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13 BEST Stops on the Drive from Wanaka to Christchurch

13 BEST Stops on the Drive from Wanaka to Christchurch

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Thinking of making the epic drive from Wanaka to Christchurch, or vice versa? Trust me, you’re in for a real treat!

This epic journey has been a favorite of mine ever since I decided to call Queenstown my home. I love the drive up to Christchurch and almost always go via Wanaka! So you can bet I’ve got plenty of experience with this one.

There’s a lot to know about this road trip, from the best places to stop, how long the trip should take, to where to stay along the way. After reading this guide through, I hope you’ll be inspired to stop at some of these epic spots and turn this journey into a multi-day adventure.

With that said, sit back and relax as we explore one of New Zealand’s greatest road trips.

About the Drive from Wanaka to Christchurch

The scenic drive from Wanaka to Christchurch is a 424-kilometer (263-mile) journey that, without stopping, takes around 5 hours. With that said, there are so many amazing places to visit along the way that you should allow 5 to 8 hours to truly enjoy the drive, and that’s without visiting Mount Cook National Park.

A stop in Mount Cook adds an extra 117 kilometers (73 miles) to the journey, and if you want to explore the park I recommend spending a few nights there.

In my opinion, you need at least 4 days to get the most out of this road trip. With that amount of time, you could spend 2 nights in Mount Cook National Park and then another night along the road in Lake Tekapo or near Mt Hutt. Those who do will be rewarded with epic viewpoints, beautiful rivers, mountain passes, and more – it’s truly one of the best drives in New Zealand.

When embarking on this road trip it’s important to drive to the conditions as bad weather, especially on Lindis Pass, can make driving dangerous. In the winter, be sure to allow much more time and be prepared for icy conditions on Lindis Pass. The entire highway from Wanaka to Mount Cook is also a single-lane road, so take care when overtaking, and if you’re going slow, let others pass.

Related Read: Another popular route that is similar is the drive from Queenstown to Lake Tekapo. Read my blog for more detailed info on this route!

Wanaka to Christchurch FAQs

Views from Mt John at Lake Tekapo on the road between Wanaka and Christchurch
Views from Mt John looking down at the beautiful blue Lake Tekapo!

Best Stops on the Drive from Wanaka to Christchurch

1. Wanaka Lavender Farm

Bailey walks down a row of lavender at the Wanaka Lavender Farm
In summer the colors are amazing!

The Wanaka Lavender Farm is the first stop on this list and is actually only a short 5-minute drive from Wanaka. Summer is the best time to visit as the lavender begins to flower, and the entire farm transforms into a sea of purple and with a mountain backdrop – it’s picture-perfect. That said, the farm is open year-round (except from Christmas Day)!

However, you don’t just come here for the beautiful views.

The Wanaka Lavender Farm is also home to a small petting zoo, where kids (and big kids like us) can feed miniature horses, pigs, and even sheep and lambs. On top of that, the Wanaka Lavender Farm produces a range of lavender products including face creams, masks, soaps, and even manuka honey.

My favorite product they sell has to be the lavender-flavored ice cream – definitely try this one for yourself! All are available for purchase on the property in their boutique shop.

The farm does attract a lot of bees, so if you’re allergic (like my partner) be careful! Aside from that, it’s a really cool place to visit and one of the best things to do in Wanaka.

Entrance to the Wanaka Lavender Farm is $15 NZD in summer for adults, $7.50 NZD for children over 5, and kids under 5 go free, making it a really cheap activity. In the off-season (April to November), it’s only $7 NZD for adults and $3.50 NZD for children.

The best time to go to see the lavender is in January, but I’ve been in early December and there’s still plenty to see (that’s when the photo above was taken.)

2. Red Bridge

The Red Bridge in Wanaka
The Red Bridge in Wanaka

As you leave Wanaka, you’ll be ready to explore the wide-open spaces and the more remote attractions in New Zealand. The first stop is a humble bridge! The Red Bridge is home to breathtaking views down the colorful Clutha River, transforming what is otherwise a pretty normal stop into a stunning viewpoint.

