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Christchurch to Queenstown Road Trip itinerary

We’ve put together this terrific 8-day itinerary that will take you from the gardens of Christchurch to the adrenaline-fuelled adventures in Queenstown.


A South Island road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown tops the bucket list for many campervan travellers. Packed full of picture-postcard scenery, from the vast open plains to majestic mountains, this New Zealand road trip draws visitors from all over the world. And there’s no better way to make the most of it all than with an Apollo campervan hire. Travelling by campervan gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace, taking in the stunning landscapes, welcoming townships, and outdoor adventures that make this route so special. 

With so much to see and do on this incredible South Island road trip, we don’t want you to miss any of the top highlights. That’s why we’ve put together this terrific 8-day itinerary that will take you from the gardens of Christchurch to the adrenaline-fuelled adventures in Queenstown. Don’t worry, we’ve included all the best South Island must-do attractions, as well as great campgrounds to stay at along the way. Best of all, each day’s drive is fairly short, so you’ll have plenty of time to make the most of each great destination.


Grab a photo of the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd

Go stargazing at Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park

Take in the panoramic views from Roy’s Peak

Pan for gold in Arrowtown

Feel the thrill of riding the Shotover Jet



Day 1: Christchurch to Rakaia Gorge

Travel time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Distance: 87 km

It’s day one of your awesome Christchurch to Queenstown road trip, and the first stop is to pick up your Apollo campervan hire in Christchurch. You’ll find us at 159 Orchard Rd, Harewood.

Before you hit the road, you might like to plan a few things to do in Christchurch such as a visit to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. From the rose gardens to the cosy conservatories, there’s always something beautiful to see here year-round. If you’d like to check out a great view of the city, head up to the Port Hills. The best way to reach the top is to take the Christchurch Gondola. Start at the carpark on Bridle Path Road, Heathcote Valley. 

Once you're ready to roll, set your GPS for Rakaia Gorge. The drive itself is a scenic treat, with the landscape gradually shifting from urban sprawl to pastoral plains and finally to the dramatic vistas of the gorge. As you approach, you'll be greeted by the striking blue waters of the Rakaia River, framed by steep cliffs and native forest. Looking for a good hike? The 10.4 km Rakaia Gorge Walkway is a must-do. This well-marked trail takes you through a variety of terrains, from forested areas to open farmland. Expect it to take around 3-4 hours return. 

After a day of exploration, unwind at the Rakaia River Holiday Park. It's the perfect spot to park your campervan hire and enjoy a peaceful night under the southern stars.


Day 2: Rakaia Gorge to Lake Tekapo

Travel time: 2 hours, 15 mins
Distance: 170 km

As you leave the stunning Rakaia Gorge behind, the next leg of your South Island road trip takes you to the scenic township of Lake Tekapo. The drive takes around two hours, but we suggest taking your time and plan to stop and admire the iconic New Zealand scenery along the way. 

Lake Tekapo is renowned for its signature turquoise waters, a sight that's truly Instagram-worthy. One of the first stops you should make is at The Church of the Good Shepherd. This quaint stone chapel offers one of the most photographed views in New Zealand. For those looking to unwind, Tekapo Springs Hot Pools provides a heavenly soak with a view, making it a perfect way to relax after your drive.

When you’re ready to settle down for the night, Lakes Edge Holiday Park is hard to beat. With its prime location by the lake, it's an ideal spot to park your campervan rental and take in the starry skies of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.


Day 3: Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki 

Travel time: 1 hour
Distance: 63 km

The drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki is relatively short but incredibly scenic, making for yet another stunning stretch on your NZ road trip. As you navigate the winding roads, you'll notice the landscape subtly change, with the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo giving way to the equally stunning, milky-blue waters of Lake Pukaki. Lake Pukaki is another gem in the South Island's crown, renowned for its unique glacial hue and jaw-dropping views of Aoraki/Mount Cook in the distance. It's a place where the natural beauty of New Zealand truly shines, making it a must-visit on any Christchurch to Queenstown road trip.

Once you arrive, consider a visit to Mount Cook Alpine Salmon. This freshwater king salmon farm offers a chance to taste some of the freshest fish you'll ever have. For those more interested in scenic views, Peter's Lookout is a must-visit. It's a popular spot for capturing the perfect photo of the lake with the mountain range as a majestic backdrop.

When it's time to park up, No More Pines offers a tranquil setting for your overnight stay. This freedom camping spot, located at the southern end of Lake Pukaki, offers views that are simply breathtaking. You’ll find the campsite off Hayman Road.  


Day 4: Lake Pukaki to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park 

Driving time: 1 hour
Distance: 60 km

The journey from Lake Pukaki to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park is a short but awe-inspiring drive. As you follow the road alongside the lake, the towering peaks of the Southern Alps grow larger on the horizon, culminating in the majestic sight of Aoraki/Mt Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain.

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and a highlight of any South Island road trip. The park is home to 19 peaks that are over 3,000 metres high, providing a stunning backdrop for a range of activities. For those interested in the history and culture of mountaineering, plan a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. It offers a fascinating look into the life of one of New Zealand's most iconic figures and the challenges of alpine exploration. If you're keen to get your boots on the ground, the Hooker Valley Track is one of the most popular walks in the area. This relatively easy hike takes you through alpine meadows, across swing bridges, and offers spectacular views of Aoraki/Mt Cook and the surrounding glaciers.

