A Jewel in the Crown: Queenstown to Wanaka Road Ride

queenstown to wanaka road rideUK cyclists Dan and Tash have spent the summer traipsing round New Zealand. They’re keen road riders and have sampled several of New Zealand’s classic road routes. Here’s their top pick: Queenstown to Wanaka over the Crown Range.

Head out of Queenstown towards Coronet Peak Ski Field. You’ll cross over the Shotover Gorge where, if you’re lucky, you’ll see one of the jet boats whipping through the narrow canyons. Continue on through Arthur’s Point to Arrowtown, a quaint little village full of heritage buildings. You might feel like you’ve cycled back in time!

You’ll know when you’ve hit the Crown Range because the road goes up – relentlessly! Locals call this section the zig-zags and you’ll soon see why: lots and lots of switchbacks that inch you closer to the Crown Range Plateau. Luckily there’s a rest area at the top (and some mighty fine views of the Wakatipu Basin).

Unfortunately this isn’t the actual summit – that’s a further 5km of tough climbing away. We promise the end view – and the fast downhill that follows – is more than worth it.

All that uphill slog means you’ve definitely earned a drink at the Cardrona Hotel. This much-photographed pub has a great beer garden to recuperate in. From the hotel, the last 25km to Wanaka are (thankfully) either flat or downhill. Keep your eyes peeled for that first glimpse of Lake Wanaka – it’s a stunner!

We spent a few days in Wanaka before re-tracing our route home. We found Wanaka to Queenstown a much easier ride, with fewer climbs and a more favourable wind direction (that helped blow us towards Queenstown). As you come back into Queenstown we recommend stopping for a soak at the Onsen Hot Pools, high on the cliffs above the Shotover River canyon.

This ride is 70-km each way and classed as a Grade 3-4, meaning it’s suitable for experienced riders only.

Images: Dan and Tash.

crown range bike ride