Christchurch to Dunedin by road

Its really easy to drive from Christchurch to Dunedin in just 4.5 hours.  Just head south on Main South Road and keeping heading south.  This becomes State Highway 1.

There are a number of places you can stop along the way to make the day of it.  These are the places I stopped on my recent trip to Dunedin.  There are a few others too but this has you stopping about once an hour.

Leaving Christchurch for the first hour or so as far as Ashburton takes you through some typical Canterbury Plains scenery, mostly sheep and dairy farms.  Off to the right on a clear day are the Southern Alps including the some of the larger skifields such as Mount Hutt.

Trout at Rakaia
Trout at Rakaia

As you crossing over the longest bridge in the South Island, over the braided Rakaia River, you come to the town of Rakaia.  As you head through the town, if you need a toilet stop, there is a block of toilets next to the trout – you can’t miss it.  Its 12m high. (When I stopped here the other day, their was no soap at the public toilets so make sure you have hand sanitiser with you.)

Autumn trees at Ashburton Domain
Autumn trees at Ashburton Domain

Next main stop is the rural township of Ashburton.  This is just over 1 hour from Christchurch.  If you wish to stop and look around the town, you can take the left road through town. If you continue without going, the domain is on the right and is a nice place to stop if you have children who are getting fidgety or just want to stretch your legs.  If you decide not to stop, keep going straight as this road pretty much bypasses the town and takes you further south.

Caroline Bay, Timaru
Caroline Bay, Timaru

Approximately another hour down the road is the town of Timaru, past more endless sheep and dairy farms.  Timaru itself has the beautiful Caroline Bay.  I highly recomend this as a stop.  Grab a coffee from a cafe and take it to Caroline Bay and sit and admire the view.  Nice clean public toilets are here too and its a very pretty location for a break.  Depending on what time you get here, Timaru has some great cafes and its a good spot for lunch.  Or get fish’n’chips and sit and watch the bay for a while.

After lunch another hour south, is the stop of Oamaru.  I’d recommend stopping in Oamaru for a couple of hours.  You may like to check out my previous blog post about Oamaru and Steampunk HQ.  Oamaru is a lovely town and worth a stop.

Moeraki Boulders
Moeraki Boulders

A short distance south of Oamaru are the unusual Moeraki Boulders.  Even if you only stop for 20 minutes just to see them, you won’t be disappointed. When you come off the main road, you can either go straight ahead to the public carpark and walk along the beach, or you can go left to the cafe/restaurant and walk down the hill to the beach. Neither way is an option for wheelchairs or mobility vehicles unfortunately.

Final leg of the journey, about an hour and a half from Oamaru, brings you to the city of Dunedin.  Where Christchurch retains a English influence, Dunedin prides itself in its Scottish roots.  Its the second largest city in the South Island (Christchurch is the largest) and is a vibrant university town.

Dunedin is a great city to spend a few days.  There is plenty to see and do, from museums such as the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, the Botanic Gardens, the one and only castle in New Zealand – Larnach Castle, The Royal Albatross Colony and some great shopping and dining options.



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