Built back in 1918, this bridge is also one of the most historic monuments in the area, and its steel trusses are over 100 meters (328 feet) long. You will have to cross the bridge on your road trip, so you may as well stop for a few minutes to enjoy the views.

If you want to enjoy even better views, you can actually enjoy two short hikes from the bridge. The first is the Upper Clutha River Track. Although the trail is 18.5 kilometers long (11.5 miles) you can just walk for a few minutes to enjoy the edge of the river.

The second is the Luggate Creek Track. It’s much shorter at around 1.93 km (1.2 mi) out and back. All in all, this is a great place to get out and stretch your legs, you’ve got plenty of driving ahead of you!

3. Lindis Pass

Bailey on Lindis Pass Viewpoint overlooking the road
Lindis Pass!

The South Island is home to a few breathtaking mountain passes, and one of my personal favorites is Lindis Pass. Lindis Pass is located in the Lindis Valley, and the landscape here is that of orange tussock grass and snow-capped mountains. It’s truly one of the most breathtaking places on the South Island.

As you drive Lindis Pass, you’ll come to the highest point on the road at 971 meters (3185 feet) above sea level. Here, you can park and take a short walk to a viewpoint. The viewpoint is right next to the parking lot via a flat trail, and from the platform, you’ll be able to spot the Longslip Mountain Range, and the Lindis Conservation Area, as well as the famous views of the valley everyone comes to see.

Keep your eyes peeled for some of the beautiful native birds that call the area home, from falcons to fantails, I was pretty surprised just how many I saw soaring overhead!

Lindis Pass is only a quick stop, however, for those who are keen to explore further, you can hike up the hill via a short but steep unofficial trail to get a better view. I highly recommend this, especially for photographers. Seeing the highway winding through the valley is memorizing!

4. Omarama Hot Tubs

Bailey relaxes in the Hot Tubs Omarama, New Zealand
Such a beautiful spot!
Bailey enjoys a soak in the Hot Tubs Omarama
So dreamy!

The most relaxing stop on the road trip from Wanaka to Christchurch has to be Hot Tubs Omarama. Here, you can treat yourself to a soak in mountain waters with epic views of the Southern Alps – the best way to break up a long drive! The best part is that all of the tubs are private, so you can enjoy an intimate setting with your family, loved ones, friends, or spend some quality time by yourself.

I loved warming up first in the sauna before venturing out to the private cedar hot tub. If you fancy an extra treat, I really recommend their massages too – available in their private treatment rooms. Oh boy, I want to transport myself back to the hot tubs right now!

The tubs are located along the edge of a river and have mountain views. You can control the temperature yourself and even order food or drinks, too! I couldn’t resist having a glass of wine while soaking.

A soak at Omarama Hot Tub lasts 90 minutes and starts from $60 NZD per person based on two people sharing. They have larger tubs too for groups of up to 8 people. To ensure you get a tub, it is best to book a few days in advance, so you don’t miss out.

Stay Overnight in Omarama

If you want to visit the hot tubs without being rushed, consider spending one night in Omarama.

Although the 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. Most rooms also include a kitchenette, perfect for rustling up some snacks and lunches for the road. Rooms here start from around $108 NZD per night.

5. Omarama Clay Cliffs

Walking amoungst the Omarma Clay Cliffs
They’re huge!

I think it’s fair to say the road from Wanaka to Christchurch is filled with unique stops, and the Omarama Clay Cliffs may just be the most unique of them all. An unworldly collection of tall pinnacles each separated by narrow ravines, the Omarama Clay Cliffs is one attraction I bet you didn’t think you’d see in New Zealand. When I first laid eyes on the clay formations, I instantly thought of Mars!

The Clay Cliffs were formed over a million years ago by flowing glacier waters. You can explore the clay cliffs via a short walking trail and venture off the track to wander the deep ravines. In total, I’d allow around 30 minutes to an hour for this stop.

