Ace Rental Cars Blog

Timaru to Dunedin Road Trip

If you’re embarking on a road trip from Timaru to Dunedin, get ready for a scenic adventure filled with wildlife encounters, beautiful beaches and unique attractions you won’t see in any other part of the country. We’ve listed places to visit, eat and stay throughout your journey across the South Island.

  • Timaru
  • Oamaru
  • Moeraki
  • Dunedin

Timaru - Oamaru

  • Timaru Botanic Gardens
  • Famlan Farm Park
  • Caroline Bay Carnival
  • Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

Begin your journey by exploring Timaru, starting at the beautiful Caroline Bay. Enjoy a stroll along the beach, relax in the gardens or visit the Famlan Farm Park for a unique wildlife experience. If you’re visiting the area during summer, the Caroline Bay Carnival is a must-see. Held annually, the carnival brings excitement and joy to the community through rides, games and competitions - it’s an excellent way to experience the local culture. Drop into a local convenience store to stock up on snacks and water before driving to Oamaru in your Ace rental car. Embrace the natural beauty of the water’s edge just outside your car window as you travel along the coast to cross the Canterbury / Otago border. Known for its charming Victorian architecture and penguin colonies, Oamaru is the perfect place to pause and spend the night on your way to Ōtepoti / Dunedin. Before wrapping up the first day of your scenic adventure, visit the Blue Penguin Colony in the evening to see kororā / little blue penguins waddle back to their homes for the night.

Oamaru - Moeraki

  • Steampunk HQ
  • Moeraki Boulders

With its unique Victorian-style architecture, Oamaru has been labelled the ‘Steampunk capital of the world’. Referring to a genre of science fiction influenced by the 19th-century Victorian England aesthetic, the Steampunk style incorporates futuristic fashion and steam-powered machinery to create an alternate reality. You can learn more about Oamaru’s Steampunk influence with a visit to Steampunk HQ in the town’s Victorian Precinct. The interactive museum features art and sculpture works, shaped by the Steampunk genre, and a dress-up booth for a memorable experience. From Oamaru, continue your journey to Dunedin with a drive to Moeraki - just under 40 minutes in your Ace rental car. The main attraction here is the Moeraki Boulders on Koekohe Beach - large spherical boulders naturally formed millions of years ago. Today, tourists and locals visit the beach to capture photos of the boulders, and children enjoy jumping from stone to stone. Spend some time here reflecting on your journey so far before grabbing a bite to eat in town - Fleur’s Place is a locally loved waterfront restaurant serving up fresh and authentic New Zealand cuisine.

Moeraki - Dunedin

  • Larnach Castle and Gardens
  • Tunnel Beach Walkway
  • Signal Hill Lookout

As you continue toward Ōtepoti, your journey through the South Island isn’t over just yet. Pass by Dunedin and head along the Otago Peninsula to reach Larnach Castle - Aotearoa / New Zealand’s only castle. The drive itself is an extraordinary experience, offering stunningly scenic views and the opportunity to see penguins, sea lions and other wildlife. Once you reach Larnach Castle, the architectural beauty of the building and the natural beauty of the gardens will amaze you. Embark on a guided tour here or wander the grounds at your leisure, taking time to appreciate the colourful blooms and vibrant scenery. On your way back to Dunedin, take a brief detour to Tunnel Beach for a peaceful stroll along the water. This beach features a hand-carved tunnel with fossil remnants hidden in the sandstone, making it a unique stop just outside of Dunedin. Finally, head into the city to watch the sunset from the Signal Hill Lookout. Here, you’ll get panoramic views across the bay and it’s the perfect spot to jot down memories from your journey so far in your journal before heading out for dinner.

Dunedin Exploration

  • Wildlife Cruise
  • Street Art Trail

Known as the wildlife capital of New Zealand, Dunedin is home to rare and endemic animals, which can be seen from the Otago Peninsula. Spend your last day exploring the area from the comfort of a cruise ship. Join a cruise where you can sit back and enjoy the feeling of the ocean breeze while keeping an eye out for Southern Ocean wildlife. This one-hour wildlife cruise takes you from Wellers Rock Wharf in Otakou, past the entrance of the Otago Harbour and into the Pacific Ocean. Onboard, you’ll have the chance to see sea lions at Aramoana Beach, royal albatrosses at their colony and New Zealand fur seals at Taiaroa Head. If you’d like to spend more time on the water, the City to Sea cruise sets sail for four hours, departing from Dunedin, and travelling past Quarantine Island, Port Chalmers and Aramoana before returning to the city. Back on land in Ōtepoti, head out on a self-guided street art tour for an excellent way to discover the city on foot. You’ll see unique artwork and murals throughout the town created by local and international artists.

As your time on the South Island ends, you’ll look back on your road trip adventure with fond memories and unforgettable experiences.

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