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14 Best Stops on the Drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo

14 Best Stops on the Drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo

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Are you looking to explore gorgeous Lake Tekapo for yourself? One thing’s for certain, the drive there from Queenstown definitely doesn’t disappoint!

From the amazing Dark Sky Reserve to the vibrant turquoise lake, I’m forever coming back to visit this cute destination from Queenstown, my home. So, you can bet that I know the drive there like the back of my hand!

In this road trip guide, I’ve listed all the best attractions and stops on the drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo, a massive 14 in total. With stops at viewpoints, in historic Cardrona, beautiful Wanaka, the impressive Lindis Pass, Omarama, Lake Pukaki, and Mount Cook, this list has got it all.

About the drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo

To get from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo, there are actually two routes that you can take. The first and most direct route will take you through Cromwell and along Lake Dunstan and State Highway 8. On some occasions when I’m just trying to get to Lake Tekapo, this is the option I’ll go for.

Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful things to see and do in Cromwell, however, for visitors, tourists, or those driving this route for the first time, I highly recommend option two… Traveling via the Crown Range, Wanaka, and Highway 8a.

This second and incredibly scenic route through Wanaka is a 268-kilometer (167-mile) journey that takes just over 3 hours without the detour to Mount Cook and 372 kilometers (231 miles) with it. To enjoy this road trip and see many of the best sights, including Mount Cook and Wanaka, you really need at least 4 days, spending two nights in Wanaka and two nights in Mount Cook.

Of course, if you skip stopping in both towns, then the road trip takes between 4 and 7 hours depending on how often you stop.

The drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo is safe to complete all year round, however, in winter snow chains are required to be carried in your vehicle on Crown Range Road and also recommended on Lindis Pass. In bad weather, consider taking the Cromwell route to avoid Crown Range Road.

If you would really prefer not to drive or rent a car in New Zealand, then one of the best ways to visit is on this bus tour from Queenstown to Christchurch that will go through Lake Tekapo and makes several stops (including a long 4-hour one inside Mt Cook), many of which are mentioned below in this guide.

From Lake Tekapo to Christchurch, it is only an additional 2 hours and 40 minutes, and you will have the bonus of knocking a few more towns off of your New Zealand list. Keep in mind though, that this tour takes the faster alternate route, so you will not go through Arrowtown, Cardrona, or Wanaka.

Related Read: For a fun and flexible way to enjoy this road trip, why not rent a campervan in Queenstown as your mode of transport? Camp along the way in some of the most stunning places!

Queenstown to Lake Tekapo FAQs

Highway that leads through Lindis Pass north towards Lake Tekapo
Driving through Lindis Pass!

14 Best Stops Between Queenstown and Lake Tekapo

1. Lake Hayes

Lake Hayes Foreshore with reflections of the mountains
Mirror-like reflections at Lake Hayes!

As you say goodbye to Queenstown, the first attraction you’ll pass only 15 minutes out of town is Lake Hayes. Honestly, it’s only fitting that the first stop on the way to Lake Tekapo would be another special lake!

Lake Hayes is a favorite of mine, and I have spent many evenings and sunny days enjoying the views here. With such a long drive ahead of you, this can either be a quick stop to admire the views or you can even walk the Lake Hayes Track!

The Lake Hayes Track is an 8-kilometer (5-mile) loop track that follows the edge of the lake. At a slow pace, it takes just over 2 hours to complete, and for the most part, the trail is flat. For those with less time, simply park up at this spot and enjoy a short walk alongside the lake.

Related Read: You can learn all about the Lake Hayes Track in my blog here!

2. Arrow Junction Lookout

Bailey at Arrow Junction Lookout near Queenstown, New Zealand
It’s a short but beautiful stop!

One of the most iconic attractions on this road trip is the Crown Range Road, also known as the highest main road in New Zealand! Just after Lake Hayes, you’ll see a sign to turn left onto the Crown Range Road, here is where the adventure begins.

You’ll begin by driving up the steep road, changing directions in switchback-like formations climbing to 1121 meters (3,678 feet)! It is dangerous to stop along the Crown Range Road, so don’t do it. Instead, wait until you reach an allocated viewpoint with a pullover bay.

