South Island Road Trips

Explore our range of touring routes to Wanaka

Driving on the South Island roads of New Zealand is a great experience, with relatively quiet roads and some of the most amazing scenery right outside the window.

Wanaka sits in the centre of the lower South Island and is on a number of touring routes which pass such iconic places as Aoraki Mt Cook, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and Queenstown.

Once you arrive, make sure you stay several days to relax in one of New Zealand's most beautiful destinations.

If you would like help planning your travel itinerary, booking accommodation and activities then our i-SITE Visitor Centre can help you plan and organise your holiday

Driving Routes

Christchurch to Wanaka - 424 km, 5 hrs 25 mins 
From the plains of Canterbury to Tekapo and nearby Mt Cook, then over the Lindis Pass and on to Wanaka – this drive will provide plenty of photo opportunities and stunning scenery.

Highlights:

  • Fairlie Bakery - famous for its pies
  •  Lake Tekapo - Mt John Observatory & Church of the Good Shepherd
  • Lake Pukaki with views of Aoraki Mt Cook
  • Mt Cook Village (detour)
  • Twizel Salmon Farm
  • Lindis Pass

Franz Josef Glacier to Wanaka - 287 km, 3 hrs 35 mins 
Arguably one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand, the road down the West Coast passed the glaciers, the Haast Pass and Lakes Wanaka and Hawea and is a road trip not to be missed.

Highlights:

  • Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers
  • Mirror-clear Lake Matheson
  • Views of Aoraki Mt Cook and the Southern Alps
  • The Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki
  • Wild deserted beaches
  • Trans Alpine Train journey

Queenstown to Wanaka - 68 km, 60 mins 
From Queenstown there are two alternate routes to Wanaka, both equally scenic. The Crown Range road is the highest paved highway in NZ while the Kawarau Gorge follows the river through into the vineyards of Central Otago.

Highlights:

  • Cardrona Hotel - historic gold mining hotel
  • The Cardrona Distillery
  • The Crown Range Road - highest paved highway in New Zealand
  • Arrowtown - quaint historic village
  • Lake Hayes and Amisfield

Dunedin to Wanaka - 276 km, 3 hrs 30 mins 
The journey from Dunedin through Central Otago and up to Wanaka passes through a number of classic Kiwi towns.

Highlights:

  • Historic town of Lawrence & Jimmy's Pie shop 
  • Orchards of Central Otago with stone fruit and apples
  • Clyde - lovely little town and Olivers Restaurant
  • Cromwell Gorge - old Cromwell town
  • Bannockburn vineyards

Wanaka to Milford Sound - 394 km, 5 hrs 
Lakes, mountains, fiords, this road trip has plenty of exceptional scenery along the way and Milford Sound as a reward at the end of the drive.

Highlights:

  • Cardrona Hotel - historic gold mining hotel
  • The Cardrona Distillery
  • The Crown Range Road - highest paved highway in New Zealand
  • Arrowtown - quaint historic village
  • Lake Hayes and Amisfield
  • Drive down Lake Wakatipu around the Devils Staircase
  • Te Anau township
  • Lake Manapouri
  • Homer Tunnel & the Milford Road drive
  • Milford Sound & boat cruise
  • Doubtful Sound overnight cruise

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Flights to Wanaka

Getting to Wanaka is easy. It’s a short, scenic 60-minute drive to Wanaka from the closest international airport, where you will find all major rental car companies and scheduled bus services that provide transport to Wanaka throughout the day.

Queenstown Airport is serviced daily from all major New Zealand airports as well as over 40 flights a week direct from Australia.

How to get to Wanaka

Driving to Wanaka

Driving on the South Island roads of New Zealand is a great way to experience the region, with relatively quiet roads and some of the most amazing scenery right outside the window.

Major car and campervan hire companies are all located at Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown airports. There are also a number of rental car companies based in Wanaka.

How to get to Wanaka

Explore the Region

Wanaka is unique and captivating; it inspires you to discover, and gives you the freedom to explore.

Located in the stunning alps of the South Island, New Zealand, visitors from around the world are drawn to the Wanaka region by its outstanding beauty.

Explore Wanaka

  1. New Zealand
  2. Auckland 1 h 50 min
  3. Wellington 1 h 20 min
  4. Christchurch 55 min
  5. Queenstown Airport 1 h 4 min
  6. Australia
  7. Brisbane 3 h 50 min
  8. Gold Coast 3 h 30 min
  9. Sydney 3 h 15 min
  10. Melbourne 3 h 35 min
  11. Tokyo 10 h 30 min
  12. Los Angeles 12 h 5 min
  13. Beijing 16 h 10 min
  1. Christchurch 5 h 14 min
  2. Ashburton 3 h 56 min
  3. Geraldine 3 h 19 min
  4. Tekapo 2 h 17 min
  5. Mt Cook 2 h 6 min
  6. Twizel 1 h 39 min
  7. Omarama 1 h 21 min
  8. Franz Josef 3 h 32 min
  9. Fox Glacier 3 h 6 min
  10. Haast 1 h 43 min
  11. Cromwell 39 min
  12. Queenstown 1 h 4 min
  13. Milford Sound 4 h 34 min
  14. Te Anau 2 h 52 min
  15. Dunedin 2 h 52 min
  1. Makarora 50 min
  2. Lake Hawea 1 h 7 min
  3. Wanaka Airport 11 min
  4. Luggate 13 min
  5. Tarras 27 min
  6. Cromwell 39 min
  7. Cardrona 18 min
  8. Arrowtown 53 min
  9. Queenstown 1 h 4 min
  10. Matukituki Valley 51 min
  11. Raspberry Creek 1 h 6 min