Embark on an incredible sightseeing journey of the beautiful South Island as you make your way from Christchurch to Wanaka with a 7-day road trip. From cityscapes and rolling pastures to alpine peaks, summit views and stunning lakes, travellers on this route have many wonders to take in. The world-class outdoor activities available throughout this 7-day road trip promise a breathtaking journey that will stay with you long after you have returned home.

Christchurch to Wanaka Distance

Covering 595 km and taking around 7 hours and 15 minutes to drive, this scenic route will offer breathtaking views of the region’s lush forests, snow-capped mountains, turquoise rivers and golden plains. Make sure you allow ample time to marvel at these spellbinding landscapes, get involved in thrilling activities and immerse yourself in New Zealand’s unique culture and lifestyle. It promises to be a journey like no other.

Quick stats

595km trip distance

7 day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Day 1: Christchurch to Methven

Travel Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Campervan overlooking body of water near Christchurch

Your 7-day Christchurch to Wanaka road trip begins in Methven, a place renowned for its relaxed lifestyle and heartwarming hospitality. Adventurers can find plenty of activities to keep themselves occupied, such as skiing and snowboarding at the nearby ski fields around Mt Hutt in winter and jet boating, hot air ballooning, scenic flights and mountain biking in summer. After an eventful day, relax by unwinding at one of the town’s many eateries or bars before checking into one of their selection of backpacker lodges, character bed & breakfast or other suitable accommodations.

Sightseeing #1: Opuke Thermal Pools and Spa

For visitors sightseeing in Methven, Ōpuke Thermal Pools and Spa is the perfect opportunity to rejuvenate and reconnect with nature. Using geothermally sourced spring water and harnessing the renewable energy of the sun, this spa offers a truly peaceful experience that can be difficult to find elsewhere. With its exclusive Tranquility Pools, guests are treated to an idyllic atmosphere where they can take a dip while soaking up the amazing views of the Southern alps. An added bonus is the unique swim-up bar that offers refreshments of all kinds to really make your visit unforgettable.

Sightseeing #2: Mount Hutt Ski Area

Offering wide-open terrain and unbeatable conditions suitable for all ages and skill levels, Mt Hutt is perfect for families and snow sports enthusiasts. Located just 30 minutes away from Methven by car and offering an easy on-mountain rental system, Mt Hutt has something to offer everyone. With supervised programmes and an Early Learning Centre catered to kids aged two years old and above, youngsters aged 7 and under can enjoy a range of activities, products, and services both at the mountain and throughout Methven without charge. At a soaring elevation of 2,190 metres, Mt Hutt is definitely not to be missed.

Day 2: Methven to Lake Tekapo

Travel Time: 2 hours
Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Lake Tekapo/Takapō is an awe-inspiring destination of natural wonders and delights situated in the Mackenzie Basin of New Zealand’s South Island. A little over two hours’ drive from Methven, this lakeside town offers visitors some of the nation’s most beautiful views and attractions. The glacial lake is famed for its intense milk turquoise colour, created by suspended rock-flour particles created by glaciers grinding against the surface. Tekapo/Takapō is also home to one of New Zealand’s only Dark Sky Reserve, meaning stunning night landscapes lie in wait for those who venture beyond day fall.

Sightseeing #1: Lake Tekapo

Nestled within the Southern Alps, in the Mackenzie Region of New Zealand, lies Lake Tekapo – a sight to behold! Visitors can enjoy an array of activities around it, such as kayaking, boating and trekking through trails. Boasting picturesque pastoral views from all sides, there are plenty of hot springs to explore for a true glimpse into the mesmerizing landscape that New Zealand offers.

Sightseeing #2: Dark Sky Project

Dark Sky Project (formerly known as Earth & Sky) stands out in the field of Astro-tourism and stargazing due to its exclusive viewing experience of the Southern skies via powerful optical telescopes. Their efforts to sustain minimal light pollution, which is often lost or dimmed down in populated areas, allow visitors an opportunity to explore a unique world hidden beyond the darkness that would otherwise be unseen.

