While there are plenty of outdoor activities in and around Wanaka, if you feel like something completely unique, you should head over to Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World.
Specialising in ‘puzzling eccentricity’, this museum is a head spin! From the moment you arrive in the car park, you’re greeted by lopsided buildings and monkey puzzle trees, and you can tell it will be a memorable experience.
The following are some of the highlights.
The first room of the museum is on a rather steep hill, yet the walls have been built at 90 degrees to the floor. You can ride a chair seemingly uphill or watch water defy gravity in the wonkiest building imaginable.
HALL OF FOLLOWING FACES
With nausea forming in the pit of your stomach, it’s then time to move on to a room where the heads of Einstein and other famous people appear to turn as you walk past.
There’s a corridor of holograms that you’d be forgiven for thinking were large 3D works of art, and another exhibition of ambigram paintings, in which two or more words cleverly occupy the same physical space.
My favourite part of the experience was the Ames room. While the shape of the room is distorted, it appears completely normal when viewed through a window. They used the same technique in the Lord of the Rings movies to make people look bigger or smaller than they were. You can run around the room, appearing through different doors and then watch a delayed recording of your antics on a screen outside.
By far the creepiest exhibition was a silicon model of Stuart Landsborough himself. Madame Tussauds eat your heart out!! This was so realistic, as I approached warily from the other side of the room, I honestly expected him to jump out of his chair and give me the fright of my life!
Under his watchful gaze, there’s also a massive selection of illusions and tricks to bend your mind. You may be able to figure some of them out, while others will leave you mystified.
When you return to the main lobby, you then have the option to take on a massive maze. Be warned that you may be in there for hours, especially if you go for the difficult option of visiting each of the coloured towers in a specific order.
By the time you’ve found your way back out again, you’ll probably be ready to use a bathroom, which is just as well because you’d kick yourself if you missed the Roman-inspired drop loo experience. Don’t be too alarmed – there are regular toilets too, embellished only by some pretty snazzy seats.
PUZZLES AND GAMES
Back in the lobby, you can take a seat at a table and attempt any number of exciting puzzles designed by Landsborough. Some of them were so tough, they reminded me of a ‘Bedlam Cube’ I had as a child and never, ever solved!
Finally, if you think you’re psychic and have a spare $1000 lying around, why not take on the challenge to find two halves of a $100,000 promissory note, hidden within 100 metres of the entrance. There have been five failed challengers to date! The rules are as follows (good luck!):
- Deposit $1000 in the Puzzling World account, to be donated to a charity, should you be unsuccessful.
- The challenger will sit opposite Stuart Landsborough, separated by a screen. They will be able to ask him questions for 30 minutes but he will only think the answers.
- The challenger will have 60 minutes to walk through the 100 m radius and offer two exact search sites – one for each half of the promissory note.
- Both parts must be found to win the $100,000 prize.
Do you think you’ve got what it takes?
GETTING TO WANAKA
Intercity Buses provide services to Wanaka from the following popular destinations (rough times in brackets): Queenstown (1 hour 40 mins); Mt Cook (3.5 hours); Franz Josef (6.5 hours); Christchurch (7.5 hours). Further transfers are available from these locations. Use the search tool below to find a specific journey or click through to their home page for information on multi-trip passes and day tours.
WHERE TO STAY
It’s worth booking your Wanaka and Queenstown accommodation well in advance. While other destinations don’t seem to get fully booked in the Kiwi winter, these two towns are havens for adventure sports seekers all year round. I was there in July, which was a very popular time for skiing and it was tough to find somewhere that wasn’t fully booked. I ended up in a place called Matterhorn South and they were very accommodating – converting a motel room into a mini hostel dorm for me and a few other girls. Most of the hostels are within walking distance of each other so at least if you need to knock on a few doors before you find a place, it shouldn’t take you too long.
I was a guest of Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World. They did not request that I write a favourable review and any opinions expressed here are my own.