Catlins Southern Scenic Route
Clutha District Council

Southern Scenic Route

The Southern Scenic Route is a road trip like no other.

This incredible journey has been ranked one of the top 10 drives in the world, and for a good reason. It is just over 600km of spectacular natural and cultural attractions and exciting activities, such as wildlife viewing, short walks, mountain biking, surfing, fishing, boating, and tramping. Picturesque coastlines, remote beaches, lush native rainforests, pristine lakes and stunning mountain vistas are just some of the highlights along this epic route. It is an ideal drive for those who want to explore everything southern New Zealand has to offer.

Beginning your journey in Queenstown, you drive down into Southland and traverse the edge of Fiordland, a rugged and remote region of awe-inspiring scenic beauty. It’s a world-class sightseeing stop, home to the vast and majestic Fiordland National Park, one of the world’s finest walking destinations and an excellent place for a leisurely boat cruise on a fiord (or sound, as they’re called locally).

Explore Fiordland

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Dusky Sound helicopter
Richard Young

Explore Fiordland

Things To Do

Fiordland is a natural playground. From providing some of the best walking tracks in the country - and even the world, to offering a plethora of scenic cruises and adventure activities, Fiordland is a dream… Read More

Explore Fiordland

Te Anau

The serene, picturesque Lake Te Anau is the largest lake in the South Island and second largest in New Zealand, with the spectacular Mt Luxmore and Murchison mountains providing an awe-inspiring backdrop… Read More

Explore Fiordland

Milford Sound

Often described as the “eighth wonder of the world”, the jewel in Fiordland’s crown, and one of the New Zealand’s top travel destinations, Milford Sound  (Piopiotahi)  was… Read More

Explore Fiordland

Accommodation

Fiordland has an abundance of camp grounds, backpackers, scenic camping areas, and lodges, as well as a range of hotels, motels, holiday homes, and B&B’s. Whether you’re just staying one night… Read More

Explore Fiordland

Food & Drink

There is an excellent selection of restaurants, bars, cafés, bakeries, and dairies to choose from in Te Anau, and a few cafés can also be found in Manapōuri and Milford… Read More

Explore Fiordland

Travelling into Western Southland, you'll find the tranquil town of Tuatapere, where the Southern Scenic Route was originally conceived. This town is the launch pad to accessing the variety of wilderness environments and adventure activities in the district. Hike the Hump Ridge Track, a spectacular walk from the ocean to the mountains via native forest and old viaducts. Or jet boat across New Zealand’s deepest lake, Lake Hauroko, and down New Zealand’s steepest boatable river, the thrilling Wairaurahiri River.
 

Experience Adventure

Lake Hauroko

Lake Hauroko is New Zealand's deepest lake and one of its most southern. The S-shaped lake is 30km…

Lake Monowai

One of the smaller southern glacial lakes, Lake Monowai is shaped like a boomerang and set amongst…

From Tuatapere, follow the once mighty Waiau River to the coast. Several stunning natural attractions await you; Monkey Island, Cosy Nook, and Gemstone Beach to name a few - and don’t miss the commanding views and photo opportunities at McCracken's Rest. Look carefully from Te Waewae Bay and you may just catch a glimpse of New Zealand’s largest pod of Hector’s Dolphins. Colac Bay is one of New Zealand’s top surfing spots, and Riverton/Aparima, the “Riviera of the South”, is a fantastic family destination. The popular seaside town is one of the earliest European settlements in New Zealand and subsequently the site of many European and Maori cross-cultural interactions, the stories of which can be explored at the excellent Te Hikoi Southern Journey Heritage Museum.
 

Journey The Southern Coast

Cosy Nook

Cosy Nook is a picturesque rocky cove sheltering several fishing boats and holiday cribs. It is an…

The next stop on the journey is the halfway point: Invercargill - home of classic motoring, tuatara, historic architecture and grand gardens. Fondly dubbed the "City of Water and Light", referring to the long summer daylight hours and the city’s position beside the Waihopai River estuary, Invercargill has plenty of character and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. It boasts a wide variety of attractions and has a packed events calendar, making it an exciting place to visit. Highlights include the world-class vintage motor vehicle displays at Bill Richardson Transport World and Classic Motorcycle Mecca, the drivable Oreti Beach and the magnificent Queens Park.

The short detour to the port town of Bluff is a must-do. Take a photo at the famous Stirling Point signpost, the starting point of New Zealand’s State Highway 1, and enjoy some world renowned Bluff Oysters – the oyster season begins on the 1st of March.
 

The Half-Way Highlights

When entering into The Catlins’ section of the journey, it is highly recommended to travel the coastal Scenic Side Trip instead of the inland route to truly experience all of the wonders this area has to offer. The Catlins boasts a rugged beauty and untouched quality that is magnetic. Here you’ll find a world of native forests, high cliffs, deserted sandy beaches, sparkling bays, cascading waterfalls, hidden lakes, blowholes, caves, and even a petrified forest. These environments are home to an array of fauna, from native birds, to seals, sea lions, dolphins, and penguins.

Visit Slope Point, the southernmost point of New Zealand’s South Island. Stop at Waipapa Point and photograph the historic lighthouse and New Zealand Sea Lions. At Curio Bay watch the outgoing tide reveal a 180 million-year-old petrified forest and discover rare, endangered wildlife such as the Yellow-Eyed Penguin/Hoiho. The town also boasts the Tumu Toka Curioscape a world-class interpretive centre intended to educate and share the special stories of the area.
 

Discover The Southern Catlins

Slope Point

Slope Point is the southernmost point on the South Island of New Zealand and is accessible via a 20…

Travel inland to view the stunning Purakaunui Falls, McLean Falls, and Matai Falls, some of the most photographed waterfalls in the world. And make sure to visit Nugget Point, with its lighthouse perched on a spur of land that provides a breathtaking viewing platform.
 

Tour The Northern Catlins

McLean Falls

The 22 metre McLean Falls on the Tautuku River in the Catlins Conservation Park are often described…

Lake Wilkie

Just south of the Tautuku Outdoor Education Centre on the Southern Scenic Route a short walk takes…

The route then travels up through Balclutha and finishes in Dunedin. The whole drive is well signposted and mostly follows sealed country roads and highways – although some gravel roads may be involved, particularly while detouring to visit special sites or partake in activities.

The route is also just as good travelled in the opposite direction as described, from Dunedin to Queenstown, depending on where you want to start.

To find out more, visit southernscenicroute.co.nz.