Revel in the sheer beauty and diversity of New Zealand’s landscapes on this 7-day road trip from Christchurch to Invercargill. From the South Island’s largest city to its southernmost, you’ll journey through spectacular mountain ranges, lush valleys, dramatic coastlines and rolling farmland – all in the comfort of your own vehicle. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling outdoor adventure or just want to take in the sights, this road trip itinerary will leave you in awe for days.

Christchurch to Invercargill Distance

Covering a total driving distance of 576 kilometres, this is the most direct route from Christchurch to the Invercargill road trip that will take you through some of New Zealand’s most incredible scenery. This 7-day vacation will take you on a leisurely journey down South and offer a wide variety of activities and attractions at each stop.

Quick stats

576km trip distance

7 day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Day 1: Christchurch to Ashburton

Travel Time: 1 hour
Campervan next to lake in New Zealand

Situated just south of the surrounding Southern Alps, Ashburton is an idyllic first stop when embarking on a 7-day road trip from Christchurch to Invercargill. Not only is it home to two great rivers for fly fishing, but it also serves as a major service centre for the surrounding rural farming district. Whether you decide to spend your first day wandering through the bustling streets or partaking in some of the activities heavily influenced by nature, such as tramping and kayaking, you can be sure that there will be an enjoyable experience awaiting you within Ashburton.

Sightseeing #1: Ashburton Domain

From fishing and kayaking to picnic lunches, Ashburton Domain offers a delightful outdoor experience that everyone can enjoy. Take in stunning views of Lake Hood while strolling the gardens with many species of birds. Trek along walking trails that lead you to historic buildings and sporting grounds like cricket, soccer, rugby union and golfing facilities, or hop on long cycleways featuring fitness points for exercise fanatics.

Sightseeing #2: Lake Hood

Located just 15 minutes from Ashburton (Hakatere), Lake Hood provides locals and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy water sports and recreational activities. With an impressive span of 80 hectares, the artificial lake allows users to partake in activities such as swimming, kayaking, sailing, rowing, jet skiing and more. Besides these exciting pastimes, visitors can also take advantage of scenic walking trails in close proximity to the lake as well as the convenience of having residential houses dotted around its perimeter, with some including access to a jetty ideal for mooring boats and kayaks.

Day 2: Ashburton to Timaru

Travel Time: 1 hour
Campervan driving along road next to lake in New Zealand

Strategically placed for surrounding mountain ranges and picturesque lakes, it is the perfect gateway to explore some of the best natural sights that South Island has to offer. Aside from its location, this bustling coastal resort town also boasts beautiful Victorian and Edwardian architecture crafted from volcanic bluestone. Make sure you take a few moments to admire it all during your journey.

Sightseeing #1: Timaru Botanic Gardens

Timaru Botanic Gardens, New Zealand’s oldest botanical garden located on 19 hectares of land in south Timaru, is home to magnificent collections such as Australian plants, conifers and rose species. The border featuring native Canterbury region plant life will take tourists’ breath away; the lush lawns and pond are also inspiring attractions that bring peace after a long journey on State Highway 1.

Sightseeing #2: Caroline Bay Beach

Caroline Bay Beach in Timaru is the perfect spot for people of all ages to have a blast! Whether you’re looking for leisurely strolls, runs or jogs around the bay or want to take advantage of open days with skateboards and bicycles – this beach has it all. Kids can explore aviaries while having fun paddling in the pool. On top of that, admire picturesque photos adorning nearby buildings as you make your way through this beautiful landscape.

Day 3: Timaru to Oamaru

Travel Time: 1 hour

Boasting stunning surrounding mountains located in the Waitaki District, Oamaru is an ideal stop on your third day. Home to a penguin colony, limestone architecture of the Victorian Precinct, and a tour at Steampunk HQ, Oamaru provides many opportunities for visitors to explore both its natural and cultural beauty. Other attractions include kayaking, cycling tracks and art galleries where you can take in incredible views of the surrounding landscape. Whatever you choose to do while visiting Oamaru, you are sure to leave with lasting memories from your time here.

