This classic New Zealand road trip keeps the Southern Alps in your sights, amidst idyllic rural scenes, surreal blue lakes and rivers. Along the way are world-class wineries, diverse hiking and cycling trails, and enough extreme activities to satisfy the most serious of adrenaline junkies. From the majestic Lake Tekapo, the mountain ranges of Wanaka and Queenstown and the quaintness of Arrowtown - year round this road trip will deliver!
Christchurch to Queenstown
Best Time of the Year
- Lake Tekapo
- Aoraki/Mt Cook
Christchurch to Geraldine
Distance 139km - Driving Time 2 hours
Head west towards the Southern Alps on SH73 to join Inland Scenic Route 72 towards Methven to make the most of mid-Canterbury’s rural, riverside and gently rolling scenery. Geraldine – the Cheese & Pickle Capital of NZ (be sure to visit Barkers) – is a pleasant overnighter, with a choice of foodie shops, nice cafes and a friendly pub...all that you could ask for on your first night.
Geraldine to Lake Tekapo
Distance 105km - Driving Time 2 hours
SH79 winds through some pretty hilly terrain as it heads to rural Fairlie, a welcoming introduction to the legendary Mackenzie Country. SH8 leads over Burkes Pass to a basin of golden tussock and surreal turquoise lakes, the star of which is Tekapo with its famously photogenic lakeside church. After dark, Mt John Observatory offers mind-boggling tours of the night sky. Lake Tekapo is truly a magical spot - the holiday park lake side is extremely popular in the peak summer period so it does pay to book ahead to avoid disappointment. This is a great spot to set up for the evening with a bottle of wine and a platter to graze from while the sun goes down and the stars come out.
Lake Tekapo to Aoraki/Mount Cook
Distance 115km - Driving Time 1.5 hours
Heading off from Lake Tekapo and continuing on SH8, Aoraki/Mount Cook will loom ever larger (weather permitting) as you edge around pretty Lake Pukaki. If hiking or walking is of interest you can get even closer to NZ’s highest mountain on day hikes from Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre. If you’d like a bit more of an adventure then you could swoop around its slopes on a scenic flight. White Horse Hill campground is a great choice for an overnight stay, it's set in in a splendid alpine setting and very welcoming of campervans.
Aoraki/Mount Cook to Wanaka
Distance 236km - Driving Time 3 hours
There’s no let-up in scenic splendour as SH8 cuts through the flats and climbs over Lindis Pass. After Tarras, take SH8A and SH6 to Wanaka, an energetic town with an insatiable appetite for the great outdoors. Explore Mount Aspiring National Park on day hikes to Rob Roy Glacier or Aspiring Hut. Get out on a lake cruise or if into mountain biking then hire a bike with Wanaka Bike Tours and hit the trails - the views higher up are spectacular.
Wanaka to Arrowtown
Distance 100km - Driving Time 1.30 hours
The Crown Range road is not to be travelled by campervan but we do recommend taking a visit to the Cardrona Hotel for a slice of gold mining heritage. From Wanaka it’s a short twenty minute drive so not out of the way and you won’t be disappointed. Heading back through Wanaka and onto SH6, you will arrive into the gold-rush fever town of Arrowtown, a total charmer with visitor attractions in spades. Compared to neighbouring Queenstown, it a quiet base for adventures around the Wakatipu area, such as cycling, bungy jumping and winery tours. Arrowtown Holiday Park is a great choice to overnight stay.
Arrowtown to Queenstown
Distance 21km - Driving Time 25 mins
There is a lot of hype around the almost resort town feel of Queenstown - hype aside this buzzy and beautiful lakeside setting town is picturesque and magical both in summer and winter. Hiking, cycling, golf courses, wineries and iconic must-do’s like the TSS Earnslaw lake cruise, burger eating at Fergburger and Skyline Gondola are also on offer. With restaurants and bars aplenty and campsites close to the town centre - your campervan will be well positioned for a few days while you go exploring and immersing yourself in the Queenstown culture.
SIDE TRIP: Central Otago to Carrick Wines Winery Haven
If you fancy waking up amongst the vines in your maui campervan then you can do say at Carrick Wines. For an additional $140 for two people on top of your rental fees, you will receive a hamper full of local produce and goodies including a bottle of wine, your own spot on the vineyard to set up for the night and if available you may just get your own personal tour or meet and greet with the winemaker. Central Otago is a fabulous spot and Carrick has carved out its own piece of paradise which maui customers are invited to indulge in.