The Arrow Junction Lookout is the first viewpoint I recommend on this route and a very popular stop on the Crown Range Road, particularly with photography lovers because the views here are to put simply – stunning! You can park your car here in the small parking lot and get out to enjoy the views.

From here you will have an awesome vantage point over the Wakatipu Basin, where you can spot the winding Kawarau River and the Remarkables Mountain Range.

Please be careful when pulling your car over here and keep an eye out for oncoming traffic. Larger vehicles such as motorhomes can have a bit of a harder time parking here, so you may want to skip this stop and instead visit one of the viewpoints mentioned below.

3. Crown Range Scenic Lookout/Summit Viewpoint

Bailey looks out at Queenstown from Crown Range Road Scenic Lookout
Views along the Crown Range!

It’s hard to pick a favorite viewpoint when it comes to Crown Range – there are just so many good ones! Though if I did have to choose, it would have to be the Crown Range Scenic Lookout.

At this stop, you can carefully pull off the road and park in a large parking lot with views of the valley below, Arrowtown, and The Remarkables.

Just a couple of minutes on from the lookout, you have the Crown Range Summit viewpoint, another fantastic spot for a photo! There is a large parking lot here on the side of the road and even larger vehicles can easily navigate it. Once parked, you can enjoy the view from the parking lot or take a short walk.

This high-altitude lookout point also offers a fantastic opportunity to spot the native Kea parrots. These clever birds are said to be as smart as a 4-year-old child. Hold on to your belongings, though, as these birds have been known to pinch them!

4. Cardona Hotel

Bailey enjoys a glass of wine at the Cardrona Hotel
The beer garden at the Cardrona Hotel!
Ice cold beer at the Cardrona Hotel
Oh how I love you summer!

This cream and bright red building is one of the most famous stops on this drive! It lies at the end of the Crown Range Road – which, if you’ve driven this road, you’ll know it can be a tiring drive. It is the highest highway in New Zealand, after all, with lots of sharp twists and turns.

Rumored to be New Zealand’s most photographed building, the Cardrona Hotel is a historic icon and a fantastic place to stop and refuel, before continuing on your journey to Lake Tekapo! Established in 1863, the hotel has managed to keep its original charm and is a great place to grab some photos of your own.

But don’t just take a picture here, go inside and have a bite to eat or even a beer. Their beer garden is perfect for having a pint, and they have tons of locally brewed craft beer from Queenstown, Wanaka, and across New Zealand. As one of my favorite restaurants near Wanaka, they also serve lots of tasty food throughout the day, so it’s a great spot to stop for lunch or dinner.

The Cardrona Hotel is a real operating hotel today, where you can actually spend the night here if you want. Their rooms are boutique and each has its own historic charm. Plus, it’s the perfect location if you plan on going skiing at Cardrona Ski Resort the next day! 

Even if you don’t want to stop for a drink, get a photo at the very least. You won’t find a more historic building on this road trip to Lake Tekapo.

5. Bradrona

Two people at Bradrona near Wanaka, New Zealand
There are so many bras!

Want to visit one of the quirkiest attractions in New Zealand? As the name suggests, Bradrona is simply a ton of bras hanging from a fence on the side of the road, just a few minutes walk from Cardrona Hotel.

Bradrona is much talked about amongst tourists to the area and is quite controversial to the locals here. It is believed the first bras appeared here back in late 1998 when 4 bras mysteriously appeared on the fence. Many were confused, but as the days went by, the bras continued to grow. In fact, the bras became so controversial, many of them were cut from the fence under the cover of darkness one night.

But still, the number grew, and the attraction became so popular it was moved from the main highway to a small gravel driveway, so people could pull over safely to add to the collection or simply get a photo.

Since then, Cardrona’s population of bras has grown to well over 800 (it could be much more, but I’m not counting them!) and raised over $30,000 NZD for breast cancer research. It’s safe to say Bradrona is unique, quirky, and for a good cause, so it’s a worthy stop in my opinion.

Just around the corner from the infamous bra fence, you’ll find the meeting point for one of the best horse riding experiences on the South Island, this 3.5-hour high country horse riding trek! With over 200 5-star reviews, if riding across the stunning plains surrounding Cardrona sounds like a dream come true, then this is the tour for you.