For your overnight stay, White Horse Hill Campground is an excellent choice. It's conveniently located within the national park, making it an ideal base as you explore this remarkable region.


Day 5: Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park to Omarama

Travel time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Distance: 97 km

It’s day five and the next leg of your NZ road trip takes you to Omarama. The drive is yet another scenic treat, with the road meandering through valleys and alongside lakes and rivers. The Southern Alps gradually recede in your campervan’s rearview mirror, making way for the expansive Mackenzie Basin as you approach Omarama.

Omarama may be a small town, but it packs a punch when it comes to attractions. One of the must-dos here is a soak in the Omarama Hot Tubs. These private tubs offer a unique outdoor bathing experience, complete with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and plains. For those looking to explore the natural beauty of the area, the Clay Cliffs Scenic Reserve is a geological marvel worth visiting. The towering pinnacles and ravines make for an otherworldly landscape that's perfect for photography and exploration.

Tonight, park up at Omarama TOP 10 Holiday Park. With its range of facilities and convenient location, it's the perfect place to park your campervan hire and rest up for your drive to Wānaka. 

Image: Tourism New Zealand


Day 6: Omarama to Wānaka

Travel time: 1 hour, 30 minutes 
Distance:  114 km

The next destination on your South Island road trip is the picturesque town of Wānaka. Your drive will take around 1.5 hours and will lead you through the stunning scenery of the Lindis Pass. Plan a picnic stop at the old stone Lindis Pass Historic Hotel on Old Faithful Road (off SH8) in the Lindis Valley area.

Wānaka is a destination that offers something for everyone. For the adventurous, the Roy’s Peak trail takes you to one of the most iconic viewpoints in New Zealand. Here, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Lake Wānaka and the surrounding mountains. Plan a full day for this walk though, the 16 km return track takes around 5-6 hours – but the views are worth it!

If you're looking for something a bit more laid-back, Puzzling World offers a unique blend of optical illusions, mazes, and puzzling fun that's great for families or anyone looking to engage their mind.

For your overnight stay, Hampshire Holiday Parks Wānaka is an excellent choice. It offers a range of amenities and is conveniently located just 10 minutes walk to the township’s centre.


Day 7: Wānaka to Arrowtown

Travel time: 1 hour, 15 mins (via SH6)
Distance: 99 km

Today you’ll be heading to the picturesque township of Arrowtown. While the Crown Range offers a stunning drive, it's important to note that your Apollo campervan hire can't be driven on this route, so you’ll need to travel via SH6. Along the way, you might want to make a pit stop in Cromwell, a town famous for its delicious fruit. It's a great opportunity to stock up on some local produce for the journey ahead.

Arrowtown is a historic gold-mining town that's brimming with character. With its well-preserved buildings and tree-lined avenues, it feels like stepping back in time. Don’t miss the opportunity to try your hand at gold panning while you’re here. The Arrow River was one of the richest sources of gold in the late 19th century, and you can still find flakes today. Another must-visit is the Arrowtown Chinese Settlement. This historic area provides a glimpse into the lives of Chinese immigrants who came to Arrowtown during the Otago Gold Rush. The restored huts and informative displays make it a fascinating stop that adds both cultural and historical depth to your New Zealand road trip.

For your overnight stay, Arrowtown Holiday Park offers a welcoming and convenient spot to park up for the night. 


Day 8: Arrowtown to Queenstown

Travel time: 20 minutes
Distance: 19 km

It’s the last day of your amazing Christchurch to Queenstown road trip, and today you’re off to the adventure capital of the world. The drive is short but scenic, with Lake Wakatipu providing a stunning backdrop as you approach the bustling resort town of Queenstown.

There are loads of great things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand. And you can be as adventurous or as laid-back as you like. For thrill-seekers, the Shotover Jet offers an adrenaline-pumping ride through the narrow Shotover Canyons. If you prefer a bird's-eye view, the Skyline and Gondola take you up to Bob's Peak, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Queenstown and its surrounding landscapes. And if all that adventure has you feeling hungry, there are plenty of delicious options to choose from. From gourmet burgers to fine dining, Queenstown offers a culinary experience that caters to every taste.

For the final night of your NZ road trip adventure, relax at the Queenstown Holiday Park Creeksyde. Conveniently located and offering a range of amenities, it's the perfect place to make the most of the last night in your campervan rental in Queenstown.

Image: Tourism New Zealand


Is the South Island of New Zealand calling you?

From the garden city of Christchurch to the adrenaline-pumping thrills of Queenstown, this 8-day itinerary offers a taste of everything that makes a South Island road trip so unforgettable. Whether you're soaking in hot tubs in Omarama or taking in the awe-inspiring views from Roy’s Peak, travelling by campervan hire gives you the freedom to make the most of each unique destination.

Ready to hit the road and create your own adventure? There's no better way to explore New Zealand than in the comfort of an Apollo campervan. With a range of motorhomes and campervans to suit all needs and budgets, your dream New Zealand road trip is waiting. Book your Apollo campervan hire online today and start planning the journey of a lifetime!




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