September 14, 2016

A walk on Lake Wanaka

Recently, I took a stroll along the shore of Lake Wanaka, in the town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island. During my walk, I discovered a forlorn-looking tree standing in the middle of the water. I took a few photos, thinking that I’d found a unique shot.

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That is … until about 30 minutes later when I paused to Google “things to do on Lake Wanaka” and saw that my discovery was actually the most photographed tree in New Zealand. It’s even spawned its own hashtag (#thatwanakatree) and has become a bit of a joke among local photographers.

My unique shot. I’m such a goofball!

But, seriously, check out other people’s photos. They’re beautiful. Then visit Wanaka and take one of your own. 🙂


The bus ride to Wanaka from Franz Josef is a long one — but it’s visually stunning. The tinted windows of our moving bus made it hard to capture the scenery in photos, but all of us on board gave it our best shot, even passing our cameras across the aisle to get pictures from both sides. The ride southward on Highway 6 took us through the Southern Alps and Mount Aspiring National Park and past Lakes Wanaka and Hawea.

My only still shot — literally — happened when our driver made a brief “photo stop” next to Lake Hawea. So beautiful!

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We also stopped for lunch at the Paringa Salmon Farm Cafe where I had my first cheese scone. It was oven-fresh and really, really good. Why had I not tried these before???  I took a photo of the salmon tanks … but I should’ve taken one of my scone!

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Technically, our bus was going all the way to Queenstown, but I, along with several other passengers, got off at Wanaka for a night or two before continuing southward. Like many smaller towns I’ve visited in New Zealand, Wanaka wasn’t ideal for Airbnb options, but it offered plenty of clean hostels and modern motel rooms. I booked this cute motel with a nice view of the lake and mountains. Everything I needed (groceries, coffee, more cheese scones!!!) was within a few blocks — including a good Indian restaurant with a toasty fireplace.

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Wanaka is popular destination for international travelers as well as New Zealanders. Many come to ski, hike, kayak, camp … and take photos of #thatwanakatree. Tee hee.

For me … I was content just spending hours walking along the lakeshore. There’s a path running parallel to the shore that extends for miles and offers some tangential trails through a winery and native forest.

One thing I love about walking/hiking is finding public benches in scenic spots along the way. They give me a chance to rest, reflect and contemplatively stare at something beautiful. Many of these benches are dedicated to loved ones “in memory” by family and friends. It’s become my habit, before sitting down, to read the dedication plaque and say a quiet “thank you” to the person who’s passed and his/her loved ones who’ve sponsored the bench I’m about to enjoy and appreciate.

During my walk on Lake Wanaka, I enjoyed and appreciated one dedicated to Susan “Susie” Elizabeth Mayen.

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Here are the lovely words from Susie’s plaque …

Many years spent under this tree with family and friends.

Good times. Good memories. Many more will be made.

“Live your dream”

And here’s the beautiful view from Susie’s bench …

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And here are the rest of my photos from my walk along Lake Wanaka.