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Queenstown to Dunedin: The Southern Scenic Route

The Southern Scenic Route, also known as the SSR, is a highway in the south island of New Zealand perfect for the eager traveller, connecting Queenstown, Fiordland, Te Anau and the iconic Milford Road to Dunedin via Riverton, Invercargill and The Catlins. The Southern Scenic Route takes you through 610 kilometres of breathtaking scenery, and pair that with exciting experiences along the way, you have the most unique of road trips ahead of you.

Before you begin the SSR road trip, there are a few things you will need to know:

Day 1 to 3 - Queenstown to Fiordland National Park

Distance: 198km

Time: 2 hrs 20 minutes

Commence the drive at the striking city of Queenstown, nestled amongst The Remarkables mountain range and continue south through the winding roads to Devils Staircase lookout. To gain a feel for your surroundings, the view from the lookout at Devils Staircase is one of a kind and a great way to begin the road trip. Continuing on for approx. one hour, you will come to the township of Mossburn, where the mountain scenery is genuinely majestic as you drive through miles of open farmland. Enough pit stops for now. Our next stop is heading straight to the Fiordland National Park.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, The Fiordland National Park is an adventurers dream. Complete with helicopter tours, wilderness cruises, jet boat rides, hiking and biking, kayaking, fishing, and even private overnight tours. Whatever your interests, the National Park can service every request. Visit the Te Anau Glowworm Caves for a magical experience within the National Park, walk the Milford Track Hike or the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track, which shows some absolutely spectacular scenery for all aspects of the hike. With so many options, this will keep you busy for a few days at least!

Driving by car or motorhome?

Along the way, we will provide you with both accommodation options for campervans and those travelling by car.

Accommodation: Fiordland National Park

Campsites: Fiordland National Park

Traveller Discovering Fiordland National Park Mitre Peak in Milford Sounds

Day 4 or Overnight to Milford Sound

Fiordland National Park is known for the glacier-carved fiords of Doubtful and Milford Sounds. Milford Sound is the most northern glacier in the National Park on the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand. The drive from Te Anau in Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound is approximately one hour and fifteen minutes (give or take). Milford Sound is an item that everyone wants to tick off their bucket list, and it's easy to see why. There are similar activity offerings between Milford Sound and the Te Anau locations within Fiordland National Park; however, there is one point of difference - Mitre Peak. Mitre Peak's summit sits over a vertical mile directly above Milford Sound, 1,692 metres (5,551 feet) above sea level. Another popular activity to do when travelling to Milford Sound is taking a walk across the Tutoko Suspension Bridge, the last remaining steel suspension bridge on Milford Road. Milford Sound is known for its rainforests, waterfalls, and places that, even when it rains, it is magical.

Accommodation: Milford Sound

Campsites: Milford Sound

Day 4 to 6 - Doubtful Sound to Gemstone Beach to Riverton to Stewart Island

Distance: 174km

Time: 2 hrs 5 minutes

As an alternative option to Milford Sound or, in addition, you can take an eight-hour return trip to the wilderness region of Doubtful Sound for untouched Fiordland scenery from Manapouri. Doubtful Sound is sometimes referred to as the 'Sound of Silence' and can be enjoyed ideally on a kayak or boat.

Continue along with the SSR to Western Southland, stopping to find your fortune at the rugged Gemstone Beach. As the name may suggest, Gemstone Beach is in a constant state of change, with the surface of the sand changing to stones, so it'll be a different experience every time you go exploring! Continue to the sleepy seaside town of Riverton and visit Te Hikoi Southern Journey Museum for an insight into the Maori and European historical settlements. If you're looking for the perfect picnic spot, head to Howells Point Reserve for a great view while you enjoy the local fresh produce. The SRR then winds onto Invercargill, the country's most southerly point. Take a photo at the famous Bluff signpost, and if time permits, spend a night or two on Stewart Island for some nature spotting and hiking, specifically on the Rakiura Track. You need to be aware that your car or motorhome will need to stay on the mainland while travelling on the ferry over to Stewart Island. You can book your Stewart Island Ferry here.

Accommodation: Stewart Island

Yellow eyed penguin New Zealand

Day 7 to 10 - The Catlins to Dunedin

Distance: 266km

Time: 3 hrs 35 minutes

Driving along the southern coast, the SSR takes you into The Catlins region, where native forests meet rugged cliffs and sandy beaches. Explore the area, stopping off at Nugget Point, Purakaunui Falls, Cathedral Caves and Curio Bay, where you may see sea lions, dolphins and yellow-eyed penguins in their natural habitat. For some leisurely activities, stop off for some fishing and golf in Clutha Country before concluding the SSR in the university city of Dunedin. Both picturesque and bohemian in architecture, Dunedin is a great place located at the head of Otago Harbour on the South Island's southeast coast. It is known for its Scottish and Maori heritage, Victorian and Edwardian architecture and is the perfect place to explore New Zealand's heritage, wildlife and outdoor activities. Take a trip to the Toitu Museum, and venture out to the Otago Peninsula - home to the Royal Albatross Breeding Colony. Stop off at the country's only castle, Larnoch and finally, don't forget to drive up and down the steepest road in the world – Baldwin Street!

Accommodation: Dunedin

Campsites: Dunedin

Nugget Point Lighthouse The Catlins
Baldwin Street Dunedin

You may have heard it all from us, but you be the judge. Discover more of the South Island of New Zealand driving the Southern Scenic Route road trip.