You don’t have to have any horse riding experience prior to this trek, as the horses are allocated to you based on your skill level. And instead of just walking, you’ll get to do some trotting and cantering too, which makes for quite a cool ride!

At $579 NZD per person, this tour isn’t the cheapest, but if you have a passion for horse riding or simply fancy a super unique experience out in the New Zealand countryside, then this might just be it. You can check availability and book your spot online here.

6. Wanaka

A couple sit on the Wanaka Jetty on a summers day
Relaxing on the Wanaka jetty!

The gorgeous town of Wanaka sits on the shores of Lake Wanaka with the Southern Alps as the perfect backdrop. Sometimes I wonder which is more beautiful, Queenstown or Wanaka? It’s a hard choice and one I’ve never been able to make. Wanaka is smaller, quirkier, and less busy than Queenstown. For some, this relaxed vibe is what draws them here, and after only a few hours you’ll be addicted to it.

Wanaka is filled with quirky shops, excellent cafés and restaurants, and lots of fun activities to fill a few hours. One of my favorite things to do in Wanaka includes hiking Roy’s Peak, especially for sunrise – if you’re a hiking addict like me, then trust me, it’s worth it!

Other fun activities to try out here include paddleboarding on the lake, and relaxing on a boat cruise! This 1-hour Lake Wanaka cruise is ideal for fitting into a busy schedule, and it’s also very affordable, too. Departing from the Lake Wanaka waterfront, you’ll get to enjoy a tasty cheeseboard and watch the sights go by across the lake. In my opinion, the best views of the lake are the ones you get while you’re on it!

Tickets for this experience cost just $61 NZD per person, and you can book your spot online here.

If you’re traveling with kids, then there are lots of family-friendly activities in Wanaka too. I loved spending half a day at Puzzling World, or alternatively, you can rent a pedal boat from the lakefront and take in the gorgeous views from the water. 

If you’re on a budget, then definitely check out my blog on the best free and cheap things to do in Wanaka too!

Stay Overnight in Wanaka

You could easily turn the drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo into a few days with overnight stops in Wanaka, Omarama, and Twizel highly recommended. 

Here in Wanaka, I have often stayed at the Clearbrook Motel and find it to be a good middle-ground in terms of comfort and price. All apartments here also feature a balcony or a patio to admire the stunning mountain views… You don’t even have to leave your accommodation to take some amazing pictures!

For those who want to take their road trip to the next level, Club Wyndham is a great luxury option. With a heated pool, a café and bar, as well as a fully-equipped fitness center, this is the ultimate place to stop and unwind after a long drive.

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7. Lindis Pass Lookout

Bailey at Lindis Pass Viewpoint on the way to Mount Cook, NZ
Lindis Pass!
Windy road through Lindis Pass, New Zealand
Windy road through Lindis Pass, New Zealand

Driving Lindis Pass is truly a unique experience, the landscape and scenery here are unlike anywhere else in New Zealand! Huge tussock-covered mountains surround you at every turn, and it’s hard to fight the urge to pull over every 5 minutes!

When winter comes around, a light dusting of snow transforms the area into a true winter wonderland. With that said, the road conditions can be treacherous at this time of year, so do drive carefully.

At the highest point of Lindis Pass, you’ll spot a sign for a lookout. You can park in the parking lot here, and walk the short trail to the lookout point. The platform at the lookout point is 971 meters (3,186 feet) above sea level and gives a seriously epic vantage point over the unique landscape of the Lindis Conservation area.

You’ll also spot Longslip Mountain Range, standing tall in the distance at just under 1,500 meters (4,921 feet)!

If you want to get an even better view of the valley, then you can also walk the unofficial trail that starts from the parking lot up the hill.

Did you know – This lookout is actually right next to the state border between Otago and Canterbury!

8. Hot Tubs Omarama

Bailey smiles at the camera while in the Hot Tubs Omarama
Why wouldn’t you stop here?
Bailey enjoys a soak in the Hot Tubs Omarama
So dreamy!

