South Island trips

Southern Scenic Route

4 Days


Dunedin Central to Central Queenstown


  • Catlins wildlife
  • Milford Sound
  • Adventurous Queenstown

Best time of year

All year

Journey into the captivating lower South Island to uncover an unforgettable mix of rare wildlife, remote rugged lands, and delicious seafood. The Southern Scenic Route to Milford Sound refreshes the body and soul with its unforgettable landscapes. Get acquainted with the heritage architecture and eco-encounters of Dunedin before you follow the east coast road to The Catlins region. 


Cannibal Bay, Catlins

Photo by David Wall

Day 1

Dunedin - Catlins - Invercargill

3 hrs

30 mins

252 km

157 mi


Dunedin is a treasure box of Victorian and Edwardian architecture. During the gold rush, the city acquired some of New Zealand's most impressive commercial buildings. You can see amazing examples of revival Gothic, Italianate, Palladian and Georgian architecture, and you can stay in historic hotels and grand homes that have been converted to bed and breakfast establishments. Eco-tours to penguin, albatross and fur seal colonies are Dunedin's other claim to fame - some include a cruise up the beautiful Otago Harbour.

Waterfalls, forests and marine mammal encounters await you on the Catlins Coast, a stretch of wilderness that begins just south of Balclutha. Be sure to take the track to Purakaunui Falls, a magnificent 20 metre, three tier waterfall. Nugget Point is the surest bet for wildlife viewing - it's the only place where you can find fur seals, Hooker's sea lions and sea elephants coexisting. It's also home to colonies of yellow-eyed penguins and blue penguins. At Porpoise Bay you can scan the waves for Hector's dolphins. Curio Bay has a very curious fossilised forest - it's 180 million years old.

Invercargill is Southland's principal centre and the country's southernmost city. Local food specialties include Bluff Oysters and blue cod. The museum has a tuatara house and an excellent exhibition about New Zealand’s subantarctic islands. It’s a quick journey to Bluff to see the Stirling Point signpost, which indicates the distance to the South Pole and other parts of the world. If you've time you can catch a ferry from here to visit Stewart Island Rakiura.

Dunedin yellow eyed penguin

Start in Dunedin Central

Historic architecture and eco-adventures await you in Dunedin. Watch the penguins surf into the beach after a successful day’s fishing.

Invercargill's main street is full of character.

End in Invercargill

It’s easy to navigate around the wide streets of Invercargill. New Zealand’s southernmost city has plenty of character and a warm, friendly heart.

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