Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. New Zealand’s Natural Places

Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. New Zealand’s Natural Places

The Banks Peninsula was formed by the Littleton and Akaroa volcanoes over 25,000 years ago. The Banks Peninsula was originally an island, but an eruption connected it to the mainland of the South Island of New Zealand. Reminders of this dramatic geological event can be found at every turn today.

The history of the settlement of the peninsula

The Banks Peninsula has been inhabited by Maori for more than a thousand years. Until the 1920s, it was home to the thriving Nga’i Tahu tribe. The idyllic life of its members ended in fratricidal and tribal struggles. The unrest on the peninsula contributed to the British government’s decision to place a governor here and sign the Treaty of Waitangi . This is still a matter of dispute between the Maori and the British government. A total of 50 Maori chiefs signed the New Zealand Charter in 1840, in which they granted Queen Victoria the right to buy land.

Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. New Zealand wilderness sites - Photo 2

History of the settlement of the peninsula.

In return, they were guaranteed all the rights and duties of British citizens. However, many chiefs at the time were unaware of the consequences of their actions. The misunderstanding also stems from the fact that there were supposedly both Maori and English versions of this treaty, each with a different meaning.

Features of the landscape

The Banks Peninsula attracts tourists primarily because of its natural beauty. The peninsula is quite mountainous, with volcanoes, rocky promontories, sheer cliffs, deep valleys and beautiful beaches with lush vegetation. Summit Road leads to the top of a mountain range that offers stunning views of nearby Christchurch, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Alps, and much of the peninsula with its many beautiful bays. In the past, the peninsula was completely forested, but most of the trees were cut down for shipbuilding and home construction. Forests have been replaced by pastures. The Banks Peninsula is home to picturesque villages such as Pigeon Bay, Ocaines Bay, Lavericks Bay, and Le Bon Bay. The area is crisscrossed by several hiking trails, so it will appeal to outdoor enthusiasts. You can take the five-hour Pigeon Bay Walk.

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Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. New Zealand wilderness sites - Picture 3

Landscape Features

In the village of Okaines Bay, you can visit the Maori and Colony Museum, which has an extensive collection of Maori artifacts. There is also a Māori waka, an 1867 canoe that is used annually during Waitangi Day celebrations on February 6 . The Barry’s Bay Cheese Factory, which continues a long tradition of cheese making on the Banks Peninsula, is a must visit .

City of Acaroa

The only major town on the Banks Peninsula, Acaroa has an unusual French atmosphere for local conditions. The town was founded by a small group of French settlers in 1840, led by whaler Jean François Langlois. He decided to establish a French colony there and wanted to buy most of the peninsula from the Ngai Tahu natives. But these plans were thwarted by the British, who in the meantime had signed a treaty at Waitangi. Although British sovereignty was eventually established, the French colonists were able to remain. By 1849, however, the British had already widely relocated to this French settlement.

The Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. New Zealand wilderness sites - Photo 4

City of Acaroa

Today Acaroa, a very attractive city with many historic buildings in the French style, narrow streets and a relaxed and charming atmosphere. Acaroa, a city without the hustle and bustle. The French influence can still be seen here in the French-English street signs, local names, and cosmopolitan stores. It also has a picturesque location on the banks of a natural harbor. The city is home to a number of monuments of French heritage.

One of them, for example, is the Maison Langlois-Eteveno, supposedly assembled in France and transported to Acaroa in 1845. It is part of the Acaroa Museum, which also includes an old courthouse that opened in 1880. Exhibits on local architecture, regional history and natural history can be seen here. Acaroa offers a total of 43 monuments that can be seen on an individual tour.

In addition to the monuments, many visitors are also drawn to the many stores and galleries offering a variety of products and artifacts created by local artisans. There is a beautiful sandy beach in the center of town. Cruise ships crossing the main port depart from the main dock. During the cruise, tourists can watch the New Zealand squid and Hector’s dolphins, the smallest penguins and colonies of seals. Near Akaroa is the Pohatu Marine Reserve, which is home to the largest colony of white-striped penguins.

