Road Trip Highlights – Christchurch City to Dunedin via Lake Tekapo

The stunning Christchurch to Dunedin drive in South Island, New Zealand is one route that you can enjoy all-year-round. Whether you take to the open road in spring, summer, autumn or winter, this stunning journey is jam-packed full of natural beauty, native wildlife and friendly locals which make this road trip always worthy of doing, whatever the season.

Christchurch to Dunedin Drive: Lake Tekapo in South Island, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo in South Island, New Zealand: Photo Steve Arnold / CC 2.0

Christchurch to Dunedin Drive

Route: Christchurch City to Dunedin     Duration: three days     Distance: 541km / 337 miles

Day One

After leaving Christchurch, you’ll drive through the quaint patchwork fields of the Canterbury Plains before passing over the unique criss-crossing network that is the Rakaia River and then onto Methven. Boasting an incredible backdrop of snow-capped mountains, this town is a bustling ski resort in winter with skiing and snowboarding at Mt Hutt Ski Area and an action-packed outdoor pursuits destination in summer.

The highlight of day one is without a doubt Lake Tekapo. Surrounded by domineering mountains which change throughout the seasons, Lake Tekapo is known for its magnificent aquamarine colour and multicoloured lupin flowers which run around its edges.

Christchurch to Dunedin Drive: Dusty track to Clay Cliffs in Omarama in South Island, New Zealand
Dusty track to the Clay Cliffs in Omarama in South Island, New Zealand: Photo Jocelyn Kinghorn / CC 2.0

Day Two

Following on from a peaceful night at Lake Tekapo, it’s onto the foot of Aoraki Mount Cook – the highest mountain in New Zealand. Here you can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the picturesque valley before visiting the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. The Tasman Glacier – the largest in New Zealand – is just down the road and has a must-see lookout point.

Day two’s highlight is the time you’ll spend at Omarama. This small, quaint town is renowned for being a fishing and gliding mecca, with several local wineries, excellent biking routes on the Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail, unparalleled walking opportunities and unique outdoor hot tubs.

Christchurch to Dunedin Drive: Dunedin Railway Station: Impressive architecture in Dunedin in South Island
Impressive architecture at Dunedin Railway Station: Photo Tama Leaver / CC 2.0

Day Three

On day three, you’ll begin by heading down to Dunedin, past the mesmerizingly blue lakes of Lake Benmore, Lake Aviemore and Lake Waitaki – make sure you take the time to stop and snap away with your camera. This road will take you through the golden hues of Waitaki Valley, following the rushing Waitaki River. Along the way, you’ll have the option to go off track and visit the Moeraki Boulders, plus a chance to see the fur seals and yellow-eyed penguin colonies at Katiki Point.

Then it’s onto your final destination – Dunedin. This city is one of the best preserved Edwardian and Victorian cities in the Southern Hemisphere and is where you can see everything from gothic churches, ornately decorated mansions and a deliciously tempting chocolate factory to native forestland, a stylish harbour and penguins riding the surf.

Want to experience the Christchurch to Dunedin drive yourself? Hire a car in Christchurch City or hire a motorhome instead and prepare to go on one of the most beautiful road trips you’ll ever make in your life. If you’re a planner, you can get a head start and book your accommodation in New Zealand before you even leave the house.

About Nicola Quinn


Nicola is a travel and food writer living in the Canary Islands who loves exploring far-off places, pushing herself to the limit and trying local eats wherever she goes.

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  1. New Zealand's Best Lakes That Are Worth Visiting | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] a league of its own despite stiff competition is Lake Tekapo. A few hours’ drive from both Queenstown and Christchurch, there can be few views as spectacular […]


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