Queenstown - West Coast -Christchurch – Queenstown
Start Queenstown / Finish Queenstown
Recommended Length: 5 Days
Distance: 1406 km (879 miles)
This itinerary connects some of the South Island’s most interesting destinations. From Queenstown you’ll journey to the river and rainforest environment of the west coast. See the glaciers, then drive on to explore the historic towns of Hokitika and Greymouth. The road to Arthur’s Pass village is mountainous and memorable - stretch your legs on a bush walk before you continue on to the heritage and art attractions of Christchurch. Turquoise glacial lakes are the gateway to Mount Cook National Park – explore the mountain trails before you return to Queenstown via beautiful Lindis Pass and the Kawarau Gorge.Queenstown - Wanaka - Haast - Fox Glacier
103 km (64 miles)
Approximately 1.25 hours
The alpine resort of Queenstown is exciting, sophisticated and fantastically scenic. It’s the place to source almost any kind of adventure, including bungy, jet boating, horse trekking, rafting and river surfing. It’s also a destination for luxury experiences – gourmet food and wine, spa treatments and leisurely games of golf.
The shortest route to Wanaka is over the Crown Range Road. It’s a challenging drive, but the views are amazing and you’ll probably encounter friendly keas (mountain parrots). More conservative drivers can take the route that runs beside the Shotover River, Lake Dunstan and the Clutha River. The vineyards of the Gibbston area and bungy jumpers at the Kawarau River Bridge are interesting distractions along the way.
The lakeside resort town of Wanaka can provide you with an appealing mix of fine living, family fun and adventure. It has a high concentration of cafes, restaurants and interesting shops. You’ll also find some unique attractions, like the 3D maze and the ‘warbird’ air show, which is held every two years. Fox Glacier - Franz Josef - Hokitika - Greymouth
23 km (14 miles)
Approximately 0.25 hour
The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are unique relics of the last ice age. Mighty rivers of solid white, tumbling down ice-hewn rock valleys, they are classically beautiful in the glacial sense. Nowhere else in the world have glaciers advanced so close to the sea at this latitude. While in the area, you can choose from a wide range of adventure activities.
The terminal face of Fox Glacier is just 5 kilometres from the township that serves it. The road to the walking track crosses ancient moraine from earlier advances and retreats. Fed by four alpine glaciers, Fox Glacier was named after an early New Zealand Prime Minister, William Fox.
After a short drive north, you’ll arrive at Franz Josef Glacier. First explored in 1865, the glacier has been moving forward at a rate of about 1 metre a day since 1985. Previously it was in retreat. You can walk to the terminal of the glacier in about 10 minutes. Franz Josef township has a good range of accommodation and eating establishments.Greymouth - Arthur's Pass - Christchurch
84 km (53 miles)
Approximately 1 hour
Greymouth has a long gold mining history. It’s the largest town on the west coast and is known for its awesome seascapes. The local brewery runs tours or you can catch up with west coast history at the museum. White water rafting, sea kayaking and gold panning are other things to do.
Classic west coast river and forest scenery leads you east. Rushing water, impressive bridges and tiny towns gradually give way to the misty mountains of the Southern Alps.
The route known as Arthur’s Pass was first used by Maori tribes crossing to the west coast to find pounamu (jade). Today it’s a sophisticated mountain pass, memorable for its scenery as well as its breathtaking civil engineering.
The settlement of Arthur’s Pass is a base for climbing, hiking, hunting and skiing adventures in the adjacent national park. There’s a good choice of shorter walks. Native birds commonly seen include the kea, tui and bellbird. Christchurch - Lake Tekapo - Mt Cook Village
230 km (144 miles)
Approximately 3 hours
The South Island’s largest city, Christchurch is an entertaining mixture of refined lifestyle and cultural excitement. Visit heritage sites, museums and art galleries, and enjoy the highly developed restaurant scene.
The scenic route to Lake Tekapo begins at Rangiora, a rural centre north of Christchurch city. Small towns appear regularly as you travel across the Canterbury Plains through fields and farms. Explore the old coal mining settlement of Glentunnel before the road climbs over the braided Rakaia River and up to Mount Hutt. There are historic lime kilns at Staveley and Mt Somers, and the pretty town of Geraldine has an interesting car museum. After Fairlie you’ll ascend to the region known as the Mackenzie Country, named after the legendary Scottish sheep rustler who once roamed the area.
The settlement of Lake Tekapo is at the southern end of the lake. Fishing, kayaking, bike riding, horse trekking and skiing are some of the things you can do in the area. The Church of the Good Shepherd and the sheepdog statue are great photo opportunities.Mt Cook Village - Twizel - Omarama - Queenstown
64 km (40 miles)
Approximately 0.75 hour
The Aoraki Mount Cook National Park includes the highest peak in Australasia (Mt Cook - 3755m). The region attracts mountain climbers, hikers and scenery fanatics. Heli skiing, heli hiking and aerial sightseeing provide visitors with amazing memories. A variety of walking trails begin in or near Mount Cook Village – most take only a couple of hours. In the bar of the local hotel, huge windows provide a perfect view of Mt Cook.
The road to Twizel hugs the edge of Lake Pukaki. The exquisite opaque turquoise colour of this lake and others in the area is caused by fine, glacier-ground rock particles held in suspension. The landscape is a mixture of high country tussock, farmland and snow-capped mountains.
Twizel is a well-placed base for mountain climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, horse trekking and hiking. It’s also a place to spy on the rarest wading bird in the world – the Black Stilt. If you don’t have the time to catch your own salmon, the local salmon farm sells it – fresh or smoked.Image:Fox GlacierToursim New Zealand