Kepler Track - Southland, New Zealand - Credit Liz Carlson (65)
Southern Scenic Route
Kepler Track © Young Adventuress

Established by proud Southerners eager to share the scenic delights of their backyard, the Southern Scenic Route is an excursion through the rural, coastal and forest landscapes of small-town coastal New Zealand.

Follow the signs for the Southern Scenic Route

The Southern Scenic Route is a 610 kilometre (380 mile) journey through the scenic highlights of the south between Queenstown, Invercargill and Dunedin with side trips to Fiordland. Much of the route hugs the southwestern coastline giving travellers the chance to marvel at wild and remote beaches where sightings of sea lions, and dolphins are common.

The Western Southland portion of the Southern Scenic route spans from Te Anau to Invercargill and offers a host of things to see and do along the way. Stop and discover the Hump Ridge Track, a spectacular 3-day hike 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 Wairaurahiri River.

Highlights of the Southern Scenic Route

Invercargill - Tuatapere - Te Anau

The 200-kilometre (124 mile) drive between Te Anau and Invercargill via Tuatapere takes approximately 2.5 hours by car and is sealed the entire way.

The road skirts the eastern boundary of Fiordland National Park and the rugged south coast, providing an introduction to southern parts of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. There are many points of natural and historical interest along the route, making it worth leaving extra time to explore activities like mountain biking, trout fishing, hunting, boating and caving. Find more things to do along the way here.

Borland Road

Approximately 67 kilometres (42 miles) from Te Anau, the Borland Road provides access into a part of Fiordland very few take time to see. For those who want to go further into Fiordland, or keen hunters, anglers and trampers, the Borland Road/Lake Monowai area is a journey into a wild and raw location.

Highlights include the impressive view from the Borland Saddle of an ancient landslide which occurred 12,000 - 13,000 years ago depositing a major chunk of the Hunter Mountains into Lake Monowai. 

The Humpridge Ridge Track - Tuatapere

A world-class outdoor experience, the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track is a 3-day loop walk traversing world-famous Waitutu coastal marine terraces, native beech forest, along historic viaducts and into sub-alpine settings and spectacular sandstone outcrops.

The track is managed and operated by the Tuatapere Hump Track Charitable Trust. The 53-kilometre (33 mile) circuit track starts from Bluecliff Beach at the Rarakau Farm car park. The first night is spent at Okaka Hut on the Hump Ridge with the second night at Port Craig Village (no longer a village!), then returning via Bluecliffs Beach.

Between six to nine hours walking is required each day to complete the track. The track is open all year round although facilities are reduced during the winter months (May to October).

Find out about guided walks on the Hump Ridge Track and track transport to the Hump Ridge Track.

Jet boating Wairaurahiri River

Jet boat across Lake Hauroko (the deepest lake in NZ) and onto the Wairaurahiri River. The Wairaurahiri is the steepest boatable river in New Zealand and a jet boat along this river is nothing short of exhilaration. The river falls 200 metres to sea level and is 27 kilometres of thrills and Grade 3 white water rapids. The river is commonly described as New Zealand's longest waterfall!


To find the Southern Scenic Route, look for the brown road signs with the Southern Scenic route symbol.

The Southern Scenic Route follows sealed roads for most of the way, but access to some attractions is along unsealed roads. When driving unsealed roads, drive slowly, keep left and drive to the conditions.

Driving in New Zealand can be different to driving at home, and when driving on quiet, rural roads, it is important to remain vigilant. Some roads are narrow, windy and have loose gravel or metal and it’s not unusual to see sheep or cattle on the roads. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination and to understand New Zealand road rules and signs.

For more information on driving the route, or activities on the Southern Scenic Route, visit the website here.

FAQs about The Southern Scenic Route

How long does it take to drive from Te Anau to Tuatapere?

It will take around 1 hour and 25 minutes to drive from Te Anau to Tuatapere.

Are the roads sealed on the Southern Scenic Route?

The route follows sealed roads for most of the way, but access to some attractions is along unsealed roads. When driving unsealed roads, drive slowly, keep left and drive to the conditions.

Which is better Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound?

Tough question! Piopiotahi / Milford Sound will provide scenic drama, Patea / Doubtful Sound will provide mystery and intrigue. Both are day trips from Te Anau or Manapouri, and very long day trips from Queenstown (allow an additional 4 hours). You can also do overnight cruising and kayaking in both. Patea / Doubtful Sound is much bigger than Piopiotahi / Milford Sound.

How far is Te Anau from Milford Sound?

119km (74 miles). Allow minimum 2 hours driving time (to allow for the nature of the drive). Find out more about driving to Milford Sound here,