Ruby Island

Ruby Island - Lake Wanaka

Ruby Island

Lake Wanaka

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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The old dance floor


800 m return | 15 min return

Like a jewel, Ruby Island is one of 5 islands in Lake Wanaka. A short walk does the loop. During the 1920s and 1930s, Ruby Island was used as an exotic venue for a cabaret. The local Hunt family ran a water taxi service on a Saturday nights and locals would dance the night away, presumably out of watch of the local constable.

The rather fancy dance hall was built on schist foundations, which are still in situ, and was protected with a corrugated roof.


You will need some form of water transport to get you here. Try Paddle Wanaka who have lots of options.


From the jetty, a short loop encircles the island, passing the schist foundations of the old dancehall and a viewpoint north up the lake.


The original vegetation would likely have been manuka, kanuka, matagouri, kowhai, ti kouka and coprosmas. After fire ravaged the island many times, the last in 1992, this vegetation is now regenerating.


Mountain geckos and giant ground weta are found on the island.

Polynesian History

The Maori name is Matakita, roughly meaning ‘to gaze upon’ and was named by a Ngatimamoe chief.

European History

The island was formerly known as Roys Island, in the same ilk as Roys Peak, Roys Bay……

Several theories are chewed over by locals with a Speights in hand for how the name Ruby Island came about. Some claim it is the jewel of the lake. Others claim a divine Chinese maiden used to dance there in a red dress, wooing the male clientele with her sexy moves. Until one day she was no longer - maybe whisked away by a wealthy suitor for a life of extravagance elsewhere.

The reserve was gazetted in 1886.


Feature Value Info


DOC Otago

Central government organisation


South IslandWanaka RegionWanaka Township


  • Walking
  • Free


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DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick

Rankers Owner