If you’ve spent a bit of time in Queenstown (or spent some time planning a trip there) you’ll have seen the Remarkables, a set of jagged mountains towering over Lake Wakatipu. It’s one of the most iconic mountain ranges in New Zealand, but most people only see it from a distance. On our last trip to Queenstown, we decided to get a closer look. The drive up to the Remarkables Ski Area takes 45 minutes to an hour and there are amazing views all the way up.
The scenic road to the Remarkables Ski Area from Queenstown
From downtown Queenstown you’ll have to head out of town (back towards Arrowtown, Cromwell, Wanaka etc) and turn right at the airport turnoff. From there just follow the signs. You’ll soon come to a big car park area which had heaps of cars in it – I guess some people park down there and get the bus up. From there the road winds up and the views start to reveal themselves. You’ll soon see back towards Queenstown, with the blue water of Lake Wakatipu surrounded by mountains. You can also see the section of the lake which you’ll drive around on the way to Te Anau and Milford Sound. You’re also getting closer to the Remarkables, which always look impressive.
As you make your way around the mountains more views open up. You’ll soon see Lake Hayes and the braided Shotover River – there’s a small hill which you can climb for a good photo op. There are a few places to pull over and I’d suggest doing it from time to time. We stopped heaps and were impressed with the views – we decided it was kind of like doing a hike up a mountain except obviously a lot easier. There is a huge variety of views and vantage points and the road itself is very picturesque in parts.
We drove to the Remarkables Ski Area on the first day of spring (September 1) and the weather was perfect. That meant that a lot of other people (mostly skiers obviously) had the same idea and the car parks close to the top were full. We would have had to park quite a bit lower and maybe get a bus up (although as we didn’t have ski passes that might not have been an option). We ended up going right to the top and then driving straight back down as there was nowhere to stop! It looked nice up there though, although I think the best views are either from higher up the slopes or the road which we drove to get there.
If you go in summer, it’ll be quite different. There won’t be as much snow around (meaning slightly less impressive photos) but you can explore more up there, including the walk to Lake Alta. We did that walk recently so check out our post! We really enjoyed the scenic drive to the Remarkables Ski Area – there is so much variety in terms of the views and while the road is narrow and winding it isn’t too difficult to drive.
Are you planning a road trip around New Zealand’s South Island? Check out some of the other scenic drives, including Queenstown to Glenorchy, Queenstown to Wanaka, Dunedin to Oamaru, the stunning roads of the Marlborough Sounds and the road to Mount Cook!
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