I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: New Zealand’s South Island is stunning. STUNNING. From beaches to glaciers to rainforests to snowy mountains, this island really does have it all.
There are many great drives you can do on the South Island, from the drive between Queenstown and Milford Sound, to the Southern Scenic Route from Dunedin to Invercargill. But another of my favorites (scenery-wise) is the drive up the middle of the island — from Queenstown to Christchurch.
I’ve done this 8-hour journey twice by bus, and highly recommend it. Here are some of the things you can expect to see on that drive:
The trip will have to begin early — you’ll have to rise with the sun over The Remarkables in Queenstown.
If you’re traveling during the right time of year, you’ll be greeted by the snow-covered Southern Alps in many directions once you hit the road.
And you’ll of course see plenty of New Zealand farmland along the way.
In the town of Cromwell, expect a break at Mrs. Jones’ orchard, where you can buy fresh fruit, healthy snacks, and tasty ice cream.
A stop in the lakeside town of Wanaka should definitely be included. Be careful, though, because you may not want to leave here.
If you’re able to pull yourself away, you may also see nearby Lake Hawea in the Southern Lakes District.
Once in Central Otago, you’ll traverse the Lindis Pass before approaching the town of Omarama, a world-class gliding location.
Past Twizel, the next major point of interest will be Lake Pukaki, where the oddly-blue water will certainly catch your eye.
At the far end of Lake Pukaki lies New Zealand’s tallest peak — Mount Cook.
Get your fill of the mountains here, though, as they won’t be so close much longer.
After Mount Cook, the next note-worthy stop will be at Lake Tekapo, where the little stone Church of the Good Shepherd is one of the most-photographed buildings in New Zealand.
From Lake Tekapo, it’s off into the rolling Canterbury Plains.
Here, enjoy the rural scenery — and the crazy cloud formations I’ve seen here more than once.
The sun will likely begin to set before you reach Christchurch, which is why I recommend doing this journey from south to north. The mountainous scenery during the first part of this trip is definitely the part you don’t want to miss!