Day Trips from Queenstown, New Zealand

Driving to or from New Zealand’s Adventure Capital is an excellent alternative to flying. Travelling the North Island by road gives you the freedom to explore at your leisure while admiring the breathtaking landscapes as you drive across New Zealand.

Surrounded by stunning alpine mountain ranges and Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is a popular tourist destination renowned for its proximity to historic towns and endless year-round activities and attractions. Queenstown is a perfect starting point for day trips and will lead you through some of the most incredible scenery with several different leading attractions along the way.

This blog will explore some of the best day trips from Queenstown you can easily take by road. Our Pegasus Queenstown branch is located centrally, so you can easily hire one of our economical vehicles and begin your lower South Island journey.


Queenstown to Wānaka

The magnificent, world-famous "Wanaka tree" growing out of the Wanaka Lake.

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A day trip to Wānaka via the Crown Range will take 45 minutes. Along the 67 km drive, you will pass a trove of spectacular landscapes, from snowy mountains to crystalline waters. Make sure you stop in at one of the most fascinating attractions in New Zealand – Puzzling World.

Wanaka’s easy access and picture-perfect location make it desirable for many. This tiny alpine town is the ultimate place for exploring the Southern Alps.

Work up a sweat canyoning and mountain climbing, or follow hundreds of kilometres of biking, walking and hiking trails. Roy’s Peak is one of the more popular day hikes offering a steep climb with amazing views or venture a little further and get on the Rocky Mountain tracks. If you prefer horse riding, quad biking, or simply driving around in a 4WD vehicle, Cardrona Valley offers some of the most spectacular riding terrains in New Zealand.

You can get on the water to enjoy the clear waters of Lake Wanaka; it is ideal for kayaking and lake cruises. You can even take to the skies on a scenic flight or go skydiving to soak up the amazing scenery with an aerial perspective.


Queenstown to Mount Aspiring National Park

amazing panoramic view from the top of Mount Aspiring.

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Mount Aspiring National Park boasts an abundance of wildlife, with over 400 species of birds and butterflies. It is a beautiful mix of wilderness, high mountains, valleys, and remote rivers. Mount Aspiring National Park will take approximately 2 hours from our Pegasus Queenstown branch.

Mount Aspiring National Park is a walker’s paradise and a must for mountaineers. Many short hiking trails begin at the end of the park’s access roads. These hikes can range from just 30 minutes up to 3 hours, such as Routeburn Track, Haast Pass Summit, Lake Sylvan, and the Blue Pools Walk.

Before you set out on your day trip, we recommend that you check with the Department of Conservation Visitors’ Centre and the weather forecast. A key tip is to prepare for a sudden change of conditions in this park, so pack for every weather eventuality.


Queenstown to Te Anau

a gorgeous image of the wharf in Te Anau overlooking the sea.

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Te Anau is a 2 hour’s drive from Queenstown and is best known as a gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. Fiordland is one of the greatest wilderness regions in the Southern Hemisphere and has been listed as a World Heritage Site. While you’re there, be sure to trek one of New Zealand’s Great Walks — the Routeburn Track, which links the Mount Aspiring National Park with Fiordland National Park. 1,255 metres above sea level, you’ll experience stunning views of snow-capped mountains, lush rainforest, picturesque valleys, cascading waterfalls and jewel-like lakes.

Often overlooked by tourists on a mission to get to Milford Sound, this hidden gem certainly deserves more than a quick 20-minute pit-stop before hitting the road again.

Te Anau is home to an underwater network of caves that house thousands of luminescent glowworms and is one of the most popular attractions. Experience the dark underground world of limestone caves with rushing waters, lit by the luminous shimmer of glowworms surrounding you. Te Anau means “the cave of the swirling water current.”

Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is an excellent family-friendly place to visit with abundant birdlife. This bird sanctuary is the perfect place to get a sneak peek at some of Fiordland’s rarest birds that would be difficult to see in the wild. Keep your eyes out for birds such as the Takahē, Silvereye, Tūi, Morepork, Bellbirds, Fantails, Kererū and Kākā, just to name a few.

Lake Te Anau is the largest lake on New Zealand’s South Island, so you’ll find plenty to do on this beautiful glacial lake. You can kayak, swim, go fishing, or just lounge in a boat to watch the day go by.

