Wellington to Queenstown via West Coast

5 Days


Wellington Central to Central Queenstown


  • Abel Tasman
  • Explore Glaciers
  • Adventurous Queenstown

Best time of year

All year

This route is the refreshing, wilderness way to get to Queenstown. Start with the heritage and cultural entertainments of Wellington, then cross Cook Strait on a ferry journey through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Enjoy Nelson’s creative streak before you venture up the Buller River to the wild Tasman Sea views of the west coast. In Greymouth you’ll learn about the local treasures (gold and greenstone). Further down the coast you’ll need your warmest jacket to explore the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. Admire the rainforest waterfalls of Haast Pass on your way to the restaurants, shopping and adventurous outdoor fun of Wanaka and Queenstown.


Explore the Abel Tasman National Park by sea kayak when you visit Nelson.

Photo by Ian Trafford

Day 1 / 5

Wellington - Picton - Nelson

5 hrs

39 mins

208 km

130 mi


Wellington City is compact, cultured and full of character. Nestled between the harbour and the hills, the downtown area is ideal for explorations on foot. Enjoy cafes, restaurants, museums and all kinds of shops. Dance, theatre and musical performances are a Wellington specialty. As New Zealand’s capital, this city is rich in political history.

The passage across Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds is one of the most scenic ferry trips in the world. The cruise-style ferry takes just over 3 hours and can transport vehicles. Highlights along the way include the Red Rocks seal colony, Tory Channel, Cook’s Lookout and the beautiful coves of the sounds.

The picturesque seaside town of Picton is the South Island base for the ferry service that links the North and South islands of New Zealand. It’s also the gateway to the marine, forest and island attractions of the Marlborough Sounds. 

The drive to Nelson first takes you to the town of Havelock, which is known as the Green Shell Mussel Capital of the World. Nearby Canvastown is a place to explore old gold mining fields – thousands tried to get rich here in the 1860s. At Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve you can enjoy a bush walk or a swim, depending on the time of the year. And if you’d like a glimpse of local life in 1890, Rai Valley has a beautifully preserved cottage museum.

The city of Nelson is home to a fascinating community of beach, bush and art lovers. From here you can organise yourself an eco-adventure or become immersed in the local creative culture.

Enjoy fantastic city and harbour views from Mount Victoria in Wellington.

Start in Wellington Central

Whether you want to dabble in history or indulge at divine restaurants, Wellington is a capital city with a great deal of style. Enjoy!

Shopping at Mapua Wharf, Nelson

End in Nelson Central

One of the sunniest cities in New Zealand, Nelson is the perfect spot to base yourself while you spend some time exploring the Abel Tasman National Park.

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