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Queenstown to Christchurch Road Trip

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

The road trip from Queenstown to Christchurch is just under 500 Kms and takes about 6 hours without stops. To make the most of this road trip across the South Island from the west to the east, Sanshine throughout, is to stop on the way to soak in the beauty of the varied contours of the landscape that keep changing and leaving you awed. Spare a day for it and get ready to roll down your windows because air conditioning is not going to be good enough.

If coffee is your morning call, wait it out and DO NOT pick one from Queenstown. Head straight for Arrowtown and grab yourself a breakfast at Unwind Café & Bar. There are a few good ones there, but we chose Unwind and were fully satisfied. You can even have a pie at the Arrowtown Bakery & Café. Now, breakfast is not the only reason to drive into Arrowtown, it is the town that is set like a set of a Hollywood cowboy movie. If you are not recording the centre street of the town, you will miss it. I persist you to take a stroll through the Mall Road, as we usually call the central and most commercial road in our touring towns. There is also a Chinese Settlement that you can walk explore. It is more like a park with lush green trees and cotton white flakes falling from them. It is like Autum, but more green and more white.

#ThatWanakaTree in Lake Wanaka, New Zealand.

From Arrowtown, drive up to Wanaka to experience one of the world’s top Instagramable Spot- That Wanaka Tree. Well, it’s just a tree, a little away from land and in water. If the sky above is pretty, and the backdrop which is pretty, you can capture some really amazing shots. Ofcourse, you can always skip Wanaka or you can even spend a day in Wanaka, and carry on ahead the next morning, like we did. It was Sanshine in Wanaka.

Check out our Arrowtown-Wanaka and Wanaka Skydive vlog...

Now, if you’re yet not hungry in Arrowtown for breakfast, there is another café which is equally good, on your way in a small highway town Tarras- The Tarras Country Café. Coffee and Eggs Benedict can be your staple breakfast throughout New Zealand. They’re available and they’re delicious. All you need for your trip is available in Tarras in one place- a café, a lovely store for the shopping bug inside you, public restrooms, fueling station and more. And I guess, there is nothing more to the town either.

Juice up, because the views are breathtaking. The next stop is Omarama. Not that Omarama is touring spot or has something so beautiful which definitely deserves a picture, instead, we discovered a local store selling stuff at discounts up to 70%. Un-bloody-believable. And good stuff. Shraddha bought a 3-in-1 jacket from the store. Peach color, waterproof, full sleeves to sleeveless with a mere zip, a hood and can be packed into a pouch. The name of the store is GlenCraig’s Clothing. The store is just behind the huge ‘The Omarama Merinos’ statue alongside SH8. You have to have to check it out.

The Merino Sheep statue in Omarama, New Zealand. Guess which one?

Once you pass Omarama, the scenery changes to more snowy in the far west. Mount Cook is in your sight and it cannot be more reachable. This too is the route to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. But Oh My God, you feel like stopping after every mile so that you can capture the view. Unless, you are photographing, no need to. Reach Pukaki and stop at the Lake Pukaki. There is a proper parking and viewing deck. You will find others. Now, Lake Pukaki appears to you like the most beautiful lake you’ve seen. It is the kind of blue that you have been coloring the water with all your. It is so serene, so clear and so scintillating. Lake Pukaki seems to touch the foot of Mount Cook and I cannot express enough of how beautiful it was. You know what, if at all you can, sit down, close your eyes, focus on your breath. This is the meditating spot you’ve always wanted.

Mount Cook from this side of Lake Pukaki. Photograph by Sanchnama for Sanshine.

Aoraki Mount Cook Village is a 45 minutes drive away from Pukaki, you know what I am suggesting right? If you are not staying there and have planned the road trip through the day, you’ve got time. Go Cook-ing. We couldn’t since the road was blocked. Unfortunately for us, we had to make amends last minute due to flooding in the Franz Josef-Fox Glacier regions.

Half an hour away from Pukaki is another lake town- Tekapo. The lake is mostly like Lake Pukaki, but the town is bigger and more residential. Walk down to Lake Tekapo and if the time is right, you can spot the most visually aesthetic Lavender flowers. The thing about these towns on the highway is that there is nothing much unless you are an explorer yourself. And if you do like taking that route, then you can find random places which have a lot to offer to the likes of your kind. Many travelers/tourists even spend time here for its beauty.

If you haven’t had lunch yet, your next stop is the perfect stop for lunch options- Geraldine. From Tekapo, you are now moving to the north of the Canterburry region which is more city like. You have seen the most of countryside, Geraldine marks the start of cities. Geraldine centre is well equipped with café and restaurants. We chose to eat at Barker's Foodstore & Eatery. The café which is also a store has a very commercial vibe to and has a staff larger than any we’d seen yet. Just keep in mind that Barker’s closes early- 4:30 PM. In case, you are late, there many other places to eat at. Barker’s has a longlist of sauces and dips and pickles. You’re gonna love it. The area is well equipped with ice-cream parlours and subway like places. Roam about and have fun. Most importantly, conclude your lunch with a treat at ‘Gourmet Cheese Delicatessen Ice Cream’ and that too a double scoop.

It’s time to get on with the driving. From here on, the towns are mostly smaller cities and have a very industrial vibe to them. We drove non-stop and checked-in our hotel straight in the evening. By the way, where do you plan to stay? I do not suggest ‘Chateau on the park’, it wasn’t bad but wasn’t great either. It felt very closed and congested.

Well, there you are with one of the most amazing road trips of New Zealand and a full day. Grab dinner from somewhere close by, Christchurch is full of take-away restaurants, or maybe you can order in. You will be tired from the drive, sleep it off.

Have you seen our Wanaka to Christchurch Road Trio vlog?

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