For anyone wanting to explore New Zealand from top to bottom, the journey from Queenstown to Auckland will be the scenic trip of a lifetime. Covering both the North and South Islands, you can get an all-encompassing taste of the Land of the Long White Cloud.
The 1,720 km road trip from Queenstown to Auckland will take 25 hours to drive. Highlights include Queenstown, Lake Hayes, Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Franz Josef Glacier, Tongariro National Park, Christchurch, Napier, Coromandel, and unforgettable Auckland.
You'll experience the best of New Zealand with its volcanic mountains, dramatic coastlines, lush green forests and turquoise lakes. Auckland is a maelstrom of urban landscapes and the great outdoors where you can enjoy beaches and nightlife all in one city. Read on to start planning this incredible road trip of a lifetime.
How far is Auckland from Queenstown, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Glacier Route||1,720 kilometres||25 hours|
|The Iconic Coromandel Route||1,940 kilometres||29 hours|
The Glacier Route will take you through some of the most incredible scenery on the South Island. You'll travel 1,720 km and around 25 hours to reach your destination.
On the Iconic Coromandel Route, you'll see the incredible eastern coasts of the South and North Islands. You'll travel a distance of 1,940 km in 29 hours if you were to drive nonstop.
No matter which route you choose, you'll be able to explore New Zealand's postcard-worthy terrain. Read on to learn more about the two routes so you can start planning this epic journey. We recommend six to eight days to enjoy this epic road trip.
Best road trip route from Queenstown to Auckland
There are two incredible routes to take from Auckland to Queenstown. Each depends on what you want to see and do and also the amount of time you have, so the best road trip will depend on your choices.
The Glacier Route takes you through the Southern Alps in South Island. Here you'll visit the prominent glaciers of New Zealand, none more famous than the Franz Josef Glacier.
Throughout the journey, you'll encounter national parks with waterfalls and fulfilling hikes. Crossing on a car ferry from Picton to Wellington, you'll enter North Island, where the direct route takes you through more outdoor adventures including volcanic mountains.
Longer than the more direct Glacier Route, The Iconic Coromandel Route takes you through the central South Islands with its turquoise lakes. After driving through Lindis Pass, you'll meet the tallest summit in New Zealand, Mount Cook.
It's a detour, but the iconic Coromandel is your last stop before Auckland, where you can enjoy pristine beaches and forested mountains.
How to drive from Queenstown to Auckland
The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between Queenstown and Auckland. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.
The Glacier Route
Take the beautiful State Highway 6 up through the mountains and lakes near the town of Wanaka. Continue on the winding highway until you reach the mighty South Pacific Ocean and the town of Haast.
From here you'll continue along the coast, witnessing waterfalls and some of the most dramatic scenery on the planet. Take Highway 67 into Westport for a stop in one of the South Island's most charming towns.
Get back on Highway 6 and drive further until you reach Kawatiri. Take State Highway 63 and drive north along the Wairau River.
Once you reach Renwick head north into the town of Picton to catch the Interislander Ferry. You'll cross the striking Cook Strait and arrive in the city of Wellington, on the North Island.
Drive along State Highway 1, through Tararua Forest Park. Continue on through the small agricultural towns of the North Island into Turangi. Hop on State Highway and drive until you reach State Highway 1. Continue north through Hamilton and into your destination of Auckland.
The Iconic Coromandel Route
From Queenstown, take State Highway 8 through the countryside of the South Island. Drive east and hop on State Highway 1. You will drive through Lindis Pass, Twizel and the beautiful scenery of Pukaki and Tekapo Lakes.
Past Mount Hutt, drive north until you reach the strikingly beautiful and vibrant city of Christchurch. Continue north on State Highway 1 until you reach Picton.
Get on the Interislander Ferry and cross the Cook Strait into Wellington. From here continue northeast pas Takapau.
Drive through the incredible communities of Napier, Taupo, Rotorua, and Tauranga. From here drive north towards your destination and make a side trip to the beautiful city of Coromandel before doubling back and driving into Auckland.
Best places to stop between Queenstown and Auckland
There are plenty of incredible stops along the way from Queenstown to Auckland. We've chosen our favourites to help you choose what's right for you.
Explore “Middle Earth” in Hamilton
Along the Glacier Route, just 1 hour and 20 minutes from Auckland, is the stunning town of Hamilton. Sitting on the banks of the Waikato River, the city features vibrant street art, gardens, and the famous Hobbiton movie set.
