An Ace Road trip: Te Anau to Dunedin, via the Southern Scenic Route


If you’ve read our previous Kiwi road trip article titled ‘An Ace road trip: Wanaka to Te Anau’, you’ll end that leg of your trip in a truly wonderful place. Te Anau is one of the South Island’s adventure hot spots, with Great Walks such as the Kepler or Milford Track, spectacular nature cruises with the likes of Jucy Cruise and still more.

However, when the time comes for you to leave, there is another driving itinerary that you can add to your adventure. With the following, you’ll set off on one of NZ’s top roads: The Southern Scenic Route.

A fond farewell from Te Anau

When you wake up in the cosy Te Anau Kiwi Holiday Park, you’ll be literally just across the road from a great breakfast destination. The Fat Duck opens at 8.30 a.m. and features both a cabinet filled with fresh goodies and a menu of delicious cooked breakfast items. Plus, there are bean bag and couch options if you want to recline in a plush seat before jumping in the car, and also free Wi-Fi so you can catch up on all the latest goss online!

Rootin’ tootin’ Scenic Route

Set off down State Highway (SH) 94 as you leave Te Anau to commence the second leg of your NZ tour (presuming you came from Wanaka). You’ll witness classic Southland scenery en route, with rolling green hills on all sides set to a backdrop of distant mountain ranges. Follow the signs for Manapouri at first, but then turn left at Weir Road as you make way for Tuatapere.

Take the opportunity in Tuatapere to stop for a coffee and a bite to eat (it is the sausage capital of the country, after all), then head up Clifden Highway (SH99) then left down Papatotara Road. Meander along this way for about 15 minutes and you’ll reach pristine Blue Cliffs Beach. The road will turn to gravel, but you don’t need to go far up it in order to find a place to stop, change into your togs (swimming costume) and enjoy the waves. Dolphins have been known to frequent the area, as well as orcas.

Back on track

Back on the Scenic Route heading south of Tuatapere, it’s just over an hour to reach the country’s southern-most city of Invercargill. You’ll find this quite an unusual city if you’re used to a little hustle and bustle with your urban setting, as Invers has a relaxed, almost small-town feel.

It’s fortunate you grabbed a vehicle from Ace Rental Cars for your holiday, as one of the most interesting things to do in this city is its Heritage Trail. Pick up a map from the local tourist info centre and make your way to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery to begin. This short driving route will take you past some of the best classic architecture in the region, including museums, parks and the famous 19th-century water tower.

Mid-journey accommodation
null  An Ace Road trip: Te Anau to Dunedin, via the Southern Scenic Route caitlins1

As the day draws towards its end, don’t just settle for accommodation in the city – make your overnight stay a part of the scenic experience. Catlins Kiwi Holiday Park is just an hour along the road, set in the midst of the breathtakingly lush eponymous wetlands, renowned throughout the country. The scenery here is quite different to when you first set out, as the agricultural fields depart and dense, romantic bush sets in all around.

The Kiwi Holiday Park in this area can offer you a comfortable bed or place to pitch a tent if that’s what you want, at a very affordable rate. There’s also a restaurant here so you venture to the Land of Nod with a full stomach, plus it has laundry facilities should you want to refresh your luggage.

The next day, explore!

With a new day dawning, you have a world of Catlins goodness to explore. This is your big chance to stretch your legs and enjoy a good walk or two, plus see some of the nation’s most amazing natural sights.

Start by popping up the road from your accommodation to the McLean Falls Walk. This 22-metre-high waterfall is considered one of the most beautiful in the wetlands, and can be accessed via a 40-minute track that weaves through luminously green flora.

If visiting between October and May you absolutely must visit the Cathedral Caves. Exceptional for both their height and length (200 metres long, 30 metres high), this remarkable geological formation can be accessed via a 30-minute track at the end of Pratt Road, off the main Scenic Route highway.

A golden nugget of an attraction

Less than an hour up the road and you’ll find a T-junction, leading to Balclutha or Kaka Point. Hold off continuing to the former for a moment and turn right to add another awesome natural wonder to your holiday planner. Once more amid verdant farming vistas, the coastal road past the latter township leads to Nugget Point and a lovely little lighthouse. You can walk from a car park to the building in about 10-20 minutes, with views of the crashing ocean waves below you on either side, and often the odd fur seal or two as well.

The grand finale

With your appetite for all things Southland completely satisfied, head back to the T-junction from before and this time go towards Balclutha. This is the last portion of your Scenic Route self-drive holiday, passing over the famous Balclutha six-arch road bridge and on to Dunedin – capital of Otago and your final stop. Though last, this classy city is certainly not least.

If you’ve enjoyed your time at South Island Kiwi Holiday Parks, you’ll be ecstatic to know that there is one – Dunedin Holiday Park – conveniently located near the CBD, with all the amenities you love about the franchise. This means you can rest up before taking Dunners by storm!

We recommend a jaunt aboard an experience with Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tourism. This award-winning company offers numerous packages, showcasing sights such as historic fishing villages, an albatross colony, dolphins, seals and more that we don’t want to spoil!

The rest of your time here is up to you. Will you go see Dunedin’s chocolate factory or the country’s only castle? How about some CBD shopping and the world’s steepest street? Regardless, you’re in for a treat.