South Island Itinerary: Queenstown to the Catlins via Gore

South Island Itinerary: Queenstown to the Catlins via Gore

South Island Itinerary: Queenstown to the Catlins via Gore – 257 km

Take care on the winding lakeside route from Queenstown to Kingston

The Good South gem: The Croydon Aviation Heritage Museum in Mandeville

The first hour of the journey is on a busy South Island itinerary route that shares the road with Milford Sound traffic, so please take care. However it’s a stunning drive winding above Lake Wakatipu with views across the water and the Remarkables Range as a backdrop. The glaciated moraine flats at the head of Wakatipu soon changes to the lush fertile farmland Southland is known for as you pass through Kingston and Garston. The Brown Trout Cafe at Athol is recommended for a refreshing morning or afternoon tea.  The area is highly regarded as a fly fishing mecca and the Around the Mountains Cycle trail often runs parallel to the road.

First time visitors are often surprised at the excellent condition of the farm animals and the fertile fields. Yes, it does rain a bit more down here compared to the arid Central Otago areas of Wanaka and Queenstown, but with that comes the lush growth of the fields and forests of Southland.

Queenstown to the Catlins via Gore

Mandeville, Southland

Once again, please take care as the junction to Te Anau and Milford approaches. Just past that is Lumsden and your turnoff toward Gore and the Catlins. You’ll find the roads quieter here with few tourists and mainly farming folk going about their business. With a modest frontage, Mandeville with the classy Miss Cocoa cafe featured on the Great Scone Trail and the Croydon aviation restoration company and museum is well worth a stop for those interested in historical aircraft.

Gore – Brown Trout and Gold Guitars – Eastern Southland

Queenstown to Catlins via Gore

Gore, Eastern Southland

Known as the “World Capital of Brown trout” for the quality of its fly fishing in the Mataura River, Gore is also the service hub for some of the country’s most productive farmland and along with its traditional roles as a farm town has some quirky aspects.  During the prohibition era, the region became renowned for its illicit”Hokonui Moonshine” with a museum dedicated to the whiskey made in secret at various farm outbuildings in the area. For more conventional tastes the Eastern Southland gallery has large collection of works by contemporary New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere, and a world-renowned  collection of Australian artist John Money.
Gore is also known as the country music capital of New Zealand, hosting the annual awards on June 1 followed by the Gold Guitar music competition over the following few days. In late July, the town hosts the Hokonui Fashion Design Awards attracting some of the country’s top young designers.


From Gore the road to the scenic coast and densely forested Catlins Region takes you through Clinton with a total distance of 101km to Owaka. Heading south from Clinton the rolling farm country gives way to dense stands of bush and forest and more rugged coastal terrain. Be aware there is very limited cell phone reception, no ATM’s and sometimes a bit of wild weather to go with the wild coastal scenery and forest. Owaka has a well resourced information centre, a general supply store, museum and petrol station. You are now on the Southern Scenic Route joining travellers following another popular south island itinerary from Dunedin to Invercargill so the amount of tourist traffic will increase.