Get a full description and see 2 videos of the 44 km mountains and lake scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy on the South Island of New Zealand.
If you are self-driving the South Island and only have time to do one scenic drive, this should be it.
The drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy is – in my opinion – one of the best, if not the best, scenic drive on the entire South Island.
Driving at about 80 to 100 km/h (50 to 62 mph) – the maximum speed limit on open roads in New Zealand is 100 km/h (62 mph) – it would take approximately 30 minutes to drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy.
But if you want to take your time and enjoy the scenery, which is highly recommended, it is best to slow down and drive the road in approximately 45 minutes. The fastest I've driven this route is 25 minutes.
The Glenorchy – Queenstown Road consists of several straight stretches of road where you can do 100 km/h, but also several bends, some of which are very tight, so these will most definitely slow you down. The road is mostly hilly, so expect to go up and down the road.
The road follows the Eastern edge of Lake Wakatipu, so you'll mostly enjoy the mountains on the Western side of the lake and as you get closer to Glenorchy, see Pig and Pigeon Islands in the middle of Lake Wakatipu.
The Glenorchy – Queenstown Road is best driven in early spring or winter in New Zealand if you want to see snow on the mountains. But beware that the road can be icy and/or covered with snow, especially in the early morning hours.
I have driven this road in all seasons and have never seen it completely snowed in. Chains are generally not required on this road, but it is always good to carry them if you are doing winter driving on the South Island. Ice and frozen water on the rocky walls along the road are very common, especially in winter.
The Queenstown to Glenorchy drive does not only offer spectacular scenery, but you can also stop at various points along the way to do a lakeside walk or walk in the bush, such as for example at Bobs Cove and Lake Dispute.
The quickest way to get to Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand is to fly to Queenstown airport. However, if you cannot find a flight to Queenstown, you can always choose to fly into either Dunedin airport or Christchurch airport, and then drive to Queenstown.
The drive from Christchurch airport to Queenstown can take up to 7 hours or more, depending on road conditions. To drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, you can first drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, then go through Lindis Pass, drive on to Cromwell, and then drive from Cromwell to Queenstown.
Once in Queenstown, you must drive towards Queenstown city centre. Before you reach the city centre, you will see signs indicating the road to Glenorchy. Just follow the signs.
Once you are on the Queenstown – Glenorchy Road, the drive is pretty straightforward, because there is only one way in and out of Glenorchy via the road, so you have a very small chance of getting lost.
|Driving distance:||44 km (27 mi)|
|Driving time:||30 – 40 minutes|
|Road type:||Sealed (paved) main road|
|Road condition:||Good; mostly smooth driving; hilly; a few tight corners|
|Best time to drive:||Morning|
|What you'll see:||Mountains, Lake Wakatipu, snow in winter and spring|
The following map shows the starting point (arrow with star) and end point (flag) for this scenic drive when driving from Queenstown to Glenorchy on the South Island of New Zealand. Use the plus and minus buttons to zoom in and out of the map to see more or less detail on the map.
Figure 1. Map of the scenic drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy in New Zealand.
The following 4-minute video gives you a taste of what to expect on this scenic drive on the Glenorchy – Queenstown Road when driving from Queenstown to Glenorchy on the South Island of New Zealand.
The drive from Glenorchy to Queenstown is basically the same as the drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy with the difference that you will be driving in the opposite direction and getting a slightly different view of the mountains and Lake Wakatipu.
What I would recommend is that you do the Glenorchy to Queenstown drive late in the morning or early in the afternoon to get light on the mountains and lake.
The most dominant natural features on the Glenorchy to Queenstown drive will be Lake Wakatipu again, Pig Island and Pigeon Islands, and then finally The Remarkables as you get closer to Queenstown.
In the 5-minute video below, which was shot during a sunny day in spring in New Zealand, you will get to see snow-capped mountains around Lake Wakatipu, and also snow on The Remarkables as it had snowed the night prior to me doing this scenic drive from Glenorchy to Queenstown on the South Island.
Note: Roads can be changed or get closed. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.