Imagine yourself soaking in a hot tub of pure mountain water with the stunning Mackenzie Country scenery surrounding you. The views at Hot Tubs Omarama are gorgeous – majestic mountain ranges contrasting the flat tussock grass. These tubs are an ideal way to relax and break up the drive from Queenstown to Mount Cook.

There are a lot of hot pools and springs around New Zealand, but this spot really takes the cake for me. Not only are all their tubs private, but the views and feeling of being out in nature, you really can’t beat it! You may choose to visit the hot tubs at night to soak in the views of the night sky. An extra special way to unwind.

Once you’re in the tub, you can control the temperature yourself and relax with the river and mountain views. I even ordered a glass of wine to enjoy with my soak (yes, they have a fully licensed bar!).

A soak at the Omarama Hot Tubs lasts 90 minutes and starts from $60 NZD based per person on two people sharing. However, even large groups of 8 can enjoy this activity, and the prices get cheaper per person the more who join you!

Stay Overnight in Omarama

For an extra special treat, stay the night in Omarama on your road trip to Christchurch and soak in the tubs at night. You’ll be able to see the stars in a dark sky reserve over the Southern Alps!

Although the small town is somewhat limited in terms of accommodation, the Omarama TOP 10 Holiday Park is a great option with various rooms and apartments available as well as campsites. Better yet, this accommodation is just a 5-minute walk from the hot tubs!

9. Omarama Clay Cliffs

The Omarama Clay Cliffs near the town of Omarama, New Zealand
Don’t just stick to the outside of the cliffs, go exploring!

Just 10 km (6.2 mi) outside the small town of Omarama are the Omarama Clay Cliffs. These cliffs are a must-stop on your journey from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo.

The clay cliffs really are like something from another planet. They’re made up of layers of gravel and silt, which were formed by the flow of water from ancient glaciers over a million years ago. There is also a short trail along the clay cliffs you can walk, plus if you’re feeling adventurous, you can explore them too. Kids love it and so do I!

Getting to the clay cliffs can be a little tricky, and you do have to drive on a gravel road. With that said, their location is on Google Maps. Just make sure you drive past Omarama, turn left onto Quialburn Road, and then left again onto Henbrun Road.

The Omarama Cliffs are located on private land, and at the entrance on Henburn Road you’ll see a donation box to pay the $5 NZD admission fee per vehicle. This goes towards the maintenance of the road, so it all goes to a good cause!

10. Twizel

Lake Ruataniwha in twizel
The beautiful Lake Ruataniwha in Twizel

The alpine town of Twizel, surrounded by the Southern Alps, is a very popular stop on the road from Queenstown to Mount Cook. Especially in the summer months, when this small town’s population almost triples in size. 

The landscape surrounding Twizel has a very ‘Lord of the Rings vibe’. In fact, nearby Ben Ohau Station is where the Battle Of Pelennor Fields scene in The Return Of The King was filmed. With that in mind, Ben Ohau is actually privately owned, which means you can only visit it by booking a Lord of the Rings tour with a local tour operator while in Twizel.

Twizel is also a popular destination for those interested in rock and mountain climbing, cycling, and fishing. There are also a few great cafés and restaurants in town, including the awesome Poppies Café on Benmore Place. Open 10 am to 8 pm Sunday to Tuesday, and 5 pm to 8 pm on Friday and Saturday, their menu is bursting with creative flavor – I loved their signature Poppies burger!

Stay Overnight in Twizel

Twizel is also a really nice place to spend the night, especially if the nearby towns of Mount Cook Village and Lake Tekapo are fully booked (which happens a lot in the summer months!).

If you do stay, you’ll have the chance to explore the area even better. My favorite thing to do is to head to Ruataniwha Lake to watch the sunset. On a calm day, you get amazing reflections and the sky turns into cotton candy!

For a great midrange option, the Mountain Chalets Motel would be my personal pick. Their cozy chalets can sleep up to 5 people, so it’s perfect whether you’re traveling as a couple or as a family! All of the chalets also come with a kitchenette and have unlimited free Wi-Fi.

If epic views are what you’re after, then the Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park really can’t be beaten. As its name suggests, this holiday park sits directly on the shores of Lake Ruataniwha. If you get the chance, I really recommend going fishing or canoeing here on the lake – don’t forget to snap a few shots while you’re at it!

