Puzzling World Wanaka Roman Bathroom

Roman Public Bathroom Mural

Lake Hawea, Wanaka

Lake Hawea, Wanaka

Sweeping down from Haast Pass, Wanaka offers a change of mood from the Kiwi West Coast. Sandwiched between the glorious twin Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka with a backdrop of mountain vistas it is little surprise that Wanaka acts as a central location for a huge range of outdoor activities, whether it be hiking, skiing, fishing, rafting, kayaking or the more adrenalin-fuelled sky diving, jetboating and canyoning.

Puzzling World Wanaka Leaning Tower

Leaning Tower of Wanaka

However for a burst of cerebral eccentricity, Puzzling World makes for a change of pace. The fun-filled quirky mood strikes on arrival with the Leaning Tower of Wanaka, a clock that runs backwards (started at the new millennium) mounted to a tower that leans at a bizarre angle – much more than its famous cousin in Pisa. It even attracts the same silliness with photos that Pisa attracts with folks holding it up with one finger or their back or whatever.

Puzzling World Wanaka Hologram Escher Salamander

Hologram Room showing Escher's salamanders

Puzzling World is broken into two distinct aspects. The Illusion Rooms offers a sequence of locations that challenges the senses. The first room shows a series of green-tinged 3D holograms created by laser beam. Familiar objects recede and pop out of frames, some offering several images that change by viewing the image from varying angles.

Puzzling World Wanaka Hall of Following Faces

Staring back in the Hall of Following Faces

Travelling between rooms, various illusion puzzles and pictures litter the walls including some of M.C.Escher’s famed works. In the Hall of Following Faces, walls of repeated famous faces including Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Lincoln, Churchill, Mandela and Mother Teresa hauntingly follow you apparently rotating their faces and tracking you up, down, left and right, even if close to one of the walls. Wherever you move, these famous figures stare back at you. The faces appear to protrude out from the walls but are actually carved inwards.

Puzzling World Wanaka Ames Forced Perspective Room

Normality in the Ames Forced Perspective Room?

The Ames False Perspective Room appears like a normal room from a quick glance through the windows (apart from the ghastly checkerboard carpet!). Yet the room is totally distorted in shape with the ceiling of the left corner just four feet from the floor while the right corner has a ceiling height of eight feet. (The two signs in the corners are both the same shoulder height from the floor – this Youtube video captures it well). Similar techniques were used in shooting Lord of the Rings to have short and tall people looking natural in scenes. As a nice touch, you can witness yourself in the room struggling to touch the ceiling in one corner and having to crouch in the other – a video outside the room conveniently plays on a two minute delay.

Puzzling World Wanaka Tilted House

Normal stairs in the Tilted Room

Nearly everything in the final Tilted Roomleans at 15 degrees playing mind tricks with your senses. It is surprising how quickly the brain decides what is flat and throws off any sense of normality. Water appears to run up-hill, a swing seems to hang at an angle while billiard balls defy gravity and run up the table. Spirit levels show a flat surface yet appear on a sharp angle.

Somewhat disturbingly, photography is invited (even encouraged) in the public toilets. The central room of the toilet block (where the traditional ladies and gents branch from) is a skilfully painted and convincing diorama of a Roman style toilet. Surely this is New Zealand’s most photographed toilet (see top photo)!!

Puzzling World Wanaka Maze

Two-storey 3D Maze in Puzzling World

The highlight of Puzzling World is a captivating two level mazewith over 1.5 kilometres of track sprinkled with typical dead-ends and false trails. The Great Maze easily soaks an hour of time trying to reach four coloured towers in each corner and then to escape the maze’s clutches and back into the foyer. Interesting overpasses leapfrog folks from one area to another while others utilise the higher elevation to try to track where various trails lead or to track paths from the target towers. For the impatient or time-constrained, there are enough escape doors to ease any impending frustrations from bubbling over. Estimates show that visitors cover between three and five kilometres wandering the maze’s twisty passages, maybe more in keeping with Wanaka’s reputation as a centre for hiking.

A central café has tables full of puzzles and games that visitors are encouraged to play, undo and solve to their hearts’ content. A gentle click-clack of wooden pieces being twisted and placed into boards emanates around the room before an inevitable sigh followed by the sound of tumbling blocks as the puzzle is restarted (again). Puzzling World has an eccentric and adventurous sense about it, is a truly unusual attraction and makes for an excellent couple hours of bewildering and mind-bending entertainment. For some, it may even represent a break from Wanaka’s stellar scenery and numerous outdoor activities.

Read more on the Puzzling World website.



4 Responses to Enigmatic Puzzling World (Wanaka, New Zealand)

  • Bree says:

    The 3-D Great Maze was the one that actually caught observer’s eye. It was awesomely build and the architecture is ingenious. Anyone would truly appreciate Wanaka and it’s enigmatic eccentricity.

    • Mark H says:

      I think the maze is the most wellknown part of Puzzling World. As you weave around people compare notes with how they have gone in the maze and which towers they have discovered.

  • Fantastic write-up – well done and thanks very much!!

    Duncan Spear
    Puzzling World

    • Mark H says:

      Duncan, Good to hear from the manager of the place. The review is heartfelt – we had a super time at Puzzling World despite the maze frustrations and really liked the feeling of Wanaka in general.

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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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