Nelson to Queenstown – Best Things to See on Your Road Trip

Are you ready for an unforgettable tour through some of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth? Hit the road from Nelson to Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island and discover the natural wonders and thrilling adventures waiting around every bend. Pack your bags, rent a car from Pegasus, and gear up for the trip of a lifetime!

Planning your Nelson to Queenstown roadie

Embarking on your Nelson to Queenstown drive begins with the perfect car rental. Pegasus at Nelson Airport offers a huge range of air-conditioned, fuel-efficient, and impeccably maintained vehicles. Our friendly staff is committed to providing excellent service, ensuring your journey from Nelson to Queenstown starts and ends smoothly. 

Given the unpredictable weather of New Zealand, packing appropriately is crucial, no matter the season. We recommend bringing clothing that can handle all conditions—layers and waterproof gear are essential. This way, you’re prepared to fully enjoy the spectacular scenery and experiences on your tour from Nelson to Queenstown, rain or shine.

Nelson – Kick-off Your Adventure to Marahau

Distance: 59 km
Time: 1 hour 

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Begin your epic Nelson to Queenstown trip by picking up your rental car from Pegasus at Nelson Airport. Set your sights northwest and cruise to the small town of Marahau, the charming gateway to the breathtaking Abel Tasman National Park. Enjoy a delectable lunch at The Boat Shed Café in Mapua, renowned for its fresh seafood and fantastic views over the Waimea Estuary.

From Marahau to Westport – Coastal Wonders and Wild Rides

Distance: 240 km
Time: 3 ½  hours 

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Travel through the heart of the northern tip of the South Island, taking in the pristine beauty of Abel Tasman National Park. Explore its golden beaches and turquoise waters, either on foot via scenic trails or by kayak. After some adventurous hours, indulge in tasty homemade pizzas at the Park Café. Continue along the West Coast, stopping at Buller Gorge Swingbridge for a thrilling Buller Canyon jet boat ride or take a zip across New Zealand’s longest swing bridge over the Buller River. Discover Westport’s intriguing coal mining history and local attractions before nightfall. 

Westport to Hokitika – Coastal Charms and Natural Delights

Distance: 139 km
Time: 2 hours 

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Continue your scenic drive to Hokitika, pausing at Punakaiki to marvel at the famous Pancake Rocks and spectacular blowholes. Don’t miss the chance to observe the playful fur seals at Cape Foulwind via an easy walk along the coastal path. Fuel up with Johnny’s World Famous Sausages in Westport—a perfect snack for the road.

Hokitika to Franz Josef – A Trail of Natural Splendors

Distance: 134 km
Time: 1 ¾ hous

Next, explore the enchanting Hokitika Gorge, walking through the lush native forest to a viewing platform over the turquoise waters. Head south to Lake Matheson near Franz Josef township. On a calm day, the dark waters reflect the Southern Alps in breathtaking fashion. It’s no wonder this is the most photographed lake in New Zealand. Recharge with a bite to eat at Hokitika Sandwich Company, or sample a local craft beer and Asian-fusion cuisine at SnakeBite Brewery.

Franz Josef to Wanaka – Journey Across the Alps

Distance: 284 km
Time: 4 hours

Photo Credit Tourism New Zealand

Experience the majestic Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers up close on foot or by taking a scenic flight. As you travel inland from the West Coast over Haast Pass, make a short detour and take a short walk to the stunning Blue Pools, known for their clear waters and tranquil surroundings. End your day in Wanaka, indulging in delicious food at Relishes Café, a cosy local favourite.

Wanaka to Queenstown – The Final Stretch

Distance: 68.5 km
Time: 1 ¼ hours 

Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand

Kick off your morning by hiking up Mount Iron, mountain biking, or enjoying water sports on Lake Wanaka. Head over the Crown Range to Queenstown, stopping in historic Arrowtown to try your hand at gold panning. Arrive in Queenstown and soak up the stunning views over Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding peaks, such as Ben Lomond and Coronet Peak. Visit the stylish Botswana Butchery for dinner, where you can enjoy exquisite local cuisine against a backdrop of amazing views.

Explore More with Pegasus

Every turn offers panoramic vistas and unique experiences. The drive from Nelson to Queenstown with Pegasus Car Rentals will be an adventure as spectacular as the destination itself. Ready to discover the rugged beauty of the South Island’s West Coast? Book your vehicle today and prepare for the adventure that awaits.