Day 3: Lake Tekapo to Aoraki/Mount Cook

Travel Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Campervan on road with Mount Cook in background

On day three of your seven-day Christchurch to Wanaka road trip, you will arrive at the unique location of Mount Cook Village, located within New Zealand’s Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park. Here, you will experience New Zealand’s most stunning and breathtaking region. With its jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery and top-notch facilities and trails made for leisurely or hardcore outdoor activities, it’s the perfect spot for amazing photo opportunities or trekking expeditions.

Sightseeing #1: Mount Cook National Park

The majestic Mount Cook National Park provides one of the best alpine scenery in New Zealand, together with Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier. With towering peaks and glaciers, pristine snow fields, and magnificent stargazing, it is truly impressive. The 23 peaks over 3000 metres high provide an inviting challenge for mountaineers from around the world, while there are also activities suitable for less experienced climbers, such as trekking to stunning viewpoints and exploring the glaciers.

Sightseeing #2: Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center

The centre serves as a tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary, offering visitors a chance to learn more about his humanitarian efforts, his role as an ambassador and his place amongst history’s greatest explorers. At the centre, you can experience first-hand the history and beauty of the region through the interactive 3D Mount Cook Magic movie (available in Chinese and Japanese), digital dome Planetarium documentaries, and a Museum dedicated to illuminating the pioneering spirit that defines this area.

Day 4: Aoraki/Mount Cook to Twizel

Travel Time: 1 hour
View of Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook, New Zealand

Located on the western edge of Lake Ruataniwha, Twizel is a great choice for day 4 of your 7-day Christchurch to Wanaka road trip. This small town was specially constructed in the 1960s as part of an ambitious Upper Waitaki Power Scheme. Today, it offers guests an array of outdoor activities, including mountain climbing, kayaking, biking, skiing and more. NearbyMount Cook National Park provides picturesque trails and hikes throughout the region’s mountainous areas. Additionally, visitors can fish for trout and salmon in local rivers and lakes or purchase fresh or smoked fish at the nearby salmon farm.

Sightseeing #1: Lake Ruataniwha

Located 2km away from Twizel, Lake Ruataniwha is a captivating man-made lake with shallow waters that make it an ideal destination for recreational activities and swimming. Children will have plenty of fun on the swing sets found in its lagoon area while adults can explore its perimeter by boat or kayak. The 3.4 sq km lake also hosts important rowing events at bi-annual Aon Maadi Cup championships, which take place at its purpose-built course—all these features culminating in a breathtaking view as the body of water has a bright turquoise hue unlike any other.

Sightseeing #2: Lake Pukaki

Located in the Mackenzie District in Canterbury Region on South Island and within a 15-minute drive of Twizel, Lake Pukaki is an experience unlike any other. This glacial blue lake covers 179 square kilometres and is renowned for its beauty, making it one of the most stunning lakes in the world. Fed by glacial runoff, its turquoise colouration is caused by ‘glacial flour’ particles suspended in the water. This remote area of New Zealand provides breathtaking landscapes for sightseeing, ensuring each visitor receives a unique and memorable encounter with Nature’s splendour.

Day 5: Twizel to Omarama

Travel Time: 30 minutes
Campervan on road in Twizel, New Zealand

Ōmarama is a picturesque town nestled in a broad basin between mountain ranges. The region has striking beauty, fast rivers and some of the best thermal gliding conditions New Zealand has to offer. Due to its favourable geographic location, Ōmarama is a popular junction town to stop and stay in a while travelling from Christchurch. To relax and rejuvenate after a long day of travelling or pedalling, guests can soak in one of Hot Tubs, Omarama’s private hot tubs filled with pure mountain water underneath the starry night sky.

Sightseeing #1: Hot Tubs Omarama

Hot Tubs Omarama is an iconic New Zealand destination that offers visitors the chance to relax and take in the stunning panoramic views of the South Island. With a private hot tub crafted from sustainably sourced materials – Canadian Western Red Cedar and stainless steel – you can control the temperature as you soak in fresh mountain water. Take time to appreciate your surroundings with up to 8 people, and enjoy a beautiful landscape without harsh chemical additives.

