Queenstown is listed as one of the world’s top holiday destinations, and an all-year-round attraction for adrenaline seekers, magnificent scenery explorers, and luxury style hunters.
Celebrated as New Zealand’s “Adventure Capital”, Queenstown draws over three million tourists every year. They come here for world-class skiing and snowboarding to unprecedented thrills in the water, the air, and on land, or the comfortable pace of the wine path in Gibbston.
With about 220 different ventures and attractions on the list, there’s never a lack of possibilities for visitors to Queenstown. Whether they’re after calm or excitement, they could use their time walking amongst the mountains, traversing forest trails by bike, and feasting al fresco at the lakeside.
Summer chases include hiking, biking, and fishing. Autumn’s invigorating days and wild colors extend the excellent chance for a pre-winter break, where visitors can engage themselves in the vivid sceneries by walking and cycling on the trails throughout town, and the wine season takes the wineries to live for a few short weeks as the grapes are plucked.
In winter, skiers and snowboarders hailed from around the world emerge for an action-packed season that continues well into October. Spring’s longer more temperate days suggest you could ski in the morning and tailor a round of golf in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the alpine retreat town’s epicure food and wines are an appeal in any season.
While searching for pounamu (New Zealand’s famous jade), Māori were the earliest people to head the Queenstown region. Having found the valuable stone, they went back on regular expeditions.
According to the Māori myth, Lake Wakatipu was created by an ominous giant who abducted a beautiful Māori maiden. Beaten down by the maiden’s rescuer, the giant now rests in the acumen of the lake, where his beating heart makes the water ascend and fall.
When gold was found in the Arrow and Shotover rivers in 1862, “Canvas Town” (as Queenstown was formerly known) started to become a boomtown. But by 1865, an emigration for the Westland gold rush had consumed two-thirds of the town’s structures.
Canvas Town’s name was changed to Queenstown because it was supposed to be “fit for a queen“. The expression, so the story progresses, was found imprinted on an anvil in a town blacksmith’s shop.
The world’s premier commercial Bungy site was launched at Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown in 1988. Motivated by the vine jumpers of Vanuatu, New Zealanders Henry van Asch, and A J Hackett designed this different New Zealand tourism sensation that’s now recognized the world over. Queenstown’s three jump sections incorporate an urban bungee with a “runway” that launches jumpers 400 meters (437 yards) above the town.
It was here in Queenstown, where the first commercial jet boating launched. Tourists can “catch the canyons” on the popular Shotover River.
For recreation cyclists and mountain bikers, Queenstown has moderate tracks and tough trails for all skill levels.
The region also offers some of the country’s best-golfing events. Situated amid a stunning lake and magnificent alpine scenery, the courses here are sure a must-go for keen golfers.
Coronet Peak is the oldest and most appreciated of the Southern Lakes snowfields. With excellent early morning and night skiing, Coronet Peak extends New Zealand’s most long-drawn on-snow hours. The pristine ski field has an extensive span of terrain and is successful with snowboarders, freeskiers, and families.
Queenstown Winter Festival in late June is New Zealand’s biggest winter celebration, with more than 60 performances over four days. Adventures on and off the mountain incorporate sport, art, music, comedy, food, wine, and everything in between.
The Akarua Arrowtown Autumn Festival has been going for more than 30 years and now features more than 50 events over five days in April. The festival is a star for the local population and visitors alike, with the seasonal shift of colors across the landscape appending to the spectacle.
Top Road Trip Destination in Queenstown
Have you got yourself some set of wheels and desire to take them for a ride around Queenstown? Great! There’s a destination loaded with things to explore in all directions.
Queenstown to Glenorchy
Classified as one of the top eight scenic rides in the world, the incredible lakeside road from Queenstown to Glenorchy drives you into the Lord of the Rings set. Experience breathtaking landscapes of Lake Wakatipu, snow-capped peaks, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and national parks.
The 45-minute journey from Queenstown to Glenorchy is an ideal must-do in New Zealand. The road turns its way along the lakeside with unimaginable views over Lake Wakatipu, Cecil Peak, and Walter Peak. Take your time on the trip and be sure to pause along the way, there are lots of aspects to stop at as well as a few small hikes, like the Bob’s Cove loop track, to traverse along the way.
When you reach Glenorchy, you’ll find out why it has been utilized as a filming spot for blockbuster films and TV shows. Make sure you go down to the lakefront and witness the famous red shed and Glenorchy wharf, and take a stroll along the Glenorchy lagoon boardwalk. Grab lunch in Glenorchy or head to Paradise or Kinloch, a further 20-minute-drive down the road. Be careful when driving to Glenorchy in winter as the roads can be slippery in freezing or icy weather.
