Get your camera ready for this breathtaking road trip from Queenstown to Christchurch via the West Coast.
2 hrs 57 min, 206 km
The drive from Queenstown to Haast follows State Highway 6, a scenic drive through forest-clad mountains and past several impressive waterfalls, just a short walk from the laybys en route.
Arrive in Haast, gateway to Te Wāhipounamu – 2.6 million hectares of wilderness internationally recognised by UNESCO for its unique natural beauty. Stay the night, taste fresh whitebait or crayfish at Jackson Bay or explore by jet boat with Waiatoto River Safari or Haast River Safari. The wildlife is abundant here, spot fur seals, Hector's dolphins and Fiordland crested penguins.
1 hr 32 min, 121 km
Tucked into the forested foothills of the Southern Alps, Fox Glacier township has a relaxed village feel. To see the giant glacier it’s named after, you can walk to a viewpoint or get even closer on a guided heli-hike or scenic flight.
The short walk around Lake Matheson will quickly reveal why it’s the most photographed lake in New Zealand. The still waters perfectly reflect the snowy peaks of Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. Carry on down the road to Gillespies Beach for rugged ocean views, gold mining history and scenic walking tracks.
Another wonderfully wild windswept beach can be found at Bruce Bay – or Mahitahi – a small coastal settlement with stunning sea vistas 40 km south of Fox Glacier.
2 hrs 29 min, 185 km
Home to rare wildlife, Ōkārito and Whataroa should be on any nature lover’s list. New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetland and bird watchers' paradise, Ōkārito is best explored by water. Hire a kayak or glide through the water on an eco-friendly boat tour.
History comes to life in Ross, where you can pan for gold at the Ross Goldfields Information Centre, or riverside at Jones Creek. It was here that the country’s largest ever nugget was found, weighing in at a massive 3.1 kg.
Continue on to West Coast Treetop Walk & Cafe, an exhilarating tree top adventure among temperate rainforest giants.
The cool little town of Hokitika was once the goldfields capital and port. These days the gold lies in the many artists’ studios (working precious stones, pounamu and glass), tasty food joints, and a long sandy beach perfect for West Coast sunset watching.
3 hrs, 219 km
Grab an early lunch en route at Kumara’s Theatre Royal Hotel, a fully restored miners’ hotel that dates back to Kumara’s rough, tough gold-mining heyday. Continue to Canterbury via Arthur’s Pass, a spectacular journey.
Arthur’s Pass National Park is in the heart of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana. Its high mountains with large scree slopes, steep gorges and wide braided rivers straddle the main divide, forming the backbone of the South Island.