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The Ultimate Christchurch to Queenstown Road Trip Itinerary

Summary: Discover the Best Stops on a Road Trip Itinerary from Christchurch to Queenstown

christchurch-to-queenstown-road-trip-itinerary

The drive from Christchurch to Queenstown is easily one of New Zealand’s most epic road trips.

While driving between Christchurch and Queenstown, you’ll encounter some of the South Island’s finest scenery: towering snow-capped mountain ranges, bluer-than-blue glacial lakes, braided rivers, thick beech forests, and golden tussock fields.

It probably goes without saying, but amongst all of this stunning scenery, you’ll also find some fantastic South Island hikes that are just perfect for stretching your legs along your road trip!

There are also plenty of stunning roadside stops for photo ops, great local food options, and wonderful spots to camp or stay overnight.

In short, don’t miss this road trip if you’re traveling around the South Island!

With so many amazing places to see, it can feel a bit overwhelming to plan out your perfect road trip.

Don’t worry, though—we’ve got you covered in this guide. We live in Queenstown and travel to Christchurch multiple times throughout the year. We’ve honestly done this drive so many times that we’ve lost count!

In this guide, we’re sharing all of the best places to stop along your road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown, based on our own experience of driving this exact route many times.

We’ve also included our top places to stay overnight—whether you’re planning to camp or prefer four walls around you at night.

So without further ado, read on to discover how to best road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown!

*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the link provided, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We really appreciate your support!

Some FAQs for this Christchurch to Queenstown Road Trip Itinerary

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How Long is the Drive from Christchurch to Queenstown?

Technically, you can drive from Christchurch to Queenstown in a day—but doing so would take all of the fun out of it!

From point to point, the drive takes just under 6 hours nonstop and covers a distance of around 473kms (294 miles)—not including any side trips (like Wanaka). However, we recommend adding lots of fun stops and overnight stays, and tacking on some worthy detours.

For the best experience, enjoy this drive over 7 days (or more!). One week will give you enough time to see and do a lot on your road trip without feeling rushed.

In this guide, we’ve noted travel times between each stop along the way, so you can best plan your trip.

Is it Safe to Drive from Christchurch to Queenstown in Winter?

You can drive from Christchurch to Queenstown year-round, including in winter—but you’ll want to take some precautions in the winter months (May through September).

If driving in winter, you should drive during daylight hours to avoid ice on the roads; in particular, let the sun come up in the morning for a while before you hit the road, as this will allow time for ice to melt.

Also, you’ll usually need to carry snow chains with you (and know how to use them). If you’re renting a car or campervan, talk to your rental company about this before you embark on your road trip.

This guide has some great tips for safe driving in winter in this part of NZ.

Looking for a Christchurch to Queenstown Campervan Itinerary?

Perfect, this is the guide for you. We’ve included lots of South Island campsites and accommodation options for each destination along this drive.

What about driving from Queenstown to Christchurch instead?

No problem—simply follow this itinerary in reverse!

Hiring a Car or Campervan for the Drive from Christchurch to Queenstown

If you need to hire a set of wheels for your road trip, no problem: the Christchurch and Queenstown airports are both major hubs for vehicle rentals on the South Island.

Below are the resources we recommend using for car and campervan rentals in New Zealand.

🚙 Hiring a Car

We recommend using Rentalcars.com to quickly compare your car rental options in New Zealand.

Their comparison tool does all the homework for you so you don’t have to spend hours (and open 10+ tabs) to find the best deals on car rentals across the country.

Check Car Prices Here!

🚐 Hiring a Campervan

Motorhome Republic is our go-to resource for finding the best campervan & motorhome rentals in New Zealand.

They offer an awesome selection of the top campervan and motorhome companies in New Zealand, and do all the legwork in comparing prices for you.

We do recommend booking your campervan as soon as you can, as they are in high demand and book out quickly!

Check Campervan Prices Here!

Tip: Hire a Car One-Way From Christchurch to Queenstown


If you have limited time for your road trip, the best option is to rent a one-way car or campervan from Christchurch, then drop it off at the Queenstown airport at the end of your trip.

You can then fly from Queenstown back to Christchurch (or elsewhere).

There are plenty of car and campervan rental companies that allow for one-way rentals between Christchurch and Queenstown (or vice versa).

Again, we recommend using Rentalcars.com for car rentals and Motorhome Republic to find the best deals on campervan rentals.

To search for one-way car or campervan rentals, simply plug in the “Christchurch Airport” as your pickup location and the “Queenstown Airport” as your dropoff location.

While you may sometimes have to pay a small extra fee for a one-way rental, it is so worth it if you have limited time for your road trip!

On the other hand, if you’re planning to continue on with your South Island journey after this road trip, you could fly into Christchurch, pick up a car or campervan there, and then loop back to Christchurch at the end of the trip.

At the end of this guide, we’ve given some ideas for routes you could add to this trip to make it more of a complete South Island loop.

The Best Time of Year to Drive from Christchurch to Queenstown

Honestly, this drive is beautiful year-round, and each season has its charms—you really can’t go wrong! The best time of year for you will depend on what you want to see and do.

Here are some things to know about each season to help you plan your road trip:


Late Spring and Early Summer (November to January)

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If you want to see lupins in bloom along this drive, then time your road trip with late spring/early summer

In late spring and early summer, you’ll spot lots of spring blooms along the roadside; lupins are in bloom from early November through December, and the lavender fields will be in full force around this time, too.


Springtime in New Zealand will often bring some rainy days, so make sure you’re prepared for that. This also means that the lakes, rivers, and waterfalls will be looking their finest, as they’ll be replenished from all of that spring rain.

From Christmas through January, the roads and stops on this drive will be busy, as this is when most kiwis take their holidays (and schools are out for summer).

If you’re planning to do this road trip between Christmas and January, make sure you have everything (your car or campervan, accommodation, etc.) booked well in advance.



Mid/Late Summer and Autumn (February to April)

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The Otago region sports gorgeous autumn colors

The weather this time of year is often more settled, with lots of warm, clear days to soak up the sunshine. If you want to go for lake swims, this is the best time of year for that (although the lakes are pretty darn cold year-round, just warning you!).

School holidays will be over from mid-February onwards, and you’ll find that the roads (and campgrounds, accommodation, everything really) will be much less crowded.

In autumn the trees change color and are a truly gorgeous sight, especially around Arrowtown and Queenstown! April is usually a great month to experience autumn colors along this road trip.



Winter and Early Spring (May to October)

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In winter and early spring, you’ll get stunning views of snow-capped mountains along much of this drive.

If skiing is your goal once you reach Wanaka and/or Queenstown, the best months for this drive will be July and August.

In winter, you may not be able to do all of the hikes mentioned in this guide, but there are definitely plenty you can still do. There are also lots of great day trips from Queenstown in winter.

Make sure to have lots of warm and waterproof clothes, though, as it’s going to be cold (but beautiful) out there!

If you’re planning to do this road trip in winter, you’ll need to be prepared for winter driving conditions—see our FAQ section above for more information on driving on the South Island in winter.

What to Expect in this Christchurch to Queenstown Road Trip Itinerary

  • In this guide, you’ll get an itinerary and tips from two locals who do this road trip regularly. This is the exact trip we’d do with friends and family visiting us from abroad (In fact, we have! And everyone always has a fantastic time).

    We’ve broken this road trip into four distinct sections, as follows:
  1. Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
  2. Lake Tekapo to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
  3. Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park to Wanaka
  4. Wanaka to Queenstown
  • Within each section, we’ll note fun stops along the drive itself, plus things to do and where to eat once you get to your destination. You’ll also find our camping and accommodation recommendations for each destination.

  • We think that besides road-tripping, the best way to experience New Zealand is on your own two feet! For that reason, you’ll find lots of hiking suggestions in this guide. This particular road trip is packed with some of New Zealand’s best day hikes.

  • In addition to suggestions for hiking, we’ve included lots of great local places to eat and drink (usually more casual-style places). If you enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities, and sampling local food & drinks in relaxed settings, then we think you’ll like this guide!

  • You’ll also find advice on where to stock up on fuel, food, and other supplies between destinations, if these amenities are far and few between.

Christchurch to Queenstown Road Trip Itinerary Map

The Ultimate Christchurch to Queenstown Road Trip Guide

Road Trip Part 1: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

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  • Driving time from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo: 3 hours / 222 km (138 miles)
  • Where & How Long to Stay: 1 night in Lake Tekapo

Important note: If you’ve just come from a long-haul international flight, we strongly recommend spending a night or two in Christchurch before hitting the road. Jet lag is a real thing, and driving when you’re tired is something you shouldn’t do in New Zealand. There are too many accidents on these South Island roads involving tired travelers who need a proper rest before driving—please don’t let that be you.

After picking up your car or campervan and grabbing groceries in Christchurch, it’s time to hit the road. (If you’d like to grab a bite to eat first, check out our guide to the best Christchurch cafes!).

