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The TRUTH About The Wanaka Tree

The TRUTH About The Wanaka Tree

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One of the most famous photos on Instagram in New Zealand is a picture of a lonely willow tree in a lake, otherwise known as the Wanaka Tree!

In fact, this tree has become somewhat of a symbol of New Zealand tourism and is a place where photographers and Instagrammers gather regularly to try and capture their own unique shots of the Wanaka Tree. Many share their photos on Instagram under the hashtag #ThatWakakaTree!

We visited the Wanaka Tree once to see what all of the hype was about all for ourselves, and well, we were been kinda on the fence about whether it’s worth a visit or not. Luckily, we lived nearby so we had the chance to visit the Wanaka Tree many times and now know where we stand!

So, why is this tree so famous? What makes it so special? Where is it? What is it like to visit? All of the questions you may have surrounding the Wanaka Tree are answered here!

Overview of the Wanaka Tree

The Wanaka Tree in Wanaka, New Zealand at sunset
Sunset at the Wanaka Tree is a popular time to visit

Where is the Wanaka Tree?

The Wanaka Tree on a sunny day in wanaka
If you keep walking on the edge of Lake Wanaka you’ll see the tree!

That Wanaka Tree (or the Lone Tree of Wanaka) is located right in the town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island. From town, if you face the lake and walk left along the edge of the lake you’ll eventually reach the Wanaka Tree.

Wanaka is a small town only about a 1-hour drive from the tourist hub of Queenstown.

Besides the tree, Wanaka is also famous for nearby hikes such as Roy’s Peak and Diamond Lake Walk, the beautiful Wanaka Lake, and surrounding mountains, as well as amazing restaurants and bars.

Need accommodations in Wanaka? Check out all the best hotels in Wanaka here. Be sure to book in advance as this little town books up fast!

Related Read: The Cardrona Ski Resort is one of the most popuar places to hit the slopes near Queenstown!

What is so Special about the Wanaka Tree?

Selfie with the famous Wanaka Tree!
Selfie with the famous Wanaka Tree!

To be honest, the Wanaka Tree is truly unique. Standing alone only a few meters in Lake Wanaka sits this very lonely willow tree.

But besides its unusual location, the surrounding landscape of Wanaka and the breathtaking mountain backdrop make it an amazing place for photos.

The Wanaka Tree does really make for gorgeous photos, and it is a beautiful representation of some of the unique sights in New Zealand.

Why is the Wanaka Tree Famous?

The Wanaka Tree on a sunny day taken from the rocky shores of Lake Wanaka
And another photo of the Wanaka Tree

Instagram is a pretty powerful platform these days. The Wanaka Tree (or also called “That Wanaka Tree” on social media) is famous on Instagram and thousands of photographers have posted incredible photos using the hashtag #ThatWanakaTree.

This hashtag has made the tree famous, and now famous photographers, as well as just interested tourists, gather around the tree trying to make their claim to fame with the best #thatwanakatree photo!

As cliche as it is, I myself have gathered at the Wanaka Tree taking lots and lots of photos on many different occasions.

Related Read: The road trip from Christchurch to Queeenstown can also be done if you go in reverse from Wanaka!

What is it Like to Visit the Wanaka Tree?

Crowds of People at the Wanak Tree
The Wanaka Tree gets a lot more busy than this!

This is the funny part about visiting the tree and why I don’t actually enjoy visiting it that much!

The reason is because of the crowds of people and the fact everyone finds the need to stand as close to the tree as possible. In fact, some people walk out to it and try to climb it!

There’s also usually a drone or 5 hovering over your head and if you’re truly unlucky there might be a photoshoot going on and the group somehow thinks they’ve bought the rights to the Wanaka Tree for the day.

The number of people that visit the Wanaka Tree is definitely a distraction from what should be a beautiful place to sit and watch the sunset.

That being said, you can get quiet afternoons at the Wanaka Tree and when you do, it’s amazing. Also, if you visit in the morning at sunrise you’ll likely have the peace and quiet you’re after.

So looking back, visiting the Wanaka Tree is different every day depending on the crowd you get and what your expectations are.

Is the Wanaka Tree Worth a Visit?

The Wanaka Tree after sunset
Can you spot the birds in the Wanaka Tree!?

Although I do believe the Wanaka Tree is a very over touristic attraction, it’s still worth a visit. The tree is so close to Wanaka and as such, very convenient to visit (not to mention beautiful!)

But the truth is, as a few of the other over-photographed places in New Zealand, the sheer number of tourists can take away from the magic. We found this to be the case when we visited the Church of Good Shepard at Lake Tekapo, another inst- famous spot in New Zealand’s South Island.

Overall, Wanaka is so much more than the Wanaka Tree. So instead of sitting by the lake with a thousand other people, get out there and explore this amazing region!

Related Read: Know what to do on the West Coast of New Zealand’s Sound Island yet? After reading our guide you’ll be ready to explore!