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Lake Wanaka

The Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. New Zealand wilderness sites - Photo 5

Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka is located on the South Island of New Zealand in the Otago region which is a popular tourist destination both in summer and winter. However, besides the opportunities for sports, hiking and skiing, it also hides some interesting museums and great sights worth seeing.

Use of the lake

Wanaka, originally called Pembroke, was first settled around 1860. Lake Wanaka and the Klat River flowing out of it were used to transport timber. In 1867 the first hotel opened in the town and the first tourists began coming here, appreciating the proximity of the mountains and the accessibility of the waters. Pembroke was renamed Wanaka in 1940, and the town became a popular destination for both local and foreign visitors.

The Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. New Zealand wilderness sites - Photo 6

Use of the lake

The small town of Wanaka is now one of the most popular resorts in New Zealand. It offers a wide range of outdoor activities. In summer, the waters of the lake of the same name have become popular with boating, fishing, and water-skiing enthusiasts. Outdoor enthusiasts and hikers will also enjoy the place. There are many marked hiking trails from the lake to nearby Mount Aspiring National Park. Adrenaline lovers can ride the water on specially designed boards or go canyoning.

Ski resorts.

The Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. New Zealand wilderness sites - Photo 7

. Ski resorts.

In the winter, skiers and snowboarders come here again because of the area’s perfect ski slopes. The snow-capped peaks of the mountains provide a beautiful backdrop for the lake. Not far from Wanaka are two commercial ski resorts, Treble Cone and Cardrona . These ski resorts boast terrain for skiers of all levels. The Vayorau Snow Farm area is for cross-country skiers. The surrounding mountains also offer plenty of secluded spots where you can fly in a helicopter and enjoy a long descent from the top of the mountain. Ski enthusiasts most often head to Harris, Richardson, and Buchanan.

Airplane Museum

However, it is not only the surrounding scenery that is attractive, but also the city itself. There are plenty of attractions to visit. Some of the major local attractions include the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum, located at Wanaka Airport. In this museum, you can see a variety of World War II equipment. These include aircraft such as the Spitfire, Hurricane, P-51 Mustang, Vought Corsair, and the Japanese Nakajima Ki-43, which was nicknamed the “Oscar” by the Allies and is the only surviving aircraft of this type in the world. Also on display are several types of rare Russian Polikarpov airplanes. The illustrated exhibits introduce visitors to the activities of New Zealand fighter pilots and crews on several fronts. Every two years an air show called “Warbirds Over Wanaka” is held. where pilots from around the world perform acrobatic stunts.

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The Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. New Zealand wilderness sites - Photo 8

Aircraft Museum

On the outskirts of Wanaka Airport is also the Transportation and Toy Museum of Wanaka which has a private collection of more than 13,000 items. Here you can find toys and various vehicles. Everything from bicycles, cars and airplanes to heavy military vehicles are on display here. The highlight is the huge Russian An-2, which is the largest single-engine biplane in the world.

Stuart Landsburg House

The strangest attraction in Wanaka is undoubtedly the “Mysterious World” of Stuart Landsburg, which stretches around the “Great Labyrinth”. It is 1.5 km of voluminous wooden corridors, underpasses and railroad crossings that contain various mysteries and spaces full of optical illusions. The Tilted House is also fun, where everything is tilted and it seems that gravity simply does not work in this house. In the relaxing puzzle center you can have a coffee and try to solve one of the many complex puzzles.

The Banks Peninsula and Lake Wanaka. Natural sites of New Zealand - Photo 9

Stuart Landsburg House

The entire central Otago region has an ideal climate for growing grapes. It is one of the few places in New Zealand where the four seasons alternate. So it is not surprising that there are large vineyards around Wanaka. About 4 km from the city center is Rippon Vineyard, founded in 1974. It is a pioneering vineyard in the region, which today produces wines from several varieties.


In the morning the sky was covered with a rather thick cloud. Clouds as if to tell us – “And we found you!” Well, we run away from them to the other side of the Southern Alps.

Lake Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand.

