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Leave New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’ and travel south through the patchwork quilt of the Canterbury Plains. The first stop to stretch your legs will be the charming township of Geraldine - a foodie’s haven! Set beneath a backdrop of the mighty Southern Alps, this is the perfect place to sample the tastes of Canterbury including New Zealand famous preserves and cheeses. Take in the historic character of the town by foot or if you've packed your hiking boots be sure to check out Peel Forest (20 kms from Geraldine) for walking, horse riding and nail biting white water rafting.
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Rich golden landscapes bordered by brightly coloured lupins pave the way for your arrival into Lake Tekapo. A glacial fed turquoise blue lake is a hive of activity for everything outdoors! Considered a Kiwi holiday hot spot, take time to do as the locals do - camp on the lake front, fish for trout, hike Mt John or sit back and relax in the hot pools.
Once back on the road, a photo stop at the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd is a must and over the past 75 years has become one of New Zealand’s most photographed monuments – it’s not hard to see why!
Hidden Gem: Lake Pukaki
Continuing on to Lake Pukaki with views never ceasing to take your breath away - mountainous scenery mirrored by crystal clear lake water reflects the first glimpses of the grandeur of Aoraki Mount Cook. This is a must-stop photo opportunity.
Aoraki Mount Cook
On arrival at the village of Mount Cook take time to explore the treasures of New Zealand's mountaineering history at the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre or enjoy one of the many walks through the National Park. If you're feeling adventurous, try booking in for a ski plane landing on the Tasman Glacier.
You will love every moment of this road trip as you head south and witness the scenery change dramatically from colourful roadside wildflowers to the smooth tussock-covered saddle of the Lindis Pass – scenery as perfect as a landscape painting.
Follow the mighty Clutha – the South Island’s longest river – which leads you to the gorgeous holiday destination of Lake Wanaka. Wanaka is an inspiring place or a “lifestyle reserve” as the locals call it. You will soon be charmed by this vibrant lakeside community where there are so many things to see and do, though you may choose to just relax and unwind.
Hidden Gem: Puzzling World
If you're planning to linger in Wanaka (and you should), spend an afternoon at quirky Puzzling World, where optical illusions, mazes and puzzles will boggle and beguile you.
Onwards to Queenstown! Follow the Cardrona Valley Rd towards the Crown Range saddle. You won’t miss the Cardrona Hotel & Pub on the roadside, one of New Zealand’s oldest hotels. Take a break and experience the rustic charm of the historic restaurant, bar and garden.
The Crown Range road twists through hill country farmlands into alpine tussock when you reach the summit of New Zealand’s highest highway at 1121 metres.
Our tip: For breathtaking views:
Stop at the lookout for your first views of the Wakatipu basin... it is truly breathtaking.
From the saddle, set off on your way down – several lookouts offer panoramic views with Queenstown in the distance.
For some old fashioned charm and gold mining history, turn off to Arrowtown, and have some fun panning for gold – you never know what you’ll find.
Then, voila ... you’ve reached one of New Zealand’s best known destinations. Welcome to Queenstown.
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Where to next?
From Queenstown you could head south towards Milford Sound and Southland, east through Central Otago, or north up the West Coast until you reach sunny Nelson. It's really up to you!
- Queenstown to Dunedin via Central Otago
- Queenstown to Dunedin via Invercargill
- Queenstown to Milford Sound
- Queenstown to Nelson via the West Coast
A 2 day, 562km road trip
Christchurch to Geraldine 95 minutes
Geraldine to Fairlie 40 minutes
Fairlie to Lake Tekapo 35 minutes
Lake Tekapo to Twizel 50 minutes
Twizel to Mt Cook to Twizel 120 minutes
Twizel to Omarama 25 minutes
Omarama to Tarras 50 minutes
Tarras to Wanaka 30 minutes
Wanaka to Cardrona 25 minutes
Cardrona to Arrowtown 30 minutes
Arrowtown to Queenstown 20 minutes