Having visited Queenstown a handful of times, I still marvel at the drive down from Christchurch. The Canterbury plains swiftly disappear to reveal rolling hills and turquoise, azure lakes. With so many changes in scenery, the drive never becomes stagnant. Many a tourist flies into Christchurch from the North Island, ready to journey south. And so, why not chronicle my favourite stops along the way to New Zealand’s playground, Queenstown?
Despite countless trips through Tekapo, I had yet to visit Mt. John Observatory. Even during the day, the views are exquisite. As far as coffee stops go, Astro Café is pretty stellar. Grab a coffee and a custard slice, stretch your legs, and take in the vistas.
Both Lake Tekapo and Pukaki are popular photo stops. The water colour of these two lakes is unbelievable, so vibrant even on the cloudiest of days.
Carry on driving, and you’ll reach Cromwell, which produces some of the best stone fruit in the country. Just look out for the massive fruit monument (peaches, pears, apples, oh my!) and you’ve come to the right place. In addition to picking up some fresh fruit, Nick and I can never go past the real fruit ice cream. I’ve always lamented the fact that soft serve doesn’t seem to exist in New Zealand. Real fruit ice cream is almost as good!
By this point, you’re nearly in Queenstown (only 25 minutes away), but I highly recommend making two more stops before venturing to your final destination. First up, Grazë in the Lake Hayes district. The fit-out of this well-designed café and eatery is worth the visit alone. The stunning fixtures and aesthetics had me reaching for my phone. Grab a coffee to takeaway or indulge in the delicious menu of rhubarb breakfast crumble, sweet and savoury crumpets and various foodie favourites. If you’re in need of snacks for the road, stop by their adjacent shop to stock up.
Another favourite spot, nestled outside Queenstown in the Lake Hayes district, is Amisfield Winery. A true gem amongst countless Central Otago wineries, it’s the perfect place for a leisurely lunch. Sit in the sunny courtyard and take in the breathtaking views over Lake Hayes. The gorgeous interior is one to behold and the impeccably executed menu and award-winning wines will leave you satisfied. The service is warm and attentive. Amisfield is continually ranked as one of the best winery restaurants in the country, and it isn’t hard to see why.
As you reach Queenstown, you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views, adrenaline-inducing activities and culinary wonders to satisfy even the most discerning palates. Stay tuned for my Queenstown City Guide, up next!