Queenstown surrounds - 3 night itinerary

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific Queenstown surrounds - 3 night itinerary

1. Posted by ElleJeffrey (Budding Member 2 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Hi there,

After a week on the Queenstown slopes in August we are grabbing a campervan for 3 night before flying out of Queenstown again. Trying to plan a small roadtrip but realising even 3 nights isn't quite enough to fit in all the amazing sites near Queenstown. ideally trying to fit both Lake Tekapo and Millford Sound into the journey but not sure we can, given we fly at midday on the 3rd day so should be spending our third and final night close to Queenstown.

Day 1 - Drive to Lake Tekapo, stay overnight

Day 2 - Drive to Millford Sound - 7 hours without stops! This seems mad, given it's winter and driving will have to be careful AND there's just so many sites to see along this route

Day 3 - Explore Millford Sound then drive back to Queenstown

All just feels a bit rushed :(

2. Posted by BeateR (Full Member 297 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Much to much. It would take almost all the morning before you get the van and can drive away. And then you'll drive this day in the"wrong" direction, only for a short night, which you have to drive back the next day.
With only 3 nights I would do only Milford Sound. And why have it to be a camper-van? It's not fun as it is winter. It's cold and wet. Better go by car and book a hotel.

3. Posted by Sander (Moderator 6033 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

If you really want to see both: On day 1, do Milford Sound as a daytrip from Queenstown, from one of the many tour companies offering that. Yes, it's an exhaustingly long day, but at least someone else will be doing the driving, and if self-driving, you'd only be stuck on the road behind the big tour busses anyway, and stopping at the exact same roadside attractions. Then on day 2+3 do Lake Tekapo to recover, but agreed with BeateR that you should just rent a regular car and stay in a ho(s)tel there. It's a gorgeous drive over Lindis Pass (though check beforehand if the pass is open, given your mention of winter!) - if you have blue skies when you reach Lake Pukaki, you can even detour to Mt. Cook for lunch at the Hermitage. At Lake Tekapo, hike (or drive) up to the Mt. John observatory cafe for amazing hot chocolate with an even better view.

Disagreed with BeateR about only doing Milford Sound - there's just nothing to "do" there (the cruise, two very short hikes, and beyond that you'll be stuck swatting at the sandflies), nor really anywhere to stay (there's a super expensive lodge, a similarly expensive overnight cruise, and that's it). You could instead base yourself halfway, in Te Anau, with Milford Sound as a daytrip on day 2, maybe hiking a couple of hours of the Kepler Track? I found the town of Te Anau to be a pretty boring place, though. Personally I strongly prefer the scenery at Lake Tekapo and surroundings, so if only going one way from Queenstown, that's what I'd opt for. (If you have money to burn while in Lake Tekapo, a helicopter flight over the Southern Alps with glacier landing is absolutely amazing.)

[ Edit: Edited on 1 Jun 2024, 09:07 GMT by Sander ]

4. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2955 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

I'd hire a car and stay 2 nights in Te Anau, with the full day in between allowing you to do the Milford Sound trip as well as hikes and viewpoints off the Milford Road.

With the price of camper van hire and the fuel they drive, I think car & hotel is cheaper and greener.

5. Posted by ElleJeffrey (Budding Member 2 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Thanks everyone. We're leaning away from the campervan idea now too. While we really love camping and being self sufficient, it feels like for only 3 nights it may be too much. However I would say it would be the cheaper option from all of the accommodation we've looked at. The camper was $720 NZD for 3 nights, and we're not looking to stay in hostels or average motels which only leaves approx $300 a night hotels as our option, plus the car hire, so much more expensive doing it this way.

I think Day 1 doing the full day tour to Milford Sound is our best bet, then day 2 driving to Tekapo for a night and the following day, before driving back to QT for the final night to be close to the airport the following day.

If anyone has additional advice for stops/attractions from Queenstown to Tekapo and back would love to hear them. Thanks

6. Posted by NZBarry (Respected Member 6 posts) 1w Star this if you like it!

Deciding not to drive yourself into Milford in August is a good idea - there's still a substantial risk of unexpected slow closing the road, and you don't want to get a rental vehicle stuck in Milford when you're on such a short time frame. Aoraki/Mout Cook is a shortish side trip on the way to Tekapo.