Discover Queenstown’s Top Scenic Drives

So you’re planning an epic New Zealand road trip? Or maybe you just want to spend a day taking in the surrounding scenery Queenstown has to offer? Taking your own car or a car rental is a great way to experience the most unique, scenic drives Queenstown has to offer.

Queenstown’s top scenic drives are:

Driving from Queenstown to Glenorchy

The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy winds its way between Lake Wakatipu and a bluff on a sunny day.
Image credit:

The Queenstown to Glenorchy route provides opportunities to take plenty of beautiful photos. Enjoy magnificent snowcapped mountains, pristine lakes, and age-old beech forests.

Located at the mouth of the Dart River, Glenorchy is one of the many hidden gems of New Zealand’s South Island. The picturesque landscape once set the scene for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films and is also the gateway to one of New Zealand’s Great Walks - the Routeburn Track.

Head for Glenorchy along the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road. Along the way, stop at Wilson Bay and sit by the pebbled shores of Lake Wakatipu and take in the awe-inspiring surrounding mountains. Further along, pull into Bennetts Bluff Lookout for magnificent mountain views. Marvel at the amazing scenery of jagged peaks towering over Mount Aspiring National Park. Continue along the road until you reach the small town of Glenorchy.

On your return journey why not take the Moke Lake Road turn-off for a great place to camp under the luminous stars at the Moke Lake conservation site?

Explore Kingston

The road from Kingston to Queenstown stretches along with the Lake on one side and greenery on the other, all under a blue sky.
Image credit: My Guide Queenstown

Leaving Queenstown, head south along State Highway 6 to reach Kingston. Located on the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu, this is one of the most visually rewarding Queenstown day trips on our list. We know it’s hard when the scenery is this great - but keep your eyes on the windy roads as you reach the Devil’s Staircase. Make sure you stop at the viewpoint along the way! This little detour is worth the visit for fantastic photo opportunities over forest-fringed cliff edges.

The small town of Kingston was once a significant transport link during the gold mining era. Now, it’s a great place to take in the charming township and mesmerising lake-side landscapes. You can stay for a picnic, go mountain biking, or fish from the shore of Lake Wakatipu.

Step back in time with Arrowtown

A road in Arrowtown stretches into the distance as golden trees overhang it in Autumn.
Image credit: The World is a Circus

You’ll thank yourself later for adding the quaint village of Arrowtown to your Queenstown day trip itinerary. Only 20 minutes from Queenstown, the delightful village of Arrowtown is a historic living settlement dating back to the gold rush era. Turn back the clock and stroll along streets lined with enchanting restored cottages. Enjoy the views of the mighty Coronet Peak, which looms beyond the sparkling Arrow River.

To get there, follow Gorge Road out from Queenstown until it turns into Malaghans Road. From there, head directly to Arrowtown. Another option is to drive along State Highway 6 for a scenic walk along the Lake Hayes Walkway. The lake’s reflection in the water sets a stunning backdrop for photos.

Stop by the Lake District Museum to discover more about the town’s history and the gold panning days. Just ten minutes from Arrowtown is the Gibbston Valley Winery. Sample award-winning wines with breathtaking views of the Central Otago mountains.

Discover the incredible Milford Sound

A road surrounded by yellow fields reaches into tall mountains in the distance.
Image credit: Real Journeys

At the gateway to the Fiordland National Park is the charming township of Te Anau. The town is nestled within picture-perfect, World Heritage-listed landscapes. Head south out of Queenstown on State Highway 6 until you reach State Highway 97. Turn onto that and follow it until you reach State Highway 94. Continuing west and then north along State Highway 94 will bring you to the stunning location of Milford Sound.

The jagged mountain peaks, ink-black waters, and forested cliffs make it one of the most amazing natural attractions in New Zealand. The road to Milford Sound is a classic example of where the journey is just as beautiful as the destination. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of photo opportunities, and you’ll also drive through the awe-inspiring Homer Tunnel.

Soak in the Cardrona Valley scenery

The old Cardrona Hotel sits next to the Crown Range road.
Image credit: Jocelyn Kinghorn - Flickr

Just a 17-minute drive from Queenstown is the Crown Range Road turn-off, just past the Arrow Junction. This scenic drive leads you over the highest main road in New Zealand, with some of the country's most popular ski fields nearby. If you’re visiting in winter, make sure you pack snow chains.

The breathtaking scenery offers stunning vistas over Lake Wakatipu, with the snow-capped Southern Alps dominating the background. Continue a little further through to Cardrona Valley, and you’ll come across the quaint Cardrona Hotel. Established in 1863, it is one of New Zealand’s oldest hotels. Home to an excellent menu, it makes for a great lunch destination. After stopping here, you can continue along the gorgeous stretch of road to arrive at the stunning Lake Wanaka.

Relax and unwind at Skyline Queenstown

A lone Gondola riding up to Skyline Queenstown.
Image credit: Skyline Queenstown

Discover beautiful New Zealand with incredible day trips and photo opportunities that will leave your friends wanting to visit each place too.

There’s something here in Queenstown for everyone. If you’re up for a thrill-seekers’ adventure, try your skills on Skyline’s Queenstown Luge. When you’re ready to relax and unwind, reward your tastebuds with gastronomical delights - take the Skyline Gondola up to the Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar for fine dining at its best.

Or if you’re stopping by during the day, grab a delicious snack and coffee at the Market Kitchen Café. Here, you can sit back and take in the fantastic views over the town centre. Browse more amazing Queenstown holiday ideas in our Skyline blog – we can’t wait to see you!

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