The Omarama Clay Cliffs are just a 10-minute drive from the town of Omarama and you can easily reach them by turning left onto Quialburn Road and then left again onto Henburn Road. Part of the drive to the cliffs is via an unsealed road, so do take your time.

It’s important to also note that these cliffs are located on private land, so a $5 NZD vehicle admission fee is to be paid at the donation box at the gate. This must be paid in cash and no change is given since it is an honesty box system.

6. High Country Salmon

The high Country Salmon Farm near Twizel, New Zealand
It’s not hard to catch a fish when there are so many!

Located just off State Highway 8, only a few minutes south of Twizel, is High Country Salmon – a classic New Zealand salmon farm with a café and shop all in one convenient location. All of the salmon from High Country Salmon are sold here in New Zealand with around half served at the on-site restaurant and floating café and the other half being delivered to local restaurants and stores around the country.

The floating café serves up everything from sushi to salmon breakfasts. All freshly caught from the farm only hours earlier. It’s easily one of the best places to get your salmon fix and after such a long drive I’d say you’re likely hungry! I know I was, and I really enjoyed their salmon eggs benedict! Breakfast starts at 9 am until 11 am and lunch starts at 11 am until 4 pm. You can see their menu here.

For the young kids (or big kids) you can throw fish feed pellets into the salmon pen and watch them go crazy! This is completely free and a cool experience that gets the kids excited. For a more unique experience, you can actually cast a line into the farm and catch a salmon for $10 NZD per person.

The salmon you catch can then be bought by you at a rate of $35 NZD per kilo. It’s a great way to go fishing where you’re guaranteed to catch something!

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7. Twizel

Lake Ruataniwha in twizel
The beautiful Lake Ruataniwha in Twizel

The small town of Twizel is a rather unknown stop on the road trip from Wanaka to Christchurch. Most people simply drive by without stopping, but I find this to be such a shame.

You might be taking a look around and be thinking that Twizel looks familiar. That is because some scenes from the Lord of the Rings movie franchise were filmed here. One of the most popular scenes, the Battle Of Pelennor Fields in The Return Of The King, was filmed at nearby Ben Ohau Station.

You can actually do tours of the film location! Unfortunately, it’s located on private property, so you can’t visit it on your own and must book a guided tour.

You may want to fuel up in Twizel or stop off for some food. My recommendation for food in Twizel includes Poppies Cafe on Benmore Place for their awesome venison pie, or Fishtail restaurant for some yummy Indian food.

One of my favorite things to do here in Twizel 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! Of course, if you’re planning to see the sunset here, then chances are you’ll want to spend the night here too.

Stay Overnight in Twizel

Twizel is actually a 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!) A lot of people don’t know this, but it’s also a lot closer to Mount Cook National Park than Lake Tekapo.

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. These chalets start at around $190 NZD per night.

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! A one-night stay here starts at around $88 NZD for a family cabin.

8. Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki Lookout with views of Mount cook National Park
Can you spot Mount Cook?
Bailey sits on a rock overlooking Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook from Lake Pukaki in New Zealand
I could sit here all day!

There are two lakes that hold the title of bluest lakes in NZ, and one of them is Lake Pukaki. This stunning lake is fed by the glacier melt in Mount Cook National Park from glaciers such as the Hooker Glacier, Mueller Glacier, and the Tasman Glacier. That glacier melt is filled with fine particles of rock commonly known as rock flour. It’s this flour that reflects the light and gives the lakes their Gatorade-blue color!

On your journey from Wanaka to Christchurch, even a quick stop is a must at Lake Pukaki and the best part is you can do it right from the main highway. In fact, just past the turn-off into Mount Cook National Park is a stunning freedom camping spot and also a scenic walk to a viewpoint.

The Lake Pukaki Lakeshore Walk takes visitors along the lake to a small viewpoint overlooking the lake. It’s short, stunning, and a must-do! For those in a campervan or motorhome, you simply must consider spending a night here too.

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 see Mount Cook all the way across the lake.

The views of Lake Pukaki don’t stop there either, and as you drive into Mount Cook National Park, you’ll enjoy the lake the entire way in. Just look to your left!

