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11 Best Places to Stop on the Drive from Queenstown to Te Anau

11 Best Places to Stop on the Drive from Queenstown to Te Anau

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As the gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, the picturesque town of Te Anau is full of so many amazing hikes, as well as a ton of awesome things to do. Living in Queenstown, the drive to Te Anau is one of my favorites, and you might be surprised by just how many amazing things there are to see and do before you even reach town!

Unfortunately, most travelers tend to rush this drive, making the entire 170-kilometer (106-mile) journey fly by in around 2 hours. By doing so, you’ll miss some pretty spectacular stops that include hikes, viewpoints, and even a place to get some New Zealand Manuka honey!

I’ve driven this route countless times and have explored every stop along the way. So, to help you plan your route and tempt you into taking your time on this beautiful road trip, I’ve listed the 10 best places to stop on the drive from Queenstown to Te Anau (with number 11 being Te Anau itself!).

About the drive from Queenstown to Te Anau

Whether you have your own wheels or have rented a car in Queenstown, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the drive to Te Anau is simply a means to an end! However, if you’re willing to take your time and explore, it’s an epic road trip and one of the best things to do in Queenstown.

The 170-kilometer (106-mile) drive takes around 2 hours without stopping, but if you want to see most of the places in this blog, you’ll need at least a few extra hours.

Although the drive is on a main New Zealand highway, it is single-lane the entire way. For this reason, patience is required, especially during the summer months when the roads are busy.

It’s also worth noting that part of the journey is along a winding section of the highway, and driving to the conditions, especially in winter, is extremely important. Those in larger campervans and motorhomes should take it slow, you’re here to enjoy the ride, after all!

Between Queenstown and Te Anau, there aren’t any tourist towns to stay in. However, there is a beautiful freedom camping spot along the way that I talk about below. This is perfect for anybody who rented a campervan in Queenstown and is searching for a beautiful place to spend the night completely free.

Related Read: Heading all the way to Milford Sound? Read my detailed blog about the best places to check out on the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

Queenstown to Te Anau FAQs

Cars drive on the road between Kingston and Queenstown, New Zealand
Driving along Lake Wakatipu!

11 Best Places to Stop Between Queenstown and Te Anau

1. Jack’s Point

Jacks Point Golf Course from jacks Point bike trail
Jack’s Point Golf Course

The first stop on your road trip from Queenstown to Te Anau has to be Jack’s Point, which is just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown. Perfect for snapping a few photos at the start of your journey, Jack’s Point is a gorgeous neighborhood with views of the Remarkables mountain range. There are also lovely walks and cycling tracks, as well as Jack’s Point Restaurant at the golf course.

A nice and cozy retreat along the edge of Lake Tewa, Jack’s Point Restaurant is a cozy stop that’s the perfect place to stop in for breakfast to fuel up for the drive ahead. I recommend the eggs benny or the delicious pancake stack! Breakfast is served from 8 am to 11 am, with their regular dishes served from 11:30 am until 4 pm.

If you’re a golf fan, I highly recommend playing a round at the world-famous course here – the 18-hole course is nothing short of stunning, with the epic Remarkables mountain range in the background. At $300 NZD in the high season and $195 NZD in the low season, green fees here aren’t the cheapest, but I’d say the course and views make it all worth it! You can also rent any equipment you need here.

For my fellow hikers, Jack’s Point Loop is a must-try! The 2.5-hour loop track is mostly uphill, but the views from the top are pretty epic. For something a little easier, you can try out the Remarkables Loop – a nice and flat two-hour loop. With most trails starting from the Jack’s Point clubhouse, you can read about these trails and others over on the Jack’s Point website.

2. Wye Creek Track

The viewpoint on the Wye Creek Track
The most underrated viewpoint in Queenstown!

At just over a 7-kilometer round-trip (4.3 miles), Wye Creek Track is the ideal place to spend the morning stretching your legs while on your journey from Queenstown to Te Anau. Despite being relatively short, the trail is pretty steep – so be prepared! The track should take most walkers 4 hours to complete.

Parking at the Wye Creek bridge parking lot, you’ll climb 45 minutes to the Hydro Dam and then follow the pipeline from the dam to a rock bluff. It then goes through a gorgeous beech forest and ends at a platform with magnificent views of Lake Wakatipu. On your walk, you will also spot a gorgeous cascade waterfall that leads all the way down to Lake Wakatipu. It’s easily one of the best hikes in Queenstown!

