This Wanaka track is not for the faint-hearted, covering 16km of exposed terrain, but the views are spectacular
Words and photography Natalie Cyra
When it comes to stunning scenery, we are spoilt for choice in New Zealand. Central Otago boasts some of our most incredible sights, and looking back on the sunny afternoon that had me standing at the summit of Roy’s Peak, Wanaka, I certainly remember it being breathtaking. Besides being awestruck by the picturesque landscape before me, I’d just worked up a pretty mean sweat to get there. But reaching Roy’s Peak – 1578m above sea level – reminded me of three things: how blessed we are in this part of the world, that good things take time, and that hard work pays off.
The Wanaka region is a magical and thriving place, well-known for its ski slopes, great wine and friendly locals. While there are many walking trails on offer, Roy’s Peak is particularly popular, providing 360-degree panoramic views of Lake Wanaka, the surrounding Southern Alps and Mount Aspiring/Tititea. The peak is named after outlaw-turned-hero Rob Roy MacGregor, who was known as a kind of Scottish Robin Hood. He explored the area and began farming in the Matukituki Valley in the 1870s. Consistently steep, this is a demanding walk, but one that will reward you with its spectacular views.
While recommended for those with moderate to high fitness levels, anyone can walk the trail – you’ll just have to allow yourself more time to complete the 16km return track. You don’t have to walk the whole distance to claim an Instagram-worthy snap either, as there are incredible and historic view points from early on, such as the grave site of Wallis Alan Scaife, who owned the nearby Glendhu Station for 50 years, which you can get to approximately 25 minutes after starting your ascent. If you’re looking to go the distance, DOC recommends sparing around five to six hours to complete the walk, which starts at the Roy’s Peak carpark, 6km from the Wanaka township on the Mt Aspiring Road. In the summertime the carpark is usually full, so you may want to consider cycling there or at least car pooling.
The track consists of two main sections, the first crosses through paddocks while the second starts to take you higher and features gravel and dirt tracks among alpine tussock – which can be slippery if it has rained. Make sure you have tramping shoes or trainers with good grip. The track crosses private land with livestock, so stick to the trail and treat the area with respect.
Another thing to be mindful of is the climate: come equipped for all weather as the area is known for its rapidly changing conditions, which can see sunshine one moment and thunderstorms the next. Both heatstroke and hypothermia are real risks during the warmer months, with the track being predominantly exposed. Pack plenty of water and warm, windproof clothing. And don’t forget a camera – it’s views like this that you’ll want to capture and frame forever.