9. Mount Cook

Scenic road leads to Mount Cook, New Zealand
Views from the Sealy Tarn Track

Mount Cook National Park is without a doubt the most epic stop on the drive between Wanaka and Christchurch. Majestic Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand, standing proud at a whopping 3,724 meters (12,218 feet) tall. Surrounding it is one of the most beautiful outdoor playgrounds for hikers, photographers, and just nature lovers in general.

A popular thing to do among travelers to Mount Cook is to snap a photo on the road! Hear me out – about 10 km (6.2 miles) from Mount Cook Village, and just before the airport is one of the most stunning photo opportunities.

Pull your car safely off the road and stand in the middle of the road, behind you the winding road, and Mount Cook makes for an epic backdrop. It’s certain to make your friends at home jealous. Of course, it goes without saying to watch out for oncoming cars when taking your photo here.

In the village of Mount Cook, you may wish to walk the popular Hooker Valley Track. It’s easy and flat, and at just 10 km (6.2 miles) round-trip, it won’t take too much time from your day. The track provides gorgeous views of Mueller Lake, Mount Sefton, and Mueller Glacier. It’s easily one of the best hikes in Mount Cook.

There are some much shorter walks here too – including the Bowen Bush Walk, Glencoe Walk, and Governor’s Bush Walk. If you want a longer trail, I love the Mueller Hut Route. This epic hike should be completed over two days, with a night spent at the remote alpine hut. It’s a bucket list experience in NZ and one of the most beautiful huts in NZ.

Fancy dialing up the adventure meter a little more? This 45-minute ski plane and heli combo tour adds in the extra thrill of soaring through the skies in a ski plane, as well as a heli touchdown on a snow-covered mountaintop! With tours running as late as 5:30 pm and hotel pick-up and drop-off included, it’s great value at $449 NZD per person.

If staying inside of a plane just isn’t thrilling enough for you, then you can jump out of one on this skydiving from 15,000 feet (4,572 m) experience! After your 45-second freefall, you can gaze out at the mountains, lakes, and glaciers as you gradually descend with your parachute. Tickets for this cost around $499 NZD, and the experience kicks off at 9 am, which is why you might want to stay the night here.

Stay overnight in Mount Cook

Why not spend the night at Mount Cook so that you can experience some of the awesome activities on offer – like this plane and heli tour I mentioned earlier, or kayaking on Tasman or Mueller Lake? There are not many hotels in Mount Cook Village, so you do need to book in advance.

The Aoraki Court Motel is a fantastic midrange option that’s right in the heart of Mount Cook Village. They offer modern rooms with free Wi-Fi, a patio with mountain views, as well as basic kitchen equipment. I found the rooms here to be very spacious too, with a one-night stay starting at around $435 NZD.

If you’re traveling on a budget, then Glentanner Park Centre is a great option! You’ll find this holiday park just a 16-minute drive south from Mount Cook. With dorms as well as private rooms available, this is easily one of the most affordable places to stay near Mount Cook, with clean beds as well as an on-site café. A bed in a dorm here costs around $45 NZD per night – now that’s great value!

10. Lake Tekapo

Views of Lake Tekapo from the Church of the Good Shepard

After leaving Mount Cook, you’ll embark on the scenic drive to Lake Tekapo. Lake Tekapo is a hugely popular destination in New Zealand and a great place to spend a night because it’s located around halfway between Wanaka and Christchurch. It’s also only an hour’s drive from Mount Cook National Park.

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. Nearby is also a famous statue of a sheep herding dog.

Lake Tekapo is a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, meaning it’s one of the best places in the world to go stargazing. You can stargaze from a hot tub here at Tekapo Springs – what a way to enjoy the night sky all lit up with stars.

You may be lucky enough to spot the Southern Lights here (the Southern Hemisphere’s equivalent of the Northern Lights). The best way to enjoy the stars is on a guided tour either to Mt John Observatory or at Tekapo Springs.

