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The Great Rides and Cycle Trails of New Zealand

Queenstown to Wanaka via Crown Range

Classic Road Ride

Queenstown, South Island

Riding over the Crown Range is an iconic New Zealand road ride.

Two options to leaving Queenstown:

  1. Follow your nose along the side of Lake Wakatipu on SH6, going straight through at the very busy Frankton roundabout, past Lake Hayes on your left and straight ahead as opposed to turning left at any signs pointing to Arrowtown. This initial part of the ride is the main arterial route in and out of Queenstown so can be quite busy at all hours of the day.
  2. This is the much preferred route via Arrowtown. Head out of Queenstown on the industrial Gorge Road toward Coronet Peak Ski Field. The road crosses over the Shotover Gorge where you may catch a glimpse of the jet boats squeezing through the narrowest of rocky waterways. Follow the country road all the way through Arthurs Point and along the open smooth Malaghans Road which takes you past the foot of Coronet Peak to Arrowtown. Stopping for a coffee in Arrowtown signposts will point you in the direction to Wanaka. It is a fast gently downhill ride below the Crown Range from Arrowtown to Arrow Junction where you turn left onto State Highway 6 for a short 500 metre ride to the Crown Range Rd.

As soon as you hit the Crown Range Rd it goes up - no nice preparation, just up! The road is affectionately known to locals as the “zig-zags” as switchback after switchback claw your way to the Crown Range Plateau. The top of the zig-zags has a parking and rest area giving sweeping views over the Wakatipu Basin and over the airport crammed between mountain ranges and lake.

Beyond the zig zags the road relents some making for some nice fast undulating tar seal across the Crown Range Plateau. However, it does not seem long before you are in the granny gear heading skyward over the Crown Range proper. This 5 kilometers is challenging for all levels of riders - but the view from the top out over the Wakatipu Basin and over the Kawarau River Basin is more than rewarding.

After catching your breathe and gulping down fluids the descent to Wanaka is fast and furious. The road surface is very smooth in parts, making for a tremendous ride. Your inertia and the thrill of speed urges you on through the flat sections grinding out the big ring. In no time at all you are upon the famous Cardona Pub. No pub in New Zealand has been photographed as much as this historic pub. It is a great place to stop for lunch. For those that are riding back to Queenstown this is also a good point to turn around and head back.

The road from Cardrona through to Wanaka is mostly downhill or flat and might be viewed as a bit of a chore for some riders after the fun on the Crown Range crossing. But the view of Lake Wanaka as it almost simply bursts into sight should drive you on the last 25km.