Your destination today is Lake Tekapo, a crown jewel in New Zealand’s long list of beautiful lakes.

This is the longest stretch of the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, and to be honest, the first part is a little bit boring.

You’ll basically drive past farmland on a straight highway for a couple of hours—but after you get this over with, the scenery becomes magnificent.

When you finally reach Lake Tekapo, prepare to be awestruck.

Lake Tekapo is a glacially-fed lake with an out-of-this-world blue color. In late spring and early summer, lupins surround the lake in a technicolor dream.

There’s a cute township at Lake Tekapo, with plenty to see and do. It’s an excellent first stop on your Christchurch to Queenstown road trip!

Stops on the Drive From Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

📍Rakaia Gorge Walkway

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If you need a bit of a leg stretch to break up the drive, then stop at the Rakaia Gorge. This beautiful, super-blue river is an excellent stop for a walk and/or picnic.

To hike the whole Rakaia Gorge Walkway, you’ll need around 3 hours—it’s 9.2kms (5.7 miles) and is moderately difficult. If you’re pressed for time and eager to continue driving, you’ll probably want to opt for a shorter hike: in that case, simply walk for 30-ish minutes (one-way) until you reach the sign for the “Lower Gorge Lookout,” then head back from there. This shorter hike option takes about one hour round-trip and covers 3.1kms (1.9 miles).

Note: If you aren’t keen on a hike today and prefer to just get straight to Lake Tekapo, then you can skip the Rakaia Gorge. Simply take Highway 1 from Christchurch rather than driving the Inland Scenic Route 72/State Highway 77.

📍Geraldine (for picnic supplies!)

Geraldine is a quaint town and while many travelers just drive right through it, we recommend stopping here for two reasons: 1) the Barker’s Foodstore and 2) the Geraldine Cheese Company!

Between these two places, you can pick up everything you need for some awesome road trip picnics. We recommend going to the Geraldine Cheese Company first, to sample and select from their variety of cheeses on offer.

Then pop over to the Barkers Foodstore. Barkers is a well-known food company in NZ, best known for their multitude of sauces, jams, and other delicious condiments. Their quince paste and capsicum/apricot chutney are particular favorites of ours, but be sure to sample a bunch of different things to help you choose your own favorites. If you’re feeling hungry, there’s a lovely cafe on-site, too.

📍 The Fairlie Bakehouse

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Pork belly and applesauce pies from the Fairlie Bakehouse

A stop by this amazing bakery is an absolute must-do. The meat pies at the Fairlie Bakehouse are simply legendary.

For the ultimate road trip snack, try one of their pork belly pies: they’re filled with pork belly pieces and applesauce, and are topped with a crispy piece of pork crackle. So yum.

Things to do in Lake Tekapo

There is plenty to do in Lake Tekapo, but one night should be enough to enjoy this town’s highlights. Here’s what we recommend doing in Lake Tekapo:

✶ Stroll along the Lake Tekapo shoreline

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Admire the stunning blue water—or take a swim if you’re feeling brave (the water is SO cold…ahem, refreshing).

✶ Go lupin-spotting

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In late spring and early summer, colorful lupins line the shores of Lake Tekapo

If you’re visiting in late spring/early summer (Nov-Dec), you’ll get to see thousands of gorgeous lupins along the lake.

Note: lupins are technically an invasive species in New Zealand. Steps are being taken to remove them from the lakeshore, as they cause erosion amongst other issues. We still like to enjoy their beauty, but it’s worth knowing that they’re not actually meant to be there!

✶ Photograph the Church of the Good Shepherd

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This historic stone church is one of Tekapo’s most popular attractions, and it gets packed with people during the day. We recommend timing your visit around sunrise or sunset if you want to avoid some of the crowds (and get beautiful golden lighting, too!).

✶ Soak in the Tekapo Hot Pools

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The Lake Tekapo hot pools have awesome lake & mountain views—pure bliss after a long drive!

These wonderful hot pools overlook Lake Tekapo, and are such a treat after a long drive! We recommend doing this in the afternoon/evening after your drive from Christchurch—you’ll feel like vacation has truly begun.

✶ Marvel at the Night Sky

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Photo by Will Li

Lake Tekapo is located in part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Basically, there’s minimal light pollution in this region, which means that on clear nights you’ll get the most amazing views of the stars and night sky.


You can easily go stargazing on your own—find a nice spot by the lake, bring a towel or blanket to lay down on, and look up! This is what we normally do, if we’re being honest. To take things up a notch, download a free app on your phone— like the Night Sky App—to help you identify different constellations.


If you’re interested in booking a stargazing tour instead of DIY’ing things, there are multiple tours to choose from.

We highly recommend booking a tour with Chameleon Stargazing—choose from a shared or private tour, depending on your needs and budget. Whichever tour you choose, you can look forward to a hot chocolate and fire pit with marshmallows to roast (such welcome treats on a cold Tekapo night)!

Where to Eat & Drink in Lake Tekapo

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The bentos at Kohan Restaurant are so, so good.
  • Kohan Restaurant: This Japanese restaurant is a must-do for us whenever we’re in Tekapo. They make delicious sushi and sashimi using ultra-fresh, locally-procured alpine salmon, and they also have great tempura, teriyaki chicken, and lots more. Their bentos are amazing. Go for lunch or dinner (or both)!

  • The Greedy Cow Cafe: Head to this popular breakfast/brunch spot for coffee and a filling meal. They do all the classics like eggs benedict, omelets, and french toast, and also have specialty items like Turkish eggs and buddha bowls. If you’re in a hurry, you can grab a fresh sandwich or pastry from their cabinet.

  • Astro Cafe: Located at the scenic Mount John Observatory, the Astro Cafe serves up delicious coffees and incredible views. Grab a flat white to enjoy on their outdoor patio while you take in the most amazing views over Lake Tekapo. They have light food options, too, if you’re in need of a snack.

Where to Stay in Lake Tekapo

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A cozy camping cabin at the Lake Tekapo Top 10 Holiday Park

⛺️ Camping in Lake Tekapo

We love camping at the Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park. The holiday park is in a great lakeside location and is within walking distance to town and the Tekapo Hot Pools. They have good campervan sites and cute camping cabins (the latter is what we normally stay in!)

🛌 Accommodation in Lake Tekapo

  • Mid-range motel: The Lake Tekapo Village Motel couldn’t be in a better location—you’ll be within walking distance to pretty much everything in Tekapo. Their rooms are tidy and good-value, and some have decks with lake views.

  • Mid-range cottages: The Lake Tekapo Cottages offer self-contained units within walking distance to pretty much everything in Lake Tekapo. The property’s garden setting is really lovely, and the units have sunny decks for enjoying your morning coffee or evening wine. These units are an awesome option if you’d like a place with your own kitchen!

  • High-end hotel: The Galaxy Boutique Hotel has beautiful, modern rooms, all with lake views. The luxurious bathrooms have bathtubs (so good after being in the car!) and the rooms have skylights so you can stargaze while you’re all cozy in bed.

Road Trip Part 2: Lake Tekapo to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

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  • Driving time from Lake Tekapo to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park: 1 hour 10 minutes / 103.5 km (64 miles)
  • Where & how long to stay: 2 nights in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

Today, you’ll make your way to the magnificent Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park.

Fuel yourself up for today’s adventures with a coffee and some breakfast in Lake Tekapo. If there were any Tekapo attractions you missed seeing yesterday, do those this morning.

Before you leave Lake Tekapo to head to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park, make sure to stock up on groceries, petrol, and any other supplies you’ll need for the next couple of days. You won’t find many supplies along this next stretch of the road trip.

This will be one of the shortest driving days on the trip, but it’s packed with beautiful attractions—you’ll want to stop at lots of places along the way. Here are the places we think you shouldn’t miss!

Stops on the Drive from Lake Tekapo to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

📍 Lake Pukaki

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If you thought Lake Tekapo was blue, well…wait until you see Lake Pukaki. Lake Pukaki is another glacially-fed lake and on a sunny day, the water almost glows with blue-ness. It is absolutely stunning. You’ll get to drive alongside Lake Pukaki as you make your way towards Aoraki/Mount Cook—this stretch of the drive is truly one of the most beautiful roads in New Zealand!

📍 Mount Cook Alpine Salmon

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Stop by the Lake Pukaki Visitor Center to pick up fresh salmon at the Mount Cook Alpine Salmon shop. The freshwater salmon sold here is raised in pure alpine water, and its SO good. Grab some salmon sashimi for a snack, or if you have a campervan fridge or chilly bin (cooler), pick up some salmon filets for tonight’s dinner.

📍 New Zealand Alpine Lavender Farm

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Photo by Fiona Bowden

A lavender farm couldn’t possibly be in a more beautiful location than this one! Situated right alongside the road to Mount Cook, you’ve got to stop at the New Zealand Alpine Lavender Farm if you’re a lavender fan. Stroll through the lavender fields, indulge in some lavender ice cream, or buy some lavender essential oil as a souvenir.

