Home > The Road Trips > Christchurch - Queenstown

Christchurch - Queenstown

Deep in the heart of the Southern Alps, you'd be forgiven for thinking you've found heaven on earth. With extreme natural beauty, hints of the colonial past infused with modern day, and characters along the way that are bound to etch themselves in your memory for all time.

Christchurch to Queenstown
Total Distance 630 Km
Approx driving time 8 hours 52 minutes
Today Christchurch15°
Queenstown18°

Christchurch

Beginning in Christchurch, make sure you take advantage of some city attractions before hitting the road and heading south through rugged terrain towards Queenstown - New Zealand's (and arguably, the world's) adventure capital. The road from Christchurch heading south towards Geraldine will take you through a very rich agricultural region encompassing the Ashburton, Methven/Mt Hutt, Mt Somers and Rakaia areas.

An hour out of Christchurch, the adventure activities and more relaxing pursuits are endless. Rug up and get in some skiing or snowboarding, take to the water for some white-water rafting, test your limits with skydiving, enjoy a country golf course or simply lace up your boots for a bit of tramping. Heritage trails, craft markets, art galleries, country festivals and farm tours will fill your time - so remember to allocate plenty here!

An hour out of Christchurch, the adventure activities and more relaxing pursuits are endless.

Geraldine

Geraldine is a friendly, picturesque location on the banks of the Waihi River and is jam-packed with interesting country characters and craftspeople who moved here for the creative synergy and relaxed lifestyle. It's a hive of edible creativity, so stop in to discover gourmet treats on every corner. Inhale the aromatic world of specialty chutneys and fruit products at Barker's of Geraldine, or be spoilt for choice with made-on-the-premises delights from Cafe Plums. In the next shopping block, Coco offers an array of handmade chocolates and gourmet sweets.

Geraldine is a friendly settlement on the banks of the Waihi River and is jam-packed with interesting country characters and craftspeople – it’s the characters along the way that help make the trip amazing!

Visit Lake Tekapo and really spoil yourself on the water. Take relaxing boat rides, and enjoy the scenery while you sit back and relax after time on the road getting here.

State Highway 80, is a great spot for panoramic views of Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount Cook National Park and you can try heli-flights, flightseeing, fishing, horse trekking, hunting, or take your pick from many walks in the area.

Aoraki Mt Cook is not only stunning visually – but hiking, tramping and climbing this imposing mountain is really something to write home about. Be sure to pack your hiking boots and camera.

Head to Twizel – a township built in 1968 as base for one of the most impressive hydro-electric power schemes in the Southern Hemisphere. With a diverse array of adventure activities on offer here, it’s an adrenalin junkie’s dreamland.

Aoraki Mt. Cook's DOC Visitors' Centre has up-to-date local information on the Park's geology, climate, flora and fauna - stop in and chat to a true local. There's no better way to get the low-down on this area.

An hour out of Christchurch the adventure activities and more relaxing pursuits are endless - so remember to allocate plenty of time here!

Visit historic Cromwell and try their local stone fruit or do a vineyard tour. Old Cromwell Town is unique to the area and worth every second of your time.

Get an overview of Queenstown from the top of the Gondola before deciding which activity, from the many on offer, best suits your tastes.

Queenstown is a great town to wander by foot, enjoy the lake, outdoor dining and cafes, plus the varied and many shops. Park the car up in Man Street car park and enjoy the vibrancy and bustle of the village atmosphere. If you need an escape, take a cruise on Lake Wakatipu with the TSS Earnslaw 'Lady of the Lake' , the last remaining coal-fired passenger vessel operating in the southern hemisphere.

Aoraki Mount Cook

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Stunning Peel Forest is the perfect base for a range of outdoor adventures for all ages, including Rangitata Rafts white-water rafting, Peel Forest Horse Trekking, mountain biking and tramping. Don't miss the Giant Jersey and Medieval Mosaic in Wilson St. The recreation of the Bayeux Tapestry is an amazing piece of local art - 20 years in the making and painstakingly handcrafted from over two million minute pieces of steel. Vintage-car enthusiasts will be in their element at the Vintage Car and Machinery Museum, and walkers can strut their stuff in the Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve, Kakahu Bush and Peel Forest Park, or hike or kayak nearby river gorges.

