Exploring the Crown Range Road

The drive from Queenstown to Wanaka is a must-do for many visitors to New Zealand. While the main highway route is a popular choice, there is another scenic option that offers a wealth of hidden gems worth exploring – the Crown Range Road. This high-altitude route, reaching an impressive 1,220 meters, provides stunning vistas and unique stops along the way.

Scenic Viewpoints and Historic Landmarks

As you ascend the Crown Range, be sure to stop at the Summit Viewpoint. On a clear day, the panoramic views of the Queenstown Valley, Lake Hayes, and Arrowtown are simply breathtaking. This alpine region can be treacherous in winter, so exercise caution if driving during the colder months.

Continuing down the winding road, you’ll arrive in the charming village of Cardrona. Here, you can’t miss the historic Cardrona Hotel, a rustic establishment that dates back to the gold mining days. Nearby, the Cardrona Distillery offers the opportunity to learn about and sample the local gin and whiskey production.

Outdoor Adventures and Quirky Attractions

For the adventurous, Cardrona also offers a range of outdoor activities, from horse trekking and quad biking to the famous Cardrona Bra Fence – a unique local attraction where visitors have hung thousands of bras over the years.

The Kawarau River Route

The second main route between Queenstown and Wanaka takes you along the Kawarau River, offering a different set of sights and experiences. This road is slightly busier than the Crown Range, but it still has plenty of interesting stops worth considering.

Adrenaline-Fueled Experiences

One of the highlights along this route is the Kawarau Bridge, the birthplace of the bungy jump. Even if you don’t want to take the plunge, it’s worth a visit to the information center and to admire the stunning location. Nearby, the Oxbow Adventure Center and the Nevis Bungy offer additional opportunities for thrill-seekers.

Scenic Wonders and Historic Attractions

As you continue towards Wanaka, keep an eye out for the Nevis Point, which offers breathtaking views of the Kawarau River, a renowned white-water destination. Further along, you’ll come across the historic Roaring Meg Power Station and the gold mining-themed Goldfields Mining Center, providing a glimpse into the region’s rich past.

Cromwell: The Perfect Central Base

While Queenstown and Wanaka are popular destinations, the often-overlooked town of Cromwell can serve as an excellent base for exploring the wider Central Otago region. Located midway between the two lakes, Cromwell offers easy access to both Queenstown and Wanaka, as well as a wealth of its own attractions.

Exploring Cromwell and the Central Otago Trail

Cromwell’s historic district is a charming place to wander, with local shops, cafes, and restaurants. The town is also the starting point for the renowned Otago Central Rail Trail, a popular cycling route that takes you through stunning landscapes and historic sites.

For those seeking a more relaxed pace, the Lake Dunstan Trail, a newer addition to the area, offers a beautiful and manageable cycling experience. Cromwell’s central location also makes it an ideal base to explore the region’s boutique wineries, such as Mt. Difficulty and Carrick, known for their exceptional Pinot Noirs.

Accommodation Options in Cromwell

Cromwell’s accommodation options range from charming boutique retreats like Burn Cottage to the more luxurious Mount Michael Lodge, providing travelers with a variety of choices to suit their preferences and budgets. Whether you’re looking for a cozy, intimate experience or a more upscale getaway, Cromwell has something to offer.


The drive from Queenstown to Wanaka is more than just a means of transportation – it’s an opportunity to discover the hidden gems and stunning landscapes of the Central Otago region. By exploring the Crown Range Road, the Kawarau River route, and the often-overlooked town of Cromwell, you’ll uncover a wealth of unique experiences that will make your New Zealand journey truly unforgettable.

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