It goes by many names, That Wanaka Tree, the Wanaka Willow, or the lone tree of Lake Wanaka. Whatever you call it, That Wanaka Tree is perhaps one of the most iconic and famous trees in the world. It most certainly is one of the most photographed trees in New Zealand.
This semi-submerged tree, surrounded by snowcapped mountains and natural beauty, is, without a doubt, one of the most photogenic trees in the world. The tree is so popular on Instagram, that it’s also just referred to by its hashtag, #ThatWānakaTree.
And if you’re going to see the Wanaka Tree, why not spend a night or two in this beautiful alpine town?
How To Get To That Wanaka Tree?
The Wanaka Willow is located at the southern end of Lake Wanaka in the Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. Wanaka, in my opinion, is one of the most scenic and beautiful towns on the South Island. The town is about an hour’s drive from Queenstown and makes for a great escape from the relatively crowded shores of Lake Wakatipu.
When I first walked onto the shores of Lake Wanaka, the lone tree was nowhere to be seen. Lake Wanaka is really big and it’s difficult to spot the tree if you’re standing opposite the shops and restaurants on Ardmore Street, next to Pembroke Park.
To get to the tree, drive your car to the end of Lake Wanaka on Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road and park it close to the Wanaka Watersports Facility. Or you can walk along the lake on the Lake Wanaka Hike/Bike Track.
It’s hard to miss the lone tree in Wanaka as there are always tourists taking pictures of it.
Here’s the rough Google Maps location to get to That Wanaka Tree.
Brief History of That Wanaka Tree
The tree started as a fence post back in 1939 and it evolve from a “hacked off branch from nearby willows” to a symbol of determination.
But it was Christchurch photographer Dennis Radermacher who took a photo of the lone tree on a misty June day that won the 2014 New Zealand Geographic Photograph of the Year. That photo brought the tree into the public’s eye. And since then, with the advent of social media, it has only gained more popularity and followers (so to speak). Google Maps even lists the spot’s name with the hashtag in it!
Is This The Loneliest Tree In The World?
Sadly, The Lone Tree of Lake Wanaka isn’t all that lonely. The loneliest and most isolated tree in the world was at one time the Ténéré Tree – a solitary acacia tree, once located in the middle of the Sahara Desert in central Niger. The tree was so isolated, that the closest tree was almost 400 km away! Its roots ran 12 metres (40 feet) deep and the tree served as a landmark for caravans.
However, this is the unfortunate part, in 1973 the Ténéré Tree was run down by a truck. A Libyan driver smashed the tree’s trunk as he drove straight into it. How? He was probably drunk. Seriously, there was no obstacle in his way for miles!
That Wanaka Tree Vandalized in 2020
Unfortunately, all this fame for the lone tree has come at a price.
In March 2020, That Wanaka Tree was vandalised by an unknown individual who sawed off the famous lower branch that hangs horizontally over the water. A rather senseless and meaningless attack has forever changed the look of the tree. But regardless, the tree will continue to remain a symbol of hope.
Things to do in Wanaka
Most tourists visit Wanaka for the day from Queenstown. We, however, spent a night at Wanaka on our way to Queenstown from Franz Josef Glacier. And I’m glad we had a chance to explore what became one of my favourite towns on the South Island!
As I mentioned, the surroundings are more beautiful than the lone willow tree. Lake Wanaka sits at the foot of Mount Aspiring National Park, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage – Te Wahipounamu. Wanaka is a true alpine town and is the gateway to the national park, which offers incredible outdoor activities!
There are over 750 km of hiking and biking tracks and trails to explore in the neighbouring region. The most popular trails are Roys Peak Track, which is an incredible day hike, and the Blue Pools Track, which is an easy walk to a glacial blue stream and pools.
You can discover more popular walks on the official Lake Wanaka website.
There are plenty more things to do for adventure seekers. You can go skydiving, canyoning, or climbing. The crystal-clear water of the lakes and rivers is perfect for kayaking, fishing, lake cruises and jet-boating.Book online with Skydive Wanaka
I know it might sound touristy, but the Puzzling World in Wanaka is one of the most fun and exciting places to visit especially if you have a family.Book Discounted Tickets for the Puzzling World
Or you can also take a scenic flight to get an aerial perspective.Go On A Trial Plane Flight Experience in Wanaka
And in winter, Wanaka is a vibrant centre for skiers and snowboarders with four ski areas nearby.
Accommodation at Wanaka
If you’re like us and enjoy the vibe of a small town, with fewer crowds, we highly recommend spending a night at Wanaka to soak in its natural scenic beauty.
Here are a few hotels and holiday home accommodation options in Wanaka.
We stayed at the Te Wanaka Lodge and loved our experience. We were delighted not only by its location but also by its hospitality!
We hope this post gave you an idea about Wanaka and got you to stay in this beautiful town and not come here to visit it for the lone tree in Lake Wanaka.