The Drive from Queenstown to Christchurch (Mt Hutt)
If you are going to drive from Queenstown to Christchurch (or Mt Hutt) this blog is for you! Here, I outline everything you need to know about the route including important info such as the road condition, the best places to stop, and more!
The Drive from Queenstown to Christchurch (Mt Hutt)
New Zealand is famous for road trips simply because the scenery that you see along the way is breathtaking! Driving from Queenstown to Christchurch is no exception. On our recent trip to Christchurch from Queenstown, we had the chance to explore the areas we already loved so much.
On this trip, we realized just how awesome a road trip from Queenston to Christchurch would be (Mt Hutt is only an hour from Christchurch) both for those with only a day to spare and for those who want to make the journey over a few days.
Its vast variety of landscapes and stunning towns to stop at along the way make it arguably one of the most scenic sections of road in New Zealand.
For this reason, we wanted to lay out all the stunning stops along the way as well as any other information you may want to know! Here is the complete guide to a Queenston to Christchurch (or Mt Hutt) road trip!
Why Drive From Queenstown to Christchurch (or Mt Hutt)?
The road from Queenstown to Christchurch is a very beautiful drive that features stunning stops along the way. In both summer and winter, this route is very popular among people on a South Island, New Zealand road trip.
To us, it was just how we got to the Mt Hutt Ski Field to go skiing for the weekend and in actual fact, we had already seen many of the stops along the way. However, for those here on holiday, you shouldn’t pass at the opportunity to turn this into one cool road trip.
The route to Mt Hutt from Queenstown is a convenient way to get back to Christchurch – where lots of people start or end their journey in New Zealand. So regardless it is a road many people take in both directions!
On a trip from Queenstown to Christchurch, you can stop at all the places mentioned in this blog.
How Long is the Drive from Queenstown to Mt Hutt and Christchurch?
The drive to Mt Hutt from Queenstown is just over 413 km.
If you were to drive this route without stopping you could make the journey in around 5 hours. However, if you plan to stop along the way, this route could take at least double that.
Methven is around an hours drive from Christchurch so in total this journey from Queenstown to Christchurch will take you 6 hours.
If you’re a tourist visiting New Zealand then we highly suggest stopping along the way and turning this drive into a 3 to 5-day road trip!
Things to Know About the Drive from Queenstown to Christchurch
The road in each direction is single lane for most of the drive with only occasional passing lanes. The road is wide enough for large campervans and completely safe to drive in good road conditions.
In the summer months when the roads are busy this means you can get stuck behind slower vehicles for some time.
If you are a slow vehicle (and there’s nothing wrong with that) be sure to use the pullover bays. These bays are much more common than overtaking lanes and they simply allow you to pull over and let the cars behind you pass. On the road from Queenstown to Mt Hutt, they are very common.
In the winter time, some areas on this journey can become dangerous to drive. It is highly recommended that you carry and use snow chains in icy conditions. In areas such as Lindis Pass, the high altitude means it receives more snow and colder temperatures meaning build up of ice on the roads is common.
The New Zealand Police are a very friendly police force, however, on their roads, they do not take kindly to those who speed. New Zealand sees far too many crashes to go lightly on speeders. So please, for everyone’s sake don’t speed and drive to the conditions!
If you would like to know more on New Zealand’s road laws please read this article NZ road safety!
There are no road tolls on this route. In fact, there are no road tolls on the South Island of New Zealand!
The route you need to take
If you punch in Queenstown to Christchurch on google maps it should take you the correct way. However just to be sure check that the route passes through Lake Tekapo – otherwise, you will miss the most beautiful stops!
The 9 Best Places to stop on your way from Queenstown to Christchurch
While there are endless amounts of possibilities of places to stop along the drive from Queenstown to Mt Hutt or Christchurch, these are a few of my favorites:
1. Gibston Valley
The Gibston Valley is the first place you will drive past as you head out of Queenstown and towards Christchurch. The Gibston Valley is a stunning wine region that’s world famous for producing world-class Pinot Noir.
The most famous of the wineries in this region is the Gibston Valley Winery. These guys pioneered the region and were the ones who broke all the odds to produce high-quality Pinot Noir in this odd climate.
At this winery, you can try 5 different wines for $15. If you’re the designated driver then you can head over to the cheese factory attached to the winery and try an assortment of cheeses, cold meats, and relishes!
2. Cromwell (Lake Dunstan)
Cromwell is the next town you will pass after leaving Queenstown. To be honest, the town is a little disappointing however a quick stop on the shores of Lake Dunstan is a must. On a clear day, the lake is really beautiful!
3. Lindis Pass
Lindis Pass is the highest point on the road trip to Christchurch from Queenstown. Its a beautiful area surrounded by mountains covered in tussock grass. To be honest, the first time I visited Lindis Pass I wasn’t overly impressed. I mean, I thought it was just ok. That was until I did a little more exploring while I was there the next time and got views like you wouldn’t believe!
To get these views to be sure to read our blog on Lindis Pass, it tells you everything you need to know about getting to the insanely beautiful spot!
Lindis Pass, although beautiful, can be dangerous in winter. Be sure to check updated Lindis Pass road conditions before heading off.
4. Omarama Hot Tubs
The Omarama Hot Tubs are a very popular place to stop especially in winter. These hot pools are actually private tubs that are cleaned, filled and heated with fresh mountain water every time someone uses them. They also face the mountains so they are perfect for taking in spectacular views!
In summer it can be far to hot during the day to enjoy the hot tubs so I recommend either visiting in the morning or evening.
5. Omarama Clay Cliffs
Another 10km’s from Omarama township is the Omarama Clay Cliffs. The clay cliffs are the result of erosion caused by melting glaciers a few million years ago. If you have time then visiting them is a very unique experience.
