Best Queenstown scenic drives
Learn which scenic drives around Queenstown are the ones worthwhile doing and which offer spectacular scenery and when in New Zealand.
Queenstown is surrounded by only a few towns. From Queenstown, you can drive to: Glenorchy, Arrowtown, Cardrona, Cromwell, or Kingston.
But not all of the roads leading to these places near Queenstown offer nice scenic views.
So in this article, I’ll list a few scenic drives around Queenstown that I believe offer quite impressive scenery so are worth your time.
Scenic drive to Glenorchy
Any drive around Lake Wakatipu can be considered impressive. At the top of the list of such scenic drives is the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy.
It offers impressive lake and mountain views while you are driving on the road.
Of course you can also stop alongside the road at several places to relax at the lake or do a lakeside walk such as the Bobs Cove walk.
And depending on the season in which you do this Queenstown scenic drive, you may get to see snow on the mountains; try winter or spring for the greatest chance of seeing snow on the mountains around Queenstown.
From Glenorchy, you can drive further north towards Paradise and the Routeburn Track and stop at the Dart River bridge to take in more mountain views well-known from the Lord of the Rings.
The scenic drive back from Glenorchy to Queenstown is as impressive as the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy, so take your time when driving back.
[Photo: Pig and Pigeon Islands in the middle of Lake Wakatipu (44 KB)]
Scenic drive to Kingston
The second drive along Lake Wakatipu with impressive lake and mountain views is the drive from Queenstown to Kingston, which lies south of Queenstown.
Both the Queenstown to Glenorchy and Queenstown to Kingston scenic drives should take you less than an hour to complete.
When driving to Kingston, you can make a brief side trip up to the Remarkables ski field to get more scenic views of Queenstown and the surrounding area from above.
The drive up to the ski field can be done in any season. But do remember that if you want to drive up in winter, you may need chains to do so, since there may be snow on the mountain.
In all other seasons, the Remarkables access road tends to be clear of snow. Also note that if you need to stretch your legs, there are walks that you can do up there.
[Photo: Scenic view from the Remarkables access road (41 KB)]
Scenic drive to Cardrona (and Wanaka)
The last scenic drive I would recommend with impressive scenic views is the drive down Crown Range.
You can get to this drive by driving from Queenstown towards Cardrona and when you reach the top of the Crown Range, drive back down.
The drive down Crown Range can be done during any time of the year, but you should pick a clear and sunny day, so that you can get nice views of mountains, Lake Wakatipu, and the Kawarau River from above. I particularly like doing this drive in autumn and in winter.
While you can drive to Cardrona and all the way to Wanaka after you reach the top of the Crown Range, the scenery is not that impressive.
Cardrona lies in a valley and all you will see are trees, unless you drive up to the Cardrona ski field, in which case you will get impressive mountain views.
The one exception to this is if you are driving from Queenstown to Wanaka via Cardrona or vice versa during autumn in New Zealand, since this is a good road to admire the yellow autumn foliage on trees in the valley and when you reach Wanaka.
[Photo: Scenic view in the Cardrona valley in autumn (37 KB)]
Final words on the best scenic drives around Queenstown
You may have noticed that I left out two towns: Arrowtown and Cromwell.
While the drive to either one of these two towns is not that spectacular when you are sitting in a car, you can make a couple of stops to for example:
- Enjoy the impressive fall foliage in Arrowtown during autumn;
- Visit Lake Hayes near Arrowtown, which looks good in autumn; or
- Enjoy a roadside attraction such as Roaring Meg when driving from Queenstown to Cromwell.
This article falls under Scenic Drives.
Note: Roads can be changed or closed. The information presented
here was accurate when it was gathered.