If you’re planning a trip to Wānaka, you’re no doubt familiar with the lakes, peaks, and fresh mountain air we’re known for. It is this environment that drives us, connects us, and encourages us to explore more. But we also have a responsibility to protect our environment, and we invite you to do the same — to travel sustainably, pay it forward, and leave it even better for the generations to come.

Whether you’re here for a day, a week, or a month, it doesn’t take much to reduce the impact of your stay. Ditching single-use cups, volunteering with a community organisation, or donating to a local cause are just a few easy ways to make your stay memorable for all the right reasons.

Read on for even more ways to explore Wānaka sustainably and make your next trip better for you, and the planet. 

Traveler sits with hot drink on side of scenic lake

(1) Slow down, stay longer

Slow travel is, in essence, just that. Travelling slowly, staying longer, and acting more mindfully. Instead of rushing from place to place, ‘slow travel’ invites you to take a breath, take a beat, and create a greater whanaukataka (sense of connection) to people and place.

Slow travel encourages you to ditch the checklist and shift your mindset. You might see less, but you’ll experience more by being immersed in the community and hitting the roads (or hikes) less travelled. And all that with a lower footprint than the fast-paced style of travel so many are used to.

Wānaka is the type of place where you can do everything, or nothing, but trust us when we say: the longer you stay put, the more authentic the connection.

Paddle boarder at dusk on Lake Wānaka

(2) Tread lightly

By staying longer in your destination, you’re also making the most of the air miles it’s taken to get you there.

And once you’ve reached your destination, what better way to connect with the land than by foot, bike, peddle, or paddle? Save yourself the petrol, enjoy a more immersive stay, and reduce your impact all at the same time. The Wānaka Tracks App is a great way to find the local walkways and day hikes, including those a little further off the grid (…or the ‘gram).

If you’re heading up the mountain, jump on a shuttle bus to save on fuel, be better to the environment, and maybe even meet a few ski pals for the day.

Mother and child in vegetable farm

(3) Support local

Make your money go further by spending it locally and shopping small. Choosing local businesses, artisans, growers and producers helps us move towards a more circular economy, and you can feel good knowing you’re supporting local jobs and industries. Keep an eye out for the Love Wānaka, Supporting Local stickers in shop windows, and ensure your travel dollars are going towards the suppliers and organisations doing good for our region. From craft breweries, to thrift shops, neighbourhood grocers, and the local art scene, Wānaka’s got you covered.

Want to tap into some local expertise to help plan your trip? Ask the experts at the Wānaka iSite. They have plenty of tips and tricks beyond what a quick internet search offers and can help you discover Wānaka’s more authentic side.

Reusable loan coffee cups.

(4) Go single-use-cup free

This one’s simple: rather than grabbing your morning cuppa in a single-use cup, try subbing in a reusable option.

Whether that means sitting to enjoy your coffee in one of our local cafes, bringing your own vessel, or opting for a reusable loan cup that so many of our local cafes offer, it’s never been easier to go SUCFree (single-use-cup free).

Wānaka is on a mission to be Aotearoa’s first SUCFree town, and we’re well on the way to getting there. So, get behind the movement and do your bit to minimise the impact of your next refreshment stop. All the insider tips, plus the lowdown of where to get your next SUCFree brew, can be found here

Woman speaks into a megaphone at planting event

(5) Lend a hand to a worthy cause

Nothing connects you to the land and the community quite like volunteering. Whether you’re joining a weekend workshop at Grow Wānaka or planting trees with Te Kākano, there’s little more satisfying than getting your hands dirty in the name of a good cause.

Love Wānaka shares weekly working bees, one-off volunteer opportunities, and grass-roots community events in a live volunteer calendar, so you can check out what’s on, when.

There’s no better way to get (and give) an authentic experience, see a different side of Wānaka, and explore a piece of this paradise not otherwise on offer.

Two women volunteering at a nursery

(6) Donate to a cause that counts

Show your love for this place with a commitment to protecting it for generations to come. No matter how big or small, your donations can make a real difference to the protection and regeneration of Wānaka’s stunning natural environment – making it a better place for the explorers of the future.

The beauty of Wānaka’s surroundings often shelters us from the fact that this is an environment under pressure. With over 90% of native plant species lost, 35 of our native fauna at risk of extinction, our glaciers receding, and our water-quality declining, we need to act now. We have a duty of care to ensure we take care of the lakes, rivers, mountains, and valleys that drew us here.

If each and every one of us does our bit, we’ve got a real opportunity to leave an impact we can be proud of.

Donate here or find out how else you can help.

Kids at wharf looking over lake and laughing
We’re grateful to be guardians of this beautiful place, and ask that you help us work towards protecting this special part of Te Waipounamu for generations to come.
Get sustainable travel tips, upcoming volunteer events, and opportunities to lend a hand direct to your inbox by signing up for the Love Wānaka Journal, and make your next trip better for you – and the planet.