There’s an entry fee of $5 per person, which is waived if you spend more than $30 at the onsite shop.

📍 Peter’s Lookout

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Stop at Peter’s Lookout for an iconic view of the road to Mount Cook!

As you drive along the road to Mount Cook, keep your eyes peeled for the sign pointing to Peter’s Lookout. The lookout has a parking area so you can pull over and enjoy amazing views over Lake Pukaki, the winding road, and Aoraki/Mount Cook itself (if you’re lucky enough to get a clear day!).

Things to do in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is a hiker’s dreamland.

For that reason, we think that the best thing to do here is to go hiking!

We’ve recommended staying in the national park for two nights. That way, you can choose a hike to do one day, and another (or a couple) the next.

✶ Day Hikes in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

Hooker Valley Track

10.6km (6.6 miles) | 2-3 hours | Easy-Moderate

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Arguably the South Island’s finest day hike, the Hooker Valley Track is a must-do when you visit the national park.

On a clear day, you simply have to do this hike!

You’ll get to see glacial lakes, cross epic swingbridges, and walk over a beautiful meadow boardwalk—all under the watch of Aoraki/Mount Cook, which looms ahead of you in the distance as you hike.

If you have time and energy for only one hike when you’re in the national park, make it this one.

Sealy Tarns Track

5.8km (3.6 miles) | 3 hours | Moderate-Hard

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For a more strenuous day hike—but one with incredible, sweeping views—you’ll want to head up the Sealy Tarns Track.

Also known as the “Stairway to Heaven,” this track takes you up roughly 2,000 steps, with incredible views the whole way.

The most magnificent view is at the top of the track, which is also where you’ll find the alpine tarns that give the trail its name. On a clear and calm day, the tarns reflect the surrounding mountain peaks.

This is truly one of the best day hikes on the South Island, so if you’re up for it, we highly recommend that you give it a go!

Short, easy walks in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
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The Kea Point Lookout is a great little walk in Mount Cook National Park

If you’re after a short hike, then head to either Kea Point (2.7km/1.7 miles), the Blue Lakes & Tasman Glacier Viewpoint (1.85km/1.15 miles), and/or the Governor’s Bush walk (1.5km/.9 miles).

Where to Stay in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

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The White Horse Hill Campground is located right in the heart of the national park

⛺️ Camping in & around Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

  • Camping in the national park: The White Horse Hill DOC Campground is an amazing place to camp—in fact, it’s one of our favorite campgrounds on the whole South Island. The campground is right at the trailheads for both the Hooker Valley and Sealy Tarns Tracks, so you honestly couldn’t be in a better location in the park!

  • Camping near the national park: If you’re willing to stay a bit outside of the national park itself, stay at Glentanner Holiday Park. Glentanner is just 18km outside of the park entrance. You’ll have options for camping (including powered campsites) and budget-friendly units here. This place is a bit of a hidden gem, let us tell you!

Related read: the best camping spots around Mount Cook National Park

🛌 Hotels in Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

  • Mid-range hotel: The Aoraki Alpine Lodge has good-value rooms right in the heart of Aoraki / Mount Cook Village. The facilities here are great—there’s a lounge room with epic views and a wood burner, plus a communal kitchen in case you’d like to cook for yourself.

  • High-end hotel: The Hermitage Hotel is the most luxurious place to stay in the park. The rooms all have amazing mountain views and the whole place just feels special. Note that the rooms are cozy and comfortable, but aren’t super modern (you’re in a national park, after all!)—it’s the location and views that make this hotel worth splurging on.

Where to Eat & Drink in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

There aren’t many places to grab food and drinks in the national park. We usually have picnics and/or cook for ourselves if we’re camping. Note that if you plan to do the same, you’ll need to bring all of your food and drinks into the park with you—there are no supermarkets in the national park.

Currently, the Hermitage Hotel will be your best option for dining in the park. They have a couple of onsite eateries at the hotel.

Road Trip Part 3: Mount Cook to Wanaka

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  • Driving time from Mount Cook National Park to Wanaka: 2 hours 30 minutes / 205 km (127 miles)
  • Where & How Long to Stay: 2 (or more!) nights in Wanaka

It might be hard to peel yourself away from Aoraki, but further places await you. Today, you’ll be making your way to the lovely lakeside town of Wanaka!

Wanaka is a worthy destination. This beautiful resort town is situated on the southern end of pristine Lake Wanaka. You’ll be surrounded by snow-capped mountain views and relaxed holiday vibes.

There’s a ton to see and do around Wanaka, so we recommend staying at least two nights here.

Before we get to Wanaka, let’s go over the stops you should make along your drive there.

Need a Fuel Top-Up? If you need to top up petrol after leaving Aoraki/Mount Cook, do so in Twizel or Omarama.

Stops on the Drive From Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park to Wanaka

📍 Twizel / Mint Folk & Co Cafe

Once you leave Mount Cook National Park, you may be feeling hungry. If so, make sure to stop at Mint Folk & Co Cafe in Twizel for a fantastic breakfast or lunch. Their interior is quite instagrammable and the food here is creative and fresh. If you’re not keen on a full sit-down meal, they have a great range of grab-and-go cabinet food, too.

📍 High Country Salmon

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Another freshwater salmon farm in the region, High Country Salmon is a good place to stop for breakfast or lunch. Grab a house-smoked salmon bagel or some freshly-made sushi.

📍 Omarama Clay Cliffs

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Photo by Tonia Kraakman

Go for a wander among the Omarama Clay Cliffs, a badlands-esque area with pinnacle-shaped rock formations. It looks quite similar to the North Island’s Putangirua Pinnacles, which was the Lord of the Rings filming site for the Paths of the Dead.

The clay cliffs are quite unlike anything else you’ll see on the South Island, so if you have time and feel like stretching your legs a bit, then definitely stop here! The walk itself takes only about 30 minutes, but you can explore around for longer if you’re keen.

Bring cash with you to pay for the entrance fee to this spot—it’s just $5 per car.

📍 Hot Tubs Omarama

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Hot Tubs at Omarama” by travelwayoflife is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

After all of the driving and hiking you’ve been doing, a soak in some hot water may be calling your name. If so, pay a visit to Hot Tubs Omarama!

These private wood-fired hot tubs are filled with soothing mineral winter from the nearby mountains. They all have beautiful views of the surrounding scenery and you’ll be hard-pressed to leave without feeling totally relaxed.

Prices start at $50 NZD per person for an hour soak session. We do recommend booking ahead as this is a really popular attraction along the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown.

📍 Lindis Pass

Beautiful Lindis Pass is the section of highway that connects the Mackenzie Basin (where you’re coming from) to the Central Otago Region (where you’re headed). The tussock-covered mountains along the pass give off a golden glow, and sparkle after they get a dusting of snow. Pull your car over at the signed lookout area to get a great view and photo op.

Things to Do in Wanaka

Wanaka has a super laid-back vibe, and a lot of activities are centered around the beautiful lake. You can go swimming in the lake (in summer), hire kayaks on the lake, walk around the lake, chill with a good book at the lake…you get the idea. We think it’s almost impossible to visit Wanaka and not leave feeling relaxed.

If you tire of lake activities, though, there’s a lot more to do in the area. Here are the things we recommend doing in Wanaka:

✶ Visit the Famous Wanaka Tree

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Yes, it’s a cliche thing to do—but you can’t visit Wanaka and not go see its famous tree! This insta-famous willow-in-the-water has got its own hashtag and all (#thatwanakatree), and it’s a quick stop to see it, so why not?

✶ Go Hiking on Wanaka’s Epic Trails

Wanaka is a hiker’s heaven. You could spend weeks hiking around Wanaka and not run out of amazing trails to explore. That being said, here are our top two hiking trails around Wanaka:

Rob Roy Glacier Track

10km (6.2 miles) | 3-4 hours | Moderate-Hard

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The Rob Roy Glacier track is our #1 favorite day hike in all of New Zealand—it’s so, so good.

The trail involves majestic beech forest, glacial-blue rivers, a scenic swingbridge, and an up-and-close glacier encounter you need to see to believe.

Hiking this trail is our top thing to do in Wanaka. If you’re an avid hiker, do not miss this one!

Getting to the trailhead is a bit of a mission, if we’re being honest—but it’s so worth it.

You’ll need to drive just over 50kms to reach the start of the trail, and a good chunk of the drive is on unpaved road (sometimes with fords to cross, depending on rainfall). Don’t let that deter you from visiting, though—plan for this hike as a day trip from Wanaka, and it’ll be a day to remember!

Roy’s Peak

16km (9.9 miles) | 5-6 hours | Hard

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The Roy’s Peak Track is Wanaka’s most famous hike—in fact, this is one of the most famous hikes in all of New Zealand. This is the viewpoint you’ve seen in all of those photos on Instagram, and the view is the main highlight of the track.