Fairlie

From here, a landscape of grassy knolls ushers you into Fairlie - the gateway to the Mackenzie Country. Huge oak trees provide shady relief for picnickers on the main street. Get out and stretch your legs by taking a stroll in town and check out the Old Library Cafe and the Heritage Museum. Out of town, you can visit Heslips Hatcheries and the varied ski terrain of Mount Dobson, or begin the steep ascent past the colonial homesteads of Burkes Pass, and on through Mackenzie Country's striking vast plains to the township of Lake Tekapo.

Lake Tekapo

For star-gazing tours, take the road to Mt John Observatory. Its telescopes take advantage of the region's protected night sky to probe deep space, searching for dark matter, black holes and distant planets. Try fishing, hiking, mountain biking or horse riding and, in winter, take a look at Round Hill Ski Field. It offers a pleasant drive through a frosted fairytale landscape, to gentle, open slopes and cosy clubrooms. Take a flight in a helicopter or fixed-wing plane and you will really see the magnificence of the region. Finish the day in a hot pool at Tekapo Springs on the lake frontage. Relax with a meal at Reflections cafe where the views over the lake are spectacular.

The road from Lake Tekapo to Queentown is one where adventure, beauty and serenity all meet. Whether you're looking for extreme adventure, outdoor activities for the whole family or just looking to relax in an unspoiled paradise, this is the road to find it on.

The road from Lake Tekapo to Queentown is one where adventure, beauty and serenity all meet.

Aoraki Mt Cook

Buckle up and enjoy the scenic route. Stop and enjoy the spectacular views of Aoraki Mt Cook from the Glentanner Park Centre. Visit the world's highest salmon farm and stock up on smoked salmon. No matter where you stay in Aoraki Mt Cook Village, there are sweeping views of the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. Best of all, every budget is catered for, with campsites at White Horse Hill campground through to the Hermitage's luxurious Aoraki Wing. There are lots of great family walks from the village, ranging from 10 minutes to four hours in length, but a must-do trail is the Hooker Valley Track. The Tasman Glacier viewpoint track offers first-class views of this rock-strewn river of ice, or you can join a Glacier Explorers adventure and get up close to where it yields its melt water to the glacier lake, before it's washed away downstream.

Stargaze at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre Planetarium, check out a 3D movie, or head outdoors to conquer summits, climb cliffs of rock and ice, or walk through miles of breathtaking scenery. Mountain climbing is a major attraction here and the challenge of reaching the summit of Aoraki Mt Cook, the highest peak in Oceania (3750m), is the ultimate goal for the truly hardy and experienced climber.

Twizel

After visiting the stunning corner of the planet that is Aoraki Mt Cook, head to Twizel - a township built in 1968 as base for one of the most impressive hydro-electric power schemes in the southern hemisphere. With a diverse array of adventure activities on offer here, it's an adrenalin junkie's dreamland. Take some time to enjoy the town centre with its shops and cafes. If you want to experience delicious cuisine try out Shawtys or Poppies cafe. There is also a golf course near the town centre and the extensive canals close by make for excellent trout fishing.

While headed towards Cromwell, stop in at Lake Ruataniwha - the home of the national rowing championships. Ten minutes south of Twizel is the turnoff to the magnificent Lake Ohau; bring your walking shoes and head out on the trails or hit the slopes on the Ohau ski area at the top of the valley. In Omarama take in the clay cliffs as they tower above the river. These large, naturally white, formations are a quick 10-minute walk from the road. At Omarama why not take a short side trip to Otematata village past Lake Benmore - drive into the Benmore Dam and powerstation and check out the visitor centre; it's well worth the trip.

With a diverse array of adventure activities on offer here, it's an adrenalin junkie's dreamland.

Cromwell

Stop at Cromwell on your way to your end destination, Queenstown. Cromwell was established by gold miners, but now its treasure is stone fruit and grape growing for wine. Sample the region's famous pinot noir. Make a day of vineyard hopping, tasting and eating, and enjoying dazzling scenery. Explore nearby ghost towns and soak up the tranquil lakeside scenery. Don't forget to explore Old Cromwell Town, with good coffee and great craft and boutique shops.

Queenstown

Once in Queenstown, you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding out 'what to do'. In fact, the question that most people find hardest to answer here is 'What should I do first?' Although recognised as a ski haven, its summer is actually bigger than winter. Whether it's jet boating, skydiving, bungy jumping, or playing a round of golf, you'll make memories to last a lifetime here!

Whether it's jet boating, skydiving, bungy jumping, or playing a round of golf, you'll make memories to last a lifetime here!

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Some say skydiving is a life-changing and empowering experience. Others say it's just plain insane. Find out for yourself at Queenstown, one of the best places in the country to throw yourself out of a plane.

