Introduction to the Southern Scenic Route

The Southland Plains

The Southern Scenic Route Take the coastal journey along the Southern Scenic Route and unlock secrets found only in the south of the South Island, New Zealand.

This journey between Queenstown and Dunedin is approximately 610 kilometres
(km) of natural and cultural attractions laid out one after the other – wildlife viewing,
short walks, mountain-biking, fishing, hunting, boating, camping, tramping and caving – making it an ideal drive for those with time to explore.

The route is well signposted, guiding visitors from Queenstown to Dunedin  (or vice versa), via sealed, mostly coastal, highways.

Map Lower South Island

Queenstown > Te Anau / Fiordland > Western Southland > Invercargill > The Catlins > Balclutha > Dunedin

Alternative inland roads provide a more direct path between the main centres. However, the Southern Scenic Route (SSR) is a journey that allows access to deserted beaches, lush rainforest,
pristine lakes and stunning mountain vistas.


Discover the majestic beauty of the jagged Fiordland mountains and the rugged southern coast. Explore New Zealand native bush growing right to the water''s edge or stroll along white sandy beaches and enjoy peace and solitude. Meander through the colourful coastal fishing villages and seaside settlements. Stay overnight along the way, meet local people and find out what we mean by ''southern hospitality''. Uncover the ancient secrets of this land which has been occupied by Maori for over 1000 years and observe the natural features of the environment that led Ngai Tahu, as the people of the land, down the same pathways you will travel.

This scenic travelling route guides you through some of the most spectacular coastal scenery and rural settings in New Zealand. You will be enthralled by the contrasting beauty of unique landscapes, from rolling green pastures and native New Zealand forest, to the wild southern coastline and looming mountains.

Between the deep waters of Lake Wakatipu and the rugged, snow-topped peaks of the Southern Alps lies Queenstown, a resort whose appeal lies in its unique mix of picture postcard views, endless array of attractions and overflowing hospitality. The Southern Hemisphere’s premier four season alpine and lake resort, Queenstown is renowned for adventure. From all corners of the globe people come to jump into thin air on the end of a bungy cord, mountain bike or sweep down an open expanse of soft powder snow on one of its ski fields and much, much more.

Equally exciting - but at an altogether different pace - are more relaxing pastimes such as taking in the spectacular views from a mountain-top gondola or at lake level from the deck of the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw.

Many enjoy trying their skill at one of the local golf courses. And just a short drive away is the historic gold mining centre of Arrowtown and the award-winning vineyards of Gibbston Valley. Most accommodation options - and there are plenty - are within easy walking distance from the town centre, for easy late-night shopping or restaurant-hopping at one of the resorts many cafés, bars and restaurants. So, at the end of your day, you never have far to go to be reminded you’re in holiday heaven.

The Upper Mataura area in Northern Southland officially starts at Kingston at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown. It includes the villages of Kingston, Garston and Athol, ending with a great view from the lookout on the Jollies Pass above Five Rivers.

These small settlements were built along an historic railway line which was home to the vintage steam train, the Kingston Flyer, now operating train rides from Kingston. Amongst other things they provide the passing travellers with a variety of refreshments and accommodation. There is a new cycle trail about to be formed through the Upper Mataura area providing a new way to explore this area.

The landscape is a long valley surrounded by mountains from the ice age forming some stunning scenery, with the high mountains on the western side forming part of the Eyre Mountain Wilderness Park.

The Mataura River meandours all the way through it until it turns left at the Nokomai Gorge, before passing through Gore on its way to the Pacific ocean .It is popular with fly fishermen from all over the world who come to challenge its stock of brown trout in the Eyre and Mataura rivers.

Today the fertile hills and flats are farmed mainly by sheep and cattle farmers.

Activities and Attractions: Fly fishing (guides available), Kingston Flyer (steam train), farm stays, helicopter tours, horse trekking, walks and hikes.

An unspoiled area which can still offer a true NZ experience !!

Fiordland - one of the world’s last great wildernesses and the essence of New Zealand’s untamed splendor. Imagine standing high in the mountains, looking over a vast landscape of soaring peaks, glistening fiords, and mighty rivers winding through native forest. Fiordland is a ‘must see’ for anyone travelling to New Zealand.

Renowned as the home of Mitre Peak and the awe-inspiring fiords of Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, Fiordland has achieved UNESCO World Heritage status. Numerous short walks and multi-day hiking trails, including three of the New Zealand Great Walks (the Milford, Routeburn, and Kepler Tracks), have earned Fiordland the reputation of one of the world’s finest walking destinations. Combine your walk with a scenic flight, a jet boat ride, a horse trek or a quad-bike trip and you have an adventure of a lifetime.

The attractive lakeside town of Te Anau, located on the shores of the South Island’s largest lake, is the gateway to Fiordland and provides a perfect base to explore the area. Here you can enjoy a range of activities on or off the water, fine restaurants, seven-days-a-week shopping and a large range of accommodation options.

From Te Anau it is 2 1/2 hour drive through some of the most beautiful South Island scenery to Milford Sound or 20 minutes by road to the most picturesque lake in the world, Lake Manapouri, and the start of a Doubtful Sound excursion.


Whilst travelling south, take the time to venture off the main highway and discover Southland''s hidden lakes, on the southern tip of Te Wahi Pounamu, the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.

The wild southern coast captures the imagination with breathtaking vistas of the ocean. Explore the settlements scattered throughout this area. Riverton is a delightful historic fishing town and holiday spot. Fossick for shells and stones on the beach or take a leisurely swim in this safe cove. Tuatapere is located on the banks of the majestic Waiau River, with a vast selection of things to see and do; beaches, lakes, historic sites, bush walks and a World Heritage area.

Bluff Signpost
Invercargill is Southland''s only city. From here, you can either take a short journey by air across Foveaux Straight to Stewart Island or depart from Bluff(27 Kms from Invercargill) on the regular charter boat service. The city of Invercargill offers a display of fine Victorian architecture and has all the amenities and services that any traveller may require. A stay here enables you to meet the local residents and discover the warmth of ''southern hospitality''.

Leaving Invercargill you travel through some of the most lush and fertile farmland in New Zealand before entering the Catlins. The Catlins is an area where native forest meets the waters edge; a place of hidden waterfalls and river valleys; of rocky coastal bays, inlets and estuaries where the great Pacific Ocean bites into the land. Of international geological significance is Curio Bay''s 160 million-year-old fossilised forest, best viewed at low tide. The Catlins is home to an abundance of wildlife and Nugget Point (Tokata) is a stunning and accessible place for viewing seals and penguins.

Further travel through the Catlins brings your to the rich, green, rolling hills of South Otago, an area steeped in history. Early colonial architecture is a feature of many of the buildings in this area. Balclutha services and surrounding farming communities and provides a convenient break or stopover for the traveller.

Lake Waihola marks the turning point of travel toward the coast and the charming seaside villages of Taieri Mouth and Brighton. Take time to enjoy the many recreational activities in this area. Stroll along the deserted beaches with soft white sand that stretches for miles. Clamber over the rocky outcrops and watch the crashing waves.

Depending on your direction of travel, Dunedin marks the beginning or the conclusion of your tour of the Southern Scenic Route. Dunedin is a bustling university city, celebrated for its architecture, museums, galleries, and theatres. The Octagon is the showpiece and centre of this vibrant city. Enjoy the streetlife while sipping coffee at an outdoor cafe or pick a spot in the sun under the statue of Robbie Burns. Dunedin offers a blend of natural history, attractions, culture, recreation and entertainment that, in combination with all the attractions along the Southern Scenic Route, will make your tour a truly memorable experience.