Living in Lake Hawea

September 21, 2017

Has you might know, we have been staying in Lake Hawea for the past four months. Down here is a good summary of our stay highlights from day one. I know I am late to give news, but hope you will enjoy reading it!

After a three weeks stop in Christchurch, we headed straight to Lake Hawea.
The six hours drive to get there is as pleasant as can be, the scenery is delightful and there is just enough country towns on the way to keep you entertained.

We arrived in Lake Hawea at night, and it was pitch black. We settled down then and in the morning we had the most wonderful surprise: a stunning view on the Lake from our sleep out.

That same day we proceeded to take the short trail that surrounds the lake from our place to the lake’s dam. It is a really nice walk and we got to experience walking on the stone beach along the pure blue lake water. On our way back we passed through the only convenience store/ super market there is in the township and visited the only hotel. Therefore, we do all our shopping 20 minutes away in Wanaka, “biggest” town around, with Queenstown being the next city an hour drive away.

In the first place, we came to Lake Hawea to be close to Treble Cone, a ski resort where we bought season passes when we where still in Australia. But it took a while, a month, for the season to start so we were left to explore the other entertainment option around.

There is loads of walks and hiking trails close to our place, but the most popular ones are in Wanaka. We did a list of the ones we wanted to do and, four months later, and we still haven’t completed all of these. Surely enough, we added some more during that time, but still we could have done better. We did, Mt. Iron first which is an easy hike on the way to Wanaka, it is also a place where a lot of locals go for their daily run or walk their dogs. It consists of a 45 minutes return loop with a small elevation and it has a nice enough view. It is really popular with tourists and is always packed.

Next we did the hour walk from our place on Te Araroa Trail to Scott Beach, not challenging at all but so worth it if only for the view. One kilometre after Scott Beach, on Gladstone road, begins the trail to Pakituhi Hutt, where you can do the first quarter to the first summit, get enough for your money and have a stunning look at the whole lake. If you feel like it you can walk the next hour or two to the hut and enjoy a night of camping under the stars, but that’s a story for another day.

Lake Hawea View from Dingle Road Trail

During that month, we also tried several times to find hospitality work in the many restaurants and bars in Wanaka and Hawea but with no success. Every place was fully staffed! That was something we didn’t expect, as the high season wasn’t due for another month and a half with the school holidays and the ski resorts opening. Considering we do Helpx for accommodation, we don’t have to pay rent which allows us more flexibility with when and how long to work for. We didn’t find work until two months after our arrival, and the situation was getting a wee bit more urgent. Wyliam ended up on a three week contract to test snow blowers and I did some cleaning for two months. He stills do some jobs for a recruiting agency, and like the physical challenge some of them offer, on the other hand I use the time off to keep on top of our Helpx house cleanings, babysit our two lovely monsters and do our meals. Oh, and launch this blog!

At the end of June, Treble Cone, aka TC, finally opened and we went straight there to try the slopes. The terrain is quite varied with many steep options and some not so for the beginners. It was a pleasure to ski there, especially when we got to hike from the top of the Saddle chairlift to the summit, it is a 10 minute hike and then you can admire the view of the surrounding mountains and rivers, and go down on fresh powder if you are early enough or if there is not too many people. But anyway there is NEVER too many people! Over the season, only once did we feel like home when it was so packed we where told they were at full capacity… that’s a new one though, full capacity for an outdoor ski mountain! Turns out their parking was full and they couldn’t cope with all the cars going to the top. We still went up and found a spot because people left during the day. Thank God, considering we drove 40 minutes to get to TC’s gate only. Overall, the season pass might be a bit too pricey, but if you plan to ski everyday or at least a couple times a week, you’ll find it’s worth it. The snow conditions vary a lot, but that is to be expected in New Zealand with a weather that can go from hot to windy and cold in an instant. The season is also pretty short, lasting from end of June to the first of October, with no possibility to be extended for financial reasons. Considering, the mountain hires loads of staff and there never seems to be anyone, I came to understand that mountain might not be really profitable.

(Click on the pictures to zoom and get some details!!)

During the ski season, when we were not working or skiing, we got the chance to do Diamond Lake trail and climb to Rocky Mountain with the kids we babysit through the help exchange. It was really pleasant considering the terrain is quite varied, even if at some point it is pretty steep you don’t feel it because you are too busy trying to avoid the cascading water in the trail.

Rocky Mountain Trail Wanaka

We also went to Queenstown twice while we staying in Hawea. The fun drive through the Crown Range is full of hairpin bends and have a terrific view over the Kawarau River, Remarkables and Gibbston Valley. However, we drove once when the summit road was covered in grit and I almost had an heart attack when we drifted on them. However, this road being the highest sealed one in New Zealand, it is a must to see all the wonderful vistas and experience this windy route. Not for the faint of heart when it is wet or cold though!

Wanaka to Queenstown Crown Range View

We were in Queenstown for the light festival and the winter festival, and quite enjoyed both festivities. On the latest, we even went to a hockey game at Queenstown Ice Arena and enjoyed watching the local team playing. After that we went to Fergburger, which are the best burger we ate in our whole travel journey so far. They bake their own buns and they are not scared to pack your burger with fresh products. Ok, it is not easily eaten but sooooo delicious!

Fergburger and fries

That resume our stay in Hawea pretty well, but if you some lines pricked your curiosity or think I should do another post on a specific point don’t be shy to ask questions ! I will soon do a list of the best hiking sites around with all the MUST do. Thanks for my two hiking enthusiasm friends who did all of Wanaka and surroundings good one, I have a pretty good idea of which one are not to be missed.

Hope you enjoyed reading this bit of our journey, I sure liked sharing it!

Let me know what you think 🙂

À plus,


By Lea Tess

Right after graduating from a Arts & Science Bachelor in 2015, I took the first plane to China with my partner. Since then, we have visited many countries, lived in Australia and, currently, in New Zealand. I am passionate about food and making memories!

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