Christchurch to Queenstown via Dunedin

queenstown

Queenstown

A scenic tour of the south including Milford Sound and Queenstown

9 Days 950 km

Highlights

  • Explore vibrant Christchurch
  • Cruise Milford Sound
  • Adventure in Queenstown

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See the scenic highlights of the south in this 9-day itinerary travelling from Christchurch to Milford Sound and Queenstown.

Discover the many sides of Christchurch, step back in time in Oamaru and get up close with unique wildlife in Dunedin.

See the sights of the rugged Catlins and meet tuatara in Invercargill. Experience the wonder of Milford Sound and enjoy fun, adventure and exceptional food and wine in Queenstown.

Day 1: Explore Christchurch

christchurch-canterbury

Christchurch - Canterbury

Explore vibrant Christchurch

Highlights

  • Punting on the Avon
  • International Antarctic Centre
  • Christchurch Gondola

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Inner-city Christchurch has so much to offer and you can walk, explore by bike(opens in new window), or catch the Christchurch Tram(opens in new window) for a fun way to get around.

Browse the central city shops(opens in new window) and The Arts Centre(opens in new window), visit the beautiful Christchurch Botanic Gardens(opens in new window) and then take a trip on the city’s famous river with the iconic Punting on the Avon(opens in new window). Head to the nearby Riverside Market(opens in new window) for lunch at one of the many eateries and browse the daily farmers’ market and laneway shops.

The International Antarctic Centre(opens in new window) is located at Christchurch Airport and you can ride in a Hägglund snow mobile and feel the chill of an Antarctic storm.

The Christchurch Gondola(opens in new window) will take you high into the Port Hills for panoramic views. Ko Tāne(opens in new window) offers an interactive Māori cultural experience every evening at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve(opens in new window). Stay centrally at Amber Kiwi Holiday Park(opens in new window), or Tasman Holiday Parks(opens in new window) just outside town.

Day 2: Explore Oamaru 

waitaki

Waitaki

Step back in time in historic Oamaru

Highlights

  • Heritage attractions
  • Little Blue Penguins
  • Steampunk HQ

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Get an early start for the three hour drive to Oamaru – you could stop for breakfast at rustic café The Shearer’s Quarters just out of Temuka, or head further on to Timaru 

Arriving in Oamaru is like stepping back in time, as the town is renowned for its Victorian architecture and is home to New Zealand’s oldest public gardens. Its annual heritage celebrations are in November, but you can explore its history year-round on a heritage walking tour.

You’ll find a quirkily different side of Oamaru at Steampunk HQ, while award-winning Whitestone Cheese Co. is the place for foodies, with factory tours and tastings. At dusk you can watch the local colony of little blue penguins return from a busy day of fishing.

For dinner, try Scotts Brewing or head 15 minutes north to award-winning Riverstone Kitchen. Stay at Oamaru Harbour Tourist Park or Oamaru Top 10 Holiday Park.

Day 3: Stunning Dunedin

dunedin-coastal-otago

Dunedin

Heritage buildings and world records in Dunedin

Highlights

  • Moeraki Boulders
  • Worlds steepest street
  • Heritage architecture

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Stop at Moeraki on the way to Dunedin, just 30 minutes south of Oamaru, to see the famous Moeraki Boulders. It might look like a giant has been playing marbles on the beach, but these amazing spherical stones were formed millions of years ago. Book for lunch at award-winning Fleur’s Place, a waterfront seafood restaurant in Moeraki that chef Rick Stein chose as one of his must-do foodie experiences.   

Dunedin is an hour further on and as you come into the north of the city look for Baldwin Street, which holds the Guinness World Record for ‘World’s Steepest Street’ and makes for great photos. Spend the afternoon exploring the city’s heritage attractions such as the Dunedin Railway Station, Olvesten Historic Home and even Speight’s brewery. Book for a couple of nights at Dunedin Holiday Park by St Kilda beach.

Day 4: Discover Dunedin

dunedin-coastal-otago

Dunedin

History and unique wildlife to discover in Dunedin

Highlights

  • Larnach Castle
  • Royal Albatross colony
  • Coastal views

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Start with a swim in the heated outdoor salt water pool at St Clair Beach(opens in new window) and enjoy breakfast at one of the waterfront cafés. Spend the morning exploring New Zealand’s only castle Larnach Castle(opens in new window) and its beautiful grounds offer a magical glimpse of Victorian life in Dunedin.

A unique wildlife experience awaits just up the coast, where the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatross(opens in new window) have made their home. The Royal Albatross Centre(opens in new window) runs tours to see these majestic birds throughout the day.

