Photo Essay: Queenstown to Christchurch

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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.

South Island

Queenstown to Christchurch by bus

I've done this 8-hour journey twice by bus, and highly recommend it. It's a great way to see a lot of New Zealand without having to drive yourself (and is also usually a lot cheaper than renting a car!). Both InterCity and Naked Bus run this route for reasonable prices.

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.

Queenstown, New Zealand

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.

South Island

South Island

And you'll of course see plenty of New Zealand farmland along the way.

South Island

In the town of Cromwell, expect a break at Mrs. Jones' orchard, where you can buy fresh fruit, healthy snacks, and tasty ice cream.

Mrs. Jones', Cromwell, New Zealand

Mrs. Jones' in Cromwell

A stop in the lakeside town of Wanaka should definitely be included. Be careful, though, because you may not want to leave here.

Wanaka, New Zealand

Wanaka, New Zealand

Lake Wanaka

If you're able to pull yourself away, you may also see nearby Lake Hawea in the Southern Lakes District.

Lake Hawea, New Zealand

Lake Hawea

Once in Central Otago, you'll traverse the Lindis Pass before approaching the town of Omarama, a world-class gliding location.

Lindis Pass, New Zealand

Lindis Pass

Past Twizel, the next major point of interest will be Lake Pukaki, where the oddly-blue water will certainly catch your eye.

Lake Pukaki, New Zealand

Lake Pukaki

At the far end of Lake Pukaki lies New Zealand's tallest peak – Mount Cook.

Mount Cook, New Zealand

Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook

Mount Cook, New Zealand

Mount Cook at the end of the road

Get your fill of the mountains here, though, as they won't be so close much longer.

South Island

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.

(And, in the spring, you can also find incredible fields of blooming lupins here!)

Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Church of the Good Shepherd

You'll likely make a meal stop here at Lake Tekapo. My advice? Bring a sandwich or snacks on the bus with you so you can spend some time walking along the lake instead of standing in line at the lone cafe.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Lake Tekapo

From Lake Tekapo, it's off into the rolling Canterbury Plains.

Canterbury Plains, New Zealand


Here, enjoy the rural scenery – and the crazy cloud formations I've seen here more than once.

South Island

Crazy clouds!

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!

Have you done the Queenstown-to-Christchurch route before? If not, would you subject yourself to 8 hours on a bus for this scenery?



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