Best Stops from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown

Whether you’re visiting NZ for the first time or you’re a local with a sense of adventure, we’ve got some great ideas for the road trip of a lifetime. From the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd to the Skyline Gondola and Luge and everything in between, discover our top picks for things to do when travelling from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown, New Zealand.

The best stops from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown are:

Driving from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown

A stunning photo of the Church Of The Good Shepherd located on the shores of Lake Tekapo.
Image credit: @federico_pinna_photography

As you drive from beautiful Lake Tekapo to Queenstown, you may be tempted at every turn to stop and take in the stunning views and attractions of the Otago Region. And we recommend you do! We’re sure you’ll love this epic road trip from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown.

How Far is the Drive from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown?

The driving distance from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown, New Zealand is 257km via State Highway 8. The trip will take around 3 hours, but add an extra half an hour if you wish to take the scenic route over the Crown Range.

Can you Take a Bus from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown?

You’ll find a few options for public transport in Lake Tekapo if you’d rather sit back, relax and take in the scenery. InterCity operates a bus between Queenstown and Lake Tekapo 4 times a week. Bus tickets cost $45 - $65, and the journey takes approximately 4 hours. Buses depart from the car park beside Lake Tekapo Tavern and arrive at Athol Street, Queenstown.

What are the Top Cities to Visit between Lake Tekapo and Queenstown?

We recommend you take the time to visit Wanaka, Omarama, Arrowtown, and Twizel before arriving at your final destination.

Best Stops Between Lake Tekapo and Queenstown

Lake Pukaki

An aerial photo of an Island in the middle of Lake Pukaki near Mount Cook.
Image credit: @roadynz

The water colour of Lake Pukaki is a brilliant turquoise due to the fine rock particles that have descended into the water from surrounding glaciers. As the sun hits the lake’s surface, it reflects off the particles, transforming them into a stunning hue.

Mount Cook National Park

A lady walks down a walking trail in the Mount Cook National Park with incredible views of glacial lakes and mountains behind her.
Image credit: @mealzhikes

Deep in the Southern Alps of New Zealand lies Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, the home of skyscraping peaks, glaciers, and permanent snow fields. You’ll find numerous walking trails beginning near Mount Cook Village.

Mount Cook Alpine Salmon Shop

A fresh container of Salmon from Mount Cook Alpine Salmon is eaten with Lake Pukaki behind.
Image credit: @nads_and_tim_foodie_travels

Mt Cook Alpine Salmon Shop is stocked with Freshwater King salmon raised in pure alpine water. Take a seat in the scenic picnic area to enjoy this much-prized South Island delicacy.

Hooker Valley Track

A lady strolls along a section of the Hooker Valley Track in the Mount Cook National Park with towering snow-capped mountains all around her.
Image credit: @wilderness_addict

The Hooker Valley Track is one of the most popular walks in the Mt Cook National Park, featuring an ancient rugged landscape. The track ends at the glacial Hooker Lake, where you’ll have spectacular views of Mt Cook on a clear day.

Twizel

A man poses with a freshly caught salmon from canals near Twizel, New Zealand.
Image credit: @fish_the_drift_nz

From hot pools to mountain climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, horse trekking, hiking and heli-biking, Twizel has it all. You can fish for salmon and trout in the local rivers, or drop into the High Country Salmon Farm for some delicious smoked fish.

Lake Ruataniwha

Lake Ruataniwha shimmering in the afternoon light with snow-capped peaks in the background.
Image credit: @laurie_winter

Just 2km from Twizel, Lake Ruataniwha is a family favourite for swimming, yachting, pedal-boating, paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, and windsurfing. The purpose-built rowing course is famous in New Zealand for hosting the bi-annual Aon Maadi Cup rowing championships.

Omarama

A man and a woman bathe in a wood fired hot tub in Omarama, New Zealand.
Image credit: @myblondebucketlist

Located near the southern end of the Mackenzie Basin, Omarama is well-loved by people who come here to soar in the skies and fish in the raging rivers. Just 10 km west of Omarama are the Clay Cliffs - tall rock pinnacles that were formed by ancient glacier flows over a million years ago. Why not find accommodation for the night in this beautiful place? Relax in a private hot tub filled with pure mountain water at the Omarama Hot Tubs under a starry night sky.

Lindis Pass

The sun illuminates the golden tussock landscape of the Lindis Pass in New Zealand's South island.
Image credit: @the_azkoitia

Linking the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago is Lindis Pass. You’ll find some incredible spots to pull over and absorb the breathtaking views. In the Lindis Conservation Area, explore the undulating terrain by foot, mountain bike, or horse across private land.

Wanaka

A person stands atop Roy's Peak overlooking sweeping panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and towering mountains.
Image credit: @jayne_mck

The crystal-clear water of Lake Wanaka is ideal for kayaking, fishing, and lake cruises. The more adventurous can go skydiving, canyoning, climbing, mountaineering, hiking, and biking. Take a scenic glacier flight for a bird’s-eye view of the region. Before you leave town, stop in at one of the weirdest attractions in New Zealand - Puzzling World.

Goldfields Mining Centre

A lady pans for gold at Goldfields Mining Centre located between Cromwell and Queenstown on South Island of New Zealand.
Image credit: @xinhie_xing_xing

At this family-friendly attraction, you can try your luck and pan for gold, check out the power generated by the sluice guns, take a guided tour to learn “how the gold was won”, and visit a replica miner’s village.

Cardrona Hotel

An image of the iconic Cardrona Hotel in the Cardrona Valley near Wanaka.
Image credit: @blagov58

Enjoy the rustic charm of one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. Inside you’ll find an award-winning restaurant, legendary beer garden, and charming hotel rooms surrounded by a spectacular alpine setting.

Crown Range Summit

The view of Queenstown and Lake Whakatipu from the Crown Range Summit.
Image credit: @cool_runninz

Crown Range Road is the highest main road in New Zealand, reaching an altitude of 1121 metres. While this route is a shorter distance, travel time is longer and the road is more challenging than the route through Cromwell and along Lake Dunstan. Road conditions can be treacherous in winter, so bring snow chains.

Arrowtown

A historic cottage in Arrowtown surrounded by the colours of autumn.
Image credit: @lienepeet

Just 20 minutes from Queenstown, Arrowtown is a living historic settlement and one of the most picturesque towns in New Zealand. Wander the streets to view the resort cottages, take a 4WD journey to Macetown, or catch a film!

Lake Hayes

A stunning mirror-like reflection on Lake Hayes, located near Queenstown, New Zealand.
Image credit: @baileynzphotography

The stunningly reflective Lake Hayes is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Queenstown. To enjoy this tranquil spot, you can park your car at Lake Hayes Pavillion and take a short walk along the lake.

Ski Fields

A man descends a steep run on The Remarkables ski field in Queenstown.
Image credit: @ alexstuartnz

Queenstown and Wanaka are a haven for snow lovers, boasting one of the longest ski seasons from June to October. Offering some of the best skiing and snowboarding in New Zealand are four world-class ski resorts - The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona, and Treble Cone.

Discover More Incredible Things to See and Do in Queenstown, New Zealand’s South Island Gem

Once you’ve reached Queenstown, check out adrenaline-charged activities such as snow sports, jet boating, bungy jumping, and white water rafting. Head to Skyline and jump on the Gondola to experience incredible views over this lively resort town. Then, test your skills on the Luge.

Need somewhere to stay? We’ve rounded up all the best accommodation in Queenstown. If you’re up for another adventure, check out our itinerary to drive from Wellington to Rotorua. Browse for some amazing Queenstown NZ holiday ideas or uncover more info and travel tips in our Skyline blog.

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