The scenic drive from Queenstown to Te Anau is a popular one. Te Anau is not only the gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound but is also filled with amazing hikes and a ton of awesome things to do.
Unfortunately though, most travelers rush this part of their trip making the entire 170-kilometer (106-mile) journey 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
The drive from Queenstown to Te Anau is often simply a means to get to Te Anau. However, for those who take their time and explore, it’s an epic road trip and one of the best things to do in Queenstown. The 170-kilometer (106 miles) drive takes 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 very windy section of highway and driving to the conditions, especially in winter, is extremely important. Those in larger campervans and motorhomes should take it slow.
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 looking 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
11 Best Places to Stop Between Queenstown and Te Anau
1. Jacks Point
The first stop on your road trip from Queenstown to Te Anau has to be Jacks Point, just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown. Jacks Point is a gorgeous neighborhood with views of the Remarkables mountain range. There are also lovely walks and cycling tracks as well as Jacks Point Restaurant at the golf course.
Jacks Point Restaurant is situated along the edge of Lake Tewa. The interior is very cozy. Stop in for breakfast to fuel up for the drive ahead. Try out the Tewa Breakfast or the pancake stack. Brunch is served from 10 am, and they serve lighter items like breakfast paninis from 8 am.
If you’re a golf fan I highly recommend playing a round at the world-famous course here or if you love to hike, stretch your legs on Jacks’s Point Loop. The 2.5-hour loop track is mostly uphill but the views from the top are pretty epic. An easier track is the Remarkables Loop – a nice & flat two-hour loop. You can read about these trails and others on the Jacks Point website.
2. Wye Creek Track
At just over a 7-kilometer round-trip (4.3 miles), Wye Creek Track is the ideal place to stretch your legs on your journey from Queenstown to Te Anau. Despite being short the trail does climb up a steep – so be prepared. The track should take most walkers 4 hours to complete.
Park at the Wye Creek bridge parking lot to start this steep track. Climb 45 minutes to the Hydro Dam and then follow the pipeline from the dam to a rock bluff. It then goes through 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
Remember that windy road I was talking about above? Although a little tricky to drive, it makes for a beautiful photo with Lake Wakatipu at its side. 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 hard to spot the lookout point but it is 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 jump out take a couple of photos, breathe in the views, and then be back on your merry way to Te Anau.
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 Jacks Point or Wye Creek. There are two restaurants to choose from here – Kingston Corner Cafe & Bar or The Kingston Flyer, both excellent options.
Accommodation-wise I highly recommend Kingston Lake Camp for self-contained vehicles. Or if you don’t have a self-contained unit why not try Kingston Top 10 Holiday Park – where you can camp or stay in a motel-style unit or cabin.
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”. The trail utilizes old railway lines and passes Garston, Athol, Lumsden, and Mossburn. It then travels past the Mavora Lakes to end at Walter Peak.
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
Are you an adrenalin junky looking to tear up some ground, or do you want to go at a slower pace so as to take in the majestic views? Xtreme Off-Road has something for everyone. Based in Kingston, Xtreme Off-Road gives you the opportunity to drive a world-class vehicle whilst taking in the stunning scenery this area is known for.
Drive the 2.5 km (1.6 mi) track at speeds up to 75 km per hour (47 mph). From October-May you may also choose the Kingston Hill Climb option which takes 2.5 hours or the more extreme off-road adventure.
6. Garston Hunny Shop
About 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Queenstown is the very 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 clover, manuka, and thyme honey as well as a natural cosmetics range called Abelha.
You can book a hive tour with beekeeper Bene to learn all about the cycle of the honey bee as well as the all-important Queen Bee. The cost of this interesting tour is $35 NZD per person.
If you have time, definitely take a look at the art next door at Garston Stables – run by Bene’s husband Tony.
Or if neither of those options interest you instead, head over to a working farm and 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 woolshed, and even meeting and watching the dogs herd the sheep.
