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Fashionistas will want to jot this one down in your travel plans: New Zealand has an epic shopping destination all our own, and it’s nestled among turquoise blue glacial lakes and surrounded by the snowy Southern Alps.
Wānaka hosts a hub of showcase stores from homegrown world-class designers, and it comes at fashion from a few different angles. It’s been the launching pad for outdoor brands developed by entrepreneurial powder hounds on white-out days, like world-renowned Mons Royale. It’s attracted hardy and high-class fashion borne out of Central Otago station workwear. And it’s welcomed an influx of luxury high-fashion stores seeking a refined respite from its more raucous and rambling neighbour Queenstown. These days, Wānaka is home to a dense, rich fashion scene, with destination boutiques to keep even the most dedicated shoppers going all holiday long.
To start, wander into Devál Boutique. This Otago fashion store specialises in personal styling, with a tailor that can suss you out with hand-selected items from local and international designers including, naturally, Christchurch-born label Devál as well as the likes of Camilla and Marc, Anine Bing, Gucci, Harris Tapper, Philippe Model Paris, and Mother Denim. Next in line is 47Frocks – home base for New Zealand designers in Wānaka since 2010. Here you’ll find seasonal threads from Kiwi designers who’ve made it big, like Karen Walker, NOM*D and Juliette Hogan, and it’s a great place to discover new local designers. As well as clothing, 47Frocks stocks goodies like Yu Mei handbags and Sans[ceuticals] beauty products.
Up the road, PERRIAM stocks womanswear and baby clothes from Christina Perriam, developed on high-country merino farm Bendigo Station. For street style, Soul Clothing was bought by Wānaka local Sally Gordon in 2011, and stocks some of the coolest threads from New Zealand and abroad, and Base Streetwear is your go-to for favourite super-local Mons Royale and Auckland-based Huffer. And Christchurch’s own Untouched World also has a boutique in central Wānaka.
For accessories, you can’t skip Common People’s flagship store. It’s a Wānaka-based brand with a design studio on site, making sustainable and ultra-modern leather bags. And for something really special, pop into Wilson & Dorset where you’ll find luxury sheepskin bean bags, rugs and cushions.
Brunch or lunch at Relishes Café and Big Fig; fill an afternoon with a wine tasting at Rippon Vineyard or a local brew from Wanaka Beerworks; stop by the legendary Cardrona Hotel for a meal and a drink; and dine in style at the likes of Francesca’s Italian Kitchen, Ode, and Wanaka Gourmet Kitchen.
Mt Gold Glamping has gorgeous geodesic dome tents with comfortable, warm interiors, and large windows through which you can take in the incredible Wānaka nightscape glowing above the lake.
Top stays: Mahu Whenua, Lime Tree Lodge, Cardrona Hotel, Edgewater, Release Wanaka.
Wānaka’s known for its gorgeous lake, but the Mata-Au Clutha River that runs from it is just as scenic. Hire bikes in town and head along the wide riverside Outlet Track, and on to the Luggate track if you’re feeling energetic.
In the Lord of the Rungs adventure with Wildwire Wanaka, you’ll climb steep rungs and traverse high-wire bridges (in harnesses) all in front of one of the area’s most beautiful waterfalls. You’ll have climbed so high by the end of the day that there’s no choice but to get a lift down in a helicopter.
Awesome activities: Bike Glendhu, Backcountry Saddle Expeditions, Skydive Wanaka, Wanaka Helicopters, National Transport & Toy Museum, Siberia Experience.
Get in for tickets now before they sell out. Wine and food festival Ripe is showing off the best of Central Otago cuisine on March 21, and just announced for September is Snowboxx New Zealand – a snow and music fest that’ll rock for a whole week.