Visit Paradise and you’ll understand how it got its name! There’s a big range of picturesque short walks around Glenorchy such as the Lagoon Walkway and Lake Sylvan. Glenorchy is also the starting point for many of New Zealand’s popular multi-day hikes like the Routeburn, Greenstone, and Caples trails.
About 25km into your journey you’ll find the Bennett’s Bluff lookout. It is an absolute must-stop for a remarkable landscape and photo opportunity. We urge you to take your time enjoying the scenery.
But please be informed that there are not several places for traffic to overtake so please be polite to other drivers and take it too slow then let them pass. This road can be slippery in winter so bring chains and take extra caution when driving.
Queenstown to Arrowtown
You can take either of the two main driving routes from Queenstown to Arrowtown.
The first driving route is along Malaghans Road via Arthurs Point. This leads you past the Shotover Jet base and the entrance road to Coronet Peak Skifield. You can stop at Shotover Jet for some excellent snaps of the Shotover River and then take a detour up Coronet Peak to capture images of the breathtaking landscapes.
The second driving route is through State Highway 6 which will provide you remarkable views of Lake Hayes and drive you past Amisfield Winery. The end of Lake Hayes is another perfect photo opportunity while Amisfield Bistro is a magnificent place to grab lunch.
Heading to Arrowtown only takes 20 minutes from Queenstown’s CBD. You can either take the road via a picturesque drive through farmland and Arthur’s Point or State Highway 6 passing Lake Hayes.
Once you reach Arrowtown, you may be astonished at how much there is to ingest in the celebrated town. Take a walk along the Arrow River or head up Tobin’s Track for views over Arrowtown. Or, take a further step back in time at the Chinese Village, a group of old stone miner’s cottages recording back to the 1880s. Free to step through, the old village gives you an insight into what mining life in Arrowtown would have been like.
After traversing Arrowtown, tour yourself into the homey town center and scan through the boutique shopping and exhibits along Lake Arrowtown’s main streets or refuel your belly at one of the cafes and restaurants. For a laid-back night, treat yourself to some dinner and check out a movie at Dorothy Browns cinema or experience a casual drink at one of Arrowtown’s bars.
Tour the Lakes District Museum and the Chinese Village in Arrowtown to get an understanding of how the people lived their lives during the great gold rush. Try a gold pan and try gold panning in the Arrow River. Check out the excellent walking and biking trails around Arrowtown.
Both roads are extremely picturesque so consider doing a loop to take both in.
Queenstown to Kingston
The drive to Kingston while taking State Highway 6 is a charming 45-minute twisting drive that follows the south-eastern coast of the lake, skirting the base of The Remarkables and the Hector Mountains.
During the summertime, Kingston is a preference with boaties so carry your fishing rod! Paragliding tournaments are held during summer with athletes arriving on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Enjoy the picnic point and cycling and walking trails in Kingston.
There are many places to stop along the way for snacks by the lake or photo opportunities. The view at the top of Devil’s Staircase is a particularly perfect spot for photos.
Queenstown to Jack’s Point
Jack’s Point is situated at the foot of The Remarkables mountain range, a 20-minute ride away from Queenstown’s CBD, with striking scenes of snowy summits in the distance.
Once you reach Jack’s Point, you can go straight to Homestead Bay. It is a lovely long beach that is excellent for an easy lakeside walk in winter.
If you want to get your blood pumping, try walking at the Jack’s Point Loop Track, which can also be reached via Homestead Bay. The track begins with a steep uphill rise, but you will be rewarded with astounding lake views and an easy drop once you reach the top.
Queenstown to Moke Lake
Moke Lake is a small lake that can be a 25-minute drive from downtown Queenstown. Encompassed by mountains and farmland, you’ll think that you are the only person in that area.
Grab some snacks with some local treats and plan to spend the day as there are lots to do once you arrive at Moke Lake. If you’re a strong angler, spend a day license and try your hand at catching a trout from the lake, or stretch your legs by walking on the Moke Lake Loop Track.
Be sure to carry your camera with you, Moke Lake is renowned for mirror photography on a calm day.
Queenstown to Gibbston
Driving to Gibbston only takes a 30-minute drive from Queenstown’s CBD and it is also known as the ‘Valley of the Vines.’ This is due to the award-winning Pinot Noir created in the area.
Gibbston is an excellent spot to tour for an afternoon of wine tasting, a comfortable long lunch by the fire, or simply to savor a bottle of the latest vintage.
There are many award-winning vineyards scattered throughout the valley, from a private one-room tasting spot to all-encompassing areas with on-site accommodation and restaurants. Local wine tour companies own a wonderful selection of tours to satisfy all tastes and timetables and are more than pleased to produce bespoke tours based on your group’s choices.
