The South Island of New Zealand is a perfect location to drive around for a road trip. There are barely any traffic lights through the incredible landscapes and it is just a piece of cake to drive (yes even through there are mountains and even for me as a terrible driver). Having 2 days of from work made me decide to go on a small road trip up to the west coast from Queenstown to Franz Josef.

I rented a car with 2 friends and we decided to drive around and see where the road would take us. Not long after leaving Queenstown, we found amazing spots where we definitely needed to stop. There are a lot of stops you should take along the road because it is a shame to pass through places without really enjoying them.

Our car brought us far up to the west coast and showed us that New Zealand is beautiful, wherever you go there is not one spot that isn’t special. Anyways which nice spots am I talking about? The drive was from Queenstown to Franz Josef, as we decided that that was far enough to travel in 2 days. There were amazing walks (short and longer ones) and stops on the way. To find these spots we had to drive in the direction of the following places:


A small town only a 20 minute drive away from Queenstown. It is small and with that I mean that there are only a few shops to find but it is most special because of the Chinese settlement at the end of the Arrow river. Activities like bike rental, a 4WD journey, quad biking or playing golf are most popular in this town. This town made me feel like in the older days… However I wasn’t born during that time it just feels like I was back in the 60’s lol. It is worth a visit!


This town is mostly known because of the fruit as this is the major industry. Cromwell is located on the shores of lake Dunstan. In Cromwell a lot of history can be found especially many old buildings.


Wanaka feels like a smaller Queenstown. It has a big lake named Lake Wanaka, who would have thought that ;), which is beautiful. Most people decide to go for a walk around the lake or visit Puzzling World, which can drive you a bit crazy if you are not good at puzzles. Anyway, Wanaka is surrounded by beautiful nature and it’s only a 1 hour drive away from Queenstown.

lake wanaka

Lake Hawea

If I see a lake I always decide to get out of the car to take photos. We passed Lake Hawea and I told my friends to drive back for a short stop. Stopping here was amazing as we had a beautiful view over this lake. Lake Hawea is 35 kilometres long and is a popular resort. Most popular activities on this lake are fishing, boating and swimming.

Fox Glacier

The glacier descends from the Southern Alps down into the rainforest. We drove into town, had some food and decided to see the glacier. If you want to see the glacier you can walk, decide to book a hike or a sightseeing flight. Glow worm caves can be found just a short walk from town. Even a skydive is possible here, where you can enjoy the beautiful view over this landscape. Close to Fox Glacier Lake Matheson can be found, which is one of the most photographed lakes in the country.

Franz Josef

A 20 minute drive from Fox Glacier is Franz Josef. You can walk or drive to the glacier but to get really ‘in contact’ with this amazing natural spot, you can take a guided hike or a heliflight which is absolutely amazing. We chose to do the guided hike which was a great experience: helicopter, hot kiwi guide and a great experience of hiking!

franz josef glacier
By edwin.11 (Franz Josef Glacier) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
New Zealand has so much to offer and of course it is almost impossible to visit each and every single spot. Still I noticed that I love to visit all these beautiful places by car as we could just stop whenever and where ever we wanted to. We almost picked up a hitch hiker if my friend wasn’t too scared to sit next to him! The west coast is stunning and I can’t wait till I can explore the rest of the South Island!

Come and see me at the Mad Travel Desk at our Nomads Queenstown and I’ll tell you the best spots to visit on your Queenstown to Franz Josef road trip!

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