Tour to That Wanaka Tree

While there is no tour that specifically takes you to the Wanaka Tree there is one full-day sightseeing option I know of that can take you from Queenstown to Arrowtown and Wanaka and once in Wanaka allows you free time to do whatever you’d like while in the town. This would be your opportunity to find the Wanaka Tree! You can book this tour here.

Other things to do in Wanaka

There are some amazing things to do in Wanaka and below are a few of the best ways to spend your time here!

1. Go Hiking

Roys peak on our road trip
Roys Peak is a hike that offers some incredible viewpoints!

Roys Peak is only a short 10-minute drive from Wanaka and is one of my personal favorite day hikes in New Zealand. Although a tough trail, the views at the top are so breathtaking you just have to go!

For something a little off-the-beaten-path, head over to Diamond Lake Trail or for the lesser-known Roy’s Peak equivalent, consider hiking Isthmus Peak.

2. Enjoy the lake

People paddle boarding on Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
Paddleboarding is also a great activity!

Lake Wanaka is stunning and there are a couple of ways to enjoy this beautiful body of water. You can walk along the foreshore, have a drink at a pub with a view, go on a 4-hour paddleboarding or kayaking excursion in the clear and calm water, enjoy a scenic boat cruise to Stevensons Island, or even go jet boating past forests, waterfalls, and glaciers!

3. Get Adventurous

Kayaking on Lake Wanaka, New Zealand
Kayaking on Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Wanaka offers the chance to get that adrenaline flowing. Go skydiving at the height of your choosing and take in the rugged New Zealand lanscape, discover hidden pools and cross suspension bridges en route to climb a waterfall (Via Ferrata), go whitewater rafting and feel the excitement around each bend on the Matukituki River, or even tackle kayaking in river rapids on grade 1 and 2 rapids!

Oh, and don’t forget about skiing and snowboarding in the winter! These adventure activities will surely be ones to remember!

4. Explore Nearby Attractions

exploring the wanaka lavender farm
Wanaka Lavender Farm

Head over to Cardrona and see the famous fence of bras, explore the bustling town of Queenstown on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, head into Mount Aspiring National Park and check out the world-famous natural Blue Pools, or even explore the gorgeous lavender farm on the edge of town that has a gift shop and farm animals.

The possibilities really are endless and you could spend several days exploring all of the attractions near Wanaka!

Where to Stay in Wanaka

ramada in wanka
Photo Credit: Ramada Wanaka

Whether you want to check out the Wanaka Tree for yourself or explore the other things to do around town, you’re gonna need somewhere to sleep!

I’ve visited Wanaka and stayed there countless times so I know where the best places to stay really are. Here are my recommendations suited for every budget:

Wanaka Backpackers Bothy (Low Budget)

Wanaka Backpackers Bothy offers dorm-style rooms that are perfect for budget travelers or backpackers, they offer clean and comfortable stays, and beds start at $32 NZD. It’s located right in the center of Wanaka, right across from Wanaka Lake. You can also book it on Hostelworld.

Manuka Crescent Motel (Mid-range Budget)

Manuka Crescent Motel offers beautiful rooms and apartments, lots of parking (ideal if you’re traveling in a car or motorhome), and a quiet scenic location. While it is a couple of minutes from the town center, it is very peaceful and still within walking distance. The prices start from $150 NZD a night for a studio room.

Ramada Resort by Wyndham

The Ramada Resort in Wanaka is gorgeous! The ground and outdoor pools are beautiful and the perfect place to relax. They have a bar and cafe as well as a fitness center, BBQ area, and self-serve laundry facilities. It is also located just around the corner for The Wanaka Tree!

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online with Discover Cars in advance to compare car models and prices. We’ve used this website all over the world and if you want more details, read our honest review of Discover Cars for more details!

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! What a good deal!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Thanks for reading!

selfie on motuara island, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
We had the best day!

Thanks so much for checking out our blog on the Wanaka Tree. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to leave them below in the comments section.

Also if you found this blog helpful be sure to check out all our New Zealand guides on our New Zealand page or check out these related articles below!

Cheap campervan rental in New Zealand

Where to stay in Queenstown

Things to do in Mount Cook National Park

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wanaka tree pin

Tim Lennon

Saturday 7th of October 2023

What's funny is this is not the only tree in the water. Walk another 500m and there are 2 more. If I was able to attach a picture I could show you. It is not like social media to make something seem bigger than it actually is!!


Sunday 8th of October 2023

Hey Tim,

Thank you! Glad you found a new and unique spot - keep exploring.

Thanks Daniel


Wednesday 9th of August 2023

You realise the tree is no longer there, it was cut down in 2021. So this whole blog post is bullshit.


Wednesday 9th of August 2023

Hey Ed,

That is simply not true. In fact, I was there the other day. Part of the tree was cut down yes but only one branch. That means that the only one full of shit is you Ed.

Thanks Daniel

Peter T

Tuesday 10th of November 2020

Microsoft Windows had the Wanaka Tree as a screen saver and a link to its many photos. I've searched for the Tree, found your page among the first ten and clicked on it, and it was just what I wanted. Thank you.