Enjoy the full-on lake effect. © hafizismail

Wānaka: kicking the autumn leaves

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Wellington poet Amelia Nurse has written about ‘the lake effect’ – the noticeable calming and smoothing of the ripples in brow and soul that occurs when you find yourself on the shores of a lake with time to spare.

There’s probably no better place to experience the lake effect than at Lake Wānaka. There’s a variety of ways you can interact with the lake – it’s an aquatic playground for anglers, water-skiers, jet-skiers, jet-boaters, sailors, fizz-boaters, swimmers and windsurfers... and more.

But there’s also a network of walkways around the lake, giving glimpses, opening vistas over the water, and generally exposing you to maximum lake effect.

There are some really staunch walks – well, climbs, to be fair – in the wider region: there’s the serious mountaineering proposition that is a summit assault on Mount Aspiring, and there’ pretty but demanding Cascade Saddle from the Matukituki Valley over into the Rees-Dart catchment.

Then there are easier walks, such as the climb to the Rob Roy Glacier in the Matukituki, or the pleasant (if steep) scramble up to the summit of 1578m Mount Roy, just a couple of minutes’ drive outside Wānaka township. Right in Wānaka, there’s the stroll to the top of 548m Mount Iron, giving grandstand views of the lake.


There are other popular walks on the lakefront, too. The most popular – and it’s completely flat – is undoubtedly the Outlet Track, which begins about 6km from Wānaka township where the lake empties into the mighty Clutha River and follows the river downstream to Albertown, 5km away. It was originally a narrow path used by anglers to get to the trout-fishing spot at Albertown – and many of those plodding the path today carry rods and their catch. Otherwise, it’s frequented by walkers, joggers, dog-walkers, skaters and mountain bikers.

For a couple of weeks during autumn, the Outlet Track becomes a breathtaking sight as the deciduous exotics lining the riverbank begin to cast off their autumn colours – poplars and willows blanket the ground in swatches of gold, red and orange.

Kicking your way through here of a crisp, late afternoon, looking forward to a glass of Central Otago pinot noir by the fire at the end of it all... Oh, yes. Full-on lake effect. 

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