Prepare for a dizzying mixture of nerves and excitement as your instructor straps you to them and you both head for the heavens in a small plane. Take advantage of the spectacular Queenstown scenery laid out before you as you prepare for the big moment.

Then it's time. Your instructor will rock you both out of the plane, and then it's free-fall time. The first few seconds will be filled with sheer terror as you feel the pull of gravity and the massive acceleration as you hurtle towards earth, then another split-second later, it'll be as though a switch has been flicked, and your brain will adjust.

You will now know what it feels like to fly, and yes, it feels absolutely incredible! Around sixty seconds and 10,000ft later, your parachute will go up and you'll float peacefully to the ground.

Insane? Not once you've tried it. Empowering? Definitely. In fact, you may find yourself hooked.

Queenstown earns its title as the South Island's major ski resort town thanks to its easy access to world-renowned ski fields such as the Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Cardrona, as well as the Waiorau Snow Farm.

Making the attraction even stronger is that these ski fields truly live up to the 'catering to all ability levels' tag - ensuring families find good reason to fall in love with Queenstown's nearby ski fields.

While there are many challenges for the serious skier or snowboarder, these ski fields place much emphasis on their family-friendly conditions. Several programs are geared towards children and beginners, such as supervised lessons and dedicated novice slopes. Some ski fields even offer childcare facilities for those who are too young to venture too far out into the snow.

To ensure costs don't balloon, look out for family-orientated specials that are often featured by several ski fields.

Bring your appetite when you come to Geraldine because you'll be enticed into sampling some of the town's specialty foods. Cheese, chocolate and the internationally recognised Barker's fruit products are some of the tasty treats on offer.

Also allow time to browse through the specialty shops selling gifts, souvenirs, clothing and Maori arts. A visit to the Tin Shed combines some of these goods with the chance to get up close to the farm animals.

If you had never heard of Lake Alexandrina until right now, chances are you're not alone! Dwarfed by its neighbour, the mighty Lake Tekapo, this smaller lake may be less well known, but it sure is big on two things: incredible beauty and trout and salmon fishing.

Situated in the Mackenzie Basin in the Canterbury high country, the lake is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and tussock-covered hills. With clear water and peaceful surroundings, this picturesque environment is ideal for a spot of relaxed fishing.

Motorised boats are banned from the lake, but fishing still ranks highly on the list of local activities. In fact, it's what this beautiful lake is renowned for. In particular, it's well known for its plentiful supply of trout and salmon, thanks to its supply of glacier-fed spring water. Go on, head here for your next fishing trip - you won't be disappointed!

If you're into history you will love South Canterbury's three heritage driving trails. The trio takes in incredibly diverse surrounds and points of interest and will allow you to cover various places along the way. Note: times do not include stops.

The Pioneer Trail (3hrs): Pays tribute to early settlers, beginning at Pleasant Point. The first site is the Richard Pearse Memorial, a man some believe flew a plane before the Wright brothers. Other points of interest include a kiln, forests and a museum. Also incorporates Geraldine and finishes at Temuka.

The Bullock Wagon Trail (4hrs): Bullock wagons were essential to European settlers and on this journey from Timaru to Twizel you will take in 20 points of interest. These include memorials and monuments, museum and lookouts, with Pleasant Point, Fairlie and Tekapo all within the route.

The Strawberry Trail (3hrs): Focuses on the Waimate district, which is well known for its strawberries but there's more than just fruit on this path. A monument, cottage, lookout and stonewall are incorporated within the trip, which begins at Timaru.

If you've ever been to Queenstown, you'll appreciate the allure of this stylish alpine village. You've probably seen it from The Remarkables on a day skiing, or as you flew in to Queenstown Airport over the snow-topped mountain ranges and stunning Lake Wakatipu.

For more of a grass-roots perspective, lace up your walking shoes and head to Willow Place near Kawarau Falls, the start of the Kelvin Peninsula Track.

This trail meanders along the southern side of Frankton Arm, looking across the lake to Queenstown village. It's a pleasant walk that travels the golf course and, facing north, is a great place to catch the sun - even in winter. It's a perfect break from snow sports, and an excellent opportunity to breathe in the fresh alpine air with the warm sun on your face.

The walk alternates between sidling below homes to traversing through regenerating native bush - testament to the long process of native vegetation slowly but surely overtaking weed species. Residents have played a part in helping with this restoration, and you can enjoy the benefits on this easy hour-and-a-half walking track.

 
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