After five days of no snowfall, the Crown Range road was in a well enough condition to drive up without having to use chains. See a photo of the scenic view you get from Crown Range during winter in New Zealand.
I had driven to Cromwell to check out the weather and decided to head back to Queenstown, because it was completely overcast.
The weather was still brilliantly sunny in Queenstown, so as I was approaching the junction with the Crown Range road just before reaching the turnoff to Arrowtown while driving to Queenstown from Cromwell, I decided to head up the Crown Range road to see what the snow conditions were like up there.
I must say that I totally ignored the red sign at the beginning of the road saying that "chains must be carried" and told myself, "If I see snow on the road, I'll stop at one of the chain bays and turn around, because I don't have chains." However, I don't recommend taking such chances if you really want to drive to the top or all the way to Wanaka via the Crown Range road. And please bear in mind that you can be fined if you’re caught ignoring signs to either carry or fit chains.
Chains would have cost me $10 per day to rent - even if I did not use them during my car rental period – when I picked up the car or $14 per day if I called in later to pick them up. Because the weather was predicted to be mainly fine, I did and do not expect it to snow while I'm here in Queentown, so decided to save money and decline the chains when they were offered to me. I've been here 4 days now and have had mainly fine weather - so have not seen any snowfall.
While the Crown Range road was not entirely clear off snow or ice, I was able to get to the top of the road without chains and stop at a location where you can get a fantastic scenic view of a piece of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains surrounding Queenstown.
I also managed to get some fantastic video footage of the drive (you'll enjoy seeing all of the snow), so in the near future I will compose a scenic drive for the part of the Crown Range road that goes up to this scenic viewpoint and then back down. The article about the Crown Range road scenic drive contains a video of the drive that goes up to this scenic lookout and then back down.
Since the plans for the day had been totally ruined by the low clouds in both Cromwell and on the road to Glenorchy, I decided to head down to Glenorchy again despite the low clouds. And to my utmost surprise, when I reached Glenorchy, it was sunny; and with this I mean clear blue skies.
I spent a bit of time down there, drove to the Dart River bridge via the Glenorchy Routeburn road, stopped there for a while, took some video footage of the Dart River bridge, the Dart River, and the surrounding mountains of which a few are from "Isengard" in the "Lord of the Rings".
The day ended with a late afternoon drive back to Queenstown. On the way back I snapped a picture of silhouettes of the mountains around Glenorchy in sunset backlight. Tomorrow I’ll try my luck in Wanaka.
Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.