Wanaka to Queenstown
Our guide to getting from Wanaka to Queenstown
Ritchies operates a daily bus service (5 times a day) between Wanaka and Queenstown, via Queenstown airport. The first bus departs at 8.00am with the last bus at 4.20pm. On some services the bus travels through Cromwell. For timetable information and prices visit Ritchies website.
Intercity has a twice-daily bus service between Queenstown and Wanaka. The Wanaka to Queenstown service leaves the Wanaka lakefront at 9:50am and 2:30pm via Luggate and Cromwell. From Queenstown to Wanaka, the bus departs Athol Street in Queenstown at 8:00am and 12:35pm and travels via the Cardrona Hotel. View their website for more details.
There are two driving routes - via Crown Range Mountains or Cromwell.
1. Wanaka to Queenstown: Via Crown Range
The shortest and most direct route. Allow 1 hour driving time.
During winter it’s advised to keep a set of snow chains in your car with the potential for snow and icy conditions. If you don’t have a set, there is the option of taking the longer Kawarau Gorge route via Cromwell.
Driving away from Wanaka, turn off onto the Cardrona Valley Road. After about 15 minutes, the small resort town of Cardrona presents a good place for a stop. The iconic Cardrona Hotel has visitors reaching for their camera. and is a chance to grab a coffee or a bite to eat. In summer, the garden is a lovely spot for lunch. During winter, the nearby Cardrona Ski Resort is popular with families and well suited to beginners and intermediate skiers.
The road soon continues as the Crown Range Road, a steep and windy route that climbs up through the Crown Range Mountains. Once you reach the summit (1076 metres above sea level), you can pull over to a small parking area and take in the views of Queenstown in the distance.
The descent down is steep with plenty of sharp bends so drivers need to drive with caution. There are a couple of a lay-bys to pull over and photograph the incredible views looking onto Queenstown.
At the foot of the Crown Range Road, turn right onto State Highway 6. Shortly afterwards, there is the option to turn off into the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. This pretty town is well worth a visit during any stay in Queenstown.
Continuing along SH6 you’ll pass Lake Hayes on your right – a beautiful and quiet spot for walks, jogging and picnics.
The longer and less challenging driving route via Cromwell. Allow 90 minutes.
Departing Wanaka follow the SH84 past the Puzzling World family attraction and onto SH6.
The route takes you past Lake Dunstan leading into the orchard and vineyard landscape of Cromwell. Old Cromwell is a reconstructed street of how Cromwell used to look in the gold mining era and features a number of quaint cafes overlooking Lake Dunstan.
Just past Cromwell, there is the option to turn off the highway and head towards Bannockburn to reach another wine growing region and the art galleries that form part of the Central Otago Arts Trail. We'd recommend Mt Difficulty, a winery with stunning views and a perfect spot for lunch with a glass of Pinot Noir.
Continuing along SH6, the picturesque route winds its way alongside the turquoise waters of the Kawarau River. Pull over at the Roaring Meg Hydro scheme and enjoy the views of the Kawarau River.
Next up and a highlight of this route is passing through the award-winning wineries of Gibbston. It's well worth stoppping off at a cellar door and enjoy sampling some of the decorated wines that have put Central Otago on the world wine map.
Another reason why visitors are attracted to area is to visit the site that launched the bungy jump - AJ Hackett’s Kawarau Bridge Bungy.Shortly after passing through Gibbston, and as per the Crown Range route, you’ll then pass by Arrowtown, Lake Hayes, and Queenstown Airport before reaching the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown.