After a wonderful morning trip to Mou Waho island, we were hungry and ready to get some lunch. We drove around on Ardmore St, looking at a range of cuisines and food options. We finally picked Thai Siam, as we were craving some Thai curry. It was a weekday noon, and the place was almost empty. We couldn’t complaint, as we pretty much had the whole place (and the waiter/server) to ourselves! We ordered some rice and red curry. The portions were generous, and the food was good. I would definitely recommend Thai Siam for Asian/Thai food in Wanaka.
Next, we went to the shopping area on Ardmore St, looking for things which we could take home as souvenirs. Some of the most common things we noticed at most stores included merino wool clothing (expensive!), soap made out of sheep oil, fridge magnets, high end apparel, maori masks and small pieces of various local monuments/attractions/animals which you can keep in your showcase. We decided to buy something completely different, a wall clock, with a Wanaka painting as its background. We also found sheep oil soap interesting and bought a few.
All done with the souvenir shopping, we noticed a Patagonia Chocolates store as we were walking towards our car. This a a famous dessert store which is listed as a must-go in Queenstown, and we had planned to visit it in Queenstown. But since it is desserts that we are talking about, we could not wait till Queenstown and decided to drop in anyway. The store was not very crowded (Queenstown store is always packed). We found a table to sit down and ate a chocolate mousse cake. It was our best cake in NZ! I highly recommend a visit to Patagonia Chocolates if you are in Wanaka. The Wanaka store offers the same desserts but with a lot less crowd than the store in Queenstown.
(Red Curry at Thai Siam, Wanaka)
(Chocolate Mousse Cake at Patagonia Chocolates, Wanaka)
We finished up in a few minutes and decided to head out on a drive. We did not have any agenda. We just wanted to go someplace offbeat and relax for the rest of the day. After all, we had done quite a lot of sight-seeing, walking, driving, and touristy stuff in the past few days. When we went to the Blue Pools the previous day, we had driven along Lake Hawea and had seen lots of trailers and groups of people heading downhill to the lake shore and relaxing by the lake. We wanted to do the same, and so we drove north on highway 6 towards Lake Hawea. On the way (somewhere near Albert Town), we came across a lookout point with the blueish-green Clutha river, twisting and winding its way through the Otago plains. It was a fantastic photo opportunity.
(The Clutha River, seen en route to Lake Hawea)
Driving on for a few more minutes, we reached a fork intersection, and took the exit for Lake Hawea. There was a dam nearby. After taking the exit, we drove onto a hilly winding road. This winding road then changed into a residential neighborhood with houses along the lake. It was a quiet residential area and we were almost lost trying to find a road that would take us to the shore. Even the GPS was not very helpful, and we were reliant on street signs. After a few minutes, we found a sign which pointed us to the lake shore. It was a long pebbled shore, with mostly local residents relaxing by the lake.
(the start of Lake Hawea near the exit on highway 6)
We walked along the shore, in the warm sunny weather (we were lucky weather wise for most of our stay on the South Island). The blue colour of Hawea was just incredible, with mountains in the backdrop. Almost every nook and corner of South Island has beautiful landscapes and vistas; Lake Hawea was no exception. Normally the lake water is quite cold, but that day it was different. The water was warm enough to go for a dip. We had not pre-planned a visit to this lake and hence, did not have a pair of changeover clothes. But the water was so inviting, that we went in anyways! These impromptu drives and outings are what really make a trip memorable. We spent about 2 peaceful hours by the lake, and it was one of the highlights of our South Island trip.
(beautiful blue colour of Lake Hawea)
(the water was very clean and clear)
(hills surrounding Lake Hawea add to the amazing landscape)
(locals with their dogs relaxing by the lake)
(the clouds complete the awesome view)
Next, we drove back towards our B&B, as our lovely host had booked us a dinner table at Francesca’s Italian Kitchen, one of the most highly rated dining places in Wanaka. But before we headed there, we still had some time to make a quick visit to Glendhu Bay. I had read about Glendhu Bay while researching nature walks around Wanaka. There is a track which takes about 4 hours to walk, and apparently there is also a biking track which passes by the Rippon Vineyard. We unfortunately did not have time to do all (or any) of this. So, we instead took some pictures by the lakeside, near the start of the walking/biking trails. We got some really amazing pictures!
(sunshine at Glendhu Bay)
(ripples in the Lake Wanaka waters)
(near the start of Glendhu Bay trail)
(lovely mountain scenery at Glendhu Bay)
Before we knew it, it was almost time for dinner at Francesca’s. This place is known for its authentic Italian fare. At 7pm, when we reached, the place was packed. It did not have a single open table for the 2 hours that we were there for. People just kept coming and going. This just goes to show you how popular the place is, and I highly suggest that you make a reservation in advance if you plan to visit Francesca’s Italian Kitchen.
We started off our dinner with some starters, garlic flat bread and Arancini rice balls. Next we went for the classic Italian margharita pizza and some gnocchi. My B&B host had recommended the gnocchi to us. We did not have any problems finding vegetarian food, though the options were limited. While the pizza was not that great, the gnocchi was amazing. It literally melted the moment I put it in my mouth. We rounded off the meal with a canoli, an Italian dessert which I had not eaten in a very long time. All in all, Francesca’s offers a decent Italian meal (except the pizza, for which there must be better places in Wanaka). However, their service was not very good. For a few times, we literally had to wave our arms for the waiter to notice us. I suppose that could be because they are so busy and packed all the time, but it is something that they could definitely improve on.
(Garlic Flat Bread)
(Arancini Rice Balls)
(Potato Gnocchi with peas and basil)
Thus, our stay at Wanaka came to an end. We were off to Queenstown early next morning. We were really glad that we included Wanaka in our itinerary, as we had initially omitted it. Wanaka turned out to be a good base for going on nature related activities (like walks, hikes, boat rides, Blue Pools, etc). It also gave us plenty of food, sightseeing, accommodation and shopping options. We were now looking forward to visiting the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown!