How to Travel From Christchurch to Queenstown by Plane, Car, or Bus

A road driving towards the mountains of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

From Christchurch, the South Island's largest city, to New Zealand's leading international tourist destination of Queenstown, there is a total distance of about 298 miles (480 kilometers). Flying will get you to Queenstown the quickest. If going by car, the trip takes about six hours and takes in much of New Zealand's impressive scenery. However, winter travelers may hit some snow and ice, especially over the mountain passes and in the stretches around Tekapo. Those with no time pressures may want to take a bus, which is the least expensive method.

  Time Cost Best For
Plane 1 hour from $55 Arriving quickly
Car 6 hours 298 miles (480 kilometers) Exploring at your own pace
Bus 8 hours from $30 Budget travel

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Christchurch to Queenstown?

Taking a bus is the cheapest mode of transportation between Christchurch and Queenstown, but it will take you longer than the other options. InterCity Coachlines will get you to Queenstown in a roughly eight-hour journey. The bus (from $30) leaves Christchurch once a day from outside the Bus Exchange on Lichfield Street and arrives at the parking lot at Athol Street in Queenstown. GreatSights also serves the route, though it's a longer day tour, which takes approximately 11 hours and includes Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. The tour starts at $40 and includes transportation to and from your hotel.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Christchurch to Queenstown?

Flying is the quickest way to get from Christchurch to Queenstown, though it is helpful to factor in the time getting to and from the airports as well. You can get between Christchurch International Airport and Queenstown Airport in about one hour to one hour, 15 minutes throughout the week. And you may be able to get a good deal on a one-way flight with Air New Zealand, as some flights have fares starting at $55.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

It takes about six hours for the 298-mile (480-kilometer) drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, depending on which route you take, how many stops you make, and potential traffic. Highlights of the trip heading southwest include lovely landscapes of plains, mountains, rivers, and lakes. The main route begins along State Highways 1 and 79 and then the bulk of the driving takes place on State Highways 8 and 6. With all the things to see en route, you may choose to spread it out over at least a couple of days. Lake Tekapo is about three hours from Christchurch, and Lake Wanaka is roughly five hours, 30 minutes. Both places make convenient overnight stops. Once you have arrived in Queenstown, you can find paid parking spaces in the town center; it's usually easier to get a spot in the early morning or early evening. There are also free and paid parking lots around the city. Visitors can get around the city using rideshares like Uber and Lyft.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Queenstown?

The best months to visit Queenstown are February or March when summer comes to an end and the weather is warm and nice for hiking. It is still peak season in February but the local tourists thin out when kids go back to school. In February, look for one of New Zealand's biggest sporting events, the New Zealand Golf Open. The Queenstown Adventure Film Festival hits in March, showing inspiring New Zealand films about the country's year-round adrenaline exploits available to visitors and locals.

What's the Most Scenic Route to Queenstown?

Driving along State Highways 1, 79, and 8 is the most scenic route to Christchurch, full of interesting things to see. The pretty, small town of Geraldine is not far from Peel Forest and Rangitata River, which provide plenty of options for outdoor recreation. On State Highway 79 after Geraldine, the landscape becomes increasingly dramatic, displaying the lakes and mountains of the Southern Alps. Farther along, Fairlie is home to several historic buildings in a quaint village atmosphere and has nearby ski resorts.

After traversing the impressive Burke's Pass along State Highway 8, you reach Lake Tekapo. Enjoy the memorable view of the water with the mountains in the distance, which may be one of New Zealand's most unforgettable sights. Don't miss the small stone Church of the Good Shepherd, where a window behind the altar reveals a postcard view of the lake and mountains. With Mt. Dobson and Roundhill ski areas not far and summer recreation on the lake, this is an especially popular destination for tourists.

New Zealand's highest mountain peak, Aoraki Mount Cook, can be seen from the southern shore of gorgeous Lake Pukaki off State Highway 80. Aoraki Mount Cook National Park makes up the majority of Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, featuring spectacular stargazing.

Back on State Highway 8, check out Omarama, a town that attracts pilots from around the world with its ideal gliding conditions.​ The breathtaking stretch of road across the Lindis Pass affords stunning views of the mountains on either side. After Lindis Pass, the main highway continues through to Queenstown via Cromwell, a lovely drive. You can also take State Highway 6 to Lake Wanaka, a magical setting with a huge range of activities including hiking, boating, mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

The Queenstown Airport located in Frankton is only 15 minutes east of downtown. Travelers can get to the city center using various forms of transportation. Buses are the cheapest method. Otago Regional Council (about $7) buses leave every 20 minutes. Catch-A-Bus South (around $8), which is quicker at seven minutes, only departs once daily. A ride (from $24) with Green Cabs Queenstown or Blue Bubble Taxi will take approximately nine minutes. Jayride offers shuttles (from $30) or town cars (from $55), each lasting about nine minutes; contact the company in advance to arrange.

What Is There to Do in Queenstown?

Queenstown, located in the southwest part of the South Island, delights visitors with beautiful mountains and lovely Lake Wakatipu shore views. Known as the adventure capital of the world, the area offers skiing, snowboarding, white-water rafting, bungy-jumping, and jet boating. More leisurely activities include sipping on award-winning wine at local vineyards or relaxing in hot springs. You can also embark on day trips within a few hours of Queenstown such as Glenorchy, Arrowtown, or Fiordland. Or you can explore a historic hotel at the base of the Cardrona Alpine Resort, one of the most popular skiing and mountain biking destinations in the country.

Was this page helpful?