Days 7 - 9: Dunedin to Invercargill
Distance: 205 km / 128 miles
Drive to Lake Waihola and stop for a picnic by the lake before heading through Milton, a quaint historic town. Soon after you will be in the Catlins, an area known for the sea life that lives off its wild shores. Take out the binoculars to try to spot sea lions, seals, dolphins, penguins, and seabirds. In Invercargill, try the local seafood, especially its Bluff Oysters in season.
Consider a trip out to the rugged shores of New Zealand’s third island, Stewart Island/Rakiura. Ferry trips and flights are available. This is the best place in New Zealand to get away from it all, literally and figuratively, and one of the best places to spot kiwi in the wild. Stewart Island has a fascinating history and an important future as a conservation area.
Days 10 - 12: Invercargill to Te Anau
Distance: 160 km / 100 miles
Today takes you from Invercargill to Te Anau. Consider taking the route that goes via Riverton, one of the South Island’s oldest settlements, and visit spectacular Lake Manapouri before you arrive in Te Anau, on the shores of the lake of the same name. Visit the Te Anau Gloworm Caves or take one of the many tours on the lake.
Te Anau is known as the gateway to the Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest national park, including the spectacular Milford Sound. This far-flung part of the country offers views of the High Country, where settlers conquered the rugged scenery in the early days. Rivers full of trout meander through the countryside and you will be spoiled for your choice of picnic spots. The road to Milford is one of New Zealand’s most scenic and it is worth coming this far south just to be a part of it. Stop for photos and try to spot the 'Disappearing Mountain', near the Mirror Lakes. You’ll see Mitre Peak on a clear day after venturing through the Homer Tunnel. From here, it’s worth taking the time for an optional cruise on Milford Sound; a once in a lifetime experience.
Days 13 - 14: Te Anau to Queenstown
Distance: 173 km / 108 miles
There’s a bit of backtracking today as you make your way to Queenstown, but the beauty of Lake Wakatipu will keep you entertained as you wind your way north. The alpine resort of Queenstown is unlike anywhere else in New Zealand, as its tourist numbers in high seasons will attest. Tourists young and old flock to Queenstown to soak in its atmosphere, literally soak in luxury spas, partake of its many award-winning restaurants and cafes, and shop at upmarket boutiques.
It’s also the place to be if adventure tourism is your thing: bungee jumping, jet boating, river rafting, river surfing, horse trekking, skiing, snowboarding, sky diving…all are available here, and all are provided to the highest standards. Some quieter adventures also await, from high tea at the end of Lake Wakatipu after a leisurely ride on the SS Earnslaw, to world class golf, to wine tastings – Queenstown has got you covered. There are also numerous Lord of the Rings locations here.
Days 15 - 16: Queenstown – Wanaka
Distance: 67 km / 42 miles
Be sure to divert to Arrowtown on your way to Wanaka. This small settlement is a contradiction of sorts, with humble old mining cottages hugging tree-lined roads which lead to a quaint town centre that boasts luxury spas, designer shops and gourmet restaurants. Visit the historic mining huts along the river, sample local fudges, ice creams, and confections and stop in at a local winery before continuing onto Wanaka. The shortest route to Wanaka is over the Crown Range Road, a challenging drive, but the views are amazing. A more moderate driving route runs beside the Shotover River, Lake Dunstan, and the Clutha River. Wanaka will provide you with an appealing mix of fine living, family fun, and adventure. It has a high concentration of cafes, restaurants and interesting shops, not to mention picturesque scenery from the lake that bears its name to the surrounding mountains of the Southern Alps.