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Upper Clutha River Valley


Based in the Upper Clutha Valley, we run our trips out of Wanaka, a town with a tourism and high country farming economy, on the shores of picturesque Lake Wanaka. We are 5 hours from Christchurch via the Inland Scenic Route over the Lindis Pass, and 1 hour from Queenstown over the Crown Range Highway (89). We are 40 minutes from Cromwell in Central Otago and 1 hour from Alexandra in the 'heart of the desert'.

Wanaka is the gateway to the Mt. Aspiring National Park, in the South-West New Zealand World Heritage Area, extending over 355,500 hectares of alpine and rainforest wilderness.


New Zealand's climate is as diverse as its landscape, with some remarkable extremes. It's easy to travel from one climate zone to another, and so it is wise to be prepared for wind, rain, sun, and changes in temperature.

Wanaka is between the alpine climate of the Southern Alps and the semi-desert climate of the Central Otago region. The Upper Clutha Valley extends eastward then south-eastward into Central Otago.

~ September:
The weather tends to be clear and cool, with late frosts and bright, sunny days. The snow on the tops is thawing.

~ October and November:
As the season warms up, cool mornings become mild or warm afternoons. Periods of sunny weather are mixed with changeable weather bringing wind and rain, and sometimes late snow on the tops, which soon melts. Precipitation is typically at night. Spring growth is everywhere and the landscape acquires a green flush. The sun is becoming strong.

~ December and early January:
The weather begins to settle with less wind and rain. The days are long and hot - temperatures can reach the mid to high 30's C. (90's F.) but average in the mid 20's C. (70's F.). The landscape begins to dry out.

~ Mid-January, February, and into March:
The days are often dry and sunny, with occasional night rain, or brief westerly fronts pushing showers over the alpine divide. Temperatures can climb higher in February. The hills take on a golden dryness.

~ April:
The weather can be a mix of beautiful, clear, mild days, or cooler fronts bringing early snow to the tops. The nights become cool. It can remain dry. The region's low humidity results in brilliant Autumn / Fall colours.

Sun / Insects

The sun is strong in New Zealand, especially between 11am and 2pm. If you come rafting, it is best to apply sunscreen before your trip because it will be more effective. And bring a hat, preferably one that you can secure.

Sandflies and mosquitoes prefer the wetter, coastal areas, and since we are on the edge of the Central Otago semi-desert, they are relatively rare here.

We Highly Recommend ~

Wanaka Eco Adventures

Chris Riley and Ken Seki are among Wanaka's most experienced specialists in guided hiking, lake cruising and fishing. They offer unique eco adventures to Mou Waho Island on Lake Wanaka.

Chris, or "Riles", is one of the most knowledgeable and friendly guides in New Zealand. His adventures have taken him to many parts of the world, often as a natural history documentary diver/photographer on extraordinary expeditions.

Chris and myself have rafted together a number of times on the Clutha Mata-Au, most notably in 1992 when we tackled a Grade 6 rapid nicknamed the 'Terminator' on a six-day rafting expedition from Lake Wanaka to the Pacific. Somehow, we survived!

Ken Seki, like Chris, also has extensive guiding experience and a vast knowledge of native flora and fauna.

Mou Waho Island is a sanctuary for native species, and Chris has embarked on a reforestation project, regularly planting native trees to further enhance this island gem, which has its own lake, Arethusa Pool, with its own little islands. Thus, you can say there is "an island on a lake, on an island on a lake, on an island."

New Zealand Map

Clutha Mata-Au River Map

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Lake Wanaka 9343, Otago, New Zealand