Road Trip Guide – Christchurch To Queenstown

Monday, November 26th, 2018

Read about 'Road Trip Guide – Christchurch To Queenstown' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

The road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown not only offers sightseers a huge range of things to see and do, it provides a fantastic preview into some of New Zealand’s best countryside.

The trip crosses wide flat plains and winds its way through lofty mountain peaks, around beautiful lakes and across rugged rivers. For anyone looking to sample some of the famous New Zealand countryside, it’s simply a fantastic place to start.

Christchurch To Queenstown By Car

At roughly 6 hours and 480 km, you could do the drive in a day, but taking time out to stop along the way is all part of the road trip experience. The route is packed with places to relax, explore, eat, and just take in the amazing views. Take a look at our guide for some ideas for making the most of your road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown.

Start At Christchurch

Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island, and an excellent place to start your trip. Be sure to check out the ever-changing central city rebuild with its interesting mix of heritage buildings, new construction and semi-permanent pop-up shops and break-out areas.

There are also the Botanic Gardens, the Canterbury Museum and the Antarctic Centre for family fun. Or on a clear day, head on over to the Christchurch Gondola to travel up the Port Hills in style and enjoy the fantastic views. For more ideas on things to do in Christchurch take a look here.

It’s time to hit the road, start by heading south along State Highway One, pass by Rolleston, Burnham and Dunsandel as you make your way towards Ashburton. Grab a coffee or snack at the Nosh Café on your way.

Canterbury Museum

Pitt Stop At Geraldine

Turning off onto State Highway 79, roughly 25 minutes from Ashburton (just before you get to Orari), will take you through Geraldine. A quiet rural township, Geraldine is full of charming shops where you can purchase locally produced fudge, chocolates, baked goods and coffee.

Check out the kids playground or there is even a little museum providing an insight into life for early settlers of the Canterbury plains.

Overnight At Lake Tekapo

Continuing on State Highway 79 will eventually bring you to State Highway 8, which you then follow west towards Lake Tekapo. The township of Tekapo is nestled on the edge of the Lake and is well worth spending a night or two at. Not only are the Lake’s glacial waters beautifully captivating, but there are so many things to see and do in Tekapo. It’s the perfect spot for swimming, fishing and boating during summer, and there are a number of surrounding ski fields where you can go whizzing down the slopes during the winter.

Various nature trails allow you to make the most of the natural surroundings and forests, and the lakeside village is home to world-class eateries. Head on up to the Mount St John’s Observatory for the most amazing views both at night and during the day. The observatory is a short drive (or a rather long walk) from the town centre.

Detour To Mount Cook

Continuing along State Highway 8 you’ll come to the turn off to Aoraki Mount Cook. This 30 minute detour takes you along the edge of the picturesque Lake Pukaki, right up to the alpine village where you can embark on an alpine walk or enjoy the majestic views of the mountain from the comfort of the onsite cafe.

Road To Mount Cook

Relax At Cromwell

Back on the road again, State Highway 8 will lead you to Cromwell. Learn about the history of the area in ‘Old Cromwell Town’, a historic precinct full of original buildings that have been converted into trendy cafes and shops. In the summertime, there’s also lots of local fruit and produce on offer at roadside stores.

From Cromwell you can continue on to Queenstown via the Kawarau Gorge or take another (very worthwhile) detour up to Wanaka.

Detour To Wanaka

The township of Wanaka is located at the tip of Lake Wanaka surrounded by majestic mountain peaks and simply beautiful scenery. Wanaka takes on a ski resort kind of vibe, which is understandable since there are 4 ski fields located within 40 minutes’ drive; Cardrona, Treble Cone and the Snow Farm along with little known private ski field Soho Basin.

The detour to Wanaka from Cromwell will take you around 40 minutes one way. If you don’t mind missing out on the Kawarau Gorge leg of the trip you can take the Cardrona Valley Road through the mountains to the Arrow Junction where it re-joins the main route. This back road will take you about an hour, it is important to check road conditions before setting out if you are travelling during the winter months.

Finish At Queenstown

Once you reach your destination, adventure, fun and relaxation await! The surrounding mountains, rivers and gorges are filled with adrenaline-pumping activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting, mountain biking, canyoning, jet boating and paragliding – the list goes on and on.

Or for those who prefer a slower pace, why not take a relaxing cruise across Lake Wakatipu or check out the various spa facilities; ready to pamper you for as long as you choose to stay. Don’t forget to try one of New Zealand’s best burgers at the iconic Fergburger café on Shotover Street and grab a cocktail at the luxurious Eichardt’s Bar down at the lakefront.

Looking Down On Queenstown

The road from Christchurch to Queenstown takes you through diverse landscapes and scenery you won’t find anywhere else on earth. Enjoy your Christchurch to Queenstown road trip in comfort with affordable car hire from USAVE Car Rental.


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