Related Read: If you’re planning to explore Twizel, why not check out some of the best things to do there in my blog?

11. Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki Lookout with views of Mount cook National Park
Can you spot Mount Cook?
Bailey enjoys the views of Lake Pukaki, New Zealand
It’s really that blue!

Next up is one of my favorite lakes in New Zealand! Lake Pukaki is a stunning lake that’s just as, if not more, vibrant than Lake Tekapo. This lake sits within Mount Cook National Park and is fed from the glaciers in the park, including the Hooker, Mueller, and Tasman glaciers. Hence the blue color from the rock flour in the glacier melt!

You have a few options when it comes to exploring Lake Pukaki. The first is to stop at the Lake Pukaki freedom camping spot and admire the views from the edge of the lake. Here you can also enjoy the Lake Pukaki Lakeshore walk that leads to a viewpoint of the lake. This is the perfect place for a picnic lunch!

Another popular spot to check out Lake Pukaki is at this viewpoint. Here, there is a large parking lot and even toilets. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Cook all the way across the lake.

Speaking of Mount Cook, let’s get to exploring this epic national park!

12. Mount Cook Road Photo

The famous Mount Cook Road photo
It’s picture-perfect!

No visit to Mount Cook is complete without an obligatory photo on Mount Cook Road. This is a favorite stop for photographers on any road trip from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo.

This stop is about 10 km (6.2 mi) from Mount Cook village, before the airport. When you start to see Mount Cook’s peak in the distance, slow down as you’re nearly there. You will come to a long stretch of road that has four small streams in a row on it. It will be difficult to spot the streams from the car, so I’d suggest using Google Maps or to find them.

After the first stream, you will see the road curve to the right with Mount Cook in the background. This is your spot!

This is a quick stop, of course – pull your car safely off the side of the road here. Watch out for cars and turn your hazards on! The speed limit on this road is 60kmph (37 mph) so the cars can come upon you pretty quick.

For more info, this guide on finding the exact photo location will get you there!

13. Mount Cook National Park

Bailey hikes up to the Mueller Hut in New Zealand
On the way up to the Mueller Hut!
Bailey stands on the egde of Hooker Lake in Mount Cook National Park 
The Hooker Valley Track!

Mount Cook National Park is by far my favorite national park in New Zealand. Seriously, I love this place so much and every time I visit, I feel like a part of me is left behind! What I love so much about the park is the sheer beauty and the huge amount of awesome things to do.

One of the best is simply staring up at Mount Cook from anywhere within the park. Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, standing tall at a whopping 3,724 meters (12,218 feet). It is of course a must-see on any New Zealand itinerary and is located within the park.

As you might expect, there are some epic hikes in Mount Cook National Park, with the Hooker Valley Track being the most popular walking track and well worth the 10 km (6.2 mi) round trip. It is a very flat, very easy track. There are three swing bridges on the track, each with stunning views of Mueller Lake and Mount Sefton, and the Mueller Glacier in the far distance.

At the end of the track, and worth the wait, is Hooker Lake, which depending on the season can be home to numerous icebergs.

Some harder hikes include the Mueller Hut Route and the Sealy Tarns Track. Some shorter walks in the park include the Bowen Bush Walk, Glencoe Walk, and Governors Bush Walk.

For the thrill-seekers among you, why not try kayaking on Tasman or Mueller Lake, which allows you to get up close to the glacier! Or if you’re after a true bucket list experience, then a helicopter ride over Mount Cook has to be done. This 45-minute Mount Cook highlights helicopter ride isn’t cheap, but it will easily be the highlight of your trip, with live commentary the entire time to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

If you’re celebrating a special occasion, or are simply looking for that experience which will take your road trip up to the next level, then this flight is exactly that. I also like that you have a few different departure times throughout the day, so you can pick the one that best fits your schedule. You can check availability and book your flight online here.

Where to stay in Mount Cook

Why not spend the night at Mount Cook so that you can experience more of the awesome activities on offer – like that helicopter tour or kayaking on Tasman or Mueller Lake? As one of the most popular destinations on this list, you can bet that this incredible area has a lot to offer!