Roy’s Peak isn’t actually our favorite hike in the area (that title goes to the Rob Roy Glacier track mentioned above), but we know a lot of people have this one on their bucket list—so let’s give you a little lowdown on the hike!

This hike climbs up (and UP!) through farmland to tussock-covered mountain tops with some seriously incredible views over Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps.

It takes roughly 2.5 hours to reach the famous viewpoint—and then the actual summit of the hike is another 30-45 minutes uphill from there. The summit sits at 1,578 meters above sea level.

Some tips for hiking Roy’s Peak:

You should know that because this is the most popular hike in the area, it’s going to be crowded. Try to start this hike early in the morning (like before sunrise if possible) to get a parking spot, and also to get a leg up on some of the crowds on the trail.

Bring layers of clothing, sunscreen, a hat, hiking snacks, and LOTS of water—this is an exposed trail with no shade or water along the way.

Also bring a picnic to enjoy at the summit, to fortify yourself for the hike down—it’s a killer on the knees, let us tell you!

Tip: If Roy’s Peak seems just too crowded for your liking, a good alternative in the area is the Isthmus Peak track.

✶ Drink Delicious Beers at Wanaka’s Craft Breweries

Despite its small size, Wanaka has a great selection of craft breweries to choose from. Head to a Wanaka brewery for a pint after hitting the hiking trails or ski slopes!

Here are some wonderful Wanaka breweries to try:

  • Rhyme x Reason Brewery: Grab a pint to enjoy in their lovely beer garden. This great spot is family (and dog!) friendly, and they have a happy hour from 4pm-6pm with $1 off pints and discounted wines & ciders. They sometimes host food trucks, but otherwise, BYO snacks.

  • Ground Up Brewery: With 22 beers on tap—including some small-batch brews only available in their taproom—this brewery has something for everyone. They have happy hour from 5pm-7pm Monday through Friday, and snacks from the Wanaka ‘Wich Project Wednesday through Sunday.

  • b.effect Brewery at b.social: This local-favorite brewery has a plethora of beers to choose from, plus ginger beer (SO good), ciders, and kombucha. Sit in the beer garden and order a great meal to go along with your beverage of choice—they have a full menu with burgers, snacks (including poutine!), and lots more. If you can’t choose a beer, go for a tasting flight to sample a few at once.

✶ Enjoy Great Food at Wanaka’s Eateries

There is seriously so much good food in Wanaka. It’s hard to narrow them down, but here are some places we recommend:

  • Burrito Craft food cart: We honestly can’t go to Wanaka and not get a burrito from Burrito Craft. They’re easily some of the best burritos in NZ (this is coming from two Californians with high burrito standards!). Get a burrito, chips, and guac and be in Mexican food heaven.
    • Tip: Burrito Craft is part of an outdoor food cart pod with lots of great options. If you’re traveling with other people, it’s an awesome place to go as everyone can choose from whichever type of food cart they want!

  • Red Star Burger Bar: Head here for a hearty, high-quality burger, or if you’re trying to be healthy, you can have any burger turned into a yummy salad.

  • Scroggin: This airy, modern cafe is just the ticket for a healthy but satisfying brunch. Whether you eat everything or are vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, they’ve got you covered. Scroggin also does packed lunches if you want picnic supplies to take on your Wanaka adventures.

  • Big Fig: With a motto of “slow food, served fast,” the Big Fig is the place to go for a quick, healthy lunch in Wanaka. You’ll choose a “plate” size and then pick from a variety of slow-cooked meats and super-fresh salads, all with a Middle Eastern influence. This spot is such a good place to fuel up for a hike without feeling weighed down.

  • Fedeli: If you’re after a takeaway coffee, sandwich, or salad (or all of the above), get yourself on over to Fedeli! They use seasonal, local produce in their food, which is all freshly made and just wonderful. This is a great place to grab a sandwich to take on a hike.

  • Francesca’s Italian Kitchen: For a nice Italian dinner, go to Francesca’s. They have fantastic pizzas and pastas—including an amazing merino lamb ragu with pappardelle—and their polenta fries are to die for. We like treating ourselves to a dinner date here for special occasions (or after completing a hard hike like Roy’s Peak!).

✶ Watch a Movie at the Cinema Paradiso

The Cinema Paradiso is an iconic Wanaka landmark. This boutique movie theater has comfy old couches, a cafe and bar, and even warm cookies for sale at intermission! If it’s a rainy day in Wanaka, or if you want something relaxing to do after hiking or skiing, go see a movie here—you’ll love it!

✶ Get Weird at Wanaka’s Puzzling World

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This famous Wanaka attraction has a maze, bizarre buildings, optical illusions, and puzzling rooms—it’s weird, and it’s wonderful! Visitors of all ages absolutely love this spot.

Carve out a couple of hours if you want to go to Puzzling World—you’ll want to spend some time there. Puzzling World is a unique “must-do” in Wanaka if you’re after an indoor activity.

✶ Frolic Through the Wanaka Lavender Farm

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Photo by Michael

In summer (December through February), the Wanaka Lavender Farm has fields of lavender in full bloom. A wander through the flower fields is a delight for the senses, with purple all around and the most heavenly scent in the air!

While summertime is when the lavender is in full swing, you can visit the lavender farm year-round to enjoy a lavender ice cream and tea in the cafe, pick up some handmade lavender products (and honey!), and visit the adorable onsite farm animals.

Entry fees for the Wanaka lavender farm:

  • Dec-March: $15 per adult; $7.50 per child (free for children under 5 yrs)
  • April-Nov: $7 per adult; $3.50 per child (free for children under 5 yrs)

✶ Go Skiing or Snowboarding (winter only, of course!)

Wanaka is a world-class destination for skiers and snowboarders. The ski season usually runs from June through late September/early October, depending on the year.

The two main ski resorts near Wanaka are Cardrona and Treble Cone.

Cardrona is known for having the most reliable conditions and a family-friendly experience. Treble Cone is popular with intermediate to experienced skiers and snowboarders who like to go “off-piste” and enjoy challenging terrain.

A lift pass can be used at both Cardrona and Treble Cone, so you can try them both if you’re keen!

✶ Day Trip to the Blue Pools

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Along the Makarora River lies the Blue Pools Track, one of the best short walks on the South Island.

These stunning pools have some of the clearest, bluest water you’ll ever see—especially on a sunny day. The glacial water is so crystal-clear that you’ll often be able to spot trout swimming in the depths.

The short walk through beech forest is lovely, too—and you’ll get to cross a couple of cool swingbridges. The Blue Pools themselves are quite cold to swim in since they’re glacier-fed, but on a hot summer’s day, you might be tempted!

Tip: If you’re heading to the Blue Pools, make a day out of it and go scope out nearby Fantail Falls and Thunder Creek Falls, too! Pack a picnic for the journey, as this will be almost a full day of adventuring.

Where to Stay in Wanaka

⛺️ Camping in Wanaka

  • Camping in Wanaka: The best campground close to Wanaka is the Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park. They have powered and unpowered campsites, and cabins—and a sauna, which is heaven after a day of hiking or skiing!

  • Camping near Wanaka: Another great camping option is the Camp at Lake Hawea. This spot is located right alongside peaceful Lake Hawea, a 15-minute drive from Wanaka. They have all sorts of options, including campsites, glamping tents, cute cottages, and luxurious geo-domes.

🛌 Accommodation in Wanaka

  • Mid-range motel: Perched on a hill above Wanaka township, the West Meadows Motel has beautiful mountain views, friendly staff, and stylish, modern rooms. We love this motel a whole lot. If you stay here, make sure to check out Ruby’s Cinema and Bar just across the road.

  • Mid-range motel: The Clearbrook Motel is a standout; it’s located in the most convenient spot within walking distance to all of the best Wanaka cafes and restaurants. A crystal-clear creek runs right through the property and the rooms have outdoor decks or patios—sit under the sun and enjoy the sounds of the water rushing by!

  • High-end apartments: Lakeside Apartments Wanaka offer beautiful apartment-style accommodation right in the heart of Wanaka. Choose from a range of different apartments, from one-bedroom to three-bedroom units. The apartments have stunning lake views, plus access to a heated pool and spa area.

Road Trip Part 4: Wanaka to Queenstown

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Today, you’ll drive from one beautiful lake to another!
  • Driving time from Wanaka to Queenstown: 1 hour / 68.5 km (43 miles)
  • Where & How Long to Stay: 2 (or more!) nights in Queenstown

Today, you’re off to the “Adventure Capital of the World”: Queenstown.

Queenstown is arguably the most touristy place in New Zealand, and for good reason: it’s magnificent. Situated on beautiful Lake Wakatipu; surrounded by mountain peaks and a world-class wine region; and bustling with adventure and outdoor activities, amazing food, and great nightlife—this town is a destination in and of itself.

Okay, maybe we’re a bit biased—we do live in Queenstown. But if you like beautiful places (and don’t we all?), we think you’ll love it too!

