From Christchurch to Queenstown & Beyond • Tour Travel Hotels
Where New Zealand Really Begins
By the time I started my road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown, I had already been in New Zealand for over a week. Specifically, after spending a few days in Auckland and neighboring Waiheke Island, I hired a car and looped clockwise around the North Island, stopping off at Lake Taupo to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, before continuing to Rotorua, Tauranga and the Coromandel. Peninsula.
All of these places were beautiful, but it wasn’t until I picked up my car from Christchurch Airport and started driving southwest that New Zealand really came to life for me. Seeing the Southern Alps in the distance gives me a sense of urgency: I accelerated, even though a country like New Zealand embodies the primacy of travel over destination.
My favorite South Island destinations
The first “destination” I was on my way to? Lake Tekapo, whose fluorescent waters were matched, in beauty, only by the pink and purple lupines covering the observatory at the top of the hill above them. I also visited the famous Church of the Good Shepherd right by the lake, although I found it slightly disappointing due to its small size and the massive crowds surrounding it.
Aoraki / Mt. to cook
The second part of my Christchurch in Queenstown took me west to Pukaki Lake, then north along its shore to Mount Cook, which is also known as Aoraki. Although I did not take a helicopter to or anywhere near the top of Mount Cook, I did enjoy several hikes in the area, including the scenic and beautiful Hooker Valley Trail.
From Aoraki I headed south towards Wanaka, which is famous for the bizarre tree that seems to grow out of its namesake lake. I didn’t spend a night here, but came back a few days later to skydive, an experience that I will certainly not forget. Suffice it to say that the waters of the lake are slightly different thousands of feet above what they are when you walk in!
My road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown didn’t end in New Zealand’s adventure capital, not exactly. After taking a day trip from Queenstown to the famous Milford Strait, I headed north again, heading (indirectly) towards François-Joseph Glacier before heading north along New Zealand’s underrated west coast to Hokitika and Punakaiki, aka the Pancake Rocks.
After my coastal drive, I headed east to the heart of the South Island via Arthur’s Pass return to Christchurch. Although New Zealand’s second-largest city still suffers a surprising amount of damage from the 2011 earthquake that hit it, I was very impressed with it. In the unlikely event that I decide to call New Zealand home, this is the city I would choose.
Road Trip on the South Island: practical questions
The purpose of this post, so far, has been mainly to inspire you, but I also want to inform you. Here are some key facts to keep in mind when traveling to the South Island:
- Move : Rent a car in Christchurch; drop it off in Queenstown or return to Christchurch via the west coast (Franz Josef, Hokitika, Punakaiki, etc.)
- Where to stay: I slept in Tekapo, Aoraki and Queenstown. Some people also spend a night in Wanaka, or make Milford Sound as an overnight trip from Queenstown, rather than a day trip.
- How much time to spend: I landed in Christchurch on a Saturday and left Queenstown on a Thursday. You will need to tailor this to how fast you prefer to travel and how deep you want to explore.
- When to visit: I traveled to the South Island of New Zealand in late January, when the temperatures were still warm and the lupines were (barely) still in bloom. If I go back it will probably be in the fall months of March and April.
Other FAQs on driving from Christchurch to Queenstown
What to see between Christchurch and Queenstown?
You’ll notice many of New Zealand’s finest attractions between Christchurch and Queenstown. These include Lakes Tekapo and Wanaka, Mount Cook (also known as Aoraki), and the cities of Christchurch and Queenstown themselves. In addition, there are many popular adventure activities such as skydiving, bungee and jet boating that take place along this route.
How long does it take to get from Christchurch to Tekapo?
While you can technically complete the 225 km drive from Christchurch to Tekapo in under three hours, it often takes four or even more. This is because most drivers go out to enjoy the scenery along the way, especially as you leave the city of Christchurch and head into the Southern Alps along more rural roads.
How do I get from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook?
Driving from Tekapo to Mount Cook (also known by its Maori name Aoraki) is simple. Just continue on Hwy 8 to Pukaki, then turn right on Hwy 80 and follow it to the end. Pleasantly, you’ll drive along the shores of Lake Pukaki, making it a particularly beautiful setting to the lower right of Mount Cook as you approach it.
The bottom line
No matter when you make your next trip from Christchurch to Queenstown, I have a feeling that you are now fully informed and inspired. New Zealand will eventually welcome us all, as far back as that day seems right now. The best thing you can do now is start dreaming (and ideally planning) whether you’re a travel-hungry Kiwi with flights to Christchurch booked, or a foreigner for whom traveling to New Zealand is a prospect. more distant. Anytime you find yourself on New Zealand’s Mother Road, I hope this is a trip you will never forget, and I am sure it will be.