The first highlight to visit is Hamilton Gardens, the city's most popular attraction. Stroll through the distinct garden spaces inspired by places like the Indian Char Bagh Garden, the Japanese Garden of Contemplation, and the English Flower Garden.
Afterwards, enjoy the cosmopolitan vibes of central Hamilton. Whether you want to sip a drink in the microbreweries and cafes, enjoy retail therapy at the boutique shops and malls, or treat yourself to a delicious meal at an award-winning restaurant.
Just a 45-minute drive away, the Hobbiton Movie Set tour is an enchanting experience. Walk through the Shire as featured in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. You can even enjoy a hobbit-style meal.
Once you've had your fill of checking out the city, we recommend staying at the Novotel Tainui Hamilton. The hotel is located in central Hamilton, on the Waikato River. You can easily walk outside to enjoy river walks or head out to the Waikato Museum, just 7 minutes away on foot.
Located downtown you will be within easy reach of many eateries and bars, but you don't have to venture far if you choose not to. The upscale hotel has a stylish lobby bar, hot breakfast buffet, and a riverside restaurant on-site for you to enjoy without even leaving the premises.
Enjoy the Garden City of Christchurch
On the Iconic Coromandel Route is the mesmerising city of Christchurch. About one-third of the way, the city makes for an ideal stop after visiting Mount Hutt. Vibrant Christchurch is famous for its gardens, earning itself the nickname Garden City.
Check out the famous Christchurch Botanic Gardens, which earned the city its nickname. This incredible park was started from a single English oak planted in 1863. Nowadays, it spans 21 hectares with plants and conservatories all conveniently located downtown.
The Christchurch Gondola takes you up Mount Cavendish for a panoramic view of not only the city but the snow-capped Southern Alps. At the top, there are hiking trails and the Red Rock Cafe.
Another must-see sight is the Canterbury Museum. Housed in an 1870 stone building, the Canterbury Museum has both human and nature exhibitions. About a 15 minute walk from the museum, you will find the New Regent Street Precinct. The pedestrianised shopping street dates back to the 1930s and is often thought of as “New Zealand's prettiest street”.
While exploring Christchurch, we recommend staying at The Observatory Hotel Christchurch. Located on Hereford Street, it's in central Christchurch, just a minute's walk from the Canterbury Museum and nine minutes from the Botanic Gardens.
This luxury boutique hotel has individual contemporary rooms and premium gym facilities, including treadmills. What's more is the incredibly spacious layout and close proximity to some of the best restaurants and bars in the city.
Where to stay when you reach Auckland
Once you reach your destination, we recommend staying at the beautiful SO/ Auckland. The hotel has an Indoor adult-only swimming pool open all year round and valet parking that will help you get situated stress-free after your long drive.
It's a luxurious avant-garde hotel with plenty of amenities like massage treatments and comfortable places to relax.
The hotel's Harbour Society restaurant serves incredible Asian cuisine. Javalab Cafe serves French patisserie and coffee, perfect for breakfast or a lovely snack.
The hotel features two bars including the HI-SO rooftop bar. Here, you can enjoy the evening in style before hitting the town.
Things to see on a road trip from Queenstown to Auckland
With so much natural scenery on the way, you'll be mesmerised the entire way. We've included our favourite stops along the way to help you plan your adventure of a lifetime.
The Glacier Route
- Lake Hawea - Enjoy outdoor activities with imposing mountains as your backdrop. Boat, kayak and kite surf on the lake or walk and find a spot to lounge on the beach.
- Mount Aspiring National Park - Many hikers claim this national park has the best hikes in South New Zealand. Thunder Creek Falls and the Blue Pools are standout nature spots.
- Haast - You'll find picturesque remote beaches in and around Haast. But a short trip down the Haast River leads you to Roaring Billy Falls.
- Lake Matheson - A glacial lake, Lake Matheson offers dramatic views of Mount Cook and Tasman. Popular because it's only small, so a hike around the entire lake is only 2.6km.
- Franz Josef Glacier - Considered the iconic glacier of New Zealand. Best experienced by taking a guided tour that'll lead you to once-in-a-lifetime glacial scenes.
- Hokitika - A small but trendy and artistic town. Take the Gorge Walk on a loop trail taking you over a suspension bridge. Before the days out, watch the sunset on Hokitika Beach at Sunset Point Road.
- Punakaiki - Experience the Pancake Rocks. The eroded limestone formations project sea water through upright blowholes.
