The Explorer

You're Due South - Explorer
Great South
Go chase waterfalls of wonder - McLean Falls, The Catlins

Get ready to unleash your inner explorer. Southland's pristine wilderness is known for its rare and unique wildlife and a “must do” for anyone who is passionate about the natural world and authentic encounters. Want to listen to native birdsong? Spot kiwis hiding in the dark? Or enjoy marine species up close and personal on a cruise? On Rakiura Stewart Island you can spot the infamous kiwi bird in the wild - an experience found nowhere else in the world. Delve deep into the crevices of the Te Anau Glowworm caves or uncover semiprecious stones at Gemstone Beach in Western Southland. Wander through rural towns full of southern hospitality or drive-by rugged coastlines with an untouched quality that is magnetic. Once you start to experience all Southland has to offer you will find it hard to leave. 

Download the Explorer Itinerary

Duration

3 Days

Distance

400 km

Best Time

Anytime

Fiordland Bridge Walk
Great South

Starting in the beautiful lakeside town of Te Anau, you can choose between a variety of fantastic hikes in the Fiordland National Park, guided by local experts.

A great option is the Hidden Hankinson Guided Walk. Normally a four-day hike, Fiordland Outdoor Co. has turned this into a day trip with special access to this remote location via a boat journey across a hidden lake and into Fiordland’s oldest backcountry hut. Combine this day trip with an epic Keto Picnic from the Wapiti Cafe.

Explore Fiordland’s scenery on your own terms and begin your Trips and Tramps guided Kepler Track experience with a spectacular flight by helicopter from Te Anau. Fly over the hidden lakes and beech forest of Mount Luxmore to arrive at the Luxmore Hut. Make sure to explore the expansive alpine tussock fields, a real botanists' delight! Head up to the summit for some epic views off the surrounding mountains, lake and the Fiordland National Park.

For dinner, check out the fresh, seasonal menu’s that the Te Anau restaurants boast. Paired with Southern Hospitality and a nice glass of wine, there is no better way to end your adventurous day!

Fiordland has an abundance of cosy accommodation options. Whether you prefer a hotel or motel in the town centre, or a secluded eco-retreat or lodge is more your style, you will be sure to enjoy your night's stay!

Wairaurahiri Wilderness Jet - Western Southland
Great South

Depart Fiordland heading south into the depths of Western Southland. Journey through rolling farmland and turn off towards Lake Hauroko where you will find the start the of the Wairaurahiri Jet experience. Experience the exhilarating 94km jet boat ride to the sea and back through the heart of New Zealand’s Largest National Park. Travel across the pristine Lake Hauroko and down to the rugged southern coast via the wild Wairaurahiri River. Arrive at Waitutu Forest Lodge and enjoy a BBQ lunch chocka full of Southern delicacies such as Fiordland Wild Venison. Wander back along the Wairaurahiri River following the South Coast Track where you will cross the swing bride to be picked up by the jet boat to head back to Lake Hauroko.

After 6 hours of pure wilderness adventure, head towards Invercargill where you can savour the South by trying local delicacies such as Southland Blue Cod, whitebait, fresh lamb - all dished up with a good dash of southern hospitality. Whether you enjoy fine dining or prefer rubbing shoulders with the locals while watching the game, there are plenty of dinner options in Invercargill to treat all taste buds.

Finish off the day by retreating your Invercargill accommodation option for guests looking for a sanctuary to relax and recharge. Invercargill has a variety of unique and characterful accommodation alternatives to meet your needs that are spacious and packed full of supreme comfort. Whether you desire a peaceful B&B hideaway surrounded by manicured gardens or natural wilderness, hotels with a pool or you prefer to be near to the centre city and experience the Invercargill nightlife from a rooftop bar

Florence Hill Lookout - The Catlins
Chris McLennan

Start your day with a scenic 40-minute drive from Invercargill to the Cliffs at Fortrose.
For those who appreciate stomach-flutteringly steep lookout points, the Fortrose Cliffs are a worthy photo opportunity on a drive between Invercargill and the Catlins. The lookout is two kilometres south of Fortrose township.

Drive south 20 minutes to Waipapa Point and Lighthouse. Find yourself amongst scenic sand dunes, rugged coastline, sea mammals and a historic lighthouse in this far southwest corner of The Catlins. A great spot for a walk to explore these sights. Pack yourself a picnic and find a spot to enjoy, nature watch, and soak up the local history!

If a picnic is not your thing, then stop at one of the eateries along the way, such as the cafe/restaurant that adjoins the Tumu Toka Curioscape or Niagara Falls Cafe, where you can explore the local arts and crafts showcased around the old school building while savouring some of their fresh produce and coffee. 

Continue to the Cathedral Caves which will be one of your highlights for your visit to the Catlins, and you will not be alone in feeling this way. Located in cliffs at the northern end of pristine Waipati Beach, they have attracted international interest for their length – the two sea-formed passages together measure just on 200 metres – and their impressive height, up to 30 metres. As you descend the one-kilometre track down to the Caves you will pass through lush coastal forest before making it to the beach. But be sure to check the tides when planning to visit! 

Three kilometres southwest of Papatowai you will find yourself at Florence Hill Lookout.
Standing high atop the Florence Hill Lookout, you will see a short gravel road leading into the sweeping Tautuku Bay. Experience the panoramic views of the beach, peninsula, and the lush rainforest. The glow of the beach is not your imagination, it is the quartz content of the sand. The Lookout has also been known as a great spot to view the Southern Lights

5 minutes down the road tucked away is The Lost Gypsy Gallery & Coffee Truck. The Lost Gypsy is a green house truck which is the studio of artist-craftsman-tinkerer extraordinaire Blair Somerville. Walkthrough the gate, wander up the path and find yourself inside this automata gallery and theatre experience created from the ground up.