New Zealand road trip, Christchurch to Dunedin and 1 night stopover then Dunedin to Te Anau-Fiordland via Invercargill
Leaving Christchurch we head out onto the open road heading south for Dunedin and our first real taste of life on the road in New Zealand. As we set off for Dunedin little did we know we were but a day away from discovering Paul Henry. Looking back I know realise how fortunate we were to have made this discovery so early on in our trip, but more on that later.
Driving in New Zealand New Zealand drives on the left, great for us as we are visiting from the UK where we also drive on the left, but challenging for anyone not used to driving on this side of the road. Don’t just take my word for it though, as a couple of days after we departed Christchurch a Chinese driver caused a very serious accident by driving on the wrong side of the road at high speed around a blind corner, causing serious injury to New Zealander. In fact, of all the bad driving we experience in our month long travel I can guarantee that at least 80% was the result of very poor road driving skills displayed by visitors from mainland China.
Don’t expect motorways, or dual carriageways although there are a few duals c’s, instead most routes consist of 2 lane highways with passing lanes every 4 kilometres or so. That said driving in New Zealand is a pretty pleasant and relatively stress free experience, due in no small part to low traffic levels. In fact, the only time in our entire trip that we encountered any form of road traffic delay was in and around Auckland, but again, nothing when compared to a pretty typical UK road.
Driving time from Christchurch to Dunedin is about four and a half hours, but allowing for a more leisurely drive, with a few stops along the way, give it five and a half. The other great thing we discovered about New Zealand is that virtually everywhere you stop they will have real coffee, made fresh, with a proper coffee matchine. A real plus, if like me, you like your coffee fresh and strong.
The speed limits on most long distance roads is 100kph, which at about 60 miles an hour, which is lower than the UK max.
All in all follow these top 4 Top tips and you should enjoy a stress free driving experience.
Top 4 driving tips: (1) Check you’re hire car, or van, thoroughly for any and all faults prior to setting off from collection (don’t assume it will be fine) including looking under the car for any signs of damage to underside, wheels, or bodywork, (2) Drive on the left (3) Obey local speed limits. (4) Check your fuel and fill your tank prior to departing on any long road journeys, as the next petrol station may be a lot further away than you think.
Top Tip Do not be tempted to break the 100k speed limit in New Zealand, the Police here are vigilant with many Police cars stationed along all major routes, usually hidden waiting to catch anyone tempted to break the limit. You are here to relax and enjoy and that should extend to a leisurely and laid back approach to driving and low speeds. The only other thing to watch out for is in a lot of the more remote and rural parts of New Zealand many locals seem to have a dislike for turning on their lights in the dark, which led to one or two hairy encounters for us along the way.
Although the primary interest for most tourists visiting New Zealand is the landscape and the great outdoors, some of it towns and cites are well worth a day or two of any visitors time, Dunedin is, to my mind, one of those place. It is also the gateway to the Otago Peninsula and on to the stunning coastline of Invercargill.
Dunedin is a charming city with strong links and connections to Scotland and indeed much of its architecture would not look out of place in Edinburgh, whilst the Gaelic transliteration of the name Dunedin is Edinburgh. Equally, a lot of the architectural colour would not look out of place in parts of the USA and much of it reminded me of San Francisco.
Staircase detail Museum Modern Art Dunedin
Another architectural gem of note, the train station is a must see and following that if you continue along to the end of the street there is also a charming Japanese garden. The Toitū Otago Settlers Museum Dunedin is another place worthy of a visit, as is the museum of art, for the buildings architecture if nothing else. I loved the lines of the staircase pictured above.
Inside period details old railway station
Mouse sculpture display at the “Ironic Cafe”
Top Tip Look out for “Gone Potty” pottery and gift shop just across from the Railway station. The owner of this store, Artist Bridget Paape, is as fascinating and interesting as the collection of art and collectibles she sells. The Ironic Cafe next door does very good coffee, fabulous food and yummy cakes!! Link to Bridget’s website to the bottom of this post, as is link to Ironic Cafe.