Worth noting is the Wye Creek track is only accessible during the summer months and does cross private property, so please be respectful.

Related Read: Wye Creek is also one of the best stops on the drive from Queenstown to Invercargill – find out what the others are on my blog!

3. Devil’s Staircase Lookout

Cars drive past on the Devil's Staircase Lookout Point near Queenstown
It’s a cool place to drive!

Remember that winding stretch of road I mentioned earlier? Although a little tricky to drive, this part of State Highway 6 makes for a beautiful photo with Lake Wakatipu at its side! While you’re here, make sure to stop at the Devil’s Staircase Lookout for a fantastic view across Lake Wakatipu back towards Queenstown.

There is only a small parking lot here, and the road itself is full of bends, so be careful when turning off the road. It can be a bit tricky to spot the lookout point, but it’s about halfway between Queenstown and Kingston. The parking lot has space for about 15 cars, and it will be on your right as you come from Queenstown.

This is just a short stop, so after a quick jump out to take a couple of photos and breathe in the views, you’ll soon be back on your merry way to Te Anau.

4. Kingston

A campervan is camped at Kingston Lake Camp outside of Queenstown, New Zealand
Kingston Lake Camp!

At the South end of Lake Wakatipu, the teeny-tiny lakeside settlement of Kingston is the perfect place to spend the night, especially if you’re feeling tired after hiking in Jack’s Point or Wye Creek. There are two restaurants to choose from here – Kingston Corner Cafe and Bar or Kingston Flyer, both excellent options!

Accommodation-wise, I highly recommend Kingston Lake Camp, a free spot to camp for self-contained vehicles. If you arrive early enough in the day, you might also be able to snag yourself a spot looking directly out onto the lake! There are also plenty of large rubbish bins on-site and toilets available too.

Or if you don’t have a self-contained unit, why not try Kingston Top 10 Holiday Park. Here you can camp or stay in a motel-style unit or cabin. Their communal kitchen area is also super spacious, perfect for prepping your meals for the road trip ahead!

Kingston is also the starting point for the new Around the Mountain Cycle Way, a 4-5 day route. It’s been called “New Zealand’s most gorgeous cycle route,” and I’d say it lives up to that title! The trail follows old railway lines and passes Garston, Athol, Lumsden, and Mossburn. It then sweeps alongside the Mavora Lakes to end at the scenic Walter Peak.

While cycling the entire route might not be on the cards for now, the section from Kingston to Athol takes around 2.5 to 3 hours each way, which for the cyclists out there is totally possible! If you haven’t brought your bike with you, you can also rent one at Kingston Top 10 Holiday Park, which costs $25 NZD for half a day and $40 NZD for a full day.

Related Read: If you love cycling, then be sure to check out a few of the best bike trails in and around Queenstown!

5. Xtreme Off Road

Xtreme Off Road vehicle on a track near Lake Wakatipu
Adventure sport with a view! Photo credit – Xtreme Off Road

Before we set off for the rest of this epic journey, there’s one adventure still to be had here in Kingston! Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, or just fancy giving totally different a try, For the ultimate off-road adventure, Xtreme Off Road has you covered. Either tear up some ground letting off some steam, or go at a slower pace to take in the majestic views, it’s totally up to you!

Hopping into your 4×4 buggy, you’ll also get the chance to drive the 2.5 km (1.6 mi) track at speeds up to 75 km per hour (47 mph). From October through to May, you may also choose the Kingston Hill Climb option, which takes 2.5 hours, or the more extreme off-road adventure.

After this, it’s time to hop back in the car and carry on our journey to Te Anau!

6. Garston Hunny Shop

Bailey at Garston Honey Shop, New Zealand
Come get some local honey.

Our next stop is just a 12-minute drive south from Kingston and is a sweet treat I’m sure you’ll remember. Of course, I’m talking about the undeniably cute Garston Hunny Shop!

The owner started this honey shop after traveling the world and discovering a newfound love for bees and all they bring to the environment. At the Garston Hunny Shop, they produce delicious clover, manuka, and thyme honey as well as a natural cosmetics range called Abelha.

If you have time, definitely take a look at the art next door at Garston Stables – run by Bene’s husband Tony.

