Warbirds Over Wanaka – what a show!

Warbirds over Wanaka is an air show held in Wānaka, in New Zealand’s South Island.  It is held every second Easter weekend and has been running since 1988.  Covid stopped the 2020 & 2022 shows, so 2024 is going to be a great event and we have a number of specialist Warbird Over Wanaka tours to take you there!

Warbrids Over Wanaka

Held at Wānaka Airport, 10 km south-east of Wānaka, this event was started by New Zealand live deer recovery pioneer, Sir Tim Wallis, in 1988. It was a chance for for him to display his collection of World War II aircraft.  Since then the event has grown into a major must-do on the aviation enthusiast’s calendar.

Planes & People

A large contingent of historic and contemporary aircraft from all over New Zealand and the world converges on Wānaka for the three-day flying extravaganza. Numerous aviation personalities from all over the world attend Warbirds — Gen Chuck Yeager and Buzz Aldrin being the most notable of recent guests.

The mainstays of the display have traditionally been the aircraft from Sir Tim’s Alpine Fighter Collection, based at the New Zealand Fighter Pilots’ Museum. The show attracts more than 50,000 people and caters to pilots, aviation enthusiasts and families just wanting a fantastic day out.

It is traditional for New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) to put on a display. And aircraft heading to Wānaka perform aerial displays over the cities of Christchurch and Dunedin on their way to the show.

The cancelled 2022 show would have featured:

  • Numerous vintage fighter aircraft (Mk IV Spitfire, Polikarpov I-16s, Yak 3s, Harvards & more)
  • Jet racing above the runway
  • All RNZAF aircraft types for their 85th Anniversary
  • Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35As
  • And many more aircraft of various vintages.

The line up for 2024 is yet to be announced but many that were scheduled to come to the 2022 show will be coming in 2024….watch this space!

Lots to see at and above the venue

On the first day of the event, there are market stalls are on-site and there is a carnival-type atmosphere. For the aircraft enthusiast, a variety of classic and vintage transportation (air and land) are on display. There are no planned flying this day. But aircraft scheduled to fly in the show will be rehearsing through the mountain valleys. So, there is activity at the airfield.

Spitfire Warbirds Over Wanaka Air Show

During the following two days, the scheduled air shows begin!  Generally, the morning features classical fighter craft and a helicopter show. In the afternoon there are shows from both the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force.

Over both days there are lunchtime military re-enactments. These feature vehicles from both World Wars as well as military horses and an authentic mess tent. This is a spectacular experience and a wonderful snapshot of a by-gone era.  The air shows run from 10am – 4pm.

Warbirds weekend & tour options

This is a major event for both the aircraft enthusiast and the township of Wanaka with tens of thousands of visitors to the small town.  Roads are closed and traffic is detoured around the area during the weekend.

Hotels, motels and backpackers around Wānaka are usually booked well in advance (two years ahead). Accommodation is impossible to find if one does not have a booking.

Warbirds Over Wanaka – What a show!

But never fear, Grand Pacific Tours have some fantastic warbirds packages where you are taken care of every step of the way. There are 8 Day, 13 Day and 15 Day Classic Warbirds Over Wanaka Coach Tours to choose from. These tours offer 4 star hotel accommodation throughout South Island tours that feature the airshow,

You get to take in some of the spectacular scenery of the South Island and receive a Gold Pass to the Warbirds Over Wanaka. This entitles you to grandstand seating, exclusive marquee access, an air show programme. You’ll also enjoy an opportunity to walk the flight line, get a souvenir Gold Cap and badge. You’ll also have unlimited access to complimentary tea, coffee and water throughout the show.

The ultimate Warbirds Over Wanaka experience?

Looking for a very special experience? You can opt for the 11 Day Ultimate Warbirds over Wanaka Tour.  This tour sees you travel in a full sized coach customised to seat only 20 people in large comfortable business-class-style seats,

You’ll stay at 4.5 star accommodation throughout, visit the Air Force Museum of NZ, Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre and see some of the South Islands most scenic beauty.  Once you get to Warbirds Over Wanaka, you’ll receive a Gold Pass to the Air show.

A 2024 Warbirds Over Wanaka tour is a great way to combine seeing New Zealand’s South Island and all its attractions with a truly memorable event in a  . If you are Interested in visiting New Zealand in 2024 and have an interest in aircraft