Get a full description and see a video of the 60 km drive from Cromwell to Queenstown via Kawarau Gorge Road on the South Island of New Zealand.
This driving route starts at the junction of State Highway 6 and 8B in Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand.
Driving at about 80 to 100 km/h (50 to 62 mph) – the maximum speed limit on highways in New Zealand is 100 km/h (62 mph) – it would take between 40 and 45 minutes if you drive from Cromwell to Queenstown or from Queenstown to Cromwell.
This drive could take slightly longer if you’re driving on Kawarau Gorge Road (the part of State Highway 6 that follows the Kawarau River) for the first time because it is a winding road with several tricky corners.
When I drove on this road for the very first time, I must have driven at speeds between 60 and 70 km/h because it was a scary drive. These days I max out at speeds between 80 and 100 km/h, while slowing down to take the 45 km/h corners, because I have driven this road countless times and know all of the corners well. Besides, the speed indication signs are well tuned for the corners and can help you drive this road efficiently.
The road from Cromwell to Queenstown initially follows the Kawarau River and you’ll pass Roaring Meg along the way.
Then you’ll pass through the Valley of Vines (Gibbston Valley, which is a wine making region), two bungy jumping sites (Nevis Bungy and Kawarau Bridge Bungy ) before reaching Frankton and then Queenstown.
From Gibbston Valley onward, the driving becomes fairly easy because the stretches of road you’ll have to drive on are mostly straight.
Iconic large fruit in Cromwell on the South Island
Only when getting closer to Queenstown – after you pass the Kawarau Bridge Bungy site – does the road become a bit hilly and winding again but not too much to make you dizzy as when driving on Kawarau Gorge Road.
Before reaching Queenstown, you’ll pass the turnoff to Cardrona / Wanaka and two junctions to Arrowtown, you’ll pass alongside Lake Hayes, and then come up to a roundabout in Frankton that will take you to Queenstown Airport if you choose to go left. You need to go straight ahead at the roundabout to get to Queenstown.
Queenstown city center is approximately 6 km (3.7 mi) away from the roundabout in Frankton, and once you reach Queenstown, you can go from Queenstown to Glenorchy on a scenic drive that offers spectacular mountain and lake scenery on gloriously sunny days in any season.
The road from Cromwell to Queenstown does not go through mountain passes and stays relatively low so is less likely to be snowed-in during winter in New Zealand unlike, for example, Crown Range Road between Wanaka and Queenstown.
How to get to Cromwell
Cromwell is a centrally located town in Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand. I often stay in Cromwell because it is so centrally located.
If you land in Christchurch, you can drive from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo and then from Lake Tekapo to Cromwell through Lindis Pass. If you fly into Dunedin, you can get to Cromwell via State Highway 85, Alexandra, and Clyde.
You can find driving distances from Cromwell to other cities on the South Island and vice versa by making use of the South Island driving distances and times page.
Basic info for the drive from Cromwell to Queenstown
|Driving distance:||60 km (37 mi)|
|Driving time:||40 – 45 minutes|
|Road type:||Sealed (paved) highways|
|Road condition:||Good; mostly smooth driving|
|Best time to drive:||Morning|
|What you’ll see:||Kawarau Gorge, Roaring Meg, vinyards, Lake Hayes, Lake Wakatipu, mountains, yellow trees in autumn|
Click here to see a map for this scenic drive from Cromwell to Queenstown via Kawarau Gorge Road.
Video of the Cromwell to Queenstown drive
The following 5-minute video gives you a taste of what to expect on this scenic drive from Cromwell to Queenstown via State Highway 6 and the Kawarau Gorge on the South Island of New Zealand.
This article falls under Scenic Drives.
Note: Roads can be changed or get closed. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.