A Wellington to Queenstown route is a great option for a self driving tour through New Zealand. It offers a great mix of contemporary Kiwi culture with some of the finest wilderness in the country.
The Coolest Capital
Wellington is not a large city, and as the country’s capital it boasts major attractions and a chill hipster vibe which can quite easily be explored and experienced without a vehicle. While you could pull this off in Auckland or Christchurch, Wellington has a sense of compactness that makes it a little easier here.
Because you can manage without a car, its just about the perfect place to start in New Zealand if you’re flying in from somewhere far away. Be sure to check out New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa, as well as strolling the beautiful harbor side while you’re there.
From the capital, take a ferry across to the South Island.
The ferry is scenic journey that leads you though the islands and coves of the Marlborough Sounds. On arrival in Picton, you can pick up a rental vehicle, and make the scenic drive to the small city of Nelson.
In contrast to Wellington, Nelson is known for relatively sunny and calm weather. Fingers crossed, that’s what you’ll experience when you head to the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park, which is an extremely popular place for sea kayaking, which hikers can combine with the Abel Tasman Coast track.
The West Coast
From the sunshine of Nelson and Abel Tasman, head to the moist wilderness of the West Coast. Here you’ll find dense rainforest and wild coastline at Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, followed by dramatic peaks and glaciers as you head further south to Franz Josef and Fox.
Continue along the winding alpine route over Haast Pass, crossing the huge, crystal clear rivers that drain the immense rainfalls that land on the mountain slopes that tower above.
To The Adventure Capital!
Spend a night in the stunning lakeside town of Wanaka, and continue through increasingly drier landscapes surrounding Cromwell, and through the stark beauty of the Kawarau Gorge.
You’re now in wine country, and in the vicinity of both Wanaka and Queenstown you’ll find numerous wineries, many of which accept visitors for meals and tastings.
Queenstown barely needs introduction as the adventure capital of New Zealand.
Although small, Queenstown is extremely lively, and its stunning lakeside setting surrounded by mountains has been drawing visitors in for decaded. Here you’ll find activities galore to choose from, it won’t be difficult to keep occupied!
From Queenstown, its quite a circuitous route to Milford Sound – if you’re concerned about the driving time, consider a flight or coach tour, but bear in mind it is for the most part a very scenic drive.
The drive starts out winding down Lake Wakatipu, before crossing farmland that will lead you to the town of Te Anau.
From Te Anau to Milford, enjoy one of the finest drives in New Zealand as you make your way through vast glacier-cut valleys until arriving at Milford itself – one of the most stunning of New Zealand’s natural attractions.
From Milford you can backtrack to Queenstown, where this itinerary ends. If you have a few extra days to extend the itinerary, you can consider adding sections that lead to you Christchurch, starting out with Queenstown to Omarama or, if you don’t mind a faster pace, Queenstown to Mt Cook.