I wouldn’t say the Southern Scenic Route is a well-known must do whilst visiting us here in the deep South. I’m going to let you in on a secret....... IT. IS. BEAUTIFUL.
Where is it you ask?
It begins in Queenstown and Ends in Dunedin.
It’s well sign posted so don’t worry about getting lost. Even those who refuse to look at a map or ask for help would be able to navigate the coastal highways (and by highways, I mean New Zealand’s 2 lane, 1 line down the middle, roads.)
If by the time you have finished reading this, you’re thinking to yourself “this sounds a bit like me” “Let’s jump off the beaten track for a few days” remember, the whole route (Queenstown to Dunedin) is around 610kms so make sure you’ve got the time then add a few extra hours because you’ll find yourself stopping to take in the dazzling vistas at every turn! If you are short for time, why not just do part of it?
What will I see?
It’s not just the stunning views and majestic landscapes that’ll blow your mind. Along the way you’ll find short walks, fishing, camping, caving, tramping and so much more to keep you from landing back in reality. You’ll be forgiven for thinking you have just landed in the Lord of the Rings film location!
Te Anau is where I call home and I’m proud of it. It’s not until you travel away from home that you truly appreciate its beauty and start to understand why other people from around New Zealand and the world want to come and visit.
This leads me to my favorite part of the Southern Scenic route, and I’d have to say my favorite part of our incredible country, Fiordland. I’m sitting here trying to think of just one word I can use for Fiordland National Park and it just doesn’t exist. I even looked up ‘magnificent’ in the thesaurus, but nothing fits. There’s something about its untouched wilderness that has my heart and I’m sure will have yours too!
It’s lakes, forests, fiords, wildlife and mountains are something you don’t want to miss if you just take the time to make the trip south from Queenstown.
Im sure you will appreciate the lack of people and the abundance of nature. The population density of the South Island of New Zealand is 7.5/SqKM, HELLO PEACEFULNESS!
Where should we stop?
If it happens to be lunch time or you’re craving a decent coffee whilst passing through Orepuki, stop at the Orepuki Beach Café. You won’t regret it. Don’t be afraid of heading off the main drag down some side roads either, you’ll find the likes of Gemstone Beach and Colac bay among some other hidden resting spots.
Then comes Riverton. It’s a charming little village where you can take a breather and head down to the beach to search for shells and look out at the harbor. If you’re keen and it’s not during the Southland winter, take a dip or maybe just dip those toes in.
History buff?? This place is dripping in it. Riverton is almost 200 years old (I know, I know, but that’s old in NZ years!) It’s also home to many artists so you can find art studios around town with painters, potters, and Maori weavers and carvers. Be nosey, take a look around and don’t be shy. We’re in the heart of Southern hospitality here!
You’ll pass Invercargill, Southlands only city. Top up with fuel or do a grocery shop and pop into the Truck Museum or Motorcycle Mecca!
Get your cameras out, after passing through some lush farmland you’ve made it to The Catlins.
The trees don’t grow on their sides by themselves, it can get just a tad windy when your cruising the southern coast of New Zealand! If you can crack it on a good day, it’s magical. I could go on forever, but you must see if for yourself. The native forest meets the waters edge and hides beautiful rivers and waterfalls. Mother Nature is still the boss here! Stop off at Nugget point and check out the seals and penguins. Purakaunui Falls Scenic Reserve, Cathedral Caves and McLean Falls are also a must see if you have a bit of spare time up your sleeve and your looking for that one last WOW before moving north.
As you head towards Dunedin you’re coming towards the end of the Southern Scenic Route. You can never stop exploring these amazing parts of Southland and South Otago. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve taken a drive around the most magical part of NZ and it’s different every time. I can be blinded by the sun reflecting off the sea one day and finding out why those trees grow sideways the next!Back to Local Insights Page