Invercargill to Te Anau via the Southern Scenic route

Invercargill to Te Anau via the Southern Scenic route

Invercargill to Te Anau via the Southern Scenic route

Driving: 200km. Mainly open roads with some winding sections around Blackmount.
The Good South gems: Cosy Nook or the Clifden Caves.

Top activity: Wairaurahiri jetboat trip

Invercargill to Te Anau:

Don’t miss:

  • Riverton Rocks
  • Cosy Nook and Monkey Island
  • Orepuki Beach Cafe
  • Remote Lake Hauroko, NZ’s deepest

On Highway 99 from Invercargill to Te Anau the checkerboard farmland of the plains creases into rolling hill-country as you approach the coast of Western Southland and Riverton.  Half-jokingly referred to as the Riviera of the South the town’s strong historical significance to the area as a commercial hub is reflected by the remaining Victorian architecture on its main street.

fishing fleet in riverton

The Oreti River estuary is home to the Riverton fishing fleet. Image: Deb Racz

A fishing fleet is based on the dock in the Oreti River estuary and a museum, Te Hikoi Southern Journey,  tells the story of the early relevance of this influential area. The Crib, a local icon for its coffee and superior baking with specialities like their fishcakes, fresh from Foveaux Strait is on the left side of the main street.
Crossing the Oreti River bridge, a left turn will take you out to the tidal flats of Taramea Bay and one of Southland’s most popular beach destinations, the Riverton Rocks. The Beach House Cafe overlooks the bay and has a full service kitchen, excellent coffee and generous portions.

You may be surprised by the number of surfers and swimmers in the water despite inclement weather.  With a strong Scottish strain in their DNA Southlanders are known for not letting a bit of rain or wind interfere with their love of the outdoors.
After Riverton the dramatic coastal landscape, hills in the background, and changing light provides a variety of photo opportunities. If you have time on your hands, take the turn-off to Colac Bay which despite its exposure to Foveaux Strait is a popular learner surfing area.

South Coast Highway

After Riverton the dramatic coastal landscape, hills in the background, and changing light provides a variety of photo opportunities. If you have time on your hands, take the turn-off to Colac Bay which despite its exposure to Foveaux Strait is a popular learner surfing area.

Further along the highway is Cosy Nook ( named after a Cozy Neuk in the Shetlands by a sentimental Scottish settler) a tiny but photogenic fishing  hamlet tucked into a small bay. Monkey Bay pictured above with its tidal dependent viewing island is next. After a stroll and a fossick on the beach one of the top eateries in this part of the world is only minutes away on your journey to Te Anau.

Cosy Nook Bay, looking out to Foveaux Strait, Southern Coast

Cosy Nook, South Coast

The Orepuki Beach Cafe gets the full endorsement of the Good South for its baking and locally sourced produce.   If you have to ask where they get their beef and lamb you possibly haven’t looked into the lush paddocks behind the kitchen overlooking the ocean and Te Waewae Bay. Another 20 kilometres along the road is the historical timber mill town of Tuatapere.  With some quirky antique and craft shops and the well-regarded First Light restaurant and accommodation complex, the town is a base for hikers walking the three-day Humpridge Circuit or just a day walk along the coast from Rarakau.

Inland to Manapouri and Te Anau

Once inland, the Clifden Caves and historic suspension bridge are worth investigating. Please take note of the signage before entering the cave system and ensure you have adequate footwear. An option for those who love the isolation of the dense bush is to take the turnoff to Lake Huoroko,  at 462 metres it is the deepest in the country. If you have time to spend on your hands and a hankering for adventure, a jetboat trip across the lake and down the Wairauahiri River will introduce you to the remote wilderness of Fiordland national Park. You’ll also get a thorough commentary of the area by the long-time operator who also runs a conservation programme.

 Invercargill to Te Anau

Lake Hauroko- Arthur Steinhauser

The road toward Manapouri 70 km  north takes you through the hilly landscape of Blackmount’s  forests and wetlands before arriving in the lakeside township.  As the main hub for trips to Dusky and Doubtful Sounds and lake cruises there are a number of tourist boats based there as well as some very scenic walking tracks.

The larger tourist town of Te Anau is a further 20 minutes drive with an option of stopping on the way for a stroll along the start of the Kepler Track which is signposted. A swingbridge across the Waiau River enables visitors seeking a nature fix to immediately be swallowed up by the dense bush of Fiordland National Park just minutes from the carpark.

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