Our Guide getting from Dunedin to Queenstown

Inspiration Mini Break
Are you ready for an unforgettable journey from Dunedin to Queenstown? Our guide highlights all the best bits along the way as your drive from Dunedin to Queenstown.

Quick Facts:
  • Road Distance:  290km
  • Time by car:  approx 3 hours 40 minutes
  • Time by bus:  approx 4 hours 20 minutes
  • Time by plane:  approx from 3.5 - 4 hours 

Getting from Dunedin to Queenstown:

Travel by Car
Traveling from Dunedin to Queenstown by car offers the flexibility to explore at your own pace.  The approximately 290-kilometer journey takes you through some of the most stunning landscapes in New Zealand.  Along the way, you'll drive through quaint towns, picturesque lakes, and breathtaking mountain ranges.  
Travel by Bus
If you prefer a more relaxing journey with the opportunity to enjoy the scenery without worrying about driving, traveling by bus is a great option.  Several bus companies including Intercity operate daily services between Dunedin and Queenstown, offering comfortable and affordable transportation.  Sit back, relax, and let someone else do the driving while you soak in the spectacular views.

Travel by Plane
Dunedin and Queenstown are both serviced by airports with regular flights between the two cities.  Air NZ flys via Christchurch where you'll need to connect to the 2nd flight to Queenstown. 
Must-Visit Stops Along the Way:

The Otago Peninsula
The Otago Peninsula is a must-visit stop on your journey from Dunedin to Queenstown.  Home to a diverse range of wildlife, including rare yellow-eyed penguins and royal albatross, this peninsula offers breathtaking coastal views and opportunities for wildlife encounters.  Take a guided tour or explore on your own, and don't forget your binoculars!

Clyde is the proud 'head' of the Otago Central Rail Trail, and is where most visitors will come to begin their walking or cycling journe.   As a consequence, this small town gets very busy in the summer months, the draw of the surrounding orchards and vineyards adding to the influx.  The historic centre of Clyde is found around the north end of Sunderland Street, with the Dunstan Hotel, some great cafes, the impressive timber Dunstan House B&B, and the grandiose Masonic Lodge, of particular interest.

Clyde Dam
As the largest concrete gravity dam in New Zealand, Clyde Dam is an impressive structure leveraging the energy of the Clutha River.  Located just outside Clyde on your way to Queenstown, Clyde Dam is a well worth a stop for visitors to admire a structure that stands at 100 metres, with a base width of 70 metres.

Cromwell also has a rich history, with a number of historic sites and buildings that offer a glimpse into the town's past.  Old Cromwell Town is a beautifully preserved historic precinct that showcases the region's gold rush heritage.  There are plenty of shops, cafes, and galleries to explore, and an ideal spot to stop for coffee or lunch.

Highlands Motorsport Park
If you really do like to drive,  there's the opportunity to pull over just past Cromwell and head into the Highlands Motorsport Park.  There are over 12 different activities on site, ranging from high speed Supercars, to outdoor Go-Karts, self-drive and we drive options all set to a stunning backdrop. 
The Kawarau Gorge

Continuing along State Highway 6 (SH6) you'll pass by orchards and a number of market stalls where you can pull over to pick up some fresh fruit.  It's then a drive through the Kawarau Gorge which is an impressive spectacle, with towering cliffs and the gleaming waters of the Kawarau River.

Soon after, you'll reach the Goldfields Mining Centre, which provides an insight into the life of the early gold miners in the Otago region, and their difficult working conditions.  The attraction spans around 25 hectares, with many of the old mine shafts and mining equipment still visible.  Visitors can opt for a guided tour with one of the centre's knowledgeable staff or a self-guided tour.  A visitor centre offers home cooked snacks and lunch and a small gallery sells gold jewellery made by local artisans.

Roaring Meg
Further along and located just off Kawarau Gorge Road is the Roaring Meg Waterfalls.  There's a small car park where you can pull over and park.  The view of the waterfalls and turquoise waters of the Kawarau River can be seen from the car park.  It's a great place to have a quick break, take a photo and two before continuing on your way.

Gibbston Wineries
Next up along this route is driving through the award-winning wineries of Gibbston.  It's worth stoppping off at a cellar door and enjoy sampling some of the award-winning wines that have put Central Otago on the world wine map.  With fertile vineyards irrigated by the Kawarau River, there are over a dozen wineries to visit, from both established estates to many smaller, boutique outfits.  

The Kawarau Bungy Centre
Just past Gibbston, is The Kawarau Bungy Centre, an iconic attraction that draws visitors from all over the world.  Even if you don't want to take the plunge yourself, it's worth a visit to watch others take the leap and experience the thrill of this adrenaline-fueled activity.

The Historic Gold Mining Town of Arrowtown
As you make your way closer to Queenstown, take a detour to the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. This charming town is rich in history and offers a glimpse into New Zealand's gold rush era. Stroll along the quaint streets, visit the Chinese Settlement, and stop by one of the local cafes for a delicious treat.
Finally, you've arrived in Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. Whether you're seeking adrenaline-pumping activities like bungee jumping and skydiving or prefer more relaxed pursuits such as scenic hikes or wine tasting, Queenstown has it all. Soak in the vibrant atmosphere, explore the stunning Lake Wakatipu, and indulge in an array of world-class dining options.

Best Time To Travel from Dunedin to Queenstown:

Before you embark on this epic adventure, it's important to consider the best time to travel from Dunedin to Queenstown.  The South Island of New Zealand boasts stunning landscapes and a variety of outdoor activities, so choosing the right time can make a huge difference.  The summer season, from December to February, is a popular time to visit, with long daylight hours and pleasantly warm temperatures.  However, if you prefer fewer crowds and lower prices, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn.

Explore the stunning landscapes, enjoy thrilling adventures, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the South Island. Bon voyage!