Street scene Dunedin with railway station to background
Red wall and fire-escape. Loved the vibrant strong colour of the wall and stairs, contrasted with the deep blue sky above.
With its largely student population Dunedin has a laid back relaxed feel and stands out as one of my favourite cites to have visited in NZ. Full of hip cafes and restaurants, along with a good collection of art and antique shops, some hidden away in back streets.
Street Art, 1950s styled wall mural
Less formalised wall mural of a girl smiling.
Vibrant street scene and the colours that remind me of a San Francisco street scene
All in all Dunedin is well worth a visit.
The Road from Dunedin-Invercargill-Te Anau, gateway to the Fiordlands.
We get up early doors the next morning in preparation for what will be a 9 to 10 hour drive from Dunedin to Te Anau. It is a damp wet morning, with the first rain we have seen since arrival. The weather forecast had said it would rain but clearing where we were headed. Unlike many UK forecasts, it turned out to be spot on. I turn on the TV with no real intention of watching, but more just background noise whilst preparing for departure. Flicking through the channels I stop on what looks like a throwback talk show with the presenter’s style, loud pastel coloured shirts and jackets, along with square oversize TV glasses, reminding me of a style indicative of the 1980s in the UK. Leaving it on I set about packing. A few moments later my ears are pricked by some very un-PC comment being made by the main anchor in banter with his two sidekicks Hilary Barry, and Jim Kayes. Stopping to listen I am soon mesmerised and in stiches laughing. And I find myself asking who is this guy? We are so used to not saying what we may want to say in Western Europe that his comments are like a refreshing breeze blowing out of the TV and in turn filling the room with laughter, and I am hooked! Welcome to the Paul Henry show. He is to become a morning ritual, a reason to set the alarm, even when you are staying in a place for a few days, and one of the things I will miss when I leave New Zealand. Seriously if you have access to a TV whilst travelling in NZ and want to start your day with a laugh tune in, it’s so worth it! The guys a legend!
Setting off from Dunedin and down along the south coast although the weather is not the best for the first leg of the journey, it is none the less worth taking this indirect route to Fiordland as the scenery and landscape is still breath-taking, along with some quirky stopping points and none less, or more so, than “The Lost Gypsy Gallery” Papatowai. In fact, I would say taking this longer route just to visit this place is well worth the trip for this alone. Mad, fascinating, hair brained, interactive, it total foolish, fabulous, fun.
The Sun may not always shine but the experience is never dull.
Top Tip Pay the $5 entry fee to the upper gallery “Winding Thoughts Theater of Sorts” so worth it and will put a smile on anyone face for the rest of the day. Also a great spot to stop for coffee and cake. Both great!
Where else you gonna find a Bush in a box that you can play with?
As we get closer to Te Anau vast ranges of mountains appear as is from out the clouds as they lift letting the sun is to shine down and us to gasp at the sheer beauty of it all. The anticipation of what lies ahead in Fiordland only strengthens.
Although the weather is not great for most of the coastal drive we still manage a few detours along the way one to the famous “Jacks Blowhole” Otago, again worth visiting as it’s quite a sight and sound spectacle and another stop to visit a nature reserve. We arrive in Te Anau just as the sun is going down on Lake Te Anau, and in just enough time to visit the local tourist information office in preparation for our Fiordland experience, details of which in the next post covering Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound.
We Stayed in The George Street Motel and I can highly recommend it. Great accommodation good facilities and very friendly and helpful management click this link for direct bookings ore search online for deals. We booked through Booking.Com
Places to see
Dunedin Railway Station click this link for more info
Art Museum Dunedin click this link for more info
Toitū Otago Settlers Museum click this link for more info
Jacks Blowhole Otago click this link for info
Gone Potty click this link for more info
Ironic Cafe Bar click this link for more info
And last but most definitely not least with “Another Day In Paradise”!
The Paul Henry Show click this link for more info
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