Sightseeing #1: Steampunk HQ

Steampunk HQ in Oamaru will transport visitors to an alternate universe, a world of captivating artistry and mesmerizing light. The museum is enclosed within an 1880s Grain Elevator building for an alluring atmosphere that cannot be found anywhere else. The Portal installation features one-of-a-kind mirrors and eye-catching light sculptures, adding to the experience with its retrofuturism concept. Visiting this destination promises unparalleled beauty – sure to leave you feeling inspired beyond your wildest imagination!

Sightseeing #2: Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

Visit the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony to experience wildlife observation and conservation like never before. Our knowledgeable team of experts, including a Research Scientist, will guide you through an unforgettable journey filled with fun facts on sustainability practices and insight into these amazing creatures’ behaviours. And don’t miss out on the opportunity to witness the endearing march home of hundreds of little penguins at sunset each night – it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime sight!

Day 4: Oamaru to Dunedin

Travel Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Dunedin town and bay as seen from the hills above, South Island, New Zealand

After three marvellous days of exploring the finest attractions from Christchurch to Oamaru has to offer, heading east coast south down to Dunedin on day four makes for an ideal next stop on your 7-day adventure. Dunedin is renowned for its attractive sites, ample native wildlife, and impressive historical buildings – such as Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle. There are plenty of opportunities to spot the famous Australian Penguins, either at a special viewing area or a zoo. And while you’re here, why not take advantage of the world’s steepest street, Baldwin Street? A stroll along it will leave you in awe – just be sure to park at its base before taking those first steps.

Sightseeing #1: Otago Peninsula

The Otago Peninsula truly is one of Dunedin’s premier attractions, providing a plethora of activities and experiences for sightseers. From rugged footpaths that reveal breathtaking views lookouts to Allans Beach, where yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions/fur seals make an appearance, visitors can discover a natural beauty unlike anywhere else. Lush forests hang from the valleys, while secret coves have been waiting to be explored by those in kayaks. Nature lovers will especially find delight in the wide array of birds that call this place home, particularly rare species like tuis and bellbirds. Visit the Otago Peninsula to be captivated by its unique environment.

Sightseeing #2: Royal Albatross Centre

A visit to the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head offers a unique experience and a chance to view the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross. At their exclusive observation point, you can observe these majestic birds up close as they court, lay eggs and raise their huge fluffy chicks. Tour guides will offer insight into the private lives of these beautiful creatures, and you could even catch a glimpse of an albatross with its three-metre wingspan gliding effortlessly nearby. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to come face-to-face with one of nature’s grandest spectacles.

Day 5: Dunedin to Balclutha

Travel Time: 1 hour
View of Nugget Point, New Zealand

Day 5 takes you from Dunedin to Balclutha, you will be welcomed by the mighty Clutha River, New Zealand’s most voluminous river and second longest. This river is the heartbeat of Balclutha, with its impressive arched bridge and a fantastic walkway running alongside it. A focal point of the region, Balclutha serves as a gateway to the breathtaking Catlins Coast. The town is also knowns as the “Big River Town” due to its prominent feature, the Clutha River. This natural wonder can be experienced first-hand when crossing over the renowned Balclutha Road Bridge, famous for its elegant bowstring design.

Sightseeing #1: Nugget Point/Tokata Walks

Situated along the rugged Catlins coastline, visiting Nugget Point and Tokata Walks is a must while sightseeing in Balclutha. Named by Captain Cook as it looked like pieces of gold, Nugget Point’s panoramic platform offers breathtaking views of the ocean that will linger in your memory long after you leave. Afterwards, take a short walk to the Tokata lighthouse for more spectacular views – you won’t regret it! Make sure to bring your camera, as you won’t want to miss an opportunity to capture these stunning landscapes.

Sightseeing #2: Clutha River

The Clutha River is one of the fascinating sights Balclutha has to offer and is the largest, fastest, and most voluminous river in all of New Zealand. With a catchment of 21,960 square kilometres (8,480 sq mi), it competes with the flow rate of global giants such as the Amazon River. Traversing through beautiful scenes with its swift turquoise waters, visitors to Balclutha can expect an awe-inspiring experience as they take in our district’s gold-rush history and majestic river landscapes.

