My First Time at That Wanaka Tree

For years I've been wanting to pay a visit to That Wanaka Tree in New Zealand, and last year I was finally able to pull it off. Years ago I saw a photograph of "that tree" by Ian Brodie, before it was referred to as such. Then with the rise of social media, it seemed like everyone and his brother had a snapshot of it somewhere... Instagram, Facebook, Twitter....  It even has it's own hashtag;  #ThatWanakaTree 

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Have you heard of it?  Or seen pictures of the tree emmersed in Lake Wanaka?

I remember years ago roadtripping from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo to Mt. Cook to Twizel and through Tarras, passing the exit to Wanaka on the way to Queenstown.  Now I wish I would have made that side trip and maybe spent the night so I could have seen That Wanaka Tree before it became so famous.  So I could say, "I knew it when...."

Wanaka is about an hour from Queenstown, and chances are that if you're looking for Wanaka you'll be spending some amount of time in Queenstown, the "adventure capital of the world."  Just a hunch.

I'm sure you'll have your own GPS or be using Google Maps so you can figure out the directions on your own, but once you've entered Wanaka from Cardona Valley Road, then McDougall Street, make that left onto Ardmore Street / Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road and your GPS might take you past the first and then second entrances into the Wanaka Rotary Playground at the waterfront on the right.  It might tell you to "turn right onto Tapley Paddock".  I can't tell you the number of people I saw GPSing their way through this tiny residential road.... right after me. But if you turn onto Tapley Paddock, you've gone one right too far! Just backtrack a block onto Ardmore Street / Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road and take the first left  into the Lake Wanaka parking lot.

I'm sure I made that a lot harder than it needed to be.  

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Seeing That Wanaka Tree for the first time was quite a moving experience for me. I'm not totally sure why, as some people have a love/hate relationship with it.  I have a love/hate relationship with people, not the tree.  I would love to come in summer so I could just swim around the tree for hours and keep it company.  I don't know, I have an affinity for that cute tree. 

 The first glimpse of That Wanaka Tree looks something like this

The first glimpse of That Wanaka Tree looks something like this

 Hugging my friend in Lake Wanaka...

Hugging my friend in Lake Wanaka...

Water levels at Lake Wanaka were at a three year low in April 2017, but it's a unique perspective not everyone gets to see.  I'll be back to see her soaking in the lake next time. 

Despite two historic cyclones slamming through New Zealand in April, I got out to see That Wanaka Tree for two sunrises and one sunset.  Here is a sunrise:

 Sunrises at That Wanaka are vibrant

Sunrises at That Wanaka are vibrant

 Fire....

Fire....

Sunset:

 Sunsets are more subtle but equally lovely

Sunsets are more subtle but equally lovely

You can check out the sunrise and sunset times in Wanaka to get really dramatic shots of That Wanaka Tree. Prepare to be there early, if you're really into photography, because for some strange reason people like to get as close to the tree as possible instead of standing back so others can get a good shot. You'll have to claim a spot. 

I'm not sure why people do this. Unless you have a $2,700 Canon red-ring ultra-wide angle lens, you'll be forced to use your cheaper Canon ultra-wide angle lens to get the whole area in frame, being left to contend with chromatic aberration and warped edges. Thanks, tourists. Can't you just back up a little?  

The same thing happens at The Mesa in Canyonlands National Park.  There's a panic to get there by 5am to claim the best spot because photographers sit nearly inside the mesa overlooking the valley. I mean, really?  

 I mean, really?  That  close?? (The Mesa at Canyonlands National Park)

I mean, really? That close?? (The Mesa at Canyonlands National Park)

Helpful hint: Just politely ask people to move. "Hey, can we all scoot back just a little so everyone can shoot the sunrise, please?"  It's been known to work.  

Now back to That Wanaka Tree...

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 Just hanging out with my buddy...... "Did you drink all that water yourself? Where'd the lake go?"

Just hanging out with my buddy...... "Did you drink all that water yourself? Where'd the lake go?"

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Have you had any experiences at That Wanaka Tree, or just been wanting to pay her a visit?  Tell me about it!