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Driving New Zealand's South Island

Matakauri Lodge, outside Queenstown, which overlooks Lake Wakatipu.

Photo: Courtesy of Matakauri Lodge

Day 5: Te Anau to Otago Peninsula (185 miles)

Have the lodge pack you a lunch: on today’s drive, the gourmet opportunities are limited to gas station cafés and the odd fish-and-chips shop. It is worth pausing at seaside Orepuki, about a 1 1/2-hour drive south of Te Anau, where southern right whales can sometimes be spotted. Push on another 30 minutes to Riverton, established by whalers in the 1830’s and now a busy fishing village, to find a spot on the beach for your picnic. From there, bypass the unremarkable city of Invercargill and head east directly to the Catlins, a rugged region of waterfalls, blowholes, and petrified forests from the Jurassic era—beyond this remotest of Pacific shores, the next landfall is in Antarctica. The Southern Scenic Route ends in Dunedin, a Scottish-influenced college town, but you’re heading about 30 minutes further to the Otago Peninsula, where the scenery is untamed and the wildlife abundant. You’ll reach Kaimata Retreat (doubles from $320), a remote, timber-clad lodge, via a series of gravel roads. Toast the long drive with a bottle of outstanding Central Otago Pinot Noir and chill out on the deck overlooking the inlet and the sheep ranch that clings to the precipitous, pea-green hillside across the way.


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