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Top scenic drives from Queenstown

Queenstown day trips

Queenstown is one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand, and oftentimes, visitors will rent a car when they arrive at this beautiful South Island town so that they may easily explore the area. If you’re having trouble deciding where to drive, check out our list of the best road trip itineraries in Queenstown.


Arrowtown is beautiful in Autumn.
Arrowtown is beautiful in Autumn.

This lovely town is just a short drive away from Queenstown, attracting tourists every autumn season thanks to its colourful fall foliage and annual Akarua Arrowtown Autumn Festival. Be sure to check out the Lake District Museum and Gallery to learn more about the history and culture of Arrowtown.

You can also park your car and stroll over to Lake Hayes Walkway, where you’ll catch some stunning mountain views. The casual walk takes around two to three hours to complete. Other options include experiencing the roller coaster terrain at Coronet Peak and trying out a session of night skiing on a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday night.

The quickest route to Arrowtown from Queenstown is via Malanghas Road. You can also take State Highway 6A, State Highway 6, and Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road.

Travel time from Queenstown: 20 minutes


Splendid scenes across Lake Wakatipu between Queentown and Glenorchy.
Splendid scenes across Lake Wakatipu between Queentown and Glenorchy.

Known as the gateway to Middle-earth, Glenorchy is one of the most popular road trip destinations in Queenstown. It continues to attract hikers and movie buffs thanks to its breathtaking landscapes that were featured in Lord of the Rings and Narnia. Feed your soul and take a guided half-day or full-day walk from Glenorchy Journeys at the Routeburn Track.

If you’re not fond of long walks, however, you can go horseback riding instead. Dart Stables at Dart River offers more than 60 breeds of horses to choose from and a knowledgeable team of guides. Thrill-seekers shouldn't miss the opportunity to go tandem skydiving amidst a majestic mountain backdrop at Skydive Southern Alps.

From Queenstown, take Ballarat Street towards State Highway 6A, then turn right towards Beach Street. From there, continue onto Lake Esplanade, then take the first exit at the roundabout onto Glenorchy-Queenstown Road.

Travel time from Queenstown: 50 minutes


Pink flowers blooming by Lake Wanaka.
Pink flowers blooming by Lake Wanaka.

For the ultimate outdoor adventure, visit Wanaka, which is considered by many as nature’s playground. This place is perfect for budget-conscious travellers because the prices for activities here tend to be cheaper than those in Queenstown. This is the perfect place to enjoy water sports such as jet-skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and boating on Lake Wanaka.

Located on the Southern Alps of the South Island, Mount Aspiring National Park is known as a walker's paradise, but it’s also an ideal spot for mountain biking. If you want to experience other fun winter activities, the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds offers ice driving, husky sled-dog rides, and snowshoeing.

The fastest route to Wanaka from Queenstown is via Crown Range Road and Cardrona Valley. You can also reroute to Malaghans Road and McDonnell Road before turning left onto State Highway 6 and Crown Range Road.

Travel time from Queenstown: 1 hour 10 minutes

Milford Sound

Milford Sound will take your breath away.
Milford Sound will take your breath away.

Once named the “8th Wonder of the World”, Milford Sound is a must-see when travelling to the South Island. It takes nearly three hours to reach this famous fiord, but its lush rainforests and spectacular waterfalls are worth the long drive. Be amazed by the beautiful sights you’ll encounter while kayaking, including the Mitre Peak and Pembroke Glacier.

Enjoy numerous walking and tramping tracks in the area, such as the Key Summit Track, a three-hour hike to the summit. You can also have encounters with different underwater species and learn about the history of Milford Sound at the underwater observatory.

From Queenstown, head northeast on Ballarat Street towards State Highway 6A. Follow State Highway 6 onto State Highway 94 in Milford Sound.

Travel time from Queenstown: 3 hours 45 minutes


Other popular day trip locations