When in Wanaka

It was a skip, hop, and a jump over to Wanaka from Queenstown (about a two-hour drive).  We were a bit bummed to be leaving my brother and his family, but a new adventure awaited us.  When we arrived we were excited to find that our home was perched on a hill that overlooked beautiful Lake Wanaka.  It was an adorable three-bedroom house with massive sliding doors that opened on to the deck.  The kids ran through the house and found a room with three beds, perfect for all of them to settle into for the next week. 

View from our Wanaka home

It’s been the sweetest to watch them prefer to all sleep in one room rather than separate.  The first thing the kids noticed was that there was a small artificial Christmas tree tucked away in a box in one of the bedrooms.  Eager to start Christmas festivities, they grabbed it and put it together, making this home feel all the more cozy!

After settling in, we headed out to explore.  We walked down by the lake and the kids spent the afternoon at the dinosaur park, aptly named because of the enormous blue dinosaur slide. We did our usual mega grocery run and picked up several ingredients to do some Christmas baking. 

Dinosaur park in Wanaka with kids

Manji on the enormous blue dinosaur decorated with pictures of Moa

One of the things we had been looking forward to the most while in New Zealand was doing lots of cooking! Goose was on it and immediately came home and made Nanny’s peanut butter and chocolate bars, which reminded us of Christmas at home.  We headed back to the park later in the evening to enjoy the town’s Christmas tree lighting.  It was warm and the sun does not set until almost 10pm, so in order to see the tree light up you had to get really close, but it was still a fun way to kick off the Christmas season!

While in Wanaka, we headed to a cool little museum called Puzzling World.  It is full of illusions, puzzles, and a life-size maze.  Both kids and adults had a great time trying to understand the different illusions. Our favorite was the perspective room, where on one end you’d feel like a giant and then on the other, an elf.  It was the coolest! Just down the road from Puzzling World was the Wanaka Lavender Farm.  We spent a beautiful, sunny afternoon at the farm running through the lavender labyrinth and tasting lavender honey.  The kids spent about 30 minutes on a purple tractor just pretending to be farmers.  It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed soaking in the sun in such a beautiful setting.

Puzzling World in Wanaka with our kids was a favorite, what a wild perspective in this room

Puzzling World

The Wanaka Lavender Farm turned out to be a great spot for the kids to run and play

Wanaka Lavender Farm

Most mornings in Wanaka, we headed to the local library for our homeschooling.  It’s the first library we’ve been to since home and it felt so good to be back.  The kids loved perusing the shelves and snuggling up with a book.   We were able to walk there from our rental house so it became our routine for the week to have breakfast and then head to the library to knock out the school work. 

One morning Goose and James got out the door early and walked across the street to meet Captain Ash with Wanaka Fishing Charters for a 2-hour lake fishing charter.  I was hopeful they would catch something.  Goose has been talking about fishing since the beginning of our yearlong trip.  After a major effort in Croatia and Lombok, he still hadn’t caught a fish. 

To my delight, they walked in two hours later with a bag full of three rainbow trout, two for Goose and one for James.  We were so excited!!! Captain Ash was incredible with his local knowledge and patience. It was a successful trip and it also meant we’d have a great dinner! When they prepared it that evening, it looked just like salmon.  Rosy in color and delicious! Sitting on the deck for dinner and watching the many sailboats on the lake go for an evening cruise was a dream!

Goose over the moon after catching a trout with Captain Ash of Wanaka Fishing Charters

Goose with his catch on Lake Wanaka

We spent one of our days on a rugged hike to Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain.  We passed through lush forest and along a narrow path on the mountain side.  It was a very tough hike.  After having done nothing but sweat for a month in Indonesia and then being sick with a tummy bug, my athleticism was WAY down.  Thankfully, Manji cheered me on the whole time! The trail led to stunning 360 views and we celebrated with a picnic lunch at the summit!

The Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain hike was one of our favorites in New Zealand.  Here, we're enjoying the 360 views of Wanaka with our kids

Made it to the top of the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain trail!

One of the other things we enjoyed while in Wanaka was a wine tasting at Rippon Vineyard.  The setting was beautiful and the wine superb.  We even splurged on a couple of bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc we had tasted! The kids were very patient as Mom and Dad made their way through each of the five wines.  They even tried their nose at smelling the aromatics of the wines.

Enjoying a moment just for Mom and Dad at Rippon Vineyard

Towards the end of the week we celebrated St. Nicholas visiting.  He always fills the kids’ stockings on December 6th.  While we aren’t traveling with stockings, the kids got creative and made some out of paper and it worked! He filled their stockings with candy and instead of an orange, they each got a kiwi fruit! Manji even noticed that most of the candy was local to New Zealand! Bingo was a bit concerned all week that someone was going to enter the house while we were sleeping (rightfully so!).  Crocodile tears won her a sleepover with me and the evening St. Nicholas came to visit, but once he did, she was all set to sleep with the brothers again!

St. Nick came to visit!

On our final day in Wanaka, we treated ourselves and the kids to a jetboat ride with Lakeland Wanaka.  The jetboat speeds across the surface of the water and took us across Lake Wanaka and on the Clutha River.  It was such an adrenaline rush!

Ready for the jetboat adventure!

We loved Wanaka, especially the feeling of just “living” in a place for a week.  We could have easily gotten comfortable and stayed for months!

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