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Christchurch to Queenstown: An Amazing Road Trip Itinerary

The South Island's largest city, Christchurch, is located on NZ’s east coast and makes a fantastic adventure destination. Before you head out on your Queenstown road trip, hire a car from Omega in Christchurch and take your time uncovering the hidden gems the South Island has to offer.

Tips for Planning Your Trip!

New Zealand’s 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

Come between July and October for 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 and ranges between 19 and 23°C. Stay up to date with the local weather online at https://www.metservice.com/

Renting a Car at Christchurch Airport

You’ll find the Omega 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 inspiring places to add to your five-day self-drive itinerary.

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.

Drive out 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 jaw-dropping views and fresh, alpine air on your way to Rakaia Gorge. If you’re feeling bold and ready for a great leg workout, pull on your hiking boots and trek the 10 km Rakaia Gorge walkway.

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 with amazing views of Mount Cook. 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 picture-perfect vistas of Lake Pukaki and surrounding mountains.

Follow the lake’s stunning turquoise waters for 30 minutes to reach Mt Cook National Park—home to New Zealand's tallest mountain.

Just 2 hours further will bring you to Wanaka. On your way, stop in at Puzzling World. Experience a wonderful world of weirdness, with mind-boggling illusion rooms and the world’s first ‘mega maze’.

Hire a kayak or take a jet boating tour on Lake Wanaka. You could also take a scenic flight for views 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 huge 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. Upon entry into the town, you can't miss the oversized fruit sculptures! Then, pass through to the Goldfields Mining Centre to gain an insight into the life and times of the early gold miners.

Continue along State Highway 6 for five minutes, and you’ll come to Roaring Meg Power Station—just a few minutes drive from Lake Dunstan. Enjoy sights, sounds and colours that are sure to impress.

25 minutes away is Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town, where you can visit a historic Chinese settlement dating back to the mid-1800s. View the preserved avenue where wealthy banks 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. Visit the Gibbston Valley Winery for award-winning wines with spectacular views of the Central Otago mountains.

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.

After the ultimate Christchurch to Queenstown road trip, we’re sure you’re ready to settle into your accommodation. Then, we suggest you take the Skyline Gondola up Bob’s Peak for a bird’s eye view of the city centre and Lake Wakatipu and celebrate your arrival at the Stratosfare Restaurant.

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

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.

What’s the total distance from Christchurch to Queenstown without detours?

The distance from Christchurch to Queenstown is 482 km, along State Hwy 8, taking almost 6 hours non-stop. But we recommend stopping every two hours to rest, grab a bite to eat, and check out some fantastic views.

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!