Sightseeing #2: Clay Cliffs

The Clay Cliffs of Omarama present a unique experience to visitors. With layers of silt and gravel eroded over 2 million years and situated on the active Ostler Fault Zone, the pinnacles and ravines are certainly a stark sight to behold. Not only that, but the cliffs have their own amazing backstory – having been formed by the flow from ancient glaciers over a million years ago. While exploring these stunning geological formations is available for all, access to this captivating natural resource comes with a fee – $5 per vehicle at the gate donation box.

Day 6: Omarama to Lake Hāwea

Travel Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Campervan next to Lake Hawea, New Zealand

Located just 15 minutes away from Wanaka, Lake Hāwea offers spectacular natural surroundings, such as fast-flowing rivers and nearby mountains that make it perfect for adventure seekers desiring activities such as jet boating and skiing. During the summer months, the lake is popular for fishing, swimming, and boating. For those who may wish to explore further afield, there is an excellent walk that follows Timaru River Road. With its vast array of year-round activities, from kiteboarding to kayaking, Lake Hawea is truly an outdoor adventurers’ paradise.

Sightseeing #1: Lake Hāwea Lookout

Nestled along the west coast of the stunning South Island lies the beautiful glacier lake, Lake Hāwea. A great spot to appreciate its natural beauty is Lake Hāwea Lookout. Join many other visitors who gaze out in awe at the still turquoise waters and snow-capped mountains that surround it. An ideal spot for walkers, photographers and nature enthusiasts as it offers a diverse range of landscapes, from rolling hills to grassland. The expansive lake stretches for miles, so there’s plenty on offer for keen sightseers.

Sightseeing #2: Lindis Pass

On the way from Omarama to Lake Hawea, you will encounter a beautiful mountain pass called Lindis Pass. The pass has become a popular destination for cyclists, hikers and sightseers. Its unique landscape is composed of ancient glacial deposits with dramatic cliffs, towering rock formations and rolling hills. The winding roads taking you through the pass often offer incredible views of the surrounding high country glaciers, rivers and mountain ranges.

Day 7: Lake Hāwea to Wanaka

Travel Time: 15 minutes
The Lonely tree of Lake Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand

Wrapping up your 7-day road trip, Lake Hāwea to Wānaka offers travellers a picturesque setting and a plethora of activities. Home to skiing, snowboarding, hiking trails and top restaurants for fine dining, Wānaka is a vibrant town perfect for outdoor adventure lovers looking for a holiday destination. This gateway to the Southern Alps and Mt. Aspiring National Park boasts stunning mountains, beautiful lakes and a carefree spirit sure to make your journey here something you will never forget.

Sightseeing #1: Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka is a breathtaking body of water that stretches 45 kilometres long and covers 193 square kilometres, encircled by surrounding mountains. Visitors can explore the lake by jetboating, sailing, and kayaking. Amongst its many bays and coves, like Glendhu, Dublin, and Roys, are several islands, such as Stevenson’s Island, Mou Tapu`, and Mou Waho. In addition to numerous streams that feed the lake, two major rivers also contribute – Matukituki and Makarora Rivers.

Sightseeing #2: Wanaka Lavender Farm

Wanaka Lavender Farm boasts a unique and tranquil sightseeing experience right in the heart of the town. Explore a variety of lavender plants and displays, as well as take a journey through the past by visiting our historic farm buildings and learning about New Zealand’s rich farming history. Animal lovers will be delighted, with goats, chickens and sheep enjoying their day in the sun. In addition, the farm also provides honey tastings, herbal teas and lavender products for purchase – an ideal treat for yourself or someone special.

Happy Exploring!

Person jumping next to campervan with view of New Zealand lake and mountains

Embark on a journey from Christchurch to Wanaka and experience one of the world’s best road trips. Don’t forget to check out our latest deals on campervan hire in Christchurch and explore New Zealand in your own time with the perfect itinerary.

Whether you want to relax, sightsee or simply embark on an adventure, this remarkable trip will not disappoint. For tips on other fantastic road trips around the South Island, head over to our South Island Road Trips.

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