Driving in Queenstown
Touring around Queenstown is on every New Zealand tourist’s list. The home of adrenaline, the heart of an unbelievable landscape, and the one town that no one ever wants to forget. A visit to Queenstown can be confusing to know where to start planning as there’s so much to comprehend and do.
Queenstown can be reached by public transport. The InterCity and Naked Bus both extend affordable (but long) journeys to the heart of town from the West Coast, Christchurch, and elsewhere on the island. There are also several direct flights to Queenstown coming from Australian cities such as Sydney and Brisbane.
Meanwhile, you can take local flights from Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland. However, we would suggest that the best way to reach Queenstown is by either your own or a hired car.
The benefits of having a car in the town are abundant. This includes having the flexibility to get out and about to traverse the neighboring towns, encounter the full results of road tripping along the mountainside, and appreciating those iconic landscapes.
Who can drive on New Zealand roads
You can take a drive in New Zealand without a New Zealand driver license if:
- you own a current and valid overseas license or international driver permit, and
- you haven’t got any disqualification or suspension in New Zealand, and
- you arrive in New Zealand less than 12 or 24 months ago, and
- your overseas license is written in English, or you also own an accurate translation, and
- you haven’t been issued a New Zealand driver’s license since you last arrived in New Zealand.
If you’re not able to submit all of these requirements, then that is the time that you must apply for a New Zealand driver’s license to drive in New Zealand.
Driving Rules in Queenstown
For a secure and pleasant driving activity while on vacation, make sure you’re accustomed to the important New Zealand road rules listed below.
- Always stay on or below the allowed speed limits as indicated on road signs. The maximum speed limit on any open road is 100km/h, while the maximum speed limit in urban areas is 50km/h. Always adjust your speed limit as conditions require.
- You must stop when traffic lights turn red. When traffic lights turn amber, you must stop unless you are so near to the intersection it is risky to do so.
- Drivers and passengers must always wear seat belts properly or suitable child restraints, in either front and rear seats.
- NEVER drink and drive. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is punishable by law in New Zealand.
- Signposting ensures regular international symbols, and all distances are displayed in kilometers (km).
- Driving while using a hand-held cellphone is unlawful in New Zealand.
- It is unlawful to overtake other cars where there is a yellow line rather than a white line indicating the middle of the road. The yellow line means that it’s too risky to overtake.
Driving Tips in Queenstown
Situated in the South Island on Lake Wakatipu, the outstandingly famed town of Queenstown is sure to be a top destination to hit in New Zealand. With so many places to see and many things to do, we understand that it can be a little overpowering for you at first.
If you are intending to traverse this awesome place with a rental car, here is a quick guide to Queenstown!
- Countless tourists visit the Queenstown Lakes District, especially during the holidays. So remember to keep your cool and just be calm. Also, always leave some driving space for cyclists and provide extra time for your journey.
- Always keep a keen eye for road signs.
- On open roads and major highways, the speed limit is 100 km/h unless otherwise displayed.
- Remember that all vehicles are driven on the left-hand side of the road in New Zealand.
- You are not allowed to use your mobile phone while driving in New Zealand.
- The highways encompassing Queenstown can be challenging for first-time drivers, with tight bends and curves. Remember that from April to October, the ice and snow can affect the road condition in New Zealand.
- The weather can shift abruptly. If you are driving straight to the mountains, it is best to verify the weather forecast and highway conditions before you start your long drive in the country.
Parking in Queenstown
Normally, parking in the town center costs between $1-$2 per hour. However, be advised that the town’s parking spaces quickly fill up. So, you may want to arrive early in the morning or evening to occupy a parking space. If you are driving a big campervan, you can park your camper at Boundary Street. Illegal parking charges cost between $40-$60.
Toll roads in Queenstown
You won’t see any toll roads around Queenstown. In fact, you will only see three toll roads in New Zealand. You will only pass toll roads if you are heading north. These are the Takitimu Drive Toll Road, Northern Gateway Toll Road, and the Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road.
Remember to refuel your rental car to avoid extra charges. Here are a few centrally established petrol stations in Queenstown.
- Z Energy Limited — 846 Frankton Rd, Frankton, Queenstown
- Mobil Queenstown — 1 McBride St Queenstown
- Shell Queenstown — 846 Frankton Rd Frankton Queenstown
- Caltex Queenstown — Gorge Rd Queenstown
- Glenorchy Motors — Mull St Glenorchy Queenstown
Renting a Car in Queenstown
Renting a car in Queenstown is easy and affordable. You can effortlessly book from a wide range of Queenstown Airport car rental choices. These include on-site car hire firms that have service desks inside the terminal and those that have posts nearby. For Queenstown car hire companies that are not on-site, several grants a free shuttle service to take you from the airport or drop you off.