In my opinion, nothing really beats learning from an expert on a guided tour, using state-of-the-art technology to get the best views of the night sky! This magical experience lasts around 2 hours and can be booked online here.

There’s also an array of restaurants in Lake Tekapo including TLV Restaurant & Bar on Motuariki Lane for excellent burgers (open from 12 pm to 8:30 pm). Or for amazing views, a visit to the Dark Sky Diner is a must. I love going at sunset!

There are a lot more things to do here, so be sure to read my guide on the best things to do in Lake Tekapo. It includes hikes, tours, and tons of free activities to get stuck into.

Staying Overnight in Lake Tekapo

If you have the time, then staying a night or two in Lake Tekapo would be my recommendation! This place is just too beautiful to simply pass by.

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. There are also shared laundry services, perfect for if you’re combining multiple road trips. A bed in a dorm here starts at around $48 NZD per night.

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.

11. Mt Hutt

Mt Hutt Ski Field, New Zealand
It’s one of the best ski fields in New Zealand!

Doing this road trip from Wanaka to Christchurch during the winter months? Why not add skiing to your itinerary! Mount Hutt was actually voted New Zealand’s best ski resort from 2015 to 2019, and I personally love skiing here.

Wide-open terrain, long runs, high snowfall, and gorgeous views over the Canterbury Plains. Skiing Mount Hutt is definitely a bucket list experience in NZ. With 364 hectares of terrain, the runs on Mount Hutt are most suitable for intermediate or advanced skiers. A 686-meter vertical drop (2,251 feet) means it’s also a great mountain for off-piste skiing.

There are also some fantastic terrain parks, making Mount Hutt ideal for freestyle ski enthusiasts and snowboarders. Featuring lots of jumps suitable for all skill levels as well as medium, large, and extra-large rails – the parks here are a great place to learn some new skills in the snow. I don’t hit the jumps myself, but I know there are some crazy people who read my blog!

The 2024 ski season here runs from the 14th of June to the 13th of October. Lift passes for Mt Hutt start at $159 NZD for adults aged 16 and over, or you can get consecutive day passes which go up to $545 NZD for a 5-day pass. Mt Hutt also has rentals available and the closest town to the ski resort is Methven.

Note: Mt Hutt is run by the same company as The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields in Queenstown. So if you’re skiing in Queenstown, then you can get a pass that’ll also allow you to ski at Mt Hutt for a discounted price!

12. Rakaia Gorge

Views of Rakaia Gorge, NZ
What a view!

You won’t find this next stop in many blogs online. To be honest though, that’s why I love it so much. It’s quiet, relaxing, and stunning! Rakaia Gorge is the perfect stop for those who like to get off the beaten path and with such epic views, why wouldn’t you stop?

You can explore Rakaia Gorge following a 10 km (6.2 mi) return walking track, which should take most walkers 3 to 4 hours to complete. The trail passes through a native forest, and then climbs the historic ferryman’s track. From here, you can continue along one of the water-carved terraces to a fantastic lookout point.

The track then leads downhill to a gully to the site of the former Snowdon coal mines. Here you will spot several coal mine tunnels and even the remains of mining extraction equipment. There’s also another lovely lookout point about a 45-minute walk from here. Further along, you may also choose to go slightly off the track and down to the river.

Swimming at the river beneath the top bridges on the Rakaia Gorge is a popular activity among locals, but beware, the water is very cold!

Important information – Be careful of wasps here from January to March. My advice is to wear light-colored clothing and carry antihistamines.

13. Christchurch

Bailey at the New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch, New Zealand
New Regent Street Precinct in Christchurch, New Zealand
Bailey relaxes in the He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools in Christchurch
He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools in Christchurch

All good things must come to an end, and as you drive into Christchurch, I’m sure you’ll be looking back fondly at the journey you’ve taken to get here. But that doesn’t mean the fun has to end! This is a beautiful city and a place you should spend some time exploring on your own or on a tour or two in Christchurch.

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island, and you may be most familiar with Christchurch from the devastating earthquake that happened here back in 2011. An interesting and thought-provoking activity in Christchurch is to visit the many sites that show the city’s dramatic change since the earthquake.

