Winter in the South Island—there are few more astonishing sights than those majestic mountains blanketed in snow, and one of the sweetest little weekend road trips has to be the Crown Range.
Departing from Queenstown heading for Wanaka, at just 67km, this is a relatively short route but, with so many places to stop along the way, a journey through this alpine wonderland could easily last days.
Leaving Queenstown’s myriad of shopping and eating opportunities, take SH6 along the Kawarau River. If you’re feeling daring, stop in at AJ Hackett’s at Kawarau Bridge for a quick bungy, although if it’s a more refined break you’re after, press on to historic Arrowtown—a scant 20km from Queenstown.
With its speciality shops, snug cafes, pubs, museum, and art gallery, this is a darling spot to while away a few hours. And if you’re travelling with bikes and the weather is kind, the cycleways here are world-class.
Another popular stop is quaint Gibbston, five minutes beyond the Crown Range turn-off. It’s worth the wee detour to enjoy the valley’s various vineyards while Kinross Cottages is a corker place to pull in for a nibble. And if you call ahead (allowing two hours for filling and heating), you can book their popular al fresco hot tub.
And the pièce de résistance, the road to Wanaka via the Crown Ranges. It’s true, driving to the summit can be a challenge (in winter you’ll need chains), but, when you reach the top, 1121 metres above sea level, the views will astound. Assuming your heating system is reliable and you’re fully self-contained, campers can park overnight up here and the one-hour climb to the lookout is a must.
When you’ve had enough of those views, drive on to Cardrona for a pit stop at the picturesque hotel before making your way to Wanaka.