant, where the chef and owner Hamish Mackay will take you on a taste journey from farm to table, showcasing the very best of what local land provides. FYI, the Hāwea Store also does a pretty mean pie if you're passing in the day.

For early-morning coffee needs, it's Mo's, a favourite amongst locals pouring locally roasted under the radar See Crow Fly coffee from their retrofitted caravan. It's a nice spot to hang out, and the sweet and savoury whole food options are solid, too; shout out to the potato roulade!

Lake Adventure & Sessions

It's about time you spent some time on the lake, and fittingly, there are many options, including kayaks for hire via The Camp or in Wānaka from Paddle Wānaka. If you're keen to slow it down even further, there are endless spots to relax, read and swim.

Don't take too long at the lake's edge; you must return to The Camp Summer Sessions. These sessions are all about good music, food trucks and the in-house bar that provides local brews and necessities for good vibes to get you through Sunday. So, pull up a deck chair and reminisce about how Hāwea is your new favourite getaway destination and how good this camping ground is!

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
Cafes key icon.

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.