Christchurch to Queenstown Road Guide

The South Island's largest city, Christchurch, is located on New Zealand’s east coast and makes a fantastic adventure destination. And the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown can deliver one of the most exhilarating road trips of your life! Before you head out on your epic road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown, hire a car from Omega in Christchurch and take your time uncovering the hidden gems the South Island has to offer.

Drive Time, Distance and More Stats

The full Christchurch to Queenstown distance – without detours – is 482 km, along State Hwy 8, taking almost 6 hours non-stop. 

Driving time allowance – it’s safer and more enjoyable to take your time! We recommend stopping every two hours to rest, grab a bite to eat, and check out some incredible views.

Tips for Planning Your Trip!

The South Island is renowned for snow-capped mountains, green rolling hills and pristine beaches. For travellers still in the planning stage of their Queenstown road trip itinerary, here’s what you need to know before you go.

Best time to visit Queenstown from Christchurch? Check the Weather

Planning to visit during ski season? July and October typically offer the best skiing conditions. Don’t forget to add snow chains to your car hire booking.

From December to February, the weather is ideal for touring. During this summer season, temperatures range between 19 and 23°C. Stay up to date with the local weather online at

Renting a Car at Christchurch Airport

You’ll find the local Christchurch Omega Rental Cars depot at 158 Orchard Rd, Mustang Park, Harewood - just 5 minutes from the airport. We’re open seven days a week from 7.30 am to 6 pm.

The Possibilities are Endless

A self-drive road trip is a fantastic way to see more of New Zealand. We’ve got some of the best places to inspire your five-day self-drive itinerary for the ultimate Christchurch to Queenstown road trip.

Day 1 - Drive Around Christchurch City

Christchurch City is also known as the Garden City due to its expansive historic parks and suburbs of manicured gardens. Come and walk the streets to discover cutting-edge architecture, incredible street art, the treasured Avon River, and bustling cafes and restaurants.

Take a scenic drive to the Christchurch Gondola for sweeping 360-degree views of the town centre, the snow-capped Southern Alps, the volcanic Banks Peninsula, and the famed Canterbury Plains.

Day 2 - Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

Drive west for one hour along Wards Road to enjoy beautiful views and fresh, alpine air on your way to Rakaia Gorge. Feeling bold and ready for a great leg workout? Then pull on your hiking boots and trek the 10 km Rakaia Gorge walkway to experience one of the most scenic day hikes in New Zealand.

Next, take Inland Scenic Route 72 for another hour before you arrive at Geraldine for a coffee break. This picturesque small town is nestled in the foothills of the Southern Alps.

When you take State Highway 79, then 8 for another hour, you’ll enjoy a lake famous for its spectacular turquoise colour—Lake Tekapo. Then, drive or walk up to the summit of Mt John for one of NZ's best lookouts. After dark, the Mt John Observatory and the gold-rated Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve offer impressive night sky views.

Be sure to visit the Tekapo Hot Springs for a soak in thermal pools on the edge of a pine forest with stunning views of Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook. If you want to stay overnight before heading off to your next destination, you'll find accommodation within walking distance of the town. Or you can find a holiday park and other accommodation at nearby Aoraki-Mount Cook Village.

Day 3 - From Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki, to Mount Cook National Park and Wanaka

Head off on State Highway 8, and make sure you stop by Peter’s Lookout to take in the spectacular scenery of Lake Pukaki and the surrounding mountains.

Follow the lake’s stunning turquoise waters for 30 minutes to reach Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park—home to New Zealand's tallest mountain. Looking for energetic outdoor activities? Experience the extraordinary ancient landscape and trek one of NZ’s most popular hiking trails – the Hooker Valley Track. On this amazing walk, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the Tasman Glacier and its surrounding ski fields.

Two hours further will bring you to Wanaka. Just a short walk west of the town, you'll find one of the most Instagrammable photo opportunities in NZ – the famous Wanaka tree. On your way, stop in at Puzzling World, a popular attraction the whole family can enjoy. Experience a wonderful world of weirdness, with mind-boggling illusion rooms and the world’s first ‘mega maze’.

If you’re looking for adventure activities, hire a kayak or take a jet boating tour on Lake Wanaka. On a calm day, you could also take a scenic flight to view the stunning scenery over Mt Aspiring National Park, expansive glaciers, beech forests and alpine lakes.

Day 4 - Wanaka to Arrowtown

Take State Highway 8A for 30 minutes to reach Bendigo. Visit the Bendigo Historic Reserve to view a vast range of relics from the city’s quartz mining days.

Travel along State Highways 8 and 6, and you’ll come to the town of Cromwell. You can't miss the oversized fruit sculptures upon entry into the town! The Goldfields Mining Centre is one of the most eye-opening places to visit for an insight into the life and times of the early gold miners.

Continue along State Highway 6 for five minutes, and you’ll reach the Roaring Meg Power Station—just a short drive from the beautiful Lake Dunstan. Enjoy the sounds, colours and stunning lake views that are sure to impress.

A must-do on your Queenstown itinerary is a visit to the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. Just 25 minutes away, the town is full of quaint, historic buildings where you can visit the heritage-listed Chinese Settlement, dating back to the mid-1800s. View the preserved avenue where wealthy bankers and merchants traded and the restored huts of the Chinese miners.

Just ten minutes from Arrowtown will bring you to Otago’s famous wine region. The Gibbston Valley Winery is a great spot to enjoy award-winning wine tasting. You’ll find it’s also one of the most beautiful places to spend time taking in the spectacular Central Otago mountain views.

Day 5 - Arrowtown to Queenstown

Welcome to the adventure capital! Queenstown city is only 20 minutes from Arrowtown, following Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Rd and State Highways 6 and 6A. Here, you’ll find loads of awesome activities to fill your days.

After the ultimate road trip – Christchurch to Queenstown, we’re sure you’re ready to settle into your accommodation. Then, we suggest you take the Skyline Gondola up Bob’s Peak to enjoy amazing views over the city centre and Lake Wakatipu. And celebrate your arrival at the Stratosfare Restaurant with a bottle of bubbly, accompanied by some delicious food.

Check out more articles on our blog for extra suggestions for unique activities and attractions in Queenstown, New Zealand.

More Frequently Asked Questions:

Driving to Queenstown for the first time

To drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, you will need a full NZ, Australian or international driver’s licence. And always pay attention to the posted sign limits; in an emergency, dial 111.

How do I drop off a rental car in Queenstown?

We offer one-way hires, so you can conveniently drop your car off at our Queenstown Depot. We’re located at 5/93 Beach Street, near SKYCITY casino. But, before you do, make sure you pay a visit to the Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. The rugged mountain peaks, glacier-carved fiords and lakes are some of the most amazing natural attractions on the South Island of New Zealand. We look forward to seeing you soon!