Swim in Lake Wanaka


  • Don’t swim alone.
  • Be visible. Wear a bright swim cap and tow an inflatable swim buoy.
  • Use a kayak/SUP as escort, particularly if you aren’t close to shore.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
  • Don’t swim in a waterski lane or near commercial jetties.
  • Respect open water conditions. Water temperature, weather, wind, waves, and distance can all affect your ability during a swim.
  • Know your limits, and swim within your physical and your psychological boundaries.
  • Do not underestimate Lake Wanaka. The water is cold and distances can be hard to judge. Prevailing winds create a variety of sudden and challenging conditions (big waves, rough chop, poor visibility, etc).
  • Wear appropriate gear (a wetsuit, cap, gloves, booties if not acclimated to the cold). Stay where you can see the bottom until you are comfortable swimming in deep water.
  • Be mindful of other lake users. Be aware of boats and stay alert.


The most popular swimming spot in Lake Wanaka is in the western corner of Roy’s Bay. There is a 450m buoyline (red “witch’s hats” and round red buoys) running west to east. There is also a 1km course running south to north. Look for 3 large yellow buoys in line with Ruby Island. Please swim on the shoreside of the yellow buoys, especially if there are rowers present.

Boat traffic not explicitly restricted in these areas. Don’t assume you won’t encounter a boat here.



Motorised vessels (includes jet skis, jet boats, private and commercial). These vessels must not exceed 5 knots if they are within 200m of a swimmer or 200m of the shore. If towing a skier/boarder/biscuit, they are required to have a “spotter” on board. This is not always the case, so be aware of any motorised craft while you are swimming. December and January are extremely busy for boat traffic, but boats can be present anytime and anywhere.

Rowing boats. They go backwards, so they won’t always see you. Give them a friendly shout to make them aware of you. They usually row early mornings.

Kite surfers. They prefer the windy conditions that swimmers hate, so you may not encounter them. However, they go very fast and they may not know to look for swimmers.

Sailboats. Regattas run Thursday evenings in Roy’s Bay. Avoid the area at that time.

Poor water quality. The Lake is generally clean, even drinkable. We will advise if Council issues a Water Quality Alert, but this is very rare. Based on our work with the Touchstone Project, we recommend caution directly after a big rainfall (especially if it has been dry). There can be a lot of debris and runoff during the “first flush”.

3 responses to “Swim in Lake Wanaka

  1. Hi everyone, I am coming to Wanaka from Boxing Day through to January 11th with the family on holiday! I am coming back to do the swim and run legs of the Wanaka Half Ironman on January 18th. I am hoping to have as many swims in the lake during the holiday time to get used to the very different water conditions from Christchurch, do you have any sessions running at this time that I could perhaps be involved in please! or anyone who might be available to keep me company and do some training together? I would so appreciate your expertise. I can’t wait to get into that beautiful lake! I would love to hear from you. Rachel 🙂

    • Hi Rachel, lots of people swimming at the moment so you will have plenty of company Follow the Facebook page – link on this blog – to get more frequent posts Sunday morning swim session at 830 am would be best place/time to meet up with others to set up group swimming times Enjoy! Lake just beautiful at the moment

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