3Days

Christchurch to Dunedin

Driving Tour

A long weekend gives you a great excuse to take yourself on a road trip and if you’re flying into Christchurch you’ve picked a great place to start. The Garden City is a fantastic place to start this three day adventure as you make your way south to Dunedin. Some people take flights from Christchurch to Dunedin but the drive is only about 4 ½ hours with plenty to see and do along the way.

But enough talk! Let’s get on with it and let the adventuring begin!

Contents

  1. Route map with key locations
  2. Recommended vehicle for this trip
  3. Trip itinerary

Book a vehicle for this trip

We recommend:

GO Rentals Toyota Corolla 2019

Compact Auto

Toyota Corolla

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Seats
5 seats
Large Bags
2
Small Bags
1
Transmission
Auto trans

Trip Itinerary

1Christchurch and around

With 3 days to make the short drive to Dunedin, we have left plenty of time for exploring the two main cities in this itinerary – Christchurch and Dunedin. Christchurch is a great place to start this long weekend getaway with plenty to see and do. Known as the Garden City, some of the most obvious activities involve getting out and exploring this green city.

The Garden City and Hagley Park

Its naming is in large part due to the existence of Hagley Park, a 165 hectare park in the heart of the city. With the iconic Avon River running through it, you’ll be able to appreciate that and more by following one of the many walking paths that have been laid out. The Christchurch Botanic Gardens is a definite highlight as well as the picturesque Lake Victoria where you may even see a model yacht or two in the water. With over 3,000 trees in the park, it’s a great green space to enjoy.

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Baby Kiwi at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Having experienced the beautiful Blue Penguins in Oamaru you’ll probably be keen to see our country’s famous national bird too. This is exactly what you can do at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. It is one of New Zealand’s premier wildlife parks which, amongst other things, pioneered the use of glass-free nocturnal houses for its Kiwis. This guarantees you’ll see Kiwis with every visit! On top of this, they’ve plenty of other animals and birds to meet and see like Kaka, Kea, Weka, Takahe, Lemurs, Macaws and more. The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve is another GO Rentals partner with a 10% discount for its customers.

Quake City

Christchurch is a city that suffered terribly from the Canterbury Earthquakes in 2010 & 2011 where 185 individuals lost their lives. Out of the tragedy came some real triumphs with the stories of the many heroes that emerged, from the rescue and response teams to the thousands of volunteers that came out and helped. The museum pays tribute to these people and the victims and describes the regenerative and restorative efforts that are underway.

International Antarctic Centre

Another highly rated attraction which is especially fun for families is the International Antarctic Centre. This highly interactive attraction boasts a number of fantastic features and exhibitions. One example is the ‘Storm Room’ which replicates a Antarctic storm with a wind chill factor of -18° Celsius. Another example are the resident penguins that are hugely popular at 10:30am and 3:30pm (feeding times). The final example we’ll leave you with is Hägglund experience which is a type of all-terrain vehicle used in the Antarctic that visitors get to ride! The International Antarctic Centre is another GO Rentals Partner which offers a 10% discount.

10% off

Use your GO Play card here

Discover Christchurch Tour

GO Play Discount Card

Day trip to Akaroa – (81kms – 1 hour 25 mins)

Stunning Akaroa on a perfect sunny day
Stunning Akaroa on a perfect sunny day

If you’ve been to Christchurch on a previous visit and you’re looking for something a bit different, we would definitely recommend a day trip out to Akaroa. It’s another great example of a unique place to visit with strong Maori, British and French roots. The Akaroa Museum is a great place to start to give you a taste of all this and the cafes and restaurants in the town (especially the French-inspired) will allow you to do the same, literally! The town also boasts some great coastal scenery with some beautiful walks, like the Banks Walk, to enjoy. There’s also the famous Akaroa Dolphin experience which gets you up close and personal with some of the smallest dolphins in the world!

Christchurch is jam-packed full of great things to see and do so make sure you check out our City Guide for more ideas of activities, places to stay and where to eat.

Christchurch Complete Guide

Dining

As the largest city in the South Island, it is also one of the best places to eat in the South Island with plenty of places in and around the city centre to choose from. Everyone knows that eating out is one of the highlights of travelling and we’ve recognised that through our GO Play card as well with dining discounts at no less than 4 superb restaurants. They are (in no particular order), The Carlton Bar and Eatery, Casa Publica, Coasters Tavern and Christchurch Casino Grand Cafe. All offer great meals to tuck into and very pleasant atmospheres too.

