Tucked away inside Lake Wanaka you will be able to find this small, famous island called Mou Waho Island.

Mou Waho is located deep in Lake Wānaka and can’t be seen from town and can only be accessed by water taxi or private boat!

On the island, there’s a hiking trail that takes you to the Mou Waho Lookout Point where you’ll have an awesome view overlooking a small lake on the island – so it’s a lake on an island in a lake on an island!

Going to Mou Waho is one of the coolest tours you can do near Wānaka and we definitely recommend it if you have the time while you’re here!

Most people hike up Roys Peak but if you go here, you can say you’ve been to one of the most remote places in the area! 😉

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Everything you need to know about Mou Waho Island

Quick breakdown of the experience:

  • ⏰ Time: 3 to 3.5 hours
  • 💸 Cost: $119 to $139 NZD
  • 🎟️ Book: GetYourGuide or Tinggly
  • ⭐️ Reviews: 4.9 out of 5 (+100 reviews)

In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about visiting Mou Waho Island from how we booked the water taxi to sharing some of our favourite pictures from the hike we did on the island and the viewpoint.

As we mentioned, there are only two ways to access the island: By water taxi or by private boat. There is no public transportation or ferry service that can take you there.

We recommend booking the water taxi at least a few days in advance to make sure you get a spot – especially if you go during peak summer (December through February).

During peak season, both locals and internationals will be travelling around Wanaka and the rest of Otago so you can imagine how busy it can get.

There are two types of tours you can go on when visiting Mou Waho Island:

  1. Water taxi and a guided bush walk
  2. Water taxi and exploring the island on your own (this was the tour we did)

Logistically, the two tours are more or less the same – the main difference is whether or not a guide is walking with you on the island.

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Make your way to the Wānaka Marina 

The tour starts off with the water taxi from the Wanaka Marina which is located right downtown. 

If you drive to the marina make sure to park your vehicle either downtown by the lakefront or at one of the paid parking spots on the road as there is no parking at the marina.

The marina is only for employees and for those who are dropping off their boats.

We actually almost missed our tour because we didn’t know that. We parked at the marina not knowing you aren’t allowed to and thankfully we didn’t get a parking ticket! 

That’s just a small piece of advice before hopping on the boat.

Cruise along Lake Wanaka 

This is a very different experience than sailing on the iconic TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown as you’re on a smaller motorized boat that will take you from Wānaka to Mou Waho.

Even though the tour description says “water taxi” (which it is), the boat tour is still a part of the experience.

As you take in the beautiful views of Lake Wānaka from the boat, you’ll also get some information about the area from the local skipper.

Our skipper shared some stories of what it was like in Wanaka in the early days, how people used to party illegally on some of the islands in the lake back in the 1900s, and then she also shared what kind of wildlife we could expect to (hopefully) see on Mou Waho.

You might get lucky and even hear a Māori story or two about them living in this area many years ago.

So even though it was just a “taxi ride” to the island it was still quite an interesting and fascinating part of the trip.

We always enjoy learning about the history of the area we’re visiting. Even though all the information might not stick it’s still fun to hear some stories and facts from locals you maybe wouldn’t otherwise – so we really enjoyed that aspect of the boat ride too.

Before you know it, you’ll be next to Mou Waho and ready to explore this little island inside Lake Wānaka.

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Explore Mou Waho Island

The main attraction on Mou Waho is the 2.6 km return walk to the lookout point where you’ll find a beautiful lake at the top of the island.

It’s a relatively short and not too steep hike (although it does have some incline) that takes you up to the top of the island where you’ll find this small, beautiful lake known as Arethusa Pool.

You’re more than welcome to swim in it if you want but it was pretty chilly when we went so we decided to just enjoy the view instead! 

We also hiked a bit further to the top of the lookout point where there is an awesome view overlooking Arethusa Pool, Mou Waho Island, as well as Lake Wānaka.

The view from the top of Mou Waho Island where you can see both lakes

The contrast between the two lakes was super cool!

You’ll also be able to see both Roy’s Peak and Isthmus Peak in the distance. Truly one of the most amazing views you could ask for!

It’s up to you if you decide to go for a swim, if you want to hike a bit further up, or if you just want to take in the view from the small lake.

It all depends on how much time you have after completing the hike to the viewpoint and Arethusa Pool.

Alternatively, you can head back down a bit sooner and then explore the little beach area near the start of the trail (opposite of where the boat dropped you off) where you might see some Weka birds roaming around.

A Buff Weka on Mou Waho Island
We spotted a Buff Weka right after we arrived

The birds are quite cute and fun to photograph so you can do that if you have a bit of extra time (just make sure to keep a respectful distance and never feed the birds).