Traveling with the family? There’s a working farm next door where you can catch a glimpse of a day in the life of a working farm dog! You’ll see it all, from learning about the history of the farm, seeing the inside of the wool shed, and even meeting and watching the dogs herd the sheep.

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7. Athol

Athol-Gallery-in-Athol-New-Zealand
The Athol Gallery is one of the main attractions in this small town! Photo credit: Athol Gallery

Carrying on through Garston, in about 8 minutes you’ll reach the small town of Athol that’s ideal for a quick fuel or food stop. Personally, I love the Brown Trout Cafe on Athol-Five Rivers Highway, which is super cozy, especially if you’re traveling during the winter months – a toasty fireplace will do that!

Off their menu, try their burger or fish and chips if you’re peckish, or why not both if you’re feeling super hungry?

In terms of attractions, there’s not a whole lot to see in Athol, but there is the Athol Art Gallery on the Garston-Athol Highway, which features work from local artists. They’re open Friday to Monday from 10 am to 4 pm, so if this sounds like something interesting to you, drop on by!

8. Five Rivers Café and Art Gallery

Bailey enjoys a coffee at Five Rivers Café and Art Gallery in New Zealand
My go-to coffee stop!
A llama at Five Rivers Café and Art Gallery, New Zealand
Don’t forget to go see the animals!

Haven’t had enough of art galleries and cafés? Well, I’ve got some good news for you!

The Five Rivers Café and Art Gallery is my favorite place to stop for a coffee on this road trip. There’s also lots of local art on display, which is also available for purchase. From paintings to prints, and crafts as well as jewelry for sale, one of these might look great on the wall back home!

One of my favorite things to do here is to grab a seat outside (as long as the weather is nice and warm!) and enjoy the sprawling views. They’re open daily from 8 am to 3 pm, so why not get out here and stretch your legs? Plus, who can say no to great coffee!?

You’ll often find local food trucks parked here, too – so it’s your chance to try out some yummy local fare.

9. Mossburn

Bailey fills up her rental car in Mossburn in New Zealand
This is a great chance to fuel up!

Mossburn is next up on our list, with the mountains of Fiordland creating a stunning backdrop to this cute little town. Mossburn is indeed very small with a population of only 300 people! That said, it’s very scenic, and you can even spot the West Dome and Mount Hamilton mountain ranges from town.

So what is Mossburn’s claim to fame? Well, it’s actually the deer capital of New Zealand! The first deer farm in New Zealand was started here back in 1972. Naturally, this is something that the locals are very proud of, and one of the best places to meet them is Bracken Hall, a café and gift shop on the main street.

They’re open from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm during the summer months (October to April) and from 9 am to 5 pm during winter. They also have gluten-free or vegetarian options available!

Did you also know that Mossburn is one of the cheapest places in the region to fuel up?! Fuel here is almost always significantly cheaper than in Queenstown or Te Anau. So be sure to grab some fuel here on your way to Te Anau to save a bit of change.

10. South West New Zealand World Heritage Area

Bailey walks through the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area
It’s only a short walk!
Bailey reads an information board at the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area
But I love to stretch my legs!

About a 25-minute drive after Mossburn, you’ll pass a small viewpoint with a plaque with info on the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. From here you can pull over and get a great shot of the valley, all while learning a little about how diverse this area is.

Also known as Te Wahipounamu, the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area stretches 450 kilometers (280 miles) along the western coastline of the South Island of New Zealand. This heritage area is home to a number of New Zealand’s best attractions, including Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Mt Cook, Mt Aspiring National Park, as well as Milford Sound.

This area is so big, it actually covers 10% of New Zealand’s landmass! The area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1990. So even if you’re just getting a glimpse of it now, it’s still a neat spot to stop by.

11. Te Anau

Bailey walks the waterfront in Te Anau
Walking along Lake Te Anau

Te Anau is a bustling little town and is the last main town before you hit the beautiful Milford Sound. If you haven’t had the chance to have a meal yet, the restaurant options in Te Anau are fantastic. I love stopping by Paradiso Pizzeria an authentic Italian and Bao Now, a food truck serving delicious Vietnamese bites.

Although often just a quick stop, I highly recommend spending the night here, so that you can enjoy the many activities on offer in Te Anau.

