Wonderland Makarora Lodge Review – Stunning, remote location!

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If remote wilderness locations surrounded by bush are your thing, then this amazing hidden gem will be right up your alley!

I was looking for a cheap place to stay, somewhere in the vicinity of Queenstown or Wanaka. It was a very last minute booking (ie 10pm the night before), in peak holiday season, and my budget was low, needing to accommodate myself and my 3 children. I’m not a fan of sharing beds, so a lot of the more affordable options near to Queenstown or Wanaka were out with only 2 – 3 beds. I looked at booking a whole home on AirBnB but with all the added fees the prices were around $500 – $600 for 2 nights.

By chance I found Wonderland Makarora Lodge. It was located on the far side of Lake Wanaka, surrounded by bush, with an epic 6 beds and just $280 for 2 nights! Booking.com listed checkin as 3pm – 5pm, which was a little concerning, but I don’t think this is actually correct.

The 45 minute drive from Wanaka to Makarora was gorgeous! Winding roads around Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka, surrounded by mountains and bush.

My first impression for the lodge was WOW! Truly gorgeous chalets, nestled amongst bush and with privacy and spacing between each. How could this only be $140 per night?

Further inspection answered that question quickly. The chalets are in desperate need for repair and maintenance. The bedside lamps can no longer be held erect, the years of use and no maintenance dragging them down to stare sadly at the walls. Just as well, since some didn’t have bulbs and others had dodgey connections prompting me to quickly tell the children not to play with them and ensure they were turned off!

The shower was in the same sad affair with the head falling towards the wall, making showering a slight fiasco in attempting to get the water to actually hit you.

The doors needed CRC to stop the creaking and when closed – including the nearby chalets – made a bang to wake the dead.

The single beds were hard and up against the A frame walls meaning the children either hit the walls or half fell out through the night. The queen bed was lovely and comfortable.

All was not bad though, this gorgeous little chalet is made from beautiful brown timber and has no TV or couches (it does have a dining table and chairs). I loved this as it seemed to encourage the reason for being there – connecting with nature and each other.

A huge bonus was a swimming pool that was located directly opposite our cabin.

Makarora Lodge swimming pool

There is no reception in Makarora – I’m with Vodafone and lost reception a good 30+ minutes drive from Makarora. There is WiFi at the lodge but not in the chalet. This disconnection was both wonderful and a little disconcerting and annoying.

A beautiful little nature walk starts from behind the cabins which we loved strolling along, enjoying the beautiful flora and fauna of Mount Aspiring National Park. There is also a longer hike to Mt Shrimpton that you can do from here. Given more time we’d loved to have walked to the Blue Pools – an experience for next time!

Makarora Lodge bush walk

There are a few other experiences you can do while here as well – scenic flights, jet boating and heliskiing in winter.

We had dinner at the lodge restaurant which was pleasant and a good feed – steak, eggs and chips and the spaghetti bolognaise. There is a small shop attached as well with a few basic commodities. The ice cream freezer had 6 ice creams to the children’s amusement.

All in all, we will absolutely be staying here again. I would give the chalets a 3 star rating, and the location a strong 5. It wouldn’t take much to bring the chalets up to a 4 star rating, so hopefully when the tourism market picks up again they will be able to undertake this. The price absolutely reflects the maintenance needed though, so absolutely worth every single cent. A truly wonderful wonderland.

Website: https://www.wonderlandlodge.nz/

The Review

8 Score


The Good

  • Stunning location
  • Cheap

The Bad

  • Chalets need maintenance
  • No wifi in chalets


  • Amazing remote location & spacious chalets 80%
Anna Hayes


Anna Hayes

I'm a passionate Kiwi with a huge love for the outdoors, photography, sports, my kids, healthy living and everything New Zealand. I've worked for many years in the tourism and internet industry, and I love supporting clean green New Zealand.

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