After about 1.5 hours, the water taxi will be back to pick you up and it’ll be time to go back to Wanaka. 

Ride back to Wanaka

The ride back to Wanaka is going to be a bit quicker and hopefully less choppy than the ride out to the island.

We got quite lucky and had a nice calm day. But we heard from the skipper that the water can get quite choppy at times depending on how the winds are flowing over the mountains.

It’s just something to prepare for if you do by chance get seasick quite easily (Dom does).

The cruise back is really nice though and you get to see all the mountains in the area from a new perspective.

If you’ve been doing some hikes in the area, try to see if you can spot a few of the trails or peaks that you’ve done.

We managed to spot both Isthmus Peak, Roy’s Peak and Mount Iron Peak which was quite fun since we’ve hiked all three of them at least once.

This is one of our favourite areas in New Zealand and the scenery and landscape here is absolutely stunning!

Booking the Mou Waho Island Tour

Having lunch by Arethusa Pool (Mou Waho Lake)

As we mentioned at the beginning of the post, the best thing you can do is book the Mou Waho tour in advance if you already know when you’ll be in Wanaka.

Especially during the peak season, it does get quite busy as there are limited spots (and the tour is also slightly weather-dependent).

During the summer months, Wanaka is one of the most popular towns on the South Island yet Mou Waho is still a bit of a hidden gem. It’s a good way to get away from the larger crowds!

Even though the tour is easy to book online, most people still only go to the Wanaka Tree, hike Roys Peak and Mount Iron Track, and visit a few of the other touristy spots.

That’s why we recommend making your way to Mou Waho Island and seeing something not everyone sees while visiting Wanaka.

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When is the best time to visit Mou Waho Island?

Like most outdoor adventures near Wanaka, it’s best to go on a nice warm sunny day.

Of course, if you book the tour in advance you can’t really predict the weather but during the summer months, the weather is usually quite nice in Wanaka.

Hopefully, the water won’t be too choppy and you’ll enjoy a nice beautiful afternoon out on the lake and you’ll get to enjoy this beautiful island on Lake Wānaka. 

What to bring on the Mou Waho Island tour? 

This isn’t a full-day tour so you don’t need to pack too much – just the necessities. And rather than bringing a ton of food, we suggest you pop into one of the cafes in Wanaka before or after the trip.

It’s still good to come prepared though as you could be expecting a change in temperature from the boat trip out on the water to the uphill hike on the island.

The trail for the hike is quite good and maintained so trail shoes should do for your footwear – and as for clothing, just something that you feel good in that protects you from the sun (the sun in NZ is harsh!).

And then, of course, pack a bathing suit if you want to go for a nice swim in Arethusa Pool, the lake on Mou Waho Island!

Packing list for Mou Waho

  • Water! We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before hikes and day trips.
  • Sunscreen!! There’s been multiple occasions while we’ve been hiking in New Zealand or doing something outdoorsy and the UV index has shown between 8 and 10!
  • We usually recommend hiking poles for the hikes we do. We didn’t bring ours on this one although there is a bit of elevation. The hike is 2.6 km return so it’s up to you if you want to bring them.
  • A power bank is good to bring especially if you plan to take lots of pictures and videos and you want your devices to stay charged throughout the trip. You’ll be gone for about 3.5 hours total.
  • Definitely bring some snacks or lunch to enjoy at the Mou Waho Lookout Point. Otherwise, there are some yummy cafes in Wanaka you can check out when you’re back.
  • Any extra clothes in case it gets a little chilly on the boat or on the island while you’re hiking.
  • A hat or cap to protect you from the sun as well as sunglasses is also a good idea.
  • If there’s any rain in the forecast, consider bringing a rain jacket.

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Recap of the Mou Waho Island Tour on Lake Wanaka

There are tons of awesome things to do in Wanaka including some amazing hikes and outdoor activities.

When you can combine two of those together and visit a more untouched area – you know where to find us!

Taking a little water taxi from Wānaka Marina to Mou Waho Island right on the lake was such an awesome afternoon trip and we really enjoyed it.

Even though we used to live close by when we lived in New Zealand (we lived in Milford Sound) we didn’t know about this place, so it was cool to visit when we went back to New Zealand earlier this year!

If you have questions about the Mou Waho Island tour, hiking in New Zealand, or anything else related to visiting this amazing country then please reach out to us!

You can leave a comment below or send us a DM on Instagram.

We love sharing our experiences in New Zealand and answering any questions you have.

We hope you have the best time exploring Wanaka and get a chance to explore this beautiful little island!

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