Wellington to Queenstown with Coastal Pacific, via Christchurch and Mt Cook
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Although small by population, Wellington is dense with wonderful attractions, from its stunning harbour, to Te Papa Museum, the famous red Cable Car, the Beehive, and Zealandia sanctuary. Definitely a great place to keep you busy – the fact it has the best restaurants in New Zealand is just a bonus. Take a drive around the surrounding area to Red Rocks and Miramar, or take a hike in the scenic hills above the city from the wind turbine above Brooklyn.
Wellington to Christchurch, by ferry and train
The ferry ride from Wellington to Picton takes about 3.5 hours, and after crossing the sometimes-wild Cook Strait, moves more gently past the scenic coves and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds. After arriving in Picton, grab something to eat before boarding the Coastal Pacific scenic train. The train starts out heading through the scenic wine-growing region of Marlborough, before continuing down wild coastline to Kaikoura. Continue across the Canterbury Plains to finally arrive in Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city. Christchurch continues to recover from significant earthquake damage and increasingly boasts new sights and attractions for visitors. At the edge of the city is the Canterbury Museum, the Botanic Gardens, and Hagley Park, where you can enjoy punting along the Avon river. The International Antarctic Centre, near the airport, is another major Christchurch attraction, interesting for adults and kids alike. The Port Hills – formed by the crater of the huge extinct volcano – offer great views back over the city.
Christchurch to Mt Cook
The route southwest from Christchurch heads first through the flat, agrarian landscape of the Canterbury Plains. Continue to Lake Tekapo, the most well-known and stunning of New Zealand’s glacial lakes. Visit the famous Church of the Good Shepherd on the lake shore, and consider taking part in some of the great activities available in town. From Tekapo, take the route up to Mt Cook township, and consider a walk to soak up the best views of Mt Cook itself – New Zealand’s highest peak.
Mt Cook to Wanaka
Heading south from Mt Cook, visit the alpine salmon farm near the town of Twizel (the highest-altitude Salmon on Earth!). Continue to the small township of Omarama, located in the dry, inland country of central Otago. Although small, Omarama is famous as one of the best sites in the world for glider flights, and once hosted the world championships. Make your way to the airfield if you’d like to go for a flight of your own. Head over the sparse beauty of the Lindis Pass to arrive at the charming lakeside town of Wanaka.
Wanaka to Queenstown
From Wanaka, first stop is Cromwell. This is orchard country, with apples, peaches, pears, plums and cherries all grown in abundance. Take a few minutes at one of the local fruit stands for some of the local fruit ice cream. Continue from Cromwell along the scenic, desert route alongside the Kawarau River toward Queenstown, passing the wineries of the Gibbston Valley and Kawarau Bungy. A short detour leads to the historic village of Arrowtown, where gold was discovered in Arrowtown in 1861. The town is one of delightful old cottages and fine avenues of trees, making it an excellent place for a coffee. Stroll the historic streets before continuing to Queenstown – with possible diversions to Kawarau Bungy or a local winery en route.
Get caught up in the many things that Queenstown has to offer. From bungy to canyoning to jetboating to skydiving, there is plenty for the adventurer, as well as no shortage of things to do for the more easy-going traveller as well. Great all-day activities include a trip up to Glenorchy for the Fun Yak Safari. Milford Sound is just a short flight away.