Wellington, at the bottom of New Zealand's North Island, and Queenstown, towards the bottom of the South Island, are about 570 miles (910 km) apart. Because they're separated by sea and a large mountain range, flying is the easiest way of getting between the two cities, but it's also possible to go by road.

By Air

Duration: 1.5 hours

Several flights a day travel between Wellington and Queenstown. This is the easiest and quickest way of making the trip, and is the best option for travelers with limited time. Wellington is a notoriously windy city so expect some turbulence after take-off. If the weather is clear, you may be treated to some beautiful mountain views over the South Island.

By Car

Duration: 2+ days

Wellington is separated from the South Island by the Cook Strait. To drive to Queenstown you'll first need to take the ferry to Picton, at the top of the South Island. This is a vehicle ferry so if you already have a car in Wellington, no problem. Alternatively, you can wait until you get to Picton to pick up a rental car. The crossing takes about 3-4 hours, and is especially beautiful once it reaches the Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island. It can be a choppy crossing when there's been bad weather, and is occasionally canceled if the weather's too bad.

From Picton, you have two options for driving to Queenstown. Both will take at least two solid days of driving, but ideally should be spread out over several days or even weeks, as there's a lot to see on the way. The roads pass through some of New Zealand's most beautiful and popular travel destinations, so it makes sense to take your time and enjoy the journey.

Option one is to drive from Picton down the east coast, via Kaikoura and Christchurch, and then turn west inland, through Twizel and Tekapo in the Mount Cook area, and finally arrive in Queenstown. Option two is to drive west from Picton to Nelson and then south down the West Coast, passing through Westport, Greymouth, Hokitika, Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, over the Haast Pass, through Wanaka, and finally to Queenstown. 

Check weather and road conditions before setting out. The mountain roads—especially around the Haast Pass—can be closed due to heavy snow or rainfall. This is especially problematic in the winter and early spring. If your favored route is closed, you may have to take a longer way around. It's best not to be in a hurry if traveling between Wellington and Queenstown by road.

By Bus

Duration: Several days

It's possible to get most of the way from Wellington to Queenstown by bus by combining long-distance services. Make your own way from Wellington to Picton on the ferry, and then get on a bus in Picton (book both the ferry and the bus in advance). As with the suggested driving itinerary above, taking the bus between Wellington/Picton and Queenstown is best if you're not in a hurry.

From Picton, take a bus to Christchurch, stopping in Kaikoura en route if you wish. From Christchurch you'll need to change buses to continue the journey to Queenstown. If you wanted to go along the West Coast from Picton, via Nelson, you'd need to change buses in Franz Josef.


Map of How to Get from Wellington to Queenstown
Map of How to Get from Wellington to Queenstown