Lake stroll demands slow pace

On the one hand, housing development near the Wanaka lakeshore may seem exclusive. On the other, it’s opened up areas that used to be blocked to the public, writes Clare Fraser.

Now we can walk for hours around Roy’s Bay on tracks so good they’re semi-footpath in places. A departing glacier left a calling card of gravel, sand and silt, making for solid, drained walking year round.

From town, a lakeside track heads to The Outlet. Soon after the beautiful new boardwalk you hit Stoney Cove, at the bottom of Winders St. It’s only 15 minutes from town but is secret and sheltered from the prevailing winds that tousle the township.

In five minutes there’s Eely Point, known for jetboating and swimming. But the walking version takes you around the headland for a view uplake of today’s adventure.

The Lake Wanaka shoreline
The Lake Wanaka shoreline
The eventual destination is The Outlet, where the lake drains out its plughole and becomes instant river. The Clutha / Mata-Au starts its 338km journey to Balclutha then hits the coast and feeds the sea. For early Maori it made a perfect beeline between inland and the coast.

Signage says it takes two hours to walk to The Outlet but that would be depriving oneself of visually pigging out on the giant chocolate box photos. Every step there’s a slightly different take on the heavenliness. The track’s mostly flat, so is popular for cycling but going by foot almost compels slow walking, insisted upon by nature’s beauty.

Back in town, heading out west, the track has a different flavour, up and down over rocky shoreline past lakeside wilderness reminiscent of Wanaka of old. In the olden days numerous kainga mahinga kai (food gathering places) and kainga nohoanga (settlements) were dotted around the lake.

The west side, with views back to town.
The west side, with views back to town.
“Wanaka” refers to the perpetuation of knowledge. Think “wananga” as it’s used today for educational institutions, but this time in our local dialect with the k. Historically, there was a school of learning and it’s this whare kura that the name refers to.

Until the early 1990s this section of the route was raw lakeside but now is a fully formed part of the Te Araroa Trail, so in theory ends at Bluff. It passes comforting pockets of native plants eco-sourced from elsewhere around the lakeshore.

A decent destination for a day walk is Damper Bay, its shallowness and sandy bottom making it one of the best swimming spots on the whole track. From the track above the bay you look down through clear water metres and metres to the bottom, so deep and alive it almost has a voice. It would be a bass.


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