Even the drive from Wanaka to Queenstown is absolutely stunning the entire way. Here’s what you’ll want to see along the way:

Stops on the Drive from Wanaka to Queenstown:

📍 The Cardrona Distillery

The Cardrona Distillery produces some sip-worthy local spirits, including vodka, gin, whisky, and liqueurs. They make their products with Cardrona Valley alpine water and foraged ingredients, and it’s some truly top-notch stuff.

The distillery offers tours and tastings, but if you don’t have a DD with you, you could simply pick up a beautiful bottle as a souvenir.

When you drive into the Cardona Distillery, you’ll also get a glimpse of the famous “Bradrona,” a fence covered in hundreds of bras. This quirky (and controversial) attraction sits alongside the road and is hard not to miss—it’s a bra fence, after all! Snap a photo and consider making a donation to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Society; there’s a donation box along the fence for this purpose.

📍 The Cardrona Hotel

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Sitting prettily between Wanaka and Queenstown en route to the Crown Range Road, the iconic Cardrona Hotel just may be the most-photographed building in New Zealand.

This rustic, charming hotel is steeped in history, and it’s also home to a wonderful restaurant and pub that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Whether you’re after a meal or just a photo, don’t miss a stop at this legendary hotel!

📍 The Crown Range Road

The Crown Range Road is a super-steep, super-windy scenic road and the fastest route between Wanaka and Queenstown. It’s also the highest main road in New Zealand, traversing over an alpine pass that reaches an altitude of 1121 meters at its summit.

This road is absolutely stunning, and we recommend going this way if you can, but there is some need for caution. First, if you’re renting a campervan, make sure you’re allowed to take it on this road—some campervan companies prohibit driving over it. Second, if you’re driving the road in winter (between May and September), make sure you 1) have snow chains with you and 2) drive in daylight hours after the sun has melted any ice on the road.

Okay—so why should you drive this way after all of these cautionary warnings? Well, the Crown Range Road is absolutely stunning!

As you make your way up and over the road, you’ll skirt along tussock-covered mountains and be treated to beautiful views over Arrowtown, Queenstown, and the Remarkables Ranges. In early summer, wild lupins blanket the roadside, and in late summer, you’ll see gorgeous sunflower fields.

Alternate route: If your campervan company prohibits you from driving over the Crown Range Road, or if it just seems a bit too scary for your driving comfort levels, don’t worry—there’s another beautiful way to drive from Wanaka to Queenstown (and vice versa). You’ll simply want to take State Highway 6, which goes past Cromwell and through the beautiful, winery-rich Gibbston Valley.

📍 Arrowtown

After descending from the Crown Range Road, take the short detour to Arrowtown.

Arrowtown is an adorable historic gold mining town that’s just 15 minutes away from Queenstown. It makes for an excellent afternoon stop between Wanaka and Queenstown!

Here’s how to spend a perfect afternoon in Arrowtown…
  • Grab lunch (and a beer) at Slow Cuts. They make the most delicious burgers and have their own house-brewed Lake & Wood beer on tap. For other food and drink options, we recommend Provisions (great baked goods), Chop Shop (amazing brunch), or the Fork & Tap Alehouse for a pint and snack.

  • Explore the adorable Arrowtown township by walking along Buckingham Street, which is just packed with cute buildings and lovely boutique shops.

  • Wander down to the Arrowtown River to walk off lunch. Visit the historic Chinese settlement, or take the Arrowtown River trail for a longer walk. You may stumble upon some secret swimming holes along the way…

  • If you like to cook/shop for local food, don’t miss a visit to the Royalburn Farm Shop. They have a fantastic selection of locally-sourced produce and meat, plus lots of other gourmet items like pasta, preserves, and good sourdough bread. Grab supplies to make a campervan dinner or cook at your accommodation, and it’ll be a homemade meal to remember!

  • For a longer walk, head to beautiful Lake Hayes and follow the trail that circles the lake. It’s particularly stunning in autumn, when the leaves start to change color on all of the surrounding trees.

Tip: if you’d rather just go straight from Wanaka to Queenstown today without stopping, you could always day trip to Arrowtown from Queenstown later on in your trip.

How to Get From Arrowtown to Queenstown

After exploring Arrowtown, it’s time to make your way to Queenstown. It’ll take you about 20 minutes to drive from Arrowtown to Queenstown.

There are two ways to drive from Arrowtown to Queenstown, as follows:

Option 1: If you’re ready to just get to Queenstown, we recommend taking the route via Malaghan’s Road, which goes past Millbrook Resort and then Arthur’s Point before descending into the main Queenstown township. Going this way will help you avoid most of Queenstown’s traffic.

Option 2: If you need to get groceries or other supplies—or if you’re staying in the Frankton area—then take the Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road to connect to State Highway 6. This route will take you right past the best supermarkets in Queenstown (we’re partial to Pak n Save) so you can stock up on whatever you need before checking into your accommodation or campground.

Things to Do in Queenstown

So you’ve made it to Queenstown, yay! After checking in to your accommodation or campground, it’s time to explore (or just relax in) this beautiful town.

Queenstown is known as the “adventure capital of the world,” as it’s packed with a mind-boggling array of adventure activities—you can go bungy jumping, skydiving, paragliding, and jet boating, just to name a few.

While it’s best known for these adventure activities, there are actually so many other things to do in Queenstown. In full disclosure: we’re Queenstown locals, and we never do any of the adventure activities we’ve just mentioned…basically, even if you’re not into adrenaline-rushing activities, don’t skip Queenstown!

Queenstown is located right near a stunning wine region and world-class hiking and mountain biking trails. This beautiful little resort town also punches well above its weight when it comes to cafes, restaurants, and bars—there are so many amazing eateries and watering holes within Queenstown’s relatively small sphere!

There is so much to see and do in Queenstown, so you’ll definitely want to stay a few days here to make the most of it. Below are our recommendations for the best things to do in Queenstown!

✶ Hang at Queenstown Bay Beach (& Maybe Go Kayaking!)

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Kayaking on Lake Wakatipu is so much fun!

In summer, Queenstown Bay Beach is a great place to lay down a picnic blanket and hang out for a while.

It’s also a great spot to enjoy a takeaway meal al fresco—Fergburger and Erik’s Fish & Chips are two very popular choices to bring down to the beach!

While the water is super cold pretty much year-round, it’s refreshing to go for an icy swim on a hot day.

If you’d like to partake in some watersports, there are seasonal rentals right at the beach for paddleboards and kayaks.

✶ Enjoy the Queenstown Gardens

The Queenstown Gardens are just a stone’s throw away from Queenstown Bay and the town center, and they’re well worth a visit.

It’s completely free to walk through the gardens, which are filled with beautiful leafy trees and colorful flowers in the warmer months.

The rose gardens here are particularly gorgeous in summer—if you have a good book to read, there’s no better place to hang out on a bench for a while.

You can also play frisbee (disc) golf in the gardens—this is one of our favorite free activities in Queenstown! The disc golf course is free to play, and you can hire discs from the Queenstown Ice Arena (also in the gardens) for $6 a disc, or Small Planet Sports in town for $5 a disc.

✶ Hike Up the Queenstown Hill Walkway

The Queenstown Hill Walkway starts just a few minutes from town and takes you up to one of Queenstown’s best viewpoints.

The hike involves a 400-meter (1,312 ft) climb through a pine forest to reach the summit of Te Tapu-nui (mountain of intense sacredness).

All in all, this hike takes about 1.5 hours round-trip, although you might want to linger longer up top to really enjoy the views!

To start the hike, you’ll want to drive up to the trailhead parking area on Belfast Terrace. Alternatively, you can walk up to the trailhead from town, but do note that this will add quite a bit of elevation gain to your walk.

Along the trail, make sure to check out the Basket of Dreams sculpture, which is just 10 minutes from the summit of the hike. There are informative panels along the walk to provide facts and stories about Queenstown’s history.

This trail is one of the best free things to do in Queenstown—the views from the summit are truly some of the best in town.

✶ Tackle More Queenstown Hikes

Around Queenstown, you’ll find some of the best hikes on the South Island. You’ll seriously be spoilt for choice when it comes to hiking trails!

To help narrow things down for you, here are some of our absolute favorite hikes in Queenstown:

Lake Alta Track

 3.4km (2.1 miles) | 1.5 hours | Moderate

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Located up on the Remarkables ski field, this hike climbs to a stunning glacial lake. This hike is a locals’ gem that’s often missed in travel guides to the area, but we can’t recommend it enough!

This hike is best done between November to May, as in the winter months the entire place will be covered in snow (it is on a ski field, after all!).

Mt. Crichton Loop Track

 7.6km (4.7 miles) | 2.5 hours | Moderate

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Another locals’ favorite hike, highlights of this track include lush beech forest, a beautiful river, a waterfall, and a historic backcountry hut.

This hike is a great one for all ages—and when you’re in the area, don’t miss visiting Bob’s Cove, either! (See more details on Bob’s Cove in the next entry).

