South Island east coast road trip: Nelson to Invercargill (Part 2)

Continuing our South Island road trip from Ashburton, here are stunning locations you’ll discover on your road trip down the east coast.

Timaru – 73 kilometres

It would be easy to head directly to Timaru, which is less than an hour’s drive from Ashburton. However, a 15-minute detour to Peel Forest Park Scenic Reserve will have you getting back to nature with ease. This forest is rich in native flora and fauna and features several walking tracks for all ages and abilities. You could make a full day of it.

If Māori culture is something that interests you, then you may want to head straight to the Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre in Timaru. There you’ll see ancient artworks and hear the stories of ancestors from local Māori guides. As a contrast, the Aigantighe Art Gallery is home to an impressive collection of national and international works from the 16th century to the present day.

Need a place to stay?

Modern and comfortable, Timaru’s Comfort Hotel Benvenue features plenty of amenities – including a popular onsite restaurant and bar. Enjoy a late check-out and free parking.

Aigantighe Art Gallery, Timaru. Image – Alamy

Dunedin (Ōtepoti) – 198 kilometres

The drive from Timaru to Dunedin is best broken up with a stop at Koekohe Beach to see the famous Moeraki Boulders. These fascinating geological oddities are one of the South Island‘s most popular natural attractions, and for good reason. Bring your camera!

Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island and is often referred to as the ‘Edinburgh of the south’. It has much to offer, from art and culture, to quirky cafes and gorgeous gardens. Enjoy popular attractions such as the Otago Museum and Lanarch Castle, and leave time to explore the Otago Peninsula. You’ll encounter New Zealand fur seals and sea lions, and the northern royal albatross. A tour with Elm Wildlife Tours is a great way to take it all in.

Larnach Castle, Dunedin. Image courtesy of DunedinNZ

Invercargill (Waihōpai) via the Catlins – 245 kilometres

If you aren’t pressed for time, follow the Southern Scenic Route to Invercargill. This will allow you to explore the Catlins – a nature lover’s paradise with many stunning sights. They include Purakanui Falls, Curio Bay, Nugget Point, Cathedral Caves Slope Point, McLean Falls and Waipapa Point.

Invercargill is a city full of character, and Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco architecture will delight you at every turn. It’s the southernmost city in Aotearoa New Zealand and one of the most southerly in the world. The perfect way to explore is to follow the Heritage Trail in your vehicle. From buildings to beaches, the trail showcases Invercargill’s many points of interest.

And finally, we can’t end this road trip without mentioning that Invercargill was the home of the late Burt Munro. Munro became famous when he set a land speed record in 1967 on his Indian Scout Motorbike. People come from all over to see this bike, which is the main attraction at the E Hayes Motorworks Collection. Motoring enthusiasts will also want to check out Bill Richardson Transport World and the Classic Motorcycle Mecca.

Need a place to stay?

Comfort Inn Tayesta offers a selection of comfortable studios, and one and two-bedroom apartment-style accommodation options, just a three-minute drive from the Invercargill CBD. Key tourist attractions, restaurants and cafes are all within easy reach.

Hit the Heritage Trail in Invercargill. Image – Bigstock

Read more: South Island east coast road trip: Nelson to Invercargill (Part 1)

About the writer

Hailing from Aotearoa New Zealand, Karllie Clifton is an avid midlife traveller and blogger who loves an adventure. In the past few years alone, Karllie has visited over twenty countries and ticked off over more than 50 cities across three continents. She loves the great outdoors – especially hiking and anything to do with the ocean.

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