2Christchurch to Oamaru (249kms – 3 hours 29 mins)

Day 2 is the biggest drive of this 3 day adventure in the lower South Island and even then, it’s only a 3.5 hour drive down the coast to Oamaru. If you missed out on the chance to head to Akaroa yesterday, it’s not a bad way to start this day and with plenty of time, it’s a great detour to make on the way to Oamaru.

If not, it’s pretty much a straight drive down the coast via Ahsburton, Geraldine and Timaru.

For a small coastal town, Oamaru has a lot going on which is why we’ve added it to this awesome itinerary. Here are some of the highlights you can explore when you’re in town:

Victorian Precinct and Whitestone City

These traits are largely to do with Victorian Precinct that exists in the heart of the town which dates back to the 1860s. It was the focal point for trade for the town that’s been beautifully restored to all its original splendour. In addition to walking through the streets of the precinct, you can also pay a visit to Whitestone City, a great recreation of the area in its heyday with models, sets, dioramas and plenty of information and insight to share.

Steampunk HQ

Steampunk HQ museum

Another great thing to make time for in Oamaru, especially for fans of popular culture, is Steampunk HQ, an awesome little museum dedicated to the genre of Steampunk. The Victorian era setting is the perfect place for such a museum which has its home in a grand old granary building of the era. Inside you’ll find a great collection of movie memorabilia, models and sculptures from the classics you love. It’s super interactive and great fun.

Both Steampunk HQ and Whitestone City offer discounts using your GO Play card!

$10 off

Use your GO Play card here

Headfirst Penguins Crossing

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Blue Penguin Colony

You will have to wait until the end of the day for our favourite Oamaru activity – the evening viewing at the Blue Penguin Colony. This is an absolute must-do when visiting the region and is why we’ve recommended this particular stop. Against the sunset, you’ll be able to witness penguins returning back to the shore from their day out feeding at sea. Against the golden sunset and the sight of the coast itself, it’s a truly magical experience. The other great thing about this experience is that our customers get a 10% discount using their GO Play cards!

3Oamaru to Dunedin (112kms – 1 hour 28 mins)

After an awesome day and night in Oamaru, it’s time for the final leg of this journey and a day exploring Dunedin. Make sure you leave time for one stop off on the way down though.

Moeraki Boulders (37kms – 30 mins)

The mystical Moeraki Boulders
The mystical Moeraki Boulders

As a visitor, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Moeraki Boulders without realising exactly what they are. Made of a unique type of mudstone, they are large spherical-like rocks that sit on the shores of the quiet Moeraki Boulders Beach on the East Coast. Their sheer size and shape have captivated locals since the time of the first Maori settlers who incorporated them into oral legend. Visitors and locals since have taken some incredible photos on the likes Instagram which gives you a great chance to do the same!

From here, it’s another hour down to Dunedin.

Dunedin’s got a unique and fascinating past thanks to its strong Scottish roots from the influential migrants that came to the city between 1850s – 1900s. It’s got a number of fantastic museums like the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, Otago Museum and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery that’ll give you great insight about how the city was founded and who the people are that inhabit it.

$10 off

Use your GO Play card here

Elm Wildlife Safari

GO Play Discount Card

Dunedin also has some incredible architecture and natural scenery that shouldn’t be missed. The Dunedin Railway Station, for example, is one of the most photographed railway stations in the country thanks to Flemish-styled design and Larnach Castle is the only one of its kind in the whole of New Zealand as well!

With regards to scenery, the walk up Signal Hill from the town centre rewards you with wonderful panoramic views of the entire city at an elevation of around 1,000ft. If you’d prefer the scenery without the hike, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. Ever present in the city for the last 150 years, the Dunedin Botanic Gardens has much to appreciate including a good number of exhibitions right throughout the year.

Dunedin is an awesome city to explore and for more ideas, make sure you check out our comprehensive city guide with tips on things to do, places to stay and where to eat.

Dunedin Complete Guide

That brings to an end our 3 day road trip from Christchurch to Dunedin – we hope you loved it and we would love to hear if you have any tips that we might have missed out!

Book a vehicle for this trip

We recommend:

GO Rentals Toyota Corolla 2019

Compact Auto

Toyota Corolla

Get a Quote

Seats
5 seats
Large Bags
2
Small Bags
1
Transmission
Auto trans