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Christchurch - Canterbury
Take your time on route between Christchurch and Dunedin by driving the Inland Scenic Route. Starting with an easy drive through the patchwork fields of the Canterbury Plains, in less than an hour you’ll cross the Rakaia River at the gorge bridge.
Detour 10 minutes into Methven, a ski town in winter and a café haven during summer. Enjoy some of the many local activities like mountain biking, scenic flights, golf or hunting and fishing. Stay and enjoy meeting locals and a wide range of dining, just ask at the Methven i-SITE in main street between the famous Blue & Brown pubs. Before reaching the golden hills of the Mackenzie Country, try white water rafting down the Rangitata River; horse riding in Peel Forest and Geraldine is worth the pit stop too.
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With its stunning turquoise water, Lake Tekapo offers a magnificent spectacle and is a year-round destination. There are so many ways to enjoy this part of the country – hiking, fishing or relaxing in hot pools while gazing at the lake.
Our Tip: For the best views...
Head to the top of Mt John for 360 degree panoramic views. The sheer grandeur of the place truly comes alive at night with clear skies and remarkably dark nights making Lake Tekapo a stargazing dream. The Mt John Observatory can tell you all about it!
Aoraki Mt Cook
New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook is only 63km down the road and just a 35-minute drive from Lake Tekapo. Take the detour and you will be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the mountain and the options for outdoor activities and attractions.
Hidden Gem: Tasman Glacier
While the Fox and Franz Josef are New Zealand's most famous glaciers, the largest is actually the Tasman Glacier. It's just down the road from Aoraki/Mt Cook, and can be seen from the signposted lookout; if you want to actually touch the icebergs, take a glacier boat tour.
Enroute to Omarama take a choice of detours for magical scenery. Clearly signposted to the west is an easy drive to Lake Ohau with majestical views over the lake to the backdrop of the Southern Alps. Just 4 km north of Omarama are signs towards Clay Cliffs, which are well worth a visit.
Hidden Gem: Our southern lakes
Ready your camera for the colours of brilliant turquoise blue lakes being Lake Benmore, Lake Aviemore and Lake Waitaki that will have you stopping to snap. The road travels through rich golden landscapes of the Waitaki Valley following the mightly Waitaki River as it makes its way towards Kurow and Duntroon and the Pacific Ocean.
End your journey into the fertile Waitaki Valley. The trail takes you to the geological wonders of Elephant Rocks – strangely eroded massive limestone blocks that resemble the giants of the animal kingdom.
Oamaru recently described by author, journalist, public speaker and ex Australian rugby international Peter FitzSimons “as New Zealand’s best kept secret, which is itself the world’s best kept secret”. Around the pretty harbour is the world famous Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony – a must see attraction with day tours and nightly viewing of the birds coming ashore. And don’t miss out on a Steampunk experience while you are here!
Hidden Gem: Moeraki Boulders
Make sure you see one New Zealand’s great natural wonders. The Moeraki Boulders have been perfectly rounded over millions of years old and strewn across the beach, just waiting for you to visit.
Just around the corner, at Katiki Point, you’ll find fur seals and yellow-eyed penguin colonies resting on the rocks alongside the Moeraki Lighthouse. The route continues along the coast. The singular beauty of Karitane, Waikouati will leave you speechless – again and again – as you pass these breath-taking white sand beaches.
Finally, stumble upon Dunedin, one of the best perserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Dunedin's cafes are famous for their coffee and famous cheese rolls. George Street offers a burgeoning fashion and shopping precinct.
Where to next?
From Dunedin you've got some great options for onwards travel. You could make your way to Queenstown, either southwards via Invercargill and Stewart Island, or heading through the golden hills of Central Otago. Other possible routes head north; you could venture back up the coast to Christchurch via Oamaru.
- Queenstown to Dunedin via Invercargill
- Queenstown to Dunedin via Central Otago
- Dunedin to Christchurch via Oamaru
A 2 day 703km road trip (via the Inland Scenic Route)
Dunedin to Oamaru 90 minutes
Oamaru to Omarama 90 minutes
Omarama to Twizel 25 minutes
Twizel to Mount Cook to Twizel 120 minutes
Twizel to Lake Tekapo 50 minutes
Lake Tekapo to Fairlie 40 minutes
Fairlie to Geraldine 40 minutes
Geraldine to Christchurch 95 minutes