Christchurch to Queenstown: Things you need to do!

The view over the lake in Queenstown

So, there’s a small group of you who’ve made the decision to hit the road and explore the South Island of New Zealand. You may have a goal of eventually hitting the slopes in and around Queenstown, but even if you don’t, let us assure you, there is plenty to do and see on the South Island. So sit back, relax and read more about what to do when heading from Christchurch to Queenstown.

So, you’ve got the campervan hire sorted, food packed and you have multiple playlists at the ready, but what next? In this blog our aim is to impart enough knowledge to you to help you know where to go, what to do, where to stop and what you can expect. And because picking up your campervan in Christchurch makes it easy for you, we will begin our adventure itinerary here. We are going to work on a 8-day (easy does it) itinerary  so the recommendations are made for that time frame. Feel free to add days on, or add a comment below on areas you think we missed – and maybe we can cover it in another blog.

All Aboard – Christchurch

Christchurch is one of those cities you just need to visit, though sadly, due to the spate of earthquakes in recent years, many of the buildings that once stood tall, are no longer and have left gaping holes in the skyline of the city.

But the spirit of the residents in Christchurch is anything but beaten. The locals are bound to welcome you with a smile and there is more than enough to fill 2 or 3 days here, from great food to amazing site seeing, to live music, and so much more, Christchurch is a must for anyone going to the South. Highlights for us include:

  • Taking a punt on the Avon River on a gondola or punt
  • Seeing the sights from on high on the Gondola
  • Taking a day trip to check out the beautiful Hanmer and Kaikoura
  • Visit the theatre district (and make sure you see the Isaac Theatre Royal)
  • Make a day or night of it on Victoria Street. Find everything you want from good cocktails, through to funky and affordable restaurants through to fine dining.
  • Taking the family on a trip back in time at Ferrymead Heritage Park
  • Experiencing a Traditional Maori ceremony at He Tangata (located at  Nga Hau e Wha National Marae)
  • Get to the Farmer’s markets on a Saturday morning and load up on fresh cheeses, fruits, breads and coffee. Or grab breakfast and a coffee in a converted garage at Addington Coffee co-op

All told, we recommend a good three or so days here to enjoy this amazing city fully.

Find your soul – Mount Cook National Park

Once you have had your fill, let’s get this adventure on the road. Around 450 km from Christchurch, you will come to our suggested first stop, and if you are looking for one of the most interesting and breathtaking destinations in New Zealand, then this is a must-do for you. And best of all, there is a dedicated area for you to park your Campervan. Yup, that’s right, Mount Cook National Park has it all; from the mountain, Sir Edmund Hillary practiced on ahead of his ascent on Mt Everest, to a glorious lake and a couple of 1-hour easy-walking hikes. And if you time it right and choose the Hooker Valley hike around sunset, you can see a glorious view of the sun setting about Mount Cook itself, illuminating the valley below in beautiful orange.


Chill around Lake Wanaka

Around two and a half hours away from Mount Cook is Nirvana on earth. Not only is the Central Otago wine region nearby, but the scenery and hiking around this area is second to none. If wine tasting is your speed, then there is no shortage of wineries nearby to check out. Wines of New Zealand has put together a list you may want to check out. Once you’re done, or if the great outdoors calls your name more than wine, then why not spend a few days on these trails.

Rocky Mountain: Known for beautiful views over Lake Wanaka and a 7km trail around Diamond Lake. It also has some good cliff faces for those who like to climb.

Mount Iron: This is a favourite spot in winter for those who don’t mind the cold. If you are there in winter and are ready to get up early, the sunrise is something special. The fog cover often lifts above the below township, but sits below the summit, making for a very surreal experience.


The Lone Willow in Wanaka. Photo by Timothy Chan

Check out the lone Willow at Wanaka: If you like taking unique photos, or like viewing those of others then the Lone willow at the Lake Shore in Wanaka is where you need to go. This iconic tree has become one of the worlds’ most iconic and photographed trees.

Ideally, you would want to spend at least 2 nights here, but if it resonates with you, you could lose yourself here for days!


Start your heart in Queenstown

Once you’ve found the urge to hit the open road again, Queenstown awaits. Queenstown is one of those cities where you expect one thing, but leave with a completely different perspective. Known around the world as the spot to ski in New Zealand, there is so much more to Queenstown than just access to the mountains – and that goes for summer as much as it does winter. We could go on and on about things to do here, but to make it simple here are a few of the things you may want to look into.

For the Adrenalin lovers

  • Master your downhill speeds and race your friends on the Luge at the top of the Queenstown Skyline.
  • Go Bungy jumping at the Nevis Bungy.
  • Enjoy the crystal clear waters on board a jet boat on either the Kawarau River or Shotover River
  • Go skiing or snowboarding at the surrounding mountains including Coronet Peak or The Remarkables
  • Give the Zipline a try at the top of the Skyline
  • Hit up Winnies bar for a few drinks. In winter they open the roof to let some heat out. There’s nothing quite like it

At a slower pace

  • Try the Skyline Gondola which gives you some magnificent views of the city below without losing your stomach.
  • Have a picnic and take in the scenery at Queenstown gardens
  • Get your camera out and enjoy some of the most picturesque spots in all of New Zealand. We’re talking One Mile Carpark, Jack’s Point, Old Glenorchy Wharf and Moke Lake.

Take your tastebuds on an adventure

  • Enjoy the surrounding countryside and be ferried around on a Queenstown and Gibbston Valley wine tour
  • Spoil yourself with some great cocktails before dinner at Botswana Butcher
  • Get your lunchtime fill at the Big Fig deli
  • Load the campervan with some tasty treats from Fergbaker
  • And power up for the day ahead with some amazing coffee from Joe’s Garage.


The rest is up to you

The best part about campervanning is that there doesn’t have to be a set agenda. It is you, the road and your friends. Where ever you need to be is exactly where you will be. So take the time to enjoy the South Island (before you head to the North Island), soak it all up and share your experiences.  We hope you enjoy your travels from from Christchurch to Queenstown, but remember, there is so much more to do than we have mapped out for you (Fox Glacier, Milford Sounds, Blenheim, Nelson and so much more), so go explore and have fun!

Whatever you get up to, make sure you drive safely, share your adventures and that you come back again. Happy travels!

  • Louisa says:

    I am extremely inspіred by your writing on Australia and also witһ the format in your blog.
    Did you travel yourself or pay for this? it is really good.
    Anyway keep up the excellent high quality writing, it’s rare to look аt a nice informative blog like this one these days..

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