The Southern Scenic Route Classic

6 DAYS – 610 KM

Described as the touring route to rule them all, and rated as one of the Top 10 Drives in the world, it is not hard to find a reason to get out and explore the Southern Scenic Route.

We’ve compiled a driving itinerary that includes all the major attractions and stops along the way. You don’t need to limit yourself to a day in each place – each of these wonders command hours of attention so if you have the time to enjoy then spread each destination over a couple of days to truly take in the best the regions have to offer. Whether you choose to start your trip in Dunedin or do it in reverse from Queenstown is your choice but you will find plenty of iconic activities along the way.

DUNEDIN

Quick Tips

  • Larnach’s Castle Tour
  • Street Art City Tour
  • Tunnel Beach
  • Eateries

Your time in Dunedin will be stolen away from you as you find an abundance of splendid architecture to explore – like Larnach Castle which dates back to 1871. A guided tour through the castle will enthrall you and send you on a journey back in time.

Try the Street Art Trail that takes you through the central city and will delight the senses. Although you can guide yourself with a copy of the map, the best way to experience this is with a guided tour.

On a dry day, seek out Tunnel Beach which is becoming renowned for its ‘edge of the world’ appeal and secret tunnel leading down to the cove below.

CLUTHA & THE CATLINS

Quick Tips

  • Nugget Point Lighthouse
  • Purakaunui Falls
  • Cathedral Caves
  • Curioscape at Curio Bay
  • Slope Point

The journey from Dunedin and into Clutha continues to reward you with heritage spots and in to the breathtaking Catlins. The must do stop at Nugget Point Lighthouse treats you to encounters with the sea lions and seals bathing on the rocks below and the look out to the horizon over the nuggets can only be described as majestic. For those wanting to get as close as possible, try a Kayak tour at sunrise!

The roads through the Catlins weave between the forest and coastline and provides plenty of opportunity to ogle at the views. A brief stop for a 5 minute walk at Purakaunui Falls gets you up close to one of New Zealand’s most photographed waterfalls.

Depending on the time of year and the tide – paid access to the Cathedral Caves is provided by landowners and this is one experience not to miss. The caves are 200 m long and 30 m high and are a renowned geological formation worldwide.

Depending on your preferred style of accommodation, there is a good choice of B&B’s available and the hub of Curio Bay in the Catlins offers both campground and B&B style along the shore. Home to a 250 million year old Petrified Forest and Hoiho (Yellow Eyed Penguin) nesting ground on one side of the Bay and a perfect swimming and bathing spot for those looking to relax, there is often a pod of Hectors Dolphin swimming in the bay that are friendly to those surfing in the area. The local cafe, Curioscape also offers an interactive and sensory captivating experience demonstrating the geological changes of millions of years.

The southern most point of the South Island is located along the route and when you journey so far it is an absolute prerequisite to stop at Slope Point to acknowledge how far you’ve come!

INVERCARGILL

Quick Tips

  • Bluff Signpost
  • Transport World
  • Dig This
  • Queens Park

Almost the halfway point for the route and a place full of surprises. With the short drive out to Bluff to the very start of State Highway 1 and the infamous Bluff signpost, it is worth stopping by one of the local eateries to sample some of the finest and freshest seafood usually netted from the Foveaux Strait before you.

For some more iconic moments, prepare to spend hours meandering through the Bill Richardson Transport World – an emporium of all things and not just vehicular! With wearable art, a theatre, and ode’s to many famous icons like the Cadbury Factory, the film Goodbye Pork Pie and of course Bill Richardson himself.

The highlight for many is moving from behind the wheel to behind the sticks of heavy machinery at Dig This, where you can test your grit on the diggers and bulldozers.

When you are ready to enjoy the simpler sounds of nature, take advantage of the easy access Queens Park, centrally located in the middle of Invercargill and recognised as an International Garden of Significance this park houses a golf course, English rose garden, a Chinese garden, a stumpery and of course a children’s playground.

WESTERN SOUTHLAND

Quick Tips

  • Riverton Shopping
  • Te Hikoi Museum
  • Surfing or SUPping
  • Tuatapere Sausage Tasting

Welcome to the home of the Southern Scenic Route! Again it is easy to see how it got its name with the views along the coastline of Western Southland just as brilliant as the eastern side.

The funky main street of Riverton offers up plenty of interesting galleries, environment and thrift stores that perfectly complement the vibes of the seaside town. With Te Hikoi Museum rounding out the end of the Main Street, it is worth a look in to find out more about the regions rich Maori and European settler history.

Dip the toes in at some of the best beaches, whether you are looking for a surf at Colac Bay or wanting to laze on the beach at Monkey Island there is a choice to suit all recreational activities.

Tuatapere is the township near the beginning of the Humpridge Track and close to the deepest lake in NZ, Lake Hauroko. It has also proclaimed the title of Sausage Capital and these tasty original recipe snags are still up for grabs at the Tui Base Camp.

TE ANAU

Quick Tips

  • Takahe Feeding
  • Glow Worm Caving
  • Jet Boat Ride
  • Lake Cruise

The gateway to one of the world’s most stunning regions, Te Anau has so much to offer as a base for the visitor. With Great Walks surrounding you and a lakefront to relax beside, we won’t blame you if you stick around for a few days. Spend an extra day to travel up to Milford Sound for a lake cruise before carrying on to the next destination.

Try out the Glow Worm caves that are available by guided tour. Perfect for families looking to get inside the depths of Fiordland National Park without having to hike through it.

The Takahē feeding at Te Anau Bird Sanctuary will fill the hearts of any visitor with these rotund little birds ‘fostering’ takahē chicks as part of a national breeding programme.

Get out on the water with one of the lake cruises – be it as a slow pace to enjoy the fresh water surroundings or something to take the adrenalin levels up a notch on the jet boat. Lake Te Anau is becoming a hub for recreation.

QUEENSTOWN

Quick Tips

  • Cellardoor Dining
  • Jet Boating
  • Walter Peak Cruise
  • Mountain Biking
  • Ski

The drive from Te Anau to Queenstown takes you past some of the best fresh water fishing rivers in the world. Anglers find it to be a nirvana so don’t be afraid of casting your line out if you are looking for a break during the drive.

Suggestions are endless for activties to do in Queenstown. The adventure capital of New Zealand. But it is not always about throwing yourself off a ledge with a bungy or down a mountain on skis – try dining out at one of the cellardoors in the region. Catch a cruise over Lake Wakatipu on the famous TSS Earnslaw that can take you over to Walter Peak Station.

For rest and retreat let Onsen Hot Pools alleviate the days driving pains with a hot spa overlooking the valley below.


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