Note: As of July 2022 the hive tour has been stopped at Garston Hunny Shop. Check their website here for updates.
A small town ideal for a quick fuel or food stop. Personally, I love the Brown Trout Cafe on Athol-Five Rivers Highway. Try their burger or fish and chips, you can never go with either, right?
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 local artists. Or if you’re a keen fisherman – the New Zealand Fly Fishing School is based here at Avon Street. Learn all about the sport in a half-day lesson.
8. Five Rivers Café and Art Gallery
Five Rivers Café and Art Gallery is the best place to stop for a coffee on your road trip. Grab a coffee or a snack here and marvel at the local art on display which is also available for purchase. There are paintings, prints, crafts as well as jewelry for sale. Then, grab a seat outside and enjoy the views and warm weather.
Often local food trucks are parked here too – it’s your chance to try out some yummy local fare.
The mountains of Fiordland create a stunning backdrop to this little town. Mossburn is indeed very small with a population of approximately 300 people. Spot the West Dome and Mount Hamilton mountain ranges from the town.
Mossburn’s claim to fame is that it’s the deer capital of New Zealand, the first deer farm in New Zealand was started here in 1972.
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.
10. South West New Zealand World Heritage Area
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 get a great shot of the valley and learn 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 covers 10% of New Zealand’s landmass. The area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1990.
11. Te Anau
Te Anau is a bustling little town and is the last main town before you hit Milford Sound. 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 tour lasts about 2.5 hours total and includes a boat cruise across Lake Te Anau. The guided cave tour allows you to get up close with thousands of glow worms.
You may choose to do a cruise on Lake Te Anau, which is the second-largest lake in New Zealand. Choose from one or three-hour cruise options and explore hidden coves and corners of the lake. The three-hour cruise also includes a short nature walk through remote bushland. Or if you want to truly spoil yourself book the champagne cruise on the lake!
If you’re a keen hiker or are just after a unique experience, the Kepler Track is ideal. It is a 60-kilometer track (37 miles) that you need to allow 3-4 days to complete. This is an extremely popular track, especially in the summer months. You don’t have to hike the entire trail though, instead, hike up to the Luxmore Hut and back down in a day. Although long, it can be done by reasonably fit hikers.
If you aren’t so comfortable with longer hikes you can opt for a guided moderate difficulty heli-hike that begins with a helicopter ride straight to Luxmore Hut. Once you land you will hike around the area and enjoy a picnic lunch before down part of the mountain to the shoreline where you’ll catch the ferry back to Te Anau. This tour lasts around 8 hours.
If that still seems like too much (time, effort, or cost), there is another option that is quicker, cheaper, and easier – the Kepler Track Boat and Hike Tour. It’s only a half day and spends a lot of the time out on the water visiting many Lord of the Rings filming locations on the way to Lake Manapouri. After you’ll go on a relatively easy guided walk on part of the Kepler Track.
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!
The restaurant options in Te Anau are fantastic. I loved Paradiso Pizzeria an authentic Italian and Bao Now, a food truck serving delicious Vietnamese fare.
A perfect end to your day in Te Anau is to watch the sunset from the main jetty.
Essential info to know before you go
- 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
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 to 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!)
For budget travelers, you can’t beat staying at the Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels. It’s perfect for those on a road trip in a campervan or motorhome and has budget rooms available. If you’re a social traveler, the Lakefront Backpackers is another good budget option and they have dorm beds and private rooms.
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. For the price, it’s the best value place in town. Of course, if you have a larger budget then check out the Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments. They also specialize in apartments but some of their rooms have magnificent views of the lake.
If you’re traveling in a larger group or just want a more local experience consider booking a holiday home in Te Anau. There are lots to choose from all the way from large houses to smaller apartments. The best part is they work out cheaper for the luxuries you get!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
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 is what most budget backpackers get 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! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Thanks for reading!
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:
Adventure activities in Queenstown
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
Thursday 30th of March 2023
So glad you like the blog. Have fun!