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Wanaka, New ZealandWanaka History

Wanaka | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Centuries of glacial action crafted Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Discover their scenic perfection yourself, up close and personal.

Wanaka History Overview

Wanaka's fortune has changed over the years. The discovery of gold in the 1870s inspired a rush of interest in the area. As the gold faded away, high country farming became the main source of employment. Today, tourism is the new gold—an endeavour that requires the environment to stay picture perfect.

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Haast Pass

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Roy's Bay, Wanaka, New Zealand
Roy's Bay, Wanaka
Photographer: Gilbert van Reenen
(www.cleangreen.co.nz)

The Maori name for the trail that leads through Haast Pass is Tiora-patea, which means 'the way is clear'. The pass was first used by Maori on their way to the pounamu (jade) rivers of the coast.

The road over Haast Pass is only 160 kilometres long, but it took over 30 years to carve out of solid rock. It runs past lakes Wanaka and Hawea, through golden tussock-covered hills, then winds over the great divide of the Southern Alps to the rainforests, waterfalls and rivers of the west coast. The contrast between the east and west landscapes is extreme.

A gold prospector called Charles Cameron is believed to be the first European to find the pass. He crossed over in January 1863, burying his powder flask to the west of the pass. Close behind him came Julius von Haast, who named the pass after himself and claimed to be the first European to have travelled through it, however the discovery of Cameron's flask discredited this claim. It took Julius von Haast and his party over four weeks to complete the journey, after being shown the start of the trail by Maori.

Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and the Clutha River

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Shores of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
Shores of Lake Wanaka
Photographer: Hiroshi Nameda
(hnamechan@hotmail.com)

Excavated by massive glaciers more than 10,000 years ago, Lakes Wanaka and Hawea lie side by side. At a sliver of land known as The Neck, which is just 1,000 metres wide, the glaciers were once joined.

Ringed by pebbly beaches and with magnificent views to the surrounding peaks, both lakes offer a variety of adventures, especially during the long, hot months of summer.

Lake Wanaka is the source of the Clutha River, which exits into the ocean near Balclutha on the eastern coast. Lake Hawea feeds into the Hawea River, which joins the Clutha River at Albert Town.

The Clutha River carries the largest volume of water of any river in New Zealand and has been dammed in a number of places for electricity generation. During the late 1800s, the river yielded a vast quantity of gold. At one point in time, there were 187 gold dredges working the river.

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Wanaka Region Information

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Mainstay New Zealand Hotels

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Featured

 
Mainstay New Zealand Hotels

Mainstay NZ Hotels

Large collection of independent hotels.

Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels

Holiday packages for any occasion.

Distinction Hotels

Distinction Hotels

Great hotels in great NZ wide locations.