There aren’t many hotels in Mount Cook Village (there are 6 on!), so you do need to book a hotel in advance to secure your room. Let’s take a look at two of my favorites:

The Glentanner Park Center is my go-to choice for traveling on a budget. Although it’s a 17 km (10.6 mi) drive out of town, the dorm rooms here are clean and cheap, plus there’s also a communal kitchen area which is perfect for meeting new friends!

If you’re looking for something a little more budget-friendly, then the Aoraki Court Motel is definitely worth a look. All of the rooms here are spacious and modern, with fantastic mountain views, all just a 3-minute walk from Mount Cook Village.

Related Read: If you want more detailed info on the road between Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo check out my blog. It includes 10 more awesome stops to make this a full-day road trip.

14. Lake Tekapo

Views of Lake Tekapo from the Church of the Good Shepard
Lake Tekapo from the Church of the Good Shepard

Finally, after a fun and action-packed journey from Queenstown, you’ll arrive at the beautiful Lake Tekapo. This road trip may have taken you all day (only if you skip Mount Cook) or it may have been a week-long adventure, but regardless, the fun isn’t over yet!

It’s really not hard to see why Lake Tekapo attracts so many visitors, the scenery is just so spectacular. But once you dig beneath the surface, you’ll discover there are so many amazing things to do in Lake Tekapo.

First, I’ll start with what Lake Tekapo is so famous for, its night sky! Lake Tekapo is located within one of the few Dark Sky Reserves in New Zealand, and the stars here are out of this world. So, it’s no wonder a stargazing tour is one of the best activities to do.

Next, you simply must visit the Tekapo Springs and soak in the warm water with stunning views of Lake Tekapo and the surrounding scenery. A visit to the hot springs can be done during the day or night, depending on the experience you want. At night, you can see the stars, but during the day the views take center stage.

One of the most popular activities in Lake Tekapo is to visit the tiny but stunning Church of the Good Shepherd. This Church is especially popular with photographers as the altar window frames a perfect view of the Southern Alps and the milky blue lake. 

This church is especially popular with photographers as the altar window frames a perfect view of the Southern Alps and the milky blue Lake. Nearby, you can also find a famous statue of a local sheep herding dog.

There are also plenty of amazing restaurants in Lake Tekapo as well as hotels – so it’s a great place to base yourself for a few nights (more on where to stay below!).

Essential Info to Know Before You Go

The Church of the Good Shepard at night with the Milky Way
Getting this classic shot is a bucket list photo for photographers!
  • The route is 268 km (167 mi) in total, which should take you 3 hours if you drive direct. Considering all the stops I recommend taking, this is likely to be a whole day to multi-day affair, especially if you want to explore Wanaka and Mount Cook National Park.
  • During the winter months (May to September) you will need to carry snow chains for the Crown Range and Lindis Pass.
  • Take lots of snacks – besides the towns of Wanaka, Omarama & Twizel there aren’t a lot of restaurants, cafés, and stores on this route.
  • The same goes for gas, make sure you’re fuelled up as there are limited gas stations on the route. You will find gas stations in Queenstown, Wanaka, Omarama, Twizel, and a small gas station in Mount Cook itself.
  • Bring a camera – as mentioned, the photography opportunities are epic on the Queenstown to Lake Tekapo route.

Things to do in Queenstown Before You Go

A craft beer on a table in Queenstown waterfront
Nothing quite like a cold and tasty beer!

While you’re in Queenstown, there are plenty of other activities that will keep you busy… Honestly, there are so many it’ll be hard to choose which ones to do! Below are some of my favorites.

