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McLeans Falls in the Catlins

Southern Scenic Route, New Zealand

The Southern Scenic Route is a drive between Dunedin and Queenstown and covers a distance of approximately 610km.  Most of the roads along the way are sealed but there are some unsealed roads along the way.  These roads will require reduced speeds and care.  There are also specific signs to guide you all the way along the route.  Although the route isn't all that long and could be completed in one day, it is much better to take your time and really enjoy the sites.  Book a one way rental car from Queenstown to Dunedin (or vice versa) and book accommodation along the way so there is no need to rush.

Southern Scenic Route description

This route has plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy.  You will notice signs on the side of the road indicating wildlife viewing areas, mountain-biking trails, fishing and hunting areas and more!

If you start in Queenstown, you will travel towards Te Anau.  Feel free to take a little detour and visit the famous Milford Sound while you are here.  You may want to spend the night before continuing with your journey.

Head on south towards Te Waewae Bay before following the coast on to Invercargill and then to The Catlins.  Your next main stop will likely be Balclutha before you reach Dunedin. 

Things to see on the Southern Scenic Route

On this route you will be amazed by a wide variety of sights and scenery.  There are plenty of stunning bodies of water such as Lakes Wakatipu, Te Anau and Manapouri.  The Sandstone hills just west of Tuatapere and the Clifden caves are also just a couple of examples of the geological sights you will come across.

The Fiordland National Park lines much of the way and provides a stunning backdrop of some of the most amazing local flora.  The Catlins are also known for its lush forest area.  Purakaunui Falls and the Cathedral Caves are main attractions in this area.  Do note that the caves can only be accessed during low tide.  Curio Bay is famous for its tree fossils that date back to the Jurassic period.

Wildlife, like penguins, can be sighted along this route.  In order to preserve the local animal life and ecological balance, it is important to note that all wild animals are protected and you need to take note of any and all regulations.  Avoid scaring, feeding or trying to touch wild animals.  View them from a distance and allow them their comfort and freedom.

For some of the most scenic views and a possible elephant seal sighting if you visit around February, make sure that you stop off at Nugget Point.  Park your car, enjoy a 20 minute walk and get a closer look that the famous Nuggets as well as the local lighthouse.  You can also view some birds, including the rare yellow eyed penguin, in this area.

On the way from town to town, you can also take the time to walk around and explore.  Visit the local museums, monuments and enjoy some other activities.