First up is the glow-worm caves, a must-do in Te Anau. This magical cave tour lasts about 2.5 hours total and is the perfect way to learn all about these tiny but incredible little creatures! It also includes a scenic boat cruise across Lake Te Anau, all while you’re joined by a local expert who will fill you up with facts, fun stories, and more.

Te Anau has to be one of my favorite places to see glow-worms in New Zealand, followed by the Hokitika Glow Worm Dell (a 30-minute drive from Greymouth) and Minnehaha Walk (just 30 minutes from Franz Josef).

Another fun and quick activity you can enjoy here in Te Anau is cruising along the lake. Lake Te Anau is actually the second-largest lake in New Zealand, just behind Lake Taupō. This afternoon Te Anau cruise is one of my top favorite activities I’ve been on here in town, combining a scenic cruise with a bit of local history, as you’ll board a historic motor yacht from the 1930s.

If you want to truly spoil yourself, you can also upgrade this cruise to this champagne cruise on the lake. Simply sit back, listen to your friendly guides, and sip away at some bubbly as the evening rolls on in. Honestly, this makes me want to be there now!

Bailey stands on a rock overlooking Lake Te Anau on the Kepler Track
Just one of the epic viewpoints on my favorite Great Walk near Te Anau!

If you’re a keen hiker or are just after a unique experience, the Kepler Track is ideal. One of the best hikes in New Zealand, the Kepler Track is a 60-kilometer (37 miles) track that needs around 3 to 4 days to complete fully. As you can imagine, this Great Walk is also very popular, especially in the summer months.

Of course, you don’t have to hike the entire trail, instead, you can hike up to the Luxmore Hut and back down in a day. Although long, it can be done by reasonably fit hikers, and the views simply speak for themselves.

If you aren’t so comfortable with longer hikes, or simply want to add a little more adventure to the experience, you can opt for a guided moderate-difficulty heli-hike that lasts around 8 hours and begins with a mind-blowing helicopter ride straight to Luxmore Hut!

Once you land, you’ll hike around the area and enjoy a picnic lunch before heading down part of the mountain to the shoreline, where you’ll catch the ferry back to Te Anau. Although activities that include flights usually aren’t cheap, I don’t think anyone can deny that the memories you’ll make on this are nothing short of next-level. So if it’s within your budget, why not go for it and book your spot here!

There’s also another option that is more budget-friendly, and that’s this Kepler Track Boat and Hike Tour. This half-day experience spends a lot of the time out on the water, visiting many different Lord of the Rings filming locations on the way to Lake Manapouri, so it’s a must if you’re a fan of the original trilogy, or simply love some scenic views!

After this, you’ll go on a relatively easy guided walk on part of the Kepler Track, learning all kinds of fun info about the local flora and fauna. With plenty of photo ops along the way, you’ll then be picked up and taken back to town – super efficient! You can check out available dates and book this tour online here.

It’s also very easy to visit Milford Sound from Te Anau. There are different types of tours from Te Anau to Milford that you can choose from, and all of them include a cruise at the end.

Last, but definitely not least, the perfect end to your day in Te Anau is to watch the sunset from the main jetty. Grab yourself a drink, some snacks, and watch the sun go down as you say cheers to another completed road trip!

Things to do in Queenstown Before You Go

Views on the Spirit of Queenstown scenic cruise in Queenstown
I love going on a scenic cruise in Queenstown!

If you’ve got time before you leave Queenstown to head to Te Anau, 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.
  • 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.
  • Extreme Jet Boating – Looking for a surefire 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!

Essential info to know before you go

Bailey packing her car before going on a hike in the Abel Tasman
Double-checking we have everything packed!
  • Pack sensibly – my suggestion is to bring with you a good pair of hiking boots, rain gear, bug spray (for those pesky sandflies), sunscreen, and snacks (restaurants and stores are limited).
  • In winter, be prepared for bad conditions and adjust your plans to them. These roads can get dangerous!
  • Cell phone reception is limited on this drive, so if you need maps, be sure to download an offline map like Maps.me and star all the stops on this blog!

Where to Stay in Te Anau

Our campervan at a holiday park in Te Anau

Although only a small town, Te Anau boasts lots of amazing places to stay. I almost always stay here when exploring Milford Sound. The reason? Well, I like to take my time on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound, stopping along the way to enjoy hikes and viewpoints. The only way to do this is to stay in Te Anau or Milford Sound itself (which is much more expensive).

Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels – $

For budget travelers, you can’t beat staying at the Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels. It’s perfect for those on a road trip in a campervan or motorhome and has budget rooms available. For those traveling with families, you’ll also be happy to know that there’s an on-site children’s playground, as well as a hot tub where you can relax after a busy day!

A basic non-powered campsite starts at around $61 NZD per night, or you can opt for your own room starting from $103 NZD per night. You can check availability and book here on Booking.com.

Lakefront Backpackers – $

Another fantastic budget choice is Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers, which offers super affordable dorm rooms, private rooms, and even glamping tents! There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the property, as well as a movie room and indoor/outdoor cooking facilities – perfect for rustling up some packed meals to take with you on your adventures.

A bed in a dorm here at Lakefront Backpackers starts at around $42 NZD per night, and I’ve got nothing but praise for their super-friendly staff! You can book your stay here on Booking.com.

Aden Motel – $$

If you can spend a little more, I love staying at the Aden Motel. They have studio, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom apartments that are absolutely beautiful. It’s just a 2-minute walk from the lake, and all apartments come with a kitchenette or kitchen as standard.

Just a 15-minute walk from the town center, you’re far enough away to enjoy the quiet, while also close enough to the action for whenever you’d like to venture into town. Plus, you really can’t beat the price when it comes to the value you get here! Rooms at the Aden Motel start at around $222 NZD and can be booked here on Booking.com.

Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments – $$$

Last, but certainly not least, Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments offers stunning accommodation right on the shores of Lake Te Anau, just a 10-minute walk from the town center. The property also received an extensive renovation in 2019, with their deluxe studio rooms coming equipped with state-of-the-art amenities – think 55-inch TV screens, electric fires, coffee machines – you name it.

Honestly, the only downside to this hotel is that once you arrive, you’ll never want to leave! Rooms here range anywhere from $275 to $600 NZD, although you can find some great deals if you book your room online in advance.

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 JUCY or Star RV campervan or motorhome before the end of June 2024! 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! One thing to note is that this code is only valid for travel before Dec 21, 2024.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey poses for a photo along the shores of Lake Te Anau, New Zealand
Thanks for reading! Now go enjoy Te Anau!

The drive from Queenstown to Te Anau is truly one of the best road trips on the South Island. Along the way, there are plenty of great places to stop and magnificent views to see. This guide should get your road trip started, so all that’s left is to rent your car or motorhome and hit the road!

Thanks so much for reading! If you loved this road trip blog, be sure to check out all my other road trip itineraries. Also, for general content on New Zealand, browse around there’s so much more to discover on My Queenstown Diary! I’ve added a few guides I think you might like here:

12 BEST Hikes in Milford Sound

25 EXCITING Adventure Activities in Queenstown

8 BEST Stops of the Drive from Queenstown to Invercargill

Katie

Wednesday 27th of March 2024

Great blog. Planning to visit Te Anau, Queenstown and Wanaka between 3rd week April to 1st week of May 2024 for hikes (e.g. Routeburn and Kepler day hikes). Are roads snowed in and snow chains required for cars at this time? By the way is the Southern Lights viewable during that time from these locations?

Bailey

Friday 29th of March 2024

Hey Katie,

No you will be fine. Daytime temperatures are far too warm and we don't usually see our first frost until early late April/ early may.

As for the Southern lights, it is possible to see them then. Keep an eye on the forecast and be ready!

Thanks Bailey

Cindy

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

Thanks for your suggestions, this is great! We plan to drive up around September 10th, do you think this is manageable and safe at this time of the year?

Bailey

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

Hey Cindy,

September is certainly still winter but the road between Queenstown and Te Anau isn't that bad. It's more the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound. However, they do take care of the roads so as long as there isn't a huge dump of snow, the drive should be fine. Just carry snow chains and take it easy. In case of bad weather, book a bus tour from Te Anau if you plan to visit Milford Sound.

Thanks Bailey

Jenny

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Thanks for the blog it has been very helpful going to stop at a few spots you suggested we are in NZ in May this year really looking forward to our trip cheers Jenny

Bailey

Thursday 30th of March 2023

Hey Jenny,

So glad you like the blog. Have fun!

Thanks Bailey