Showing my age as I “use” a line from The Clash pop classic “Should I stay or should I go?” However, it’s an often-debated topic. Christchurch to Queenstown; is it better by plane or self drive?
The reality is it depends. If you just need to get there in a hurry, then flying is pretty quick. But if you are lucky enough to have a window seat on a clear day you’ll be staring at views that are simply breathtaking. There’s a reason for that. What you are flying over is some of the most amazing alpine landscape on planet earth!
Our good friends at Avis/Budget asked us to do the drive and show you why this is a superb way to travel. Drive time Christchurch to Queenstown point to point is around six hours. Take our advice, put a few days aside and experience the true New Zealand alpine winter experience from the road.
My shiny new black Toyota Rav 4 was waiting for me at Christchurch airport. With all wheel drive and ski racks I was ready for adventure. I decided to take the Inland Scenic Highway rather than straight down SH1. It probably adds 30 minutes drive time overall but its way more scenic! I stopped off to chat with Blair at Discovery Jet at the Rakaia Gorge, near the turn-off to Mt Hutt. It was a stunning day and Blair gave me the run-down on all the options he offers. Definitely worth an afternoon excursion for sure. Heading up the Rakaia river into the Southern Alps, there’s a bunch of options to experience!
If Mt Hutt is on your schedule then there’s a huge range of accommodation and dining options in Methven and nearby surrounds as well.
An hour further south and you enter the Mackenzie District. This region is fast becoming the next Queenstown or Wanaka. With a choice of three Ski Areas, helicopter and snow plane accessed glacier skiing, a choice of alpine villages, hot pools and much more you can see why. We chose to spend the day at Mt Dobson. With a base area at 1725m Mt Dobson offers a huge sun filled basin. There’s great terrain for all levels and if you strike if after a snow fall, you’ll enjoy some very light dry powder. The views looking west to Aoraki Mt Cook and Lake Pukaki are stunning.
Make sure you take the 58km drive from SH8 to Mt Cook Village. At 3724m Aoraki Mt Cook is New Zealand’s tallest peak and is the centerpiece of the Aoraki Mt Cook national park. Stop for lunch or a coffee at the Old Mountaineers Café. If your budget allows, treat yourself to a night at the Hermitage.
No Mackenzie visit is complete without a night or two at Lake Ohau Lodge and skiing at Ohau Snow Fields. The Lodge offers superb dining, hot tubs and an extensive wine list and craft beer on tap.
Right it’s time to head south towards our southern lakes destination. Our Avis/Budget rental means we get a two for one lift pass deal at Cardrona Alpine Resort. Cardrona is conveniently located between Queenstown and Wanaka so you are spoilt for choice as to where to stay. There’s also plenty of apartment accommodation in the Cardrona Valley itself or alternatively up at the Ski Area as well.
Cardrona is now well established as the home of “family skiing” in New Zealand. It offers a range of options for the kids from infants right through to teens and everything in between. Cardrona is also famous for freestyle skiing and riding. Even if you aren’t keen on spinning a cork 1440, it sure is fun watching those who are. There’s a range of terrain parks from beginner to X Games pro.
So don’t forget, Avis Budget has this awesome offer two for one lift pass offer with Cardrona until the end of September 2016.
Avis Budget SUV at top of Crown Range
So drive or fly? No brainer – hand me the keys!