Routeburn Track Day Hike – Routeburn Falls

 18.2km (11.3 miles) | 6 hours | Hard

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The Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s famous Great Walks, which are multi-day hikes (“tramps” in Kiwi lingo) that traverse some of the country’s most magnificent landscapes.

When it comes to the Routeburn Track, you don’t actually have to complete the whole thing to enjoy this hike’s epic scenery. Instead, we recommend doing a day hike on the Routeburn track!

If you’re staying in Queenstown, you can easily day trip to the start of the Routeburn Track, which is just outside of Glenorchy. From the Routeburn Track trailhead, you can then hike to Routeburn Falls as an out-and-back hike.

This will be a full-day hiking excursion, but it is SO worth the effort—this is, by far, one of the absolutely best day hikes on the South Island!

✶ Visit Bob’s Cove

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Bob’s Cove is a Queenstown gem, with beautiful walking trails and swimmable beach coves.

To get to Bob’s Cove, you’ll need to drive, but it takes just 20 minutes from the Queenstown town center.

We recommend parking at the main Bob’s Cove carpark, and from there you can hike for about 20 minutes to the Picnic Point lookout. The lookout has incredible views over Bob’s Cove and Lake Wakatipu.

After admiring the views from Picnic Point, head back down to Bob’s Cove beach to go for a swim. We also love bringing a picnic lunch to Bob’s Cove—trust us, once you get there, you won’t want to leave!

✶ Drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy

The scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy shouldn’t be missed on your visit to Queenstown!

The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy technically takes just 45 minutes, but it’s so incredibly beautiful that you’ll want to stop at lots of places and take your time.

Two “must-do” stops on the drive include Bob’s Cove (see more in the entry above) and the Bennett’s Bluff lookout.

When you get to Glenorchy, don’t miss a visit to the adorable red boat shed, and stop by Mrs. Woolley’s General Store for a treat! If you’re up for an easy walk, the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway is beautiful; on a clear, calm day, you’ll see reflections of the surrounding mountains in the water.

While many people visit Glenorchy as a day trip from Queenstown, you could also consider spending a night or two around Glenorchy. If you plan to go camping in the area, check out our guide to the best Glenorchy camping grounds!

✶ Take the Gondola and Ride the Luge

Ride the beautiful Skyline Gondola up to the top of Bob’s Peak, where you’ll get epic views over Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and all of the surrounding mountains.

Once at the top, you might want to try the luge—it’s really fun. You’ll get to drive your own little luge cart down a thrilling track in one of the most scenic places on earth.

Tip: If you want to get up to Bob’s Peak to enjoy the views, but don’t have a gondola ride in your budget, you can hike up the Tiki Trail instead!

✶ Go Wine (or Beer) Tasting in Gibbston Valley

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The Cargo Cellar Door in Gibbston Valley offers wine tasting, beer tasting, and great food in a beautiful garden setting

The Gibbston Valley is a picturesque wine region right at Queenstown’s doorstep, and it would be a shame to visit the area without sampling some of the local drops! Pinot Noir is the specialty in this region.

There are heaps of wonderful wineries to visit—we recommend Gibbston Valley (also home to a wonderful cheesery!), Chard Farm, and/or Cargo Brewery (where you can sip on craft beer or local wines in a gorgeous relaxed setting).

If you don’t have a DD and want a car-free wine tasting option, you can book a seat on a Hop on Hop Off bus, which stops at lots of great wineries and breweries.

Budget tip: If a wine or beer tasting isn’t in the cards, you could pick up some local wine or craft beer to enjoy at your accommodation or campground—most of the supermarkets in Queenstown have a good local wine and beer selection!

✶ Catch Some Thrills on a Jet Boat

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Photo by Shahid Kazi

There is an astounding array of adrenaline-rushing adventure activities in Queenstown, but the one we’d recommend to most people is a jet boat ride.

You’ll have a lot of different jet boat options available to you, and it can be hard to choose. To help you out: check out the Skippers Canyon jet boat!

On this excursion, you’ll get to go on a tour of Skippers Canyon with a knowledgable driver, then hop on a jet boat to zip around the beautiful Shotover River. It’s an exhilarating experience; you get a mix of beautiful scenery and some serious excitement all in one package.

✶ Take a Cruise on the TSS Earnslaw

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For a relaxing cruise on Lake Wakatipu, take the leisurely 90-minute boat ride on the TSS Earnslaw, a historic steamship from 1912. The boat cruises over to the Walter Peak High Country Farm, a beautiful merino sheep station.

The TSS Earnslaw is one of the most popular attractions in Queenstown, and it’s fun for all ages. Onboard the boat, there’s a cafe selling coffee, beer, or wine if you want to really feel like you’re on vacation.

When booking your cruise, we highly (HIGHLY!) recommend choosing the gourmet BBQ lunch option. This buffet lunch is served in the beautiful dining room at the Walter Peak High Country Farm. The food is next-level delicious and features fresh local produce and meat—it’s not your typical buffet food. Make sure you arrive hungry, as you’ll want to try a bit of everything at this gourmet feast.

✶ Go Skiing or Snowboarding in Winter

Queenstown, like Wanaka, is home to some fantastic skiing and snowboarding.

You have two options for skiing/snowboarding in Queenstown: the Remarkables Ski Area and Coronet Peak. Both are beautiful ski fields (aka “ski resorts” as we North Americans call them). You’ll have a blast at either one.

Coronet Peak is the closest mountain to town. In addition to day skiing, they have night skiing on Wednesdays and Fridays (and sometimes Saturdays, too) which is really fun to experience. This ski field also has epic views right over Queenstown.

The Remarkables Ski Area is the bigger Queenstown ski field, with more runs to choose from. The snow tends to be less icy at the Remarkables vs. Coronet Peak. Like Coronet Peak, the Remarkables ski field also features stunning views.

Both are great places to hit the slopes.

When you buy a lift pass to either mountain, you’ll actually get access to both mountains—so, why not try them both out over a few days, and see which one you like best?

✶ Soak in the Onsen Hot Pools

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Photo by Chaozzy Lin

For a relaxing Queenstown activity, go for a soak in one of the Onsen Hot Pool’s cedar-lined tubs. These private hot tubs overlook the Shotover River canyon—it’s a stunning place for a bit of pampering, especially after a day of hiking or skiing!

Where to Eat and Drink in Queenstown

There are so many awesome places to eat and drink in Queenstown, so it’ll be impossible to list them all here. That being said, here are some places we recommend!

Places to Eat in Queenstown
Cafes & Casual Dining in Queenstown:

  • Bespoke Kitchen: This wonderful cafe serves up beautiful food and caters to pretty much every dietary requirement. From smoothie bowls to eggs benedict to fancy avocado toast (and everything in between), Bespoke Kitchen has your brunch needs sorted!

  • Vudu Cafe & Larder: Enjoy a coffee and breakfast at this great cafe, which couldn’t be in a better location—it’s situated right on the Queenstown waterfront, with lots of outdoor seating. Vudu has a seasonal menu and supports local producers, so head here for a fresh, locally-sourced meal in a prime locale.

  • The Boatshed: Located in the picturesque Frankton Marina, the Boatshed is a great spot for brunch. You can enjoy your meal inside, or outside on their lovely lakefront patio. Whatever you decide to order, don’t miss getting a side of their crispy potatoes with chipotle aioli…they are SO good. To walk off brunch, take a stroll along the Frankton Track towards Frankton Beach.

  • Fergbaker: Fergburger’s lesser-known sister, Fergbaker, is a must-do in Queenstown, in our opinion. Grab a pastry, pie, or sandwich for takeaway. Their pork and apple pie is particularly delicious, as is a sandwich on one of their freshly-made baguettes.

  • Fergburger: This is the most famous place to eat in Queenstown, so we can’t not include it here. Grab a burger and take it to the beach! Just be prepared to wait in a long line to order your food…this place is seriously popular. Tip: you can call in your order ahead of time if you don’t want to wait in line.

Dinner spots in Queenstown:
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The Steamer Wharf has lots of great dining options (including Farellis Trattoria, a yum Italian spot)!
  • Blue Kanu: For a fantastic dinner in Queenstown, head to Blue Kanu. They do a blend of Pacifica and Asian cuisines in a fusion they’ve deemed “Polynasia”—and it’s all delicious. We recommend getting a few different items for the table so you can sample multiple flavors—or do their “Trust the Wok” four-course set menu if you’re feeling adventurous! Their duck nachos and Fijian fish Kokoda are highly recommended.
  • @ Thai Cusine: We’re big fans of Thai Food, and @ Thai does some of the best in New Zealand. It’s also a great takeaway choice in Queenstown if you don’t feel like dining in a restaurant.

  • Farellis Trattoria: Farellis is a go-to in Queenstown for a fantastic Italian meal. They have great food and service—and even a fully vegan menu. Their pizzas and pastas are all so yum, and don’t forget to order some garlic bread!
Places to Get Drinks in Queenstown

  • Perkys Floating Bar: This is quite possibly the most unique bar in Queenstown—it’s on a permanently-moored boat on Lake Wakatipu! They have great drinks (make sure to try the mulled wine if you’re visiting in winter) and a casual atmosphere. They don’t do food, but you’re allowed to bring your own, or you can order a meal from Devil Burger to be delivered right to you!
  • Atlas Beer Cafe: If it’s a craft beer you’re after, go to Atlas Beer Cafe. They have heaps of NZ craft beers on tap and an awesome outdoor seating area right by the waterfront.

  • Sundeck: This rooftop bar is a vibe, with awesome views, great drinks, and DJs playing good music. It’s a nice place to soak up the sun in summer, and in winter they have fire pits and a retractable roof so you can cozy up with your beverage of choice.
  • Little Blackwood: Head here to sip on a fantastic cocktail while you take in the gorgeous lake views from their heated deck or cozy up inside by the roaring fire. They do awesome charcuterie boards, too!

  • Ferg’s Bar: Of the same “Ferg” legacy as the famous burgers and bakery, Ferg’s done it again with one of Queenstown’s best bars. While looks may be deceiving, this isn’t your typical bar—they serve some of the best food and drinks in town. Splash out on a fun cocktail and pair your drink with one of the outstanding menu items on offer. Or just get the crispy potato skins—they are next-level delicious.

Where to Stay in Queenstown

12-mile-delta-campground-queenstown
The 12-Mile Delta DOC campsite is a gorgeous camping spot just 15 minutes from Queenstown

⛺️ Camping in Queenstown

  • The absolute best campground in Queenstown is the Driftaway Holiday Park. This campground is top-notch in every way! With a lakefront location on the sunny Frankton Arm, a spotless modern amenities block, and onsite hot tubs for hire, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a nicer campground! From camp, it’s a 10-minute drive or a quick bus ride or water taxi trip into town.

► Further reading: check out our guide to the best campsites in Queenstown!

🛌 Accommodation in Queenstown

There are heaps of great accommodation options in Queenstown—the best choice for you just depends on your budget and preferences!

Here are some accommodation options we recommend, from personal experience:

  • Mid-range hotel: The Sherwood is an eco-friendly boutique hotel that’s perfect for travelers who want something a bit more charming than your average hotel. It has a rustic wood-cabin vibe, a fantastic onsite restaurant, yoga classes, and great gigs from visiting musicians. It’s an easy 10-minute bus ride into town from the Sherwood.

  • High-end hotel: The Rees is a beautiful property perched above the Frankton Track, with elevated views over Lake Wakatipu. They have luxurious lake-view rooms, their own private jetty and beach, and a highly-rated restaurant. While the hotel is just a 5-minute drive into town, they also offer a complimentary shuttle for guests—or take the water taxi from their jetty into town! For guests who like to walk, you can walk to town in about 40 minutes via the scenic Frankton Track.

  • High-end apartment: The Marina Apartments by Element Escapes are located in the Frankton Marina, just a 10-minute bus ride or a quick drive into town. These apartments are a great option for travelers who want their own kitchen and laundry facilities—they’re set up really well! You can walk along the beautiful Frankton Track right from your doorstep, and wander over to the Boatshed Cafe and Altitude Brewery for great food and drinks.

And there you have it—the ultimate itinerary for driving from Christchurch to Queenstown! While we think this itinerary is pretty much perfect as-is, you might need to adjust some things depending on how much time you have for your trip. Below are some ideas for ways to change up this itinerary.

Alternate Itineraries for a Christchurch to Queenstown Road Trip

devils-staircase-lake-wakatipu
The “Devil’s Staircase” road between Queenstown and Te Anau / Milford Sound

If you need to shorten your Christchurch to Queenstown road trip itinerary:

To shorten the itinerary we’ve given, we recommend simply stopping by Lake Tekapo on the way to Mount Cook, rather than staying in Tekapo overnight.

If you need to condense the itinerary even more, you may have to do some one-night stays in Mount Cook, Wanaka and/or Queenstown.

If you have 2-3 more days to add to your Christchurch to Queenstown road trip itinerary:

After Queenstown, head down to Te Anau and take the scenic drive to Milford Sound.

While many people will recommend that you visit Milford Sound as a day trip from Queenstown, we don’t recommend this at all! The drive is too long, and there’s so much to see. Instead, stay in Te Anau for two nights and explore Milford Sound and the surrounding area from there.

When you’re done in Te Anau/Milford Sound, drive back to Queenstown for your return flight.

If you have another week (or more) to add to your Christchurch to Queenstown road trip itinerary:

If you have two whole weeks or more on the South Island, why not make a loop out of your road trip?

After Queenstown, we recommend adding on the Southern Scenic Route, which takes you to Te Anau, Milford Sound, the Catlins, and Dunedin.

Then drive along the East Coast (visiting Moeraki & Oamaru on the way) to loop back to Christchurch.

And for a completely different route…

If you prefer coastal scenery, then consider this plan: drive from Christchurch to Kaikōura, then head up to Blenheim or Picton. From there, follow this Picton to Queenstown road trip via the West Coast!

Want more New Zealand itineraries?

Then check out my itinerary for 10 days on New Zealand’s North Island, or the ultimate itinerary for driving from Auckland to Queenstown!


Thanks for Reading our Christchurch to Queenstown Road Trip Itinerary!

We hope this guide has helped you plan the ultimate road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown.

If you have any questions about this road trip, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment, and we’ll be happy to try and help 🙂


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28 Comments

  1. Just wanted to say what a great itinerary you have shared! It is flawless and I am tempted to just print this out and follow it every step of the way! Thank you so much!

    1. Thanks very much for your comment, Arden! I’m so glad you’ve found the itinerary helpful. Hope you have a wonderful road trip!

  2. Hi Jac, I agree with Arden that this guide was extremely helpful. I feel that it truly captured an authentic roadtrip with less touristy stops, and more wonders of the area. The pictures were also extremely helpful and I like that it was a mix of food recommendations and stops to get moving. Very appreciative as we travel through New Zealand for the first time 🙂

    1. Comments like this make my day – thanks so much, Taylor! I’m happy you’ve found the guide helpful. Enjoy your time in New Zealand and feel free to get in touch any time if you need help with your trip plans 🙂

  3. Hello. I was about to spend a lot of time doing research for my NZ trip, but because I found your guide I made my itineraries in 2 hours. Thank you so much :-)) But then I also found out that all the hotels or apartments that you recommended were already sold out for this December …. Thanks again so much you make my planning so much easier :-))

    1. Hi Jane! Thanks so much for your comment. That’s great to hear you found the itinerary helpful!

      Sorry to hear the accommodation is all booked up – unfortunately, December is a busy time along this route.

      There are lots of great places to stay so even if the spots I recommended are all booked, I hope you can still find accommodation.

      I’d look at booking.com for accommodation and then cross-reference reviews on there with reviews on google.

      Good luck, and hope you have a great trip!

  4. Hi Jac, it’s me again

    If we want to really enjoy the road trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound and visited all the stops that you recommended without any rush, how many days that you would suggest? Thanks so much in advance

    1. Hi Jane! I would take 2 days for the road trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound, and stay 2 nights in Te Anau.

      On day one, drive from Queenstown to Te Anau and spend time around Te Anau. You could visit the bird sanctuary, book a glow worm cave tour, do a walk (I love the walk to Brod Bay), and grab dinner somewhere (Redcliff Cafe or Ditto are both great).

      On day two, drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound and spend the whole day enjoying sightseeing, walks, and a Milford Sound cruise before returning to Te Anau for the night.

      Hope that helps, and if you have any other questions, just let me know!

  5. Thank you so much for this guide! It is very well written and organized. I am planning to travel from Queenstown to Christchurch so I will be using your guide in reverse. But I was wondering if you could stay overnight in two places on the road trip from Queenstown to Christchurch, where would you stay? I know the guide said that if you have less time, then to skip Lake Tekapo but the drive from Mount Cook to Christchurch is nearly four hours and that seems quite long.

    1. Hi Ann! Thanks for your message and I’m so glad you found the guide helpful.

      After Queenstown, you could stay in Wanaka (1-2 nights) and then Lake Tekapo (1 night), with a detour to Mount Cook along the drive between Wanaka and Lake Tekapo.

      Just make sure to give yourself a full day for the drive from Wanaka to Lake Tekapo, as there’s a lot to see and do along the way.

      From Lake Tekapo, it would then be about a 3 hour drive to Christchurch.

      Hope that helps, and if you have any other questions, just let me know!

      Cheers,
      Jac

  6. Hi, again Jac,

    I originally made an itinerary from Christchurch-Lake Tekapo-Mt Aoraki-Wanaka then Queenstown-TeAnau-Milford Sound-Queenstown. But then I think why don’t I go straight from Wanaka to Te Anau instead of going to Queenstown first? What do you think?
    Your advice is highly appreciated 🙂
    Thanks so much
    Jane

    1. Hi Jane!

      I think the second option is a great one: Christchurch > Lake Tekapo > Aoraki > Wanaka > Te Anau > Queenstown. That will be an excellent itinerary!

      Cheers, Jac

  7. Nice itinerary… would you suggest this east coast route or the west coast via hammer Springs? We have about 20 days.. I love all your hiking tips

    1. Hi Josh, thanks for your comment!

      With 20 days, you could actually do a little of both coasts along with inland scenery. That’s a great amount of time to have.

      Will you have all 20 days on the South Island? In addition to hiking, what are your interests (i.e. beaches? wine tasting? wildlife?). And where are you flying in and out of?

      With 20 days, I’d definitely see some of the West Coast and also visit Abel Tasman National Park.

      If you’re up for sharing your itinerary so far, I’d be happy to have a look at it and offer suggestions!

      Cheers,
      Jac

  8. Hi Jac,
    Enjoying reading your itinerary, wondering about your thoughts as we have to land in Queenstown on a Friday and then thinking of flying out off Christchurch the following Sunday. Have something on in Queenstown on the Saturday and also want to go to Te Anau to Milford Sound and to see the glow worms, so would have to allow for that. Any ideas on what to cut out to make it to Christchurch by the Saturday to fly out Sunday. Appreciate any ideas.

    1. Hi Edwina!

      Thanks for reading – so glad you’ve been enjoying the itinerary!

      You have a good amount of time for a Queenstown to Christchurch trip. Here’s what I’d do:

      * Friday – Queenstown
      * Saturday – Queenstown
      * Sunday – Queenstown
      * Monday – Te Anau (glow worm tour in afternoon/evening)
      * Tuesday – Te Anau (day trip to Milford Sound)
      * Wednesday – Wanaka
      * Thursday – Wanaka
      * Friday – Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
      * Saturday – Christchurch (with a stop at Lake Tekapo)
      * Sunday – Fly out

      Hope that helps (and hope I understood your dates correctly!). If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out 🙂

      Cheers,
      Jac

  9. Hi Jac,

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful itinerary, it is an awesome one!

    Since reading your post, we’ve fine-tuned our Campervan road itinerary to below. It would be appreciated if you could shed some lights into what else can we consider modifying and/or activities to add? (We are a family of 2 adults and 2 kids, which are both primary school ages. We want to make this a relaxing trip but don’t want the kids to be bored either.)

    * Thursday – Arrives at Christchurch -> Rakaia
    * Friday – Lake Tekapo
    * Saturday – Tekapo – Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
    * Sunday – Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
    * Monday – Wanaka
    * Tuesday – Wanaka
    * Wednesday – Wanaka – Arrowtown
    * Thursday – Arrowtown – Glenrochy
    * Friday – Glenrochy – Queenstown
    * Saturday – Queenstown – Te Anau
    * Sunday – Milford Sound – Te Anau
    * Monday – Queenstown (Returns our campervan + Rent an AirBnb)
    * Tuesday – Queenstown
    * Wednesday – Queenstown
    * Thursday – Fly out from Queenstown

    Any of your thoughts and suggestions are much appreciated.

    Have a nice one & look forward to hearing from you!

    Dave

    1. Hi Dave!

      Thanks for reading and for getting in touch—so glad the itinerary was helpful! I think your itinerary looks absolutely perfect and wouldn’t change a thing about it 🙂

      There’ll be lots of activities along the way to keep the kids entertained. Here are some ideas that they might like:

      -the hot pools in Methven and/or Lake Tekapo
      -fishing for salmon at High County Salmon (Twizel) or Hook (Wanakā)
      -visiting farm animals at the Wanakā lavender farm, the Glenorchy animal experience, or at Deer Park Heights in Queenstown
      -the luge, ziplining, and/or Shotover Jet in Queenstown
      -panning for gold in Arrowtown
      -hiring bikes in Wanakā, Queenstown or Te Anau to bike along the flat lakeside trails. Or in Arrowtown along the Arrow River.
      -playing at playgrounds in Tekapo, Twizel, Wanakā, Queenstown, and Te Anau
      -swimming in Lake Wanakā, at Frankton Beach or Kelvin Beach in Queenstown, or at Bob’s Cove on the drive to Glenorchy
      -if your family likes disc golf, pack your discs because there are great (free) disc golf courses in Tekapo, Twizel, Wanakā, Queenstown & Te Anau!

      Hope that helps, and have an awesome time on your campervan trip!

      Cheers,
      Jac

  10. Hi Jac,

    Thank you for this wonderful thorough itinerary. We are planning to follow this in March. Would just like to ask which among the two lavender farms would you recommend if we only have time for one?

    Big thanks!

    1. Hi Hannah!

      Thanks for your comment – I’m so glad you’ve found the itinerary helpful!

      As for choosing between lavender farms, I would go with the Wanaka Lavender Farm.

      Lavender will be at its tail-end in March (if not gone entirely), but the Wanaka Lavender Farm has a lot of other things to offer, including beautiful seasonal gardens, a great lavender shop, and cute farm animals. It’s a lovely place even if the lavender isn’t in full-swing.

      Hope you have a great time on your trip! March is one of my favourite months for this itinerary, as it’s far less crowded than it is currently during peak summer 🙂

      Cheers,
      Jac

  11. Hi Jac! Thank you for sharing your itinerary! This is so helpful! We’re a group of adults aged 20yo to 58yo, flying to Christchurch on May 24 and flying back from Queenstown on June 6. Total of 14 days. We’re planning of doing a campervan trip from Christchurch to Queenstown. Return campervan, book accomodation and explore Queenstown before flying out. What itinerary would you suggest?

    1. Hi Eleen! Thanks for your comment – I’m so happy to hear you found the blog helpful!

      When doing a one-way road trip between Christchurch and Queenstown, it’s always a tricky decision between the West Coast or Lake Tekapo/Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

      Here are two ideas to consider:

      1) West Coast option:

      24 May – Christchurch
      25 May – Kaikoura
      26 May – Kaikoura
      27 May- Hanmer Springs or Maruia Hot Springs
      28 May – Punakaiki
      29 May – Franz Josef
      30 May – Franz Josef (glacier tour)
      31 May – Wanaka
      1 June – Wanaka
      2 June – Te Anau
      3 June – Te Anau – day trip to Milford Sound
      4 June – Queenstown
      5 June – Queenstown
      6 June – Queenstown

      2) Lake Tekapo & Mount Cook option:

      24 May – Christchurch
      25 May – Kaikoura
      26 May – Nelson/Abel Tasman National Park
      27 May- Nelson/Abel Tasman National Park
      28 May – Hanmer Springs
      29 May – Lake Tekapo
      30 May – Mount Cook National Park
      31 May – Wanaka
      1 June – Wanaka
      2 June – Te Anau
      3 June – Te Anau – day trip to Milford Sound
      4 June – Queenstown
      5 June – Queenstown
      6 June – Queenstown

      I hope that helps! And if you have specific interests (i.e wildlife-spotting, hiking, wine tasting…) let me know and I can offer more suggestions 🙂

      Cheers,
      Jac

  12. Hi Jac, we are thinking of flying into Christchurch and the next day catching the transalpine train to Greymouth, which gets in around 1.00pm. We would then hire a car and eventually end up in Queenstown. Do you have any ideas for the route on the way down to Queenstown? We would love to do Milford Sound for a day. All up we have seven days, I guess of which two days are taken up with flying (will be flying out from Queenstown). Thanks you so much, Kim.

    1. Hi Kim!

      I’d do something like this, which would involve booking a day tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound (it’s too far to drive yourself as a day trip from Queenstown) –

      Day 1 – Christchurch (1N Christchurch)
      Day 2 – Transalpine train to Greymouth; drive to Franz Josef (1N Franz Josef)
      Day 3 – Franz Josef to Wanaka (2N Wanaka)
      Day 4 – Wanaka
      Day 5 – Wanaka to Queenstown (2N Queenstown)
      Day 6 – Queenstown (day tour to Milford Sound)
      Day 7 – Queenstown – depart

      Alternatively, if you’d prefer to drive yourself to Milford Sound, you could spend 2 nights in Te Anau. It’ll just mean 1-night stays everywhere else which isn’t always ideal!

      Day 1 – Christchurch (1N Christchurch)
      Day 2 – Transalpine train to Greymouth; drive to Franz Josef (1N Franz Josef)
      Day 3 – Franz Josef to Wanaka (1N Wanaka)
      Day 4 – Wanaka to Te Anau (2N Te Anau)
      Day 5 – Te Anau (day trip to Milford Sound)
      Day 6 – Te Anau to Queenstown (1N Queenstown)
      Day 7 – Queenstown – depart

      Hope that helps! 🙂

      Cheers,
      Jac

    1. Hi, Sue! Thanks so much for your comment—that makes me really happy to hear. Hope you had a great time in NZ!

      Cheers,
      Jac

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