Best time to visit New Zealand

Crown Range Road in New Zealand

The highest major road in New Zealand boasts scenic views

Best time: March–April | October–November (all year round)

Crown Range Road
Crown Range Road
Crown Range Road
Crown Range Road
Crown Range Road
Crown Range Road
Crown Range Road

Crown Range Road (formerly State Highway 89) between Queenstown and Wanaka lies over the Crown Range at an altitude of 1,121 m (3,678 ft) in the Otago Region. The road is open year round, but in winter it is often covered in snow and ice, making driving difficult. It's better to avoid driving on the Crown Range road between May and September or make sure your car is supplied with snow chains. In summer months, the road traffic gets rather busy. Thus, the best time to drive the Crown Range Road is spring and autumn.

There is a different road between Queenstown and Wanaka, which is definitely safer, but it doesn't provide such stunning views and nature encounters as the Crown Range Road.

After leaving Queenstown, the road goes past Lake Hayes, then winds up to the Crown Terrace (Arrow Junction Lookout Point) providing a great outlook of Arrowtown in the Arrow Valley and the Remarkables Range. The road features many switchbacks, breathtaking hairpin bends, and sudden drops. After you reach the top, get ready for the scenic descent from the Crown Range into the alpine valley. Get prepared to encounter mountain wildlife, such as kea parrots. The road's most steep and winding section is between Arrow Junction, just south of Arrowtown, and Cardrona, later on leading travelers to Wanaka.

Besides driving the scenic route, you can find activities along the road. In winter, downhill skiing in the Crown Range is possible at the Cardrona Alpine Resort. The 1,900-m (6230-ft) Mount Cardrona slopes host lots of snow and vast terrain. Central Otago got populated during the gold rush of the 1860s. Visitors can see remains of gold prospecting at a few spots along the road (over the saddle, and opposite the East Burn Stream).

Practical info

When is the best time to drive Crown Range Road?

To experience a less busy Crown Range Road with better weather conditions, travel between Queenstown and Wanaka during spring and autumn. This is during March to April and October to November. It is worth avoiding travel during winter, as the road can become dangerous due to snow and ice. Show more

Where does Crown Range Road go between Queenstown and Wanaka?

Crown Range Road is an alpine route which traverseses the Crown Range in the Otago Region. This road runs through Crown Terrace, Cardrona, as well as Lake Hayes and Arrow Junction Lookout Point. The route lies at an altitude of 1,121 m (3,678 ft), and once visitors leave Queenstown, it offers stunning scenic views of the surrounding area. Show more

What are the road conditions like in winter?

Crown Range Road is accessible throughout all seasons of the year. However, winter in New Zealand, which lasts from May to September, brings snow and ice to the road. It can be dangerous driving between Queenstown and Wanaka during these months. Adults driving in winter must ensure they have snow chains on their car or avoid this road completely. Show more

What can visitors do along Crown Range Road?

One of the most exciting winter activities on Crown Range Road is skiing at Cardrona Alpine Resort. Visitors can explore historical gold prospecting sites, and enjoy a spot of birding with the kea parrot. Nature lovers will enjoy the scenic drive, which highlights the Rockies of Remarkables Range. This road offers boundless opportunities to experience the outdoors. Show more

Are there any historical sites to visit along the way?

Crown Range Road uncovers areas that were booming during the gold rush in the 1860s in Central Otago. Along the road, visitors can find remains of historical gold prospecting, such as over the saddle and opposite the East Burn Stream. With added stunning views of the alps, visitors can appreciate the alpine scenery and discover these historical sites. Show more

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