Other worthy sights to pay your respects to the victims of the earthquake include the Oi Manawa National Memorial located on the Avon River in town, the Canterbury Museum, and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, which was left a ruin from the earthquake and is currently undergoing a massive reconstruction. These are all free attractions too – bonus!

Among the list of awesome things to do in Christchurch, one of my favorites is the Christchurch Gondola. From the top, you’ll get great views of the city, the Southern Alps as well as the Pacific Ocean. The gondola ride to the summit is 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) and at the top, there are various walking tracks as well as a gift shop, café, and the Time Tunnel ride where you can learn all about the history of Christchurch. 

Bailey at Ohinetahi Viewpoint next to Sign of the Bellbird in Christchurch, New Zealand
There is some stunning scenery around Christchurch.
Bailey walks through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
At the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch.

Traveling is also thirsty work, so going on a wine-tasting tour like this Waipara wine trail tour from Christchurch might be just what you need. As part of this half-day tour, you’ll visit three boutique vineyards and sample some of the tastiest local wines. What better way to celebrate at the end of a road trip than by raising a glass or two (or three!).

A stroll through Christchurch Botanic Gardens with a coffee is a great way to spend an hour or two. And no visit to Christchurch is complete without visiting Quake City, which tells the story of the devastating 2011 earthquake.

If you love hiking, be sure to check out the Godley Head Loop Track. This 9-kilometer (5.6-mile) loop takes you along the coast where you can spot whales, dolphins, and seals.

Other outdoor activities I love are the Christchurch Ziplining tour and the Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course.

As for places to eat, one of my favorite restaurants in the city is 5th Street on Elgin St. in Sydenham. For your coffee fix – C1 Espresso on 185 High Street can’t be missed – it’s one of the best coffee shops in Christchurch! Your food is delivered by pneumatic tubes, which you can watch overhead. It’s one of the coolest coffee shops I’ve ever been to (P.S. The coffee is fantastic too)!

If you want to relax, you can’t go wrong with He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools, which have an ocean view!

Note: Christchurch is a huge hub for campervan companies. This is a great place to rent a campervan and start or end your road trip on the South Island.

Related Read: Looking for another epic road trip to do from Christchurch? Consider renting a car in Christchurch and driving from Christchurch to Hokitika through one of NZ’s most famous roads – Arthur’s Pass. The road trip from Christchurch to Punakaiki is also popular.

Things to do in Wanaka Before You Go

the vines with green leaves and grapes at Rippon Winery with a mountain in the background
Why not try a wine tour in Wanaka?!
  • Cardrona Valley Mountain Quad – Zip up into the mountains on a quad bike! This tour makes sightseeing a little bit more thrilling as you’ll follow your guide through winding dirt tracks past lush farmland. Look to spot sheep and cattle and learn from your local guide about the area! You’ll stop to take in the panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains of the Cardrona Valley. It’s only a 2-hour tour, so you will still have a lot of time for other activities.
  • Wine and Maori Culture Tour – You’ll get to taste wine right from the land of the indigenous Maori people in Wanaka. This tour is a half-day experience that includes round-trip transport, so you don’t have to worry about driving. Just focus on the wine and beautiful landscapes as you visit the different wineries and enjoy the provided cheese platter.
  • Horse Riding Trek – This is the perfect leisurely sightseeing activity that takes you up into the countryside and past historical gold-mining locals for some fabulous views and information from your local guide about this area’s past. You’ll navigate through cattle farms and across a river and end the day with a free beer from the Cardrona Pub on the way back to base.
  • Jet Boat, Hike, and Raft Adventure – This tour is for thrill seekers! It’s a full day of activities including a jet boat and rafting ride on the Matukituki River and a nature trek to take in the beautiful landscapes of Mount Aspiring National Park where you’ll stop for lunch at the base of a glacier! It costs $379 NZD per person, but it is more cost-effective than booking these activities separately.