  • Central Otago Wine Tour and Tasting – This is my personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money, for $215 NZD your tour bus will stop at 4 different boutique wineries in the Otago region that include a wide range of wine samples and a provided gourmet lunch platter. As you hop between wineries, you’ll gaze out the window at spectacular views.
  • TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise – This scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown is an activity great for any afternoon. The ship you will be cruising on is the Historic TSS Earnslaw and you will get to watch crew members add coal to the flames that power the vessel. Take in the mountain ranges and lush green valleys of Otago. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
  • Queenstown Canyoning Adventure – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek your way down a part of a Queenstown canyon with a qualified guide. This thrilling full-day activity is perfect for those who love adventure and exploration! As long as you aren’t afraid of heights and have a basic swimming ability you won’t need any other skills.
  • Day Trip to Milford Sound With Picnic Lunch – This tour will give you the ultimate ability to explore the beauty of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. Not only will your guide stop at several impressive viewpoints on the way from Queenstown, but there is also a cruise in Milford Sound included. This small-group tour goes for $289 NZD a person, and I think it’s a really great value for a more personalized experience.
  • Extreme Jet Boating – Looking for a thrill? Jet Boating is one of New Zealand’s most unique activities. On the tour out of Queenstown, you’ll be able to zoom up the Shotover River through narrow canyons at high speeds and make 360-degree spins. Trust me, it’s epic!

Where to Stay in Lake Tekapo

an outdoor pool with patio furniture and apartments around it at the Matra hotel in Lake Tekapo
This pool is perfect in the summer! Photo Credit: Mantra Lake Tekapo

When it comes to picking a place to stay in Lake Tekapo you really are spoiled for choice – if you book in advance that is. Lake Tekapo is another place in NZ where accommodation is hot property, especially in summer. For that reason, try to book as far in advance as you can!

Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Lake Tekapo:

Lakes Edge Lodge – $

One place I always love to stay is the Lakes Edge Lodge. It’s perfect for budget travelers, and it’s also conveniently located just a 3-minute drive from the town center. If you’re feeling hungry, they also have BBQ facilities – honestly, whipping up some tasty meals is one of the best ways to make new friends if you ask me!

There are also shared laundry services, perfect for if you’re combining multiple New Zealand South Island road trips. A bed in a dorm here starts at around $48 NZD per night. You can browse availability and reserve your bed here on

Mantra Lake Tekapo – $$

If you have a higher budget, then consider staying at the Mantra Lake Tekapo. The great reviews here really do speak for themselves – and these apartments also enjoy outdoor pool and hot tub access! With one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments available, this is a great option no matter the size of your group.

Apartments here start at around $284 NZD in the low season, but this does rise come high season! You can check which apartments are available and book your room online here.

The Mackenzie Suites – $$$

Just 600 meters (1,969 feet) from Lake Tekapo, The Mackenzie Suites offers luxurious accommodation options with stunning lakeside views. If you’re looking to splash out a little, or simply can’t get enough of those views, then these suites are well worth considering. Every luxury suite features a kitchenette, with many also offering balcony access as well as a fireplace to keep you warm and toasty in the winter.

Accommodation at the Mackenzie Suites starts at around $400 NZD per night in the low season, however this is a super popular place to stay, often booking out months in advance. For the best deals and dates, I recommend checking online and reserving your room early.

Holiday home rentals are also popular in Lake Tekapo and there are many you can choose from. Holiday homes are perfect for groups or families who all want to stay together.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey at the Mount Cook road viewpoint with the stunning highway in the background on a road trip in New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

If I were to design the ultimate New Zealand holiday, then a road trip from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo would be part of it! Whether you stop at just a few or all of the above stops, it’s certain to be a road trip to remember.

Thanks so much for reading! I hope this guide has helped shape your road trip to Lake Tekapo. If it did, stick around and browse more of my blogs. I’m sure you’ll find more to help plan your trip to New Zealand, including blogs on road trips, Queenstown, Wanaka, and more. I’ve also listed a few guides below that I think you might like.

33 BEST Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

10 BEST Stops on the Drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

10 Best Stops on the Drive from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook National Park


Wednesday 11th of August 2021

Thanks for your article. Will use this as a guide on our coming 4 day road trip in September. We have a booking for 2 nights at Bluepeppers Resort but we will just stay 1 night and sleep the other night in Queenstown. Then go back again the following day to drive to Christchurch when we catch our flight back to Auckland on the 4th day. Will be quite a hectic drive :)


Thursday 12th of August 2021

Hey Michele!

I'm am really glad you love the blog!

A 4-day road trip from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo will be lots of fun. I hope you enjoy your trip and get amazing weather!

Thanks Bailey