To get to the cliffs simply drive out of Omarama towards Lake Tekapo and look for a sign on your left telling you to turn off. Once on this road, you must drive on an unsealed road for around 20 minutes to reach them. It costs $5 per car to enter the cliffs. The fee is paid via an honesty box system so be sure to have the correct change.
If you need more information the read our blog on the Omarama Clay Cliffs. It covers everything you need to know in more detail!
6. Mount Cook National Park
A stop in Mount Cook National Park is a must!
However, visiting Mount Cook is only doable if you spend the night somewhere in the area – either freedom camping or at Mount Cook Village or Lake Tekapo township. This is because it is actually a 45-minute drive from the highway.
There are tons of things to do in Mount Cook National Park so I highly recommend staying in the village. This way you can get up and explore right from your accommodation before all of the tourists coming from Lake Tekapo arrive! We recommend staying a the YHA Hostel in Mount Cook Village. It’s a clean, cheap and central place to stay that has everything you need including an awesome kitchen!
If you’re in a campervan or have a tent then consider staying at the White Horse Hill campsite. This place cost $13.00 NZD per person per night!
This stunning national park is my favorite in New Zealand and is filled with amazing hikes and breathtaking views. Some of the most popular things to do are:
Hooker Valley Track – A 10km round trip hike that leads to the Hooker Lake. The Hooker Lake sits below Mt Cook (New Zealand’s highest mountain) and on a calm day the lake reflects Mt Cook almost perfectly!
The Tasman Lake Viewpoint – This viewpoint is the best place to visit at sunrise. It’s only a 15-minute walk from the Tasman Glacier carpark and offers stunning views of the Tasman Glacier, surrounding mountains and float icebergs!
Spend a night at the Mueller Hut – The Mueller Hut sits high above the valley and is a very beautiful place to spend the night. It takes around 6 hours to reach the hut in winter and 4 in summer. The hut needs to be booked in advance in the summer months and can be dangerous in winter.
Scenic flight of Mount Cook National Park – This was one tour I’ll never forget! We did a 35-minute scenic flight over Mount Cook and the surrounding mountains and glaciers (including Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier).
For more options check accomodation in Mount Cook village on booking.com here!
7. Lake Pukaki Lookout to Mount Cook
If you don’t have time to explore Mount Cook National Park then you can still see New Zealand’s tallest mountain from across Lake Pukaki! This view is spectacular on a clear day, and along the highway, there are lots of places to pull over and enjoy it.
To reach the lake just keep driving after you pass the Mount Cook National Park turn off and you will eventually see the lake on your left. If you want to spot Mount Cook, then use the photo below to help. It is zoomed in on my camera so don’t expect to see it that big.
8. Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo is another stunning lake that literally shines blue on a sunny day. You can’t miss it on your road trip from Queenstown to Christchurch and it’s a great place to spend the night. I’m not sure what’s more beautiful, Lake Pukaki or Lake Tekapo, but regardless you need to see both.
There is a small town on the shores of Lake Tekapo and in actual fact, there’s a lot to do in this small town! Some of the most popular things to do are:
Tekapo Hot Springs – A man-made hot springs located a few km out of town. In my opinion, they are very average as they are overcrowded. That being said, some people do give them rave reviews.
Go stargazing – You can either join a tour or just go for it yourself. On a tour, they do take you to university observatory which is kitted with a giant telescope. Some tours also include a trip to the hot springs.
Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd – This is probably the most popular church in New Zealand. Its a favorite among photographers but, to be honest, it’s nothing that amazing, especially if you’re from Europe!
Check accomidation in Lake Tekapo on booking.com here
9. Mt Hutt
Many make this journey from Queenstown for the sole purpose of getting to Mt Hutt so of course, it makes the list. The Mt Hutt ski field is an awesome ski field and the closest one to Christchurch. If you want to go skiing at Mt Hutt then you will need to visit between the months of June to October. During this time fresh powder will be spread across the Southern Alps.
The best place to stay is in the town of Methven. It’s the closest place with lots of accommodation options to the Mt Hutt ski field. We stayed at the Blue Pub. It was ok but very old and outdated however the food was awesome!
You can browse other accommodation options on booking.com
Our Road Trip Itinerary Recommendation
To us, this journey should be done over at least 3 days and two nights. Our recommended itinerary is:
Day 1: Queenstown to Mount Cook Village
On day one make your journey from Queenstown and stop at all the places along the way mentioned above until you reach Mount Cook Village. This journey should take you all day so leave early in the morning. Spend the night here.
Day 2: Mount Cook Village to Lake Tekapo
Day two begin your morning at the Tasman Glacier viewpoint and then hike the Hooker Valley track after breakfast. At around lunchtime make your way to Lake Tekapo to explore. That night join a stargazing tour or just enjoy natures by yourself. Spend the night here.
Day 3: Lake Tekapo to Christchurch or Mt Hutt
Spend the morning relaxing by the lake or exploring parts of town you didn’t before then begin your drive to Christchurch.
For more infor check out our 10 New Zealand road trip itineraries here
Regardless if you stop at all the places mentioned above or only some I can guarantee you will have an unforgettable experience. On this short route, you hit a few of my favorite places on New Zealand’s South Island.
I hope you found this post helpful and please if you have any questions just leave them below!
Queenstown New Zealand Guide – Visiting Queenstown can be daunting, however, in this blog we show you how to save money, find the best things to do, and explore the city and surrounds. It’s basically a detailed guide you need to read before you go!
101 Things to do in Queenstown – If you need ideas on what to do in Queenstown during your visit then this blog has got you covered!
How to Take the Famous Mt Cook Road Photo – It’s such a stunning photo that would make for the perfect souvenir to take home with you. Find out where and how to take it in this guide!
June 3, 2019