Located in the South Island of New Zealand in the Otago region, Lake Wanaka sits in a Glacial basin. Wanaka township is on the southern shore of the lake 32km from Mt Aspiring and Mt Aspiring National Park.
The Cardrona Valley runs south of the lake and offers a route to Queenstown.
Lake Wanaka is 43 km long and 10km wide, surrounded by mountains up to 2000m at its north end to more gentle terrain at the southern end.
It has many bays and coves: Glendhu, Dublin and Roys where Wanaka township is located. It has a number of Islands with the three largest being Stevenson’s, Mou Tapu and Mou Waho.
Along with numerous streams, the lake has two major rivers flowing into it: Matukituki and Makarora.
The out flow of the lake is the Clutha River, the second longest river in New Zealand running 338 km into the Pacific ocean.
Both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea were created by advances of great glacial systems which extended down from the alps to fill the valley and carve out the valley floor.
The ice flows of Lake Wanaka and Hawea were connected through the pass now called the neck, which the main road to the west coast now runs through.
Wanaka township sits on a glacial moraine formed approximately 10,000 years ago when the glacier retreated back up the valley.
The name Wanaka is derived from Oanaka which means “place of Anaka”. Anaka was the name of a Moari chief.
The first European to reach the lake was Nathaniel Chalmers in 1853
who walked to the lake via Tutura and the Kawarua River. He then floated his raft down the Clutha.
By 1861 several sheep stations were established on the shores of the lake and in 1862 the lake was surveyed in a whaleboat.
Wanaka township was originally known as Pembroke by the early Europeans.
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