Welcome to the breathtaking Cromwell to Queenstown Scenic Drive, a must-see journey for anyone visiting New Zealand’s South Island. This 60 km drive takes you through the stunning Kawarau Gorge, offering picturesque views and a variety of attractions along the way. In this article, we will provide a detailed description of the drive, as well as highlight some of the must-see stops and activities to make your journey unforgettable.
1. The Route
The Cromwell to Queenstown Scenic Drive begins in the historic town of Cromwell, located at the junction of Lake Dunstan and the Kawarau and Clutha Rivers.
From here, you will follow the Kawarau Gorge Road (State Highway 6) as it winds its way through the dramatic Kawarau Gorge, passing vineyards, historic gold-mining sites, and stunning viewpoints before reaching the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown.
2. Key Attractions Along the Way
- Old Cromwell Town
- Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge
- Goldfields Mining Centre
- Gibbston Valley Wineries
- AJ Hackett Bungy
- Lake Hayes
- Shotover River
3. Old Cromwell Town
Before embarking on your scenic drive, take some time to explore Old Cromwell Town, a historic precinct that has been preserved to showcase the area’s gold-mining heritage.
Wander through the charming streets, visit the local shops and galleries, and learn about the town’s history at the Cromwell Museum.
4. Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge
As you drive along the Kawarau Gorge Road, make sure to stop at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, a historic bridge built in 1880 that offers stunning views of the gorge and the turquoise waters of the Kawarau River below.
The bridge is also the site of the world’s first commercial bungy jumping operation, making it a popular spot for thrill-seekers.
5. Goldfields Mining Centre
Step back in time at the Goldfields Mining Centre, a living history museum that offers a glimpse into the region’s gold-mining past.
Here, you can explore the original gold-mining site, try your hand at gold panning, and learn about the history of the area through interactive displays and guided tours.
6. Gibbston Valley Wineries
The Cromwell to Queenstown Scenic Drive takes you through the heart of the Gibbston Valley, a renowned wine-producing region known for its award-winning Pinot Noir.
Stop at one of the many wineries along the way to sample the local wines, enjoy a vineyard tour, or indulge in a delicious meal at a winery restaurant.
7. AJ Hackett Bungy
For those seeking an adrenaline rush, a stop at the AJ Hackett Bungy is a must. This iconic bungy jumping site, located at the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, offers a thrilling 43-meter jump over the Kawarau River.
If bungy jumping isn’t your thing, you can also try the Kawarau Zipride or simply enjoy the views from the viewing platform.
Just a short detour from the main route, the historic gold-mining town of Arrowtown is well worth a visit.
Stroll through the charming streets lined with restored buildings, visit the Lakes District Museum, and enjoy the many cafes, restaurants, and shops that this picturesque town has to offer.
9. Lake Hayes
As you approach Queenstown, take a moment to stop at Lake Hayes, a stunning alpine lake surrounded by mountains and native bush. The lake offers a tranquil setting for a picnic, a leisurely walk, or a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters.
10. Shotover River
Before reaching Queenstown, you will cross the Shotover River, a fast-flowing river that offers a range of exciting activities, including jet boating, rafting, and canyon swinging.
For those looking for a more relaxed experience, there are also scenic walking tracks and picnic spots along the river’s edge.
11. Arriving in Queenstown
As you complete your scenic drive, you will arrive in Queenstown, a vibrant town nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the stunning Remarkables mountain range. Queenstown is known for its adventure activities, world-class dining, and stunning scenery, making it the perfect destination to explore and unwind after your journey through the Kawarau Gorge.