Why You Should Visit The Bottom Of New Zealand’s South Island


Although New Zealand is a small country by size, in fact it’s just slightly bigger than the UK, it seems most tourists and backpackers won’t make it further south than Milford Sound or Queenstown.

Here we have complied multiple reasons why you should make the effort to go to the bottom of NZ and travel the Southern Scenic Highway, and also where to stay...

Take the coastal journey along the Southern Scenic Route and unlock secrets found only in the south of the South Island, New Zealand. From Invercargill travel north-east through the Catlins. Depending on your direction of travel, Dunedin marks the beginning or the conclusion of your tour of the Southern Scenic Route, from Dunedin travel up the Otago coast to marvel and the natural rock formations of the Moeraki Boulders...

  • Invercargill

  • Bluff

  • The Catlins-

  • Waipapa lighthouse

  • Slope point

  • Curio Bay

  • McLean Falls

  • Florence Hill Lookout

  • Surat Bay

  • Purakaunui Falls

  • Suret Bay- sea lion colony

  • Nugget Point

  • Dunedin

  • Otago Coast- Moeraki Boulders

Just over 3 and half hours from Milford Sound and through stunning scenery you will reach Invercargill.

Enjoy a drive or walk around and look out for the old buildings.

You should visit The Southland Museum and Art Gallery where you will see Burt Munroe's racing car, artefacts on the southern pole expeditions and the amazing Tuatara which are reptiles endemic to New Zealand, once living all over earth and became extinct along with dinosaurs 60-65 millions years ago- except in New Zealand

Don’t bother visiting Trip Advisors number one thing which is ‘Ehays’ where you’ll find historic cars and also a hardware-come-gift shop

Do however visit Couplands bakery for yummy cookies and pies.

Stay at Central City Camping Park at $33 per night for a tent site.

Located around 20- 25 minutes away from Invercargill is Bluff.

Scale Bluff Hill Lookout at Stirling Point for gorgeous views across the land and water.

Invercargill and Bluff were some of the first settlements by arrivals into New Zealand from the United Kingdom.

Leaving Invercargill stick to the coast and drive though The Catlins which is a mix of rural New Zealand native forests, cliffs, golden beaches, lighthouses and wildlife such as penguins and sea lions. You can do the drive in as short as a few hours but you will want to stop at least a few of the following points so leave yourself around 6 hours to complete.

In order you will come across;

Waipapa lighthouse - where the SS Tararua sank in 1881- the worst worst civilian shipwreck in NZ. Try also to spot sea lions!

Slope Point - the South Islands’ most southernly point. There is no road to Slope Point; it must be reached by a 20-minute walk through fields, no public access during the lambing season (September – November). Look out for the twisted trees formed by the winds.

Curio Bay - 180-million-year-old fossilised forest, trees turned to stone along the bay.

McLean Falls - A stunning waterfall,  40 mins return walk.

Florence Hill Lookout - pull over in the car to look at the views.

Surat Bay - where sea lions are found lazing on beach, just stay at least 10 feet away from them and don't block their path into the water. Amazing experience.

Purakaunui Falls - NZ's most photographed falls. 20 mins return walk.

Nugget Point -  is one of the most distinctive landforms along the Otago coast. It's a steep headland with a lighthouse and a scattering of rocky islets (The Nuggets). Look out for gannets, seals, sealions, and penguins. 

Read all about the Catlins here... 

Then head towards Dunedin which should take around 1 and half hours, named so as in 1848 the first settlers were from Scotland and named Dunedin as it's Gaelic for 'Edinburgh of the South'. The population is now 120,000, in the far-flung corner of the world- well it is the farthest city in the world from London at 19,100 km.

Visit the Otago Museum which is free entry with expected donation (open 10am-5pm every day). You’ll find museum pieces including artefacts from Sir Edmund Hillary who in 1953 along with his Nepalese Sherpa- mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest.

If you like a beer, and New Zealand has plenty of good local beers, then check out 'Speights Ale House' where you can try a taster of their most famous beers and ales. You can also do a brewery tour here.

Take a trip up Baldwin Street, the world's steepest residential street, according to the Guinness World Records. The slope of Baldwin Street is about 1:2.86 (19° or 35%). That is, for every 2.86 meters travelled horizontally, the elevation changes by 1 meter. An interesting fact is; the street's steepness was unintentional. As with many other parts of early Dunedin, and indeed New Zealand, streets were laid out in a grid pattern with no consideration for the terrain, usually by planners in London. (Respect the neighbours by not driving up the street)

Also take a drive up to Signal Hill where you will be treated to views of city with an elevation of 393 m (1289 ft).

No stop in Dunedin is complete without visiting Dunedin's Railway Station which is a very striking building. There are also many other stunning architectural buildings around- just keep looking up.

Put TOITŪ Otago Settlers Museum on your list, there is a collection of culture, technology, art, fashion, transport of the Otago province from before the time of European settlement to present. Free entry (10am-5pm)

Stay at Leith Valley Touring Park at $19pp 3km out of the city centre, but easy enough to drive into and park. 

One hour drive up the Otago Coast are the Moeraki Boulders. It’s a little hard to find even using a satnav but from Dunedin you take the Hampden- Palmerston Road and then the boulders are on Koekohe Beach.

You will also need to make sure you head there at the right time for the low tide as they are located on the beach.

What are the Moeraki boulders I hear you ask... they are boulders estimated to have taken 4 to 5.5 million years to grow of marine mud accumulated on the seafloor that have been exposed through sea erosion and are an unusually large size and spherical shape from 0.5 metres to 2.2 metres (1.6ft to 7.2ft). Some even say there are a phenomenon, others just find them utterly fascinating.

Have you been to NZ before and ventured down south and travelled the Southern scenic route?

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