Arethusa Pool on the top of Mou Waho
Image: Eco Wanaka Adventures ©

Introduction

There are four significant islands on Lake Wanaka: Mou Waho, Te Peka Karara, Mou Tapu and Ruby Island.

Highlights

Several operators provide daily tours to the islands. You can camp on Mou Waho and Te Peka Karara Island. 

Help look after these special islands: respect the dog and total fire ban, remove all your rubbish, check your gear and report any pest sightings – see visiting pest free islands

You can get involved in projects restoring the islands – contact the visitor centre.

Mou Waho

Mou Waho (120 ha) translates as 'Outer Island' and has a long and rich Māori and European history. Over time Mou Waho has had several different names including Te Mou-a-hou, Pigeon, Harwich and Manuka.

Wanaka Islands map.
Wanaka islands map
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The island was used for both boat building and sheep farming. In 1863, Alfred Pinn established a cottage near today's main landing and built wooden schooners for the lake trade using Mou Waho timber. Remnants of the stone wharf and cottage can still be seen.

Mice were successfully eradicated in 1995. It's a pest-free haven for several plant, bird and insect species that have disappeared or severley reduced from the adjacent mainland, including the mountain stone wētā and the Southern Alps gecko. The inquisitive buff weka was transferred here in 2004 from Te Peka Karara and there are now an estimated 200 weka on Mou Waho.

It was once forested with impressive stands of mātai and tōtara. Several fires over the years have destroyed native vegetation on the island and hindered its recovery. However, DOC and the local community have worked together to remove exotic animals and plants and re-establish native vegetation and bird species. 

Mou Waho is geologically interesting with glacially scoured out Arethusa Pool (earlier named Moutimu by Māori, then Paradise Lake) in the middle of the island 150 m above lake level.

Activities: A return walk (less than 3 km) leads from the wharf up the hill to a viewpoint (450 m) overlooking the fascinating Arethusa Pool and a wider view of Lake Wanaka and surrounding mountains. 

Dogs: No dogs allowed on the island. 

Fire restrictions: Total fire ban all year round. 

Facilities: You can camp on the island and there is a toilet and barbeque available.

Management: Mou Waho is a scenic reserve managed by DOC. 

Te Peka Karara (Stevensons) Island

Te Peka Karara (65 ha) is a bush clad low lying island tucked in Stevensons arm.

It was critical in the 1990s buff weka project that saw the return of this taonga species to Otago. Buff weka were first transferred from the Chatham Islands to Te Peka Karara in 2002 to breed within a purpose-built predator free enclosure. The chicks once grown were then transferred from Te Peka Karara to the larger predator free island of Mou Waho. They were also transferred to two other Lake Wakatipu islands.

Dogs: No dogs allowed on the island. 

Fire restrictions: Total fire ban all year round. 

Activities: Te Peka Karara has a lovely beach. A short bush walk of less than 1 km return takes you to the top of the island (300 m) where there are great views.

Facilities: You can camp on the island and there is a toilet and barbeque available. 

Management: Te Peka Karara is a scenic reserve managed by DOC. 

Mou Tapu

Mou Tapu (120 ha) is a pest free island. Despite once being grazed this steep inaccessible island has retained healthy bush remnants that has helped its natural restoration.

Mice were never established on Mou Tapu and the island is critical to the survival of several species of plants and animals that were wiped out or severely reduced in mainland Otago by introduced predators. This includes the mountain stone wētā and the Southern Alps gecko.

Dogs: No dogs allowed on the island. 

Fire restrictions: Total fire ban all year round. 

Activities/facilities: There are no tracks or facilities on Mou Tapu.

Management: Mou Tapu is a scenic reserve managed by DOC. 

Ruby Island

Ruby Island (3 ha) is the closest and most accessible island to Wanaka township. It has a grand history of cabaret evenings.

The Ruby Island Management Committee is a group of volunteers who have been looking after the island since 1995. Community plantings are restoring this island that has been affected by past fires.

Activities: Ruby Island lies within 1 km of the mainland and is a popular picnic and kayak destination. On a fine day the short walk from the wharf offers great views over the lake.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed on the island. 

Fire restrictions: Total fire ban and smokefree zone all year round. 

Facilities: No camping on the island. There is a toilet and barbeque available. 

Management: Ruby Island is a reserve managed by Queenstown Lakes District Council.

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