Renting a car in New Zealand is one of the most reliable ways to traverse the beautiful landscapes and the extent of this very long country.
Car Rental Companies in Queenstown
The following rental car companies have service desks that can be found inside the terminal building.
Documents Needed When Renting a Car in Queensland
In most circumstances, you’ll be required to present your valid driver’s license and credit card. The license will serve as a form of ID and can be utilized to prove that you have an adequate driving record. The credit card will work as a confirmation that you can pay for your rental after you return the rented vehicle.
If you plan on renting outside your home country, you may also be expected to present an International Driver’s Permit. International Driver’s Permits will only work if presented with the original local license.
You may also be required to present a valid passport or a secondary form of identification at the time you pick up your car. The name on the passport must suit the name presented on the driver’s license.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a rental car cost per day in Queenstown?
Affordable rentals cost around $48 a day in Queenstown. With prices like this, they already made it easy for you to grab some keys and hit the road for less.
Can I book now and pay later for my car rental in Queenstown?
Whether you don’t have the sufficient budget to pay upfront or you just simply fancy more flexibility, always look for a “Book Now Pay Later option” on your preferred car rental company.
When you select the vehicle you like, they won’t make you pay a penny until it’s time for you to pick up the keys. Some cheaper car rental companies in Queenstown may require you to pay at the time of booking, but you’ll see it in your options during the reservation process.
Can I cancel my car reservation?
You can make a cancellation at least six hours ahead of the pickup time. The bulk of bookings allow a full refund. However, not all are qualified for this, so it’s essential to understand their policy.
What is the best car to rent in Queenstown?
Race around in a cozy mini, level up your style in a premium ride, or prefer something in the middle, like a mid-size.
But it’s really hard to go past a compact vehicle, which is the popular option in Queenstown. They’re very easy to park and handle, fuel-efficient, and a smart approach if you’re driving around big towns.
You can expect slightly more comfort and capacity while still getting a wonderful deal when you upgrade from the economy.
The age allowed to rent a car in Queenstown?
Rental car rules in Queenstown demand that all drivers must be 21 and above. Is your age younger than the required limit? You may still rent a car but surcharges and restrictions could apply.
Several rental companies impose what’s recognized as a young renter surcharge, which is an additional charge to the rental car price. Limitations generally apply to the types of cars young people can also rent. Age limits may differ between providers, so check them out before you book.
Documents needed to rent a car in Queenstown?
Before you can jump behind the wheel in Queenstown, you’ll be required to present a valid driver’s license and a credit card.
If you don’t purchase the rental company’s insurance plan, you may also have to present proof of your own coverage. Rules may differ, so understand the policy terms and conditions thoroughly before you decide on a rental supplier.
Can I drive in Queenstown with my U.S. driver’s license?
You sure can. If you own a valid U.S. license, you’re definitely fine to drive in Queenstown. You’re unlikely to require an International Driving Permit. But they are very easy to obtain, so it might be a great idea to get one anyway.
Can I rent a car for a month or longer in Queenstown?
You can absolutely rent a vehicle for a month or even longer in Queenstown, so don’t hesitate to prolong that vacation! Simply enter your trip data into a “long-term car rental deals” page of your car rental company site and book your preferred ride.
What insurance should I purchase for my car rental in Queenstown?
You should add collision protection while reserving your Queenstown rental car. This will cover the expenses against theft, vandalism, and collision damage throughout your vacation.
Offering up to $35,000 in basic coverage and 24-hour emergency compensation, you can get behind the wheel with peace of mind knowing you’ll be covered for possible mishaps. It’s easy to opt into this plan while reserving your rental car.
Queenstown is one of the most astonishing places in all of New Zealand, famed for its awe-inspiring elegance and pristine landscape that draws tourists from all over the world.
Its rugged mountains and crystal-clear lakes draw thrill-seekers all year round who gather in the mountain town for its adventure games. In wintertime, The Remarkables and Coronet Peak come to life with skiers and snowboarders, while in summer, the town’s lakes sparkle as summer sports become the bulk of the day.
Queenstown’s intrinsic charm is breathtaking and it is best felt by jumping in a rental car and hitting the road. From Queenstown, a day tour to the world-famous Milford Sound should be included on your list.
Along the drive, you’ll be astonished at scenes of hastening glacial rivers, rugged, rocky mountains, and flawlessly still lakes that reveal the remarkable landscape. Queenstown is as scenic as a place can get.