Day 6: Balclutha to Gore

Travel Time: 1 hour
Gardens in New Zealand

Visiting quaint coastal towns down New Zealand’s Southern Ocean is a rewarding experience steeped in rural charm. Balclutha to Gore reveals the country’s agricultural heritage, with sheep farms dotting the landscape and pleasant surprises scattered along the way. In Gore, visitors can browse a world-class art gallery, delve into the local bootlegger history by visiting an old-school moonshine whiskey museum or take an unhurried stroll through its tree-lined main street. Spring to early autumn is generally an optimal time for visiting this special spot – but those brave enough to venture out in cooler weather will still find plenty of warmth and hospitality in Gore.

Sightseeing #1: Dolamore Park

Dolamore Park offers an immersive, educational experience for travellers in the beautiful town of Gore. This park is richly diverse, with its 95 hectares featuring lush native podocarp forest, various species of plantings, and heritage-style stone wall terracing, offering a serene and picturesque atmosphere. Visitors can take advantage of numerous activities such as walking trails, camping spots and a variety of photography opportunities. Dolamore Park is truly one of Gore’s greatest offerings, providing a unique way to connect with nature while getting to know more about the fascinating atmosphere of this part of New Zealand.

Sightseeing #2: Gore Public Gardens

Gore Public Gardens is a thriving oasis located in the heart of Gore. It offers visitors a peaceful spot to unwind and admires carefully-tended flower beds, luscious grassy areas and winding paths. For those with a love of history, there are subtle reminders of its past: two imposing elms and a sprawling Wellingtonia planted more than one hundred years ago by famed horticulturist David Tannock. Despite its age, Gore Public Gardens remains relevant and vibrant – an ever-rejuvenating escape for visitors to explore and enjoy.

Day 7: Gore to Invercargill

Travel Time: 45 minutes
Sweeping landscape in New Zealand

On the seventh and final day of your 7-day Christchurch to Invercargill road trip, you’ll be arriving in Invercargill. This Southernmost New Zealand city is renowned for its sweeping landscapes, unique museums and quirky attractions. Not only is it the southernmost city in New Zealand, but also one of the coolest due to its incredibly windy weather. In fact, Invercargill has been crowned as the second windiest city in New Zealand, with Wellington coming first. The city is also extremely cloudy, with sun hours amounting to around 20% of the year.

Sightseeing #1: Queens Park

Queens Park in Invercargill is a draw for both exercising and nature enthusiasts. The four-kilometre fitness trail winds through the park, with 20 exercise stations along the way, and an 18-hole golf course is set amongst mature trees. Cricket, tennis and bowls are also available for those who prefer a team activity. For children, Queens Park offers a playground, waterpark and an accessible hydraulic swing to spend for a few hours. Additionally, its numerous gardens and botanical attractions give visitors vibrant displays throughout the year.

Sightseeing #2: Invercargill Water Tower

Invercargill Water Tower is a renowned structure in the city, and it stands out because of its remarkable Victorian architecture. Hailed as an architectural marvel, the Water Tower impresses both tourists and engineering professionals alike with its multipurpose design that not only serves its utilitarian purpose but also achieves a degree of beauty that befits its unique environment. Invercargill, built on largely flat terrains, owes much of its identity to this majestic work of art.

Happy Exploring!

Person jumping next to campervan with view of New Zealand lake and mountains

Set out on an unforgettable voyage from Christchurch to Invercargill, and be part of one of the finest road trips around the globe. Don’t forget to check out our latest deals on campervan hire in Christchurch and explore New Zealand in your own time with the perfect itinerary.

Whether you want to relax, sightsee or simply embark on an adventure, this remarkable trip will not disappoint. For tips on other fantastic road trips around the South Island, head over to our South Island Road Trips.

Share this page

Find Your Nearest Travellers Autobarn Location