The spectacular drive between Invercargill and Te Anau via the Southern Scenic Route is a 188-kilometer journey that takes roughly 2.5 hours. The road trip to Te Anau via the Southern Scenic Route is going to distract, delight and detain you during your journey so we encourage you to allow plenty of time. Get ready to experience true southern wilderness around every turn whilst you see, taste, and do all that Western Southland has to offer.
Date 02 Aug 2021
Whether you are travelling by plane, bus or car, Invercargill Waihopai is known as the gateway to Southland and Fiordland. The city has an eclectic mix of old-world character and modern inner-city experiences. From Queens Park with its sprawling 80 hectares of beautifully kept gardens to Bill Richardson Transport World, Invercargill has plenty of character and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
Riverton Aparima, 30 kilometres west of Invercargill, is one of the most popular holiday destinations along the Southern Scenic Route. This seaside settlement offers a unique arty, surfy, agricultural vibe with cute retail outlets and boutique style cafes. The "Riviera of the South", as it is affectionately known, is a great spot for swimming, surfing, watching the dolphins or grabbing a coffee for the road. Home to both Oreti Beach and the Jacob's River Estuary you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to waterfront views in Riverton.
3. Colac Bay:
Just ten minutes further down the road from Riverton, you will find the well-known surfing village of Colac Bay Oraka which has waves suitable for all skill levels. The bay's sandy beach is ideal for strolling, kayaking, fishing, diving, or horseback riding, and it offers spectacular views of Raratoka Island, Centre Island, and Rakiura Stewart Island.
Check out the local favourite, Colac Bay Tavern. The menu is top notch, offering delicious blue cod, gourmet burgers, woodfired pizza and, when in season, even oysters and whitebait.
4. Gemstone Beach:
Gemstone Beach is known for its constant state of change from sand to stone with the storms and tides. It might not be a secret but it’s still exiting to go on a treasure hunt at Gemstone Beach where actual gemstones such as garnet, jasper, quartz, nephrite and sapphires can be picked from the thousands of multicoloured stones washing up on each tide. This dramatic beach is well worth a visit, and who knows it could be your lucky day.
Tuatapere, self-proclaimed sausage capital of New Zealand, sits on the edge of wilderness amid spectacular unspoilt scenery and lush rolling farmland. It is the launch pad to a variety of natural environments and adventure activities in Western Southland, including the newest Great Walk addition, the Hump Ridge Track. No visit to the sausage capital is complete without first tasting the local delicacies. A window from Tui Base Camp Bar into the butchery means if you are lucky, you might even witness the making of the famous sausage.
6. Clifden Caves:
Treat yourself to an adventure at Clifden Caves, one of Southland's few underground cave networks which allows you to explore the limestone cave systems and see glow worms at your own pace. Intrepid adventurers who embark on the two-hour self-guided caving experience will be rewarded with stunning stalactites, stalagmites and wet feet crossings. Don’t forget to bring your torch!
7. Good Mood Food at the Clifden Suspension Bridge:
Delicious cafe dining with the unique backdrop of the historic Clifden Suspension Bridge. Although modest by international standards, this is the longest suspension bridge in New Zealand. Back in 1899, the building of a bridge of this span was a significant local engineering feat made possible by the tensile properties of new steel cables. Purchase to go or stay a while and marvel at the bridge, it's up to you, just don’t be fooled by stereotypes; this food truck offers delicious food and even great fair trade, locally roasted ROAR coffee. You’ll find homemade sweets, big sausage rolls and burgers, milkshakes and smoothies so if you ask us, it’s probably worth a visit.
Few lakes are more gorgeous or mysterious than Lake Manapouri, New Zealand's second deepest lake, which is often referred to as New Zealand's finest. Manapouri township is a quiet settlement on the lake's eastern banks, near its outflow into the Waiau River. The town offers a variety of amenities to make your stay in these beautiful surroundings more pleasurable, as well as serving as the starting point for excursions to Doubtful Sound and the primary entrance to the even more isolated Dusky Sound.
9. Bird Sanctuary:
On the banks of Lake Te Anau you will find the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary Punanga Manu o Te Anau. Open every day, guided visits may be arranged through the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre. The Park is a fantastic family friendly outing which offers you the chance to observe some of New Zealand's unique birds that are difficult to sight in the wild.
The Bird Sanctuary's headliners are the rare flightless Takahē and seeing these prehistoric-looking creatures is a must-do for all visitors to Fiordland. You can also spot the Kākā, Ruru koukou/morepork, and various lively native forest parrots.
10. Te Anau:
The magnificent Mt Luxmore and Murchison Mountains provide a grand background for Te Anau, an enchanting lakeside town and an ideal base for discovering Fiordland. Te Anau is literally like walking around inside a picture postcard and understandably attracts photographers and wilderness lovers from around the world with its broad choice of activities on and off the lake including international cuisine, luxurious accommodation, and Fiordland's most luminous residents, inside Te Anau’s Glowworm Caves.
Te Anau is the ideal starting point for exploring Fiordland's numerous impressive sights. Whatever adventures you choose to undertake, whether it's the renowned Piopiotahi / Milford Sound or the Kepler, Milford or Routeburn Tracks, make sure you add additional time to your plan to fully enjoy Fiordland as it is, quite simply, beyond belief.
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