- Charleston - A small charming town, but there's more below the surface. At Charleston, you can go on a cave tour and see glow worms illuminating the dark.
- Westport - Westport is home to exhilarating white water rafting. If you're enjoying the views of the west coast, the Great Coast Road is a scenic drive achievable from Westport.
- Tongariro National Park - Hike your way to the Taranaki Falls or walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to the red crater. For the volcanic Tongariro Crossing, you can have a guided tour to make sure you're prepared and safe.
- Pureora Forest Park - With towering trees and a crystalline river, the forest offers a perfect spot for a picnic. Bike the Timber Trail that'll lead you to the long suspension bridge.
The Iconic Coromandel Route
- Lindis Pass - This route takes you through Lindis Pass. The scenic road between two valleys that, throughout the year, will have snow on the peaks. Stop at the car park to take in the views.
- Omarama - Soak up the mountainous views in the most relaxing of ways. Hot Tubs Omarama has a collection of outdoor hot tubs available for 90-minute sessions.
- Twizel - At the base of Mount Cook, Twizel is well-placed to enjoy mountain climbing, biking and hiking.
- Lake Pukaki - Stop at the viewpoint on the southern banks. Photograph the deep blue waters and if the weather is kind, you can even see Mount Cook across the lake.
- Lake Tekapo - Contrast the alpine temperatures by soaking in hot waters. The Tekapo Springs Hot Pools are fed by an underground source for peak relaxation.
- Mount Hutt - From early June to October, take to the slopes at Mount Hutt. It's widely considered the best ski resort in New Zealand.
- Napier - Stroll the streets of Napier amongst the 1930s architecture. Pop into the information centre for a map and take a self-guided tour.
- Taupo - Lake Taupo is a similar size to Singapore. Water-skiing is popular but make sure you see the natural wonders of Orakei Korako and Huka Falls.
- Rotorua - Famous for its geothermal happenings, the Pohutu Geyser is a star attraction. Watch it erupt daily.
- Tauranga - Tauranga is a harbour city and a hub for galleries, restaurants and shopping. But don't miss out on a chance to see dolphins.
- Coromandel - Walk the Coromandel Coast. With vast stretches of beaches, you can find a remote spot all for yourself.
- Lake Hayes - With its reflective properties, Lake Hayes is an opportunity to take postcard-like photos. A quiet spot to relax and have a leisurely stroll.
- Wanaka - A buzzing alpine town, Wanaka, is a hot spot for thrill seekers. There's skydiving and jet boating. In winter it's a lively place for skiing and snowboarding.
- Picton Ferry - On both routes, you'll have to take the Picton to Wellington Ferry. While a necessary journey, the car ferry travels over calm waters through lush forests.
- Wellington - As the capital of New Zealand, this compact city has a lot to offer. From sculpture walks to movie experiences to elite museums.
Best time to go on a road trip from Queenstown to Auckland
Auckland is a colourful city that can be visited year-round. For travellers visiting from abroad, remember Auckland's summer is between late December and late February, but the warm weather extends to March.
January and February tend to be when Auckland is hottest, but temperatures aren't over the top averaging around 20 degrees Celsius. January to April is the high season so hotels can be more expensive but things ease off come February and March.
Winter is from late June to late September. July is the coldest month with an average temperature of 11 degrees. July is also the month with the highest amount of rainfall. Although it snows on the eastern South Island, Auckland rarely experiences snow so you can enjoy the surrounding area.
Driving along the west coast of the South Island comes with its warnings. In winter, heavy rain and blizzards can make driving conditions difficult. There are hills and winding roads so even in good conditions, it'll take longer than what the GPS might suggest and requires careful attentive driving.
When travelling to Lindis Pass in South Island on the Iconic Coromandel Route, you'll need snow chains if there's snow on the ground. You shouldn't attempt it otherwise. Although open all year round, in winter months, take your time, as even if snow isn't visible the roads could be icy.
September is a good time to visit. The cool weather makes it good for enjoying the extensive walks Auckland has to offer. Averaging at 13 degrees Celsius, the weather is comfortable.
Auckland Arts Festival takes place in March. If you visit in January, you can attend the Gardens Music Festival, which attracts a lot of tourism. These are larger festivals to note as they raise hotel prices.
However, throughout the year there are smaller festivals in Auckland. From the Gin Festival in early February to the Vegan Food Festival in April, it's a bustling city.