As you head back to Dunedin, drive 15 minutes south of the city to the Tunnel Beach Walkway(opens in new window). Best visited at low tide, this dramatic coastal spot has a sandstone sea arch and a hand-carved rock tunnel leading to a secluded beach. Keep an eye out for fossil remnants in the tunnel walls. Finish with dinner at Dunedin’s famous Emerson’s Brewery(opens in new window).

Day 5: Find something interesting in Invercargill

southland

Southland

See tuatara and vintage transport in Invercargill (

Highlights

  • The Catlins
  • Tuatara
  • Worlds Fastest Indian

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Make an early start so you can see some special spots in The Catlins(opens in new window) on the way to Invercargill.

Nugget Point Lighthouse(opens in new window) is a short drive off the highway from Balclutha and offers amazing coastal views, while the short track to the beautiful three-tiered Purakaunui Falls(opens in new window) is just 40 minutes further along on the highway.

Invercargill (opens in new window)is a motor-lovers’ dream with Transport World(opens in new window), Classic Motorcycle Mecca(opens in new window), and the E Hayes Motorworks Collection(opens in new window), which has the bike ridden by Kiwi legend Burt Munro when he set his land speed world record in 1967. Kids and grown-ups will also love trying real-life heavy machinery at Dig This(opens in new window).

See New Zealand’s living dinosaurs, the tuatara, at Southland Museum(opens in new window). In oyster season (March-August), stop at the Barnes Oysters(opens in new window) shop to buy some famous Bluff Oysters. Stay near town at Invercargill Holiday Park(opens in new window) or close to Oreti Beach at Beach Road Holiday Park(opens in new window).

Days 6 and 7: Te Anau and Milford Sound

fiordland

Fiordland

Milford and Doubtful Sounds and Great Walks

Highlights

  • Milford and Doubtful Sounds
  • Great Walks of New Zealand
  • Te Anau

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Te Anau is the gateway to world-renowned Milford Sound and the wider Fiordland National Park and is two hours from Invercargill. It’s a popular base for exploring the region, and you can see the Te Anau glow worm caves and go high-speed jetboating on Lake Te Anau too.  

Stay a couple of nights at one of the many campsites and holiday parks and book day trips, or an overnight cruise on Milford or Doubtful Sound. There are lots of excursions available. The multi-day Milford and Kepler Tracks are two of New Zealand’s Great Walks and both start close to Te Anau as well 

Driving to Milford Sound takes just over two hours from Te Anau and you need to check road conditions ahead of time. Book ahead at secluded Milford Sound Lodge, which has Milford Sound’s only campervan accommodation and is close to the cruise departure points.

Day 8: Epic Queenstown

queenstown

Queenstown

Get adventurous in Queenstown

Highlights

  • Skyline Queenstown
  • Skiing and snowboarding
  • AJ Hackett Bungy

Top 10 things to do in Queenstown

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It’s on to the popular resort town of Queenstown(opens in new window) today, two hours from Te Anau. Stop at the Devil’s Staircase scenic lookout on the way for spectacular views over Lake Wakatipu(opens in new window).

Plan to stay at least two nights in Queenstown as there’s so much to see and do. There’s a range of campgrounds and holiday parks and plenty of places for eating out(opens in new window).

Head into the hills on the steepest cable car lift in the Southern Hemisphere with Skyline Queenstown(opens in new window) for incredible mountain views and then ride the luge trails, or board vintage steamship the TSS Earnslaw(opens in new window) for a relaxed lake cruise.

Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure capital(opens in new window) with the world-famous AJ Hackett Bungy(opens in new window) and Shotover Jet(opens in new window), as well as skydiving, paragliding, climbing, white water rafting and more. In winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to Queenstown and nearby world-renowned ski areas Coronet Peak(opens in new window) and The Remarkables(opens in new window).

Day 9: Relax in Queenstown

queenstown

Queenstown

Discover historic Arrowtown and Central Otago’s fine food and wine

Highlights

  • Pan for gold in Arrowtown
  • Eat amazing food
  • Explore cellar doors

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Just 20 minutes from central Queenstown is beautiful Arrowtown. This historic spot is known for its goldmining history, heritage buildings and incredible autumn colours. Explore the area by bike, browse the boutique stores on the main street and try your luck panning for gold 

A few minutes south of Arrowtown is Gibbston Valley Winery and Restaurant, the perfect spot to sample some of Central Otago’s finest wines on a wine tour and tasting, enjoy lunch and then stock up the campervan fridge at their cheesery and deli.

Head back to Queenstown for the evening and if you haven’t made it to iconic eatery Fergburger yet, then tonight is the night and a delicious way to wrap up your tour of the south.

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