Whether you’re travelling alongside a loved one or with the whole family, there’s no shortage of things to do in Te Anau. Plus, there is a range of accommodation to choose including motels, bed & breakfast, and campgrounds. Without a doubt, Milford Sound is one of the best day trips from Queenstown, so staying overnight in Te Anau is an excellent way to enjoy Milford Sound.


Queenstown to Dunedin

Aerial view of the beautiful Dunedin Botanical Gardens.

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Dunedin is a fascinating city packed with history, contrast, and character with an overwhelming number of attractions. The ‘Edinburgh of New Zealand’ offers plenty to explore amongst its delightful city streets, beautiful beaches, hidden coves, and forested hills.

A visit to Dunedin is one of New Zealand’s best day trips, and driving from Pegasus Queenstown will take approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes. Explore castles, wildlife, museums, heritage sites, public art galleries, botanical gardens, shops, beaches, and exceptional dining options.

Dunedin is New Zealand’s wildlife capital boasting an abundance of wildlife experiences. The famous wildlife reserve Royal Albatross Centre – located at the Taiaroa Heads, is home to New Zealand fur seals, royal spoonbills, red-billed gulls, rare Stewart Island shag, and little blue penguins in their natural habitat.

Larnach Castle is another must-visit destination when in Dunedin. Larnach Castle was built by the prominent entrepreneur and politician William Larnach. The Larnach Castle gardens are one of only five gardens nationwide given the “Garden of International Significance” rating by the New Zealand Gardens Trust.

You can find out more on things to do in Dunedin plus the top ten Dunedin tourist attractions before leaving on your day trip. You’ll be pleased to know that Pegasus Dunedin has both a  city branch and one at Dunedin Airport, so can choose the most convenient branch that wherever suits your travel plans.


Queenstown to Invercargill

Iconic Invercargill landscape on a clear night.

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Only 3 hours away from Pegasus Queenstown, Invercargill is one of the most exciting destinations for Queenstown day trips. Its Scottish heritage gives it plenty of character – and you’ll also enjoy a laid-back atmosphere, and friendly locals.

Fondly dubbed the ‘City of Water and Light’, one of the best things to do in Invercargill is to experience the Aurora Australis, more commonly known as the Southern Lights. Due to its clear skies with little light pollution, the conditions here are ideal to see the effect of the solar winds hitting the Earth’s magnetic field. Visit between April and September to see this spectacular light show.

Invercargill is the southernmost city in New Zealand and boasts some magnificent beaches. Oreti Beach is a standout; this long flat beach has hard-packed sand and is perfect for almost any beach activity. Come for the swimming, surfing, windsurfing, walking, kayaking, and beach cricket. It’s also a great spot for capturing a fantastic sunset. Sandy Point sits at the southern end of Oreti Beach and is a natural playground for walking, mountain biking, and horse riding.

In the Invercargill town centre, you will find Queens Park – a lovely scenic spot for a stroll. Covering 81 hectares, you will find the Queens Park Aviary, gardens, and botanical attractions to enjoy. And if you’re considering an activity spot for your kids, they’ll have plenty of space to run around with recreation areas and animal reserves; Queens Park is a wonderland for children.

There’s something for the whole family in Invercargill, so find your way to Invercargill and enjoy stimulating cultural attractions, exceptional nature reserves and parks, cafes, bars, and fine restaurants.

Pegasus Invercargill has a great range of rental vehicles, so if you prefer to hire a car in Invercargill, we will be only too happy to help.


More ideas for Queenstown day trips

  • Drive to former gold mining town Arrowtown – wander along the Arrow River and visit the Lakes District Museum.
  • Take a scenic drive to Mt Cook Village – the home of New Zealand’s tallest mountain.
  • Go jet boating in Glenorchy.
  • In winter, head to the Lower Manorburn Dam in Alexandra for a natural ice skating paradise.
  • Moke Lake is one of the best places for kayaking and paddleboarding away from the crowds.
  • Visit the wineries of Gibbston Valley.


Book a rental car and begin your day trips from Queenstown!

We hope that we have given you some inspiring ideas for day trips from Queenstown. So check us out at Pegasus Rental Cars; we have 15 locations across the North and South Island of New Zealand. We’re here to help you with your travels.

We look forward to seeing you!