Nature and Nightlife in Lower South Island

4 DAYS

680 km

Highlights

  • Penguins and nature
  • Adventurous Queenstown
  • Central Otago wineries

Proximity

CAR-FREE TRAVEL OPTIONS

Fulfil your dream to see Queenstown and discover some of Otago’s other treasures along the way.

From Dunedin, head up the coast to Oamaru, home of the amazing Moeraki Boulders. The beautiful Waitaki Valley takes you to Omarama for gliding and hot pools. Get your thrills in Queenstown then step back in time and discover the gold rush towns of Central Otago before returning to Dunedin for heritage architecture and eco-experiences.

Day 1: Dunedin to Oamaru

Waitaki
Moeraki Boulders, Waitaki

By Miles Holden

Waitaki

WAITAKI

Scenic contrasts and haunting natural beauty

Highlights

  • Moeraki Boulders
  • Penguin colony
  • Steampunk museum

Proximity

Dunedin is a heritage city with a youthful vibe and many grand examples of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, including New Zealand’s only castle, Larnach Castle. Nearby, the Otago Peninsula is a natural haven for rare coastal wildlife like penguins, albatross, seals and sea lions.

From Dunedin, travel north along the coast towards Oamaru. Visit the mysterious spherical boulders at Moeraki along the way. Elegant white stone buildings highlight Oamaru's rich heritage. Explore the Victorian precinct and fascinating steampunk museum, before heading to the city's lovely public gardens. In the evening, be sure to visit the harbour to see little blue penguins waddle ashore for the night.

Day 2: Oamaru to Omarama

Waitaki
Hot Tubs Omarama, Waitaki

By Fraser Clements

Highlights

  • Hot Tubs
  • Picturesque lakes
  • Northwest Arch thermal

Proximity

  • By car: 1 h 30 min | 118 km via SH83
  • By bus: No direct bus service - see options

TOP EXPERIENCES IN OAMARU & WAITAKI

Remarkable geological formations, wildlife and unique history.

Read more

The Waitaki River and beautiful Waitaki, Aviemore, and Benmore Lakes will guide you as you travel up the Waitaki Valley. Along the way, several charming towns such as Duntroon, Kurow and Otematata give you a chance to stretch your legs and explore – maybe even take a jetboat ride. 

Omarama is recognisable for its giant merino sheep statue. Merino sheep have been farmed here since 1858. The area’s unique geography also makes it a magnet for gliding enthusiasts. Omarama is home to the famous Northwest Arch, a thermal that can take glider pilots to 10,000 metres. Spend the evening, soaking up the clear night sky from a relaxing hot tub.

Car-free options:

Add a night in Ashburton before heading on to Omarama.

Day 3: Omarama to Queenstown

Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown Trail, Queenstown

By Miles Holden

Queenstown

QUEENSTOWN

Wineries, epic film locations and adventure

Highlights

  • Majestic lakes and mountains
  • Gibbston Valley wineries
  • Vibrant nightlife

Proximity

  • By car: 2 h 15 min | 171 km via SH8 & SH6
  • By bus: 2 h 35 min | by Intercity or NakedBus

With mountain ranges as far as the eye can see, shimmering lakes and crisp alpine air, Queenstown is breathtaking. Whether you have an appetite for adventure or prefer sampling fine wine and cuisine, the region provides the perfect mix of action and relaxation.

Spend the day exploring the stunning scenery by bike, kayak, horse, 4WD Safari, or by foot along one of the many hiking trails. Those looking for some adventure may want to try jet boating, bungy jumping or rafting. In the evening, discover Queenstown's vibrant nightlife with its diverse bars, clubs and restaurants, offering delicious gourmet food and fine wine.

Day 4: Queenstown to Dunedin

Dunedin
Yellow-Eyed Penguin, Dunedin

By Chris Stephenson

Dunedin

DUNEDIN

Historic architecture and eco-adventure await

Highlights

  • Wildlife encounters
  • Otago Central Rail Cycle Trail
  • Central Otago vineyards

Proximity

  • By car: 3 h 40 min | 318 km via SH6, SH94 & SH1
  • By bus: 4 h 20 min | by Intercity or NakedBus

Leave Queenstown and travel through the Gibbston Valley to Central Otago. In the late 1860s, at the height of the Otago gold rush, miners from around the world flooded into this land. Many of the towns still contain fascinating remnants of their gold mining past.

With its brisk cold winters and hot dry summers, Central Otago is also a top wine producing region, with local wineries offering tasting rooms and restaurants. If you have a taste for fresh fish, the Clutha River is open year round for trout and salmon fishing or take a heritage cruise down the river instead. From here, carry on down the valley towards the coast and the end of your journey in Dunedin.

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