Climbing Isthmus Peak in Wanaka

With a fair bit of time on my hands of late I’ve been reflecting on travel experiences I had late last year that I never (properly) wrote about. In October while travelling around New Zealand’s South Island with Wild Kiwi, Lilian and I decided on climbing Isthmus Peak, one of the best hikes in Wanaka.

The most instagrammed Peak in New Zealand has got to be Roys Peak. I’m yet to climb Mount Roy but it was closed due to lambing while we were in Queenstown. I definitely want to do it the next time I’m down south, but it turns out there are plenty of other, great Wanaka hikes which receive less in the way of publicity.

woman looking out at view climbing isthmus peak

Climbing Isthmus Peak means more than three hours heading up steep terrain through private farmland and then along a four wheel drive track which branches into a rocky path for the final trek to the summit.

We started the Isthmus Peak track from the carpark at 9:45am and it was several hours before we passed anyone coming back down which made us quite concerned it was a lot further than we thought. Mountainous walks like this one often obscure what is to come.

View of lake Hawea from climbing Isthmus Peak

Mountains kept appearing with altitude as you’re climbing Isthmus Peak and when you finally reach the top exhausted there are 360 degree views with Lake Hawea on one side and Lake Wanaka on the other.

Isthmus Peak Hike Wanaka lake view

It took another tough two hours to get back down to the carpark and my calves hurt for a week afterwards but it all felt worthwhile.

The Isthmus Peak hike is closed for foaling each year from November 20th – December 20th. There are no facilities so take several bottles of water per person and substantial snacks. You’ll be ok in running shoes but take several layers of clothing that you can strip off or pull on as the track is exposed and cold in places (if you’ve not been hiking in New Zealand before then read point 7 in this World Nomads post which I contributed to).

Expect the trek to take 5-6 hours, mountain biking is also an option but good luck with that!

Woman looking at view from halfway up Isthmus Peak

Photos with me in them taken by Lilian Pang.