Christchurch to Queenstown drive and driving times New Zealand

Learn how much time it takes to drive from city to city when driving from Christchurch to Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand.

Many visitors to the South Island of New Zealand often try to drive from Christchurch to Queenstown in one go.

While it is not an impossible thing to do, I do not recommend driving from Christchurch to Queenstown if:

  1. You’ve just come off a long international flight, so are tired.
  2. You have not had enough sleep.
  3. You’re jet-lagged.

Why? Because of the simple reason that it can take you up to 7 hours (on good driving days) to drive from Christchurch to Queenstown.

I see a "good driving day" as a day on which the weather is brilliantly sunny, there is no snow or ice on the road, there are no roadworks going on, and there is no heavy traffic on the route from Christchurch to Queenstown.

Because the driving route from Christchurch to Queenstown is so long, let’s break it down into more shorter routes from city to city…

Driving times from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

The following table lists the approximate driving times between cities or towns on a drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo.

From … to … Driving time
Christchurch to Rakaia 40 minutes
Rakaia to Ashburton 20 minutes
Ashburton to Hinds 15 minutes
Hinds to Rangitata 10 minutes
Rangitata to Geraldine 15 minutes
Geraldine to Fairlie 30 minutes
Fairlie to Burkes Pass 20 minutes
Burkes Pass to Lake Tekapo 10 minutes

Please keep in mind that these times are based on the shortest possible time to drive without taking any breaks and while driving in good weather conditions at the maximum allowed speed limit on highways and in towns.

While I measured the (exact) times listed in this article while driving the route from Christchurch to Queenstown, if you want to know what the distances (in km) are between cities on the South Island of New Zealand and what approximate driving times would be, you can make use of the South Island distances calculator.

Driving times from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown

The following table lists the approximate driving times between cities or towns on a drive from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown.

From … to … Driving time
Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki 30 minutes
Lake Pukaki to Twizel 5 minutes
Twizel to Omarama 20 minutes
Omarama to Lindis Pass 20 minutes
Lindis Pass to Cromwell 45 minutes
Cromwell to Queenstown 40 minutes

If you want to pay a brief visit to Mount Cook National Park, it will take you approximately 30 to 40 minutes of driving on State Highway 80 after you pass Lake Pukaki to get to Mount Cook.

And if you want to kill some time after you pass Omarama, but before you reach Lindis Pass, you can take a detour down the Ahuriri Valley and back.

Conclusion on the drive from Christchurch to Queenstown

So to drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, it would take you approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes without taking any breaks. It is best to allow for 3 hours to 3 hours and a half for this drive.

Scenic view, Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

Scenic view, Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

Then to drive from Lake Tekapo to Cromwell it would take you approximately 2 hours. Allow for 2 hours and a half for this drive.

So allow for 6 hours when driving from Christchurch to Cromwell. And if you want to drive further onto Queenstown, add another 40 to 45 minutes.

The shortest possible driving time from Christchurch to Queenstown via State Highway 6 to Queenstown is theoretically approximately 5 hours and a half. If you take a 10 minute break every hour, you’d wind up with a driving time of 6 hours and 20 minutes. My recommendation is to allow for 7 hours when driving from Christchurch to Queenstown.

The route from Christchurch to Queenstown via Cromwell and State Highway 6 is not the only way from Christchurch to Queenstown. There is a second driving route you could take to Queenstown which goes via Wanaka, the Cardrona Valley, and the Crown Range Road, but that’s a subject for another article.

And don’t forget that once you reach Queenstown, you can drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy in 40 minutes, and then from Glenorchy to a scenic Lord of the rings lookout in 12 minutes, and then enjoy a different take on the scenery between Glenorchy and Queenstown on your way back.

 

Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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