– Lake Hawea from road #6 between Wanaka and Haast

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Today we decided to drive around the mountains and look at Aoraki / Mount Cook from the other side, which is about 460 kilometers and about 6 hours away. Our first stop was Wanaka, which is 206 km and a 3 hour drive.

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Backup – Not far from the little town of Tarras (if you take road #8) on Maori Point Rd, by the river they filmed the outskirts of Rivendell for The Lord of the Rings.

The word “Vanaka” itself has Greek roots and carries a double meaning, denoting two images: divine and, respectively, human. Whoever named the place must have associated it with heaven.

In Maori, the word Wanaka means “legend. Te Wai-Hara-Ata is an alternative name for Lake Wanaka and it means “Mirror of Water”. The literal translation of the Maori name of Lake Hawea is “Doubt”.

Lake Wanaka is the fourth largest lake in New Zealand, on the shores of which stands the town of the same name and is separated from it only by a narrow strip of land, Neck, Lake Hawea are of glacial origin, as well as Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo, but the color is more transparent, not so fabulous turquoise. The lakes have been of particular interest since gold was discovered here in the 1870s. As the gold rush waned, the tiny town of Wanaka, which originally sprang up as a gold mining camp, was left almost undeveloped and the population lived off farming. Now, the town attracts with its stunning mountain and lake landscapes and a special atmosphere of a lost paradise full of fabulous charm and exceptional beauty. True, we somehow failed to appreciate it on its own merits.

Puzzling World, Puzzling World, Wanaka, Wanaka, South Island, South Zealand, New Zealand.

– Puzzling World

The most interesting place for us in Wanaka, which was in the plan, was the tourist attraction Puzzling World, which includes a museum, a maze and a cafe. There are all kinds of puzzles and just strange things that delight not only children but adults as well. There you can drink coffee and solve puzzles.

Puzzling World, Puzzling World, Wanaka, Wanaka, South Island, South Zealand, New Zealand.

– Leaning Tower of Wanaka . It incredibly balances on one corner and its entire structure is at a 53 degree angle to the ground.

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Almost all visitors find it necessary to take a picture with her as if propping her up. We were no exception While we were taking this staged picture, a girl came up to us and, apparently impressed by our visit to Puzzling World, enthusiastically and insistently recommended us to visit the toilet. It’s something, they say! But first we went to the Illusion Rooms and the Hall of Following Faces, where three-dimensional portraits turn faces after you. There are also parallel horizontal rows of tiles that don’t seem parallel at all.

“Confounding the World” or “The World as a Puzzle” is a tourist attraction near Wanaka, New Zealand, by architect Stuart Landsborough. Construction began in 1973 with a simple jumble of buildings, but over the years has evolved into a cafe where guests could try to solve some puzzles, go through rooms of optical illusions and other things.

Puzzling World, Puzzling World, Wanaka, Wanaka, South Island, South Zealand, New Zealand.

– Hall of Following Faces. The photo doesn’t convey the effect of having 168 faces watching you.

Puzzling World, Puzzling World, Wanaka, Wanaka, South Island, South Zealand, New Zealand.

– Ames Forced Perspective Room.

A room where a person becomes twice as big by walking from one corner to the other. The technique of this illusion was used in the movie Lord of the Rings to create tall and small people. The shape of the room itself is distorted, although when viewed from outside through the window, the room looks perfectly normal.

The toilet does make an impression. A replica of a Roman style toilet. The toilet seats, though, are interesting, too

Puzzling World, Puzzling World, Wanaka, Wanaka, South Island, South Zealand, New Zealand.

– The hall in the toilet – A real sense of “collective thinking” .

Puzzling World, Puzzling World, Wanaka, Wanaka, South Island, South Zealand, New Zealand.

We also walked the labyrinth, but the one we saw on Tasmania was more interesting. This one has 1.5 km of passageways that you have to walk in 30 minutes. After, we had a snack at a cafe with all sorts of puzzles on the tables. You eat and solve.

Maps and useful links

Map of Wanaka town (pdf 264Kb) NZtopomaps – topographic map of New Zealand

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