The southern end of New Zealand’s south island is a natural and wildlife playground. Start in historic Dunedin with your Dunedin Airport car rental, drive along the wild Catlins coast, through Invercargill – the country’s southern most city – and all the way to Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland.
Fans of Gothic architecture will love the Victorian and Edwardian influences in Dunedin. Once you’ve explored this charming city and the surrounding Otago peninsula, head south towards the untouched Catlins Coast. This stretch of wilderness begins just south of Balclutha, housing ancient forests and waterfalls. The many layered Purakaunui Falls are a must see, as are the fossilised trees millions of years old at Curio Bay. Drive to Nugget Point – known for its distinctive lighthouse out on the headland for your best chance at spotting seals and penguins, or Porpoise Bay for dolphins.
Invercargill in Southland is a quiet town from which you can take a ferry over to Stewart Island for even more nature encounters, or make the short trip over to Bluff to see the famous yellow Stirling Point signpost showing the distance to the South Pole and many other parts of the world; and sample Bluff oysters, the local delicacy exported all over.
From Invercargill head north. You can take the shorter route via Lumsden and Mossburn to Te Anau, or the longer route past historic Riverton and Tuatapere – if you go this way be sure to check out the suspension bridge at Clifden and serene Lake Manapouri.
Te Anau lies on the shore of Lake Te Anau and is a great place to relax and wind down. From here you can take a boat cruise, walk one of the many hiking tracks including Milford Trackand explore Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound. Te Anau is also just a couple of hours to majestic Queenstown, a stunning alpine town full of adventure and luxury alike.