Must-do Things in Christchurch

A tram travels down New Regent Street in Christchurch, New Zealand
A tram travels down New Regent Street in Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Tramway city tour – This is perfect for seeing all the key landmarks, including the Botanic Gardens, Avon River, and New Regent Street! Just sit back and gaze out your window. Since it’s a hop-on hop-off style tour, you can choose to get out and explore any of the sights as you please.
  • The International Antarctic Center – Take a glimpse into life in Antarctica! There are a lot of unique experiences here, from learning about and snuggling with Huskies to seeing blue penguins in the rescue center before stepping inside the Storm Dome for a feel of the extremely cold Antarctic weather this place will have all your senses stimulated.

Where to Stay in Christchurch

Crowne Plaza Christchurch
The Crowne Plaza Christchurch is a beautiful centrally located hotel. Photo credit: Crowne Plaza Christchurch

Although not a large city by international standards, Christchurch is big for New Zealand. As with any large city, picking the right place to stay is really important.

There are lots of different areas to choose from when deciding where to stay in Christchurch. To help you narrow it down, I’ve included my top choices near the airport, in the city center, and just outside the city.

By the airport

One of the best places by the airport is the Lylo Christchurch. It’s actually within walking distance of the airport! It’s also 2 minutes from a retail center and the International Antarctic Center. They have luggage storage, laundry, and a communal area with a kitchen. There are a variety of rooms with prices starting at $117 NZD. You can book this super convenient hotel through Booking.com.

Another cool hotel close by is the Commodore Airport Hotel Christchurch. Although a short drive away, it has a free shuttle, free parking, and amazing reviews. Rooms come with a balcony or garden access to get that fresh air before a flight. They also have a restaurant, bar, and indoor pool. You can expect to pay between $250-$350 NZD per night. For luxury right by the airport, reserve a room at the Commodore Hotel online.

City center

In the city center, the Crown Plaza Christchurch is perfect for a luxury stay. It’s a large hotel with amazing views of the city. You can grab a coffee at the on-site cafe or cozy up by the bar’s fireplace with a cocktail. It has a gym, restaurant, and spacious rooms. You can snag prices as low as $209 NZD when you book in advance online.

For budget travelers, the social but comfortable Urbanz is a good option. Although cheap, it’s located in the heart of the city and only a couple of minutes from Hagley Park and New Regent Street, which is full of bars and restaurants. It’s a trendy, modern space with a pool table, kitchen, laundry, and on-site bar. Dorm rooms cost about $41 NZD, and private rooms are $109 NZD. You can book this budget-friendly hotel on Booking.com or through Hostelworld.com.

Just outside the city

If you don’t mind staying a few minutes outside of the city center, I recently stayed at Tasman Holiday Parks Christchurch and loved it! It’s a holiday park, so perfect for those with a campervan or motorhome, but they also have newly renovated rooms and apartments available for a great price! There are plenty of facilities, including kitchens, BBQs, and a pool. Stays start at $114 NZD and can be booked online here.

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 Lake Pukaki Viewpoint (Mount Cook Road)
Thanks for reading!

After reading this blog it’s not hard to see why so many love the road trip from Wanaka to Christchurch. Not only are there a ton of amazing activities along the way to fill your days, but the views, open roads, and wildlife are addictive!

Thanks so much for reading and I really hope this guide has helped shape your trip to New Zealand. If it has, be sure to browse around some more, I have a ton more guides to awesome places such as Queenstown, Wanaka, and even more road trip guides! Here are a few more reader’s choice blogs:

10 BEST Tours in Wanaka that You Don’t Want to Miss

27 Free and Cheap Things to do in Christchurch

40 Best Hikes on the South Island of New Zealand

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    Lalit

    Wednesday 11th of January 2023

    Wow!!!! This is truly the best guide for a trip to NZ. It doesn't get any better than this. Thanks Bailey and keep up the good work. I will be going through ALL your articles while planning for my trip to NZ. Thanks once again.

    Bailey

    Sunday 15th of January 2023

    Hey Lalit,

    Thank you so much! Enjoy your trip!

    Bailey