After spending a day at Queenstown, we set off on our self-drive journey along the Southern Scenic Route. The route has been carefully planned for people who wish to explore the southern coast of New Zealand through a self-drive journey that allows access to natural wonders such as beaches, rainforest, lakes and mountain vistas.
(Map from Southern Scenic Route NZ)
Departing from Queenstown, we travelled along the SSR and made pitstops at Invercargill, The Catlins, Balclutha and Dunedin, before making our way back to Queenstown. Although Te Anau was part of the SSR, we explored it separately as we had scheduled to go on the Routeburn Track. The drive was very easy as there were clear signs along the route. The symbol for the SSR looks like this:
Just follow the sign and you’ll never get lost! 🙂
Our first stop was Invercargill, where we swung by The Batch Cafe for some fuel for our hungry tummies. That’s grilled salmon and rosti, which we shared.
We were so hungry that we forgot to take photos of the place itself, but here’s one that we managed to get off the net:
(Picture courtesy of the Southland Times)
The people were friendly and the place was very crowded, but we loved the cosy and bright atmosphere. We found the food to be okay – the kind you’d expect at cafes serving brunch food – and the portions were substantial enough. Apparently, this is one of the most popular cafes at Invercargill, so do drop by for the experience if you happen to be around the vicinity.
The Batch Cafe
173 Spey street
Contact: +64 3-214 6357
After setting off from Invercargill, we drove to South Catlins, where we would stay for the night. Not without some firsthand experience in topping up our petrol, though! We are just so spoilt here in Singapore – there are petrol kiosk attendants to top up the petrol for us wherever we go. In New Zealand, everything is DIY – and it was also at this spot where we probably met the kindest person on our trip – a postgrad student from Canada, who helped us with topping up the petrol and contacting JUCY regarding our cracked tire.
Now that our tummies and the van were refuelled, we proceeded to explore Slope Point, which is the southernmost tip of the South Island of New Zealand. There’s a tiny wooden signboard that tells you exactly where you are, provided you don’t get swept away by the crazy winds.
Boy, were we glad we were adequately stuffed and dressed for the relentless wind. We couldn’t even hold the camera for a proper picture! We could’ve been blown off the cliff, for real. Check this out.
Haha, it was such a great experience! Young, wild and free! Slope point is also unique in that it is characterised by windswept trees, such as these:
(Image from Bored Panda)
The winds were crazy. We can just feel them while looking at this picture now – brings back chilling memories, literally! After being chilled to the bones, we then drove to Curio Bay, where we had booked a campervan spot at Curio Bay Holiday Park for the night.
The weather was pretty bad, but the howling winds and rain made sleeping in the campervan so much cosier! In fact, you could say that the place was the perfect setting for Doomsday – MBear was letting her imagination run wild with the possibility of a giant tsunami drowning us in the middle of the night. It was definitely an experience that’s hard to forget. We both agreed that this is our favourite Holiday Park, but not for the fainthearted!
At dusk, we tried to catch a glimpse of some rare yellow-eyed penguins at the Bay, where they had made their homes. We managed to spot a daddy penguin who was making his way back from the Ocean. We also spotted some dolphins in the distance!
The next day, we drove to Catlins Conservation Park for the McLean Falls Walk. The walk was very easy and gently sloping, and we really enjoyed it. We were rewarded with a lovely view of the Falls at the end of the 4o minute walk.
The warm and gentle sun’s rays were so comfortable. We sat next to the falls for almost an hour, basking in the warmth of the sun, breathing in the fresh air and taking in the refreshing sound of the Falls. The experience was absolutely heavenly.
After about 2 hours at the Falls, we continued on our journey to Nugget Point, off the Otago Coast. Nugget Point’s iconic lighthouse is an attraction for many, but there are also rocky islets off the coast (the nuggets). If you’re lucky, you may even get to see seals basking on the rocks. They’re quite a sight, haha!
PBear was in deep thought. He was probably craving for some nuggets for dinner. 😀
Be sure to bring a good windbreaker and waterproof shell when you travel along the SSR – though it’s summer, rains can be frequent and the winds can get pretty strong and chilly due to the close proximity to the ocean. You can check out our short clip of Nugget Point on our YouTube channel here 🙂
Otago Peninsula – A Wildlife Haven
We finally arrived at the Otago Peninsula, where we stayed for the next two days. We booked a spot at Dunedin Holiday Park. The facilities were great and the staff were friendly and helpful.
What really awed us was the amount of stars in the night sky. It was crazy. The entire sky was littered with stars, leaving us mesmerised. At about 11pm, we took a short 5 min walk round the back of the Holiday Park, where we came to a tree with glow worms. The sight was absolutely magical.
The next day, we took a one day guided tour to the Otago Peninsula, where we caught a glimpse of fur seals, royal albatrosses, yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions. Elm Wildlife Tours proved to be a great choice – they picked us up from our accommodation and brought us right back to our doorstep. Videos of the seals are up on our YouTube channel here 🙂
The fur seal pups littered the rocks. We even witnessed a pregnant mum giving birth! It was such an amazing sight. We spent the whole day watching wildlife, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, before ending the wonderful day with a Macdonalds meal. 🙂
The next day, we took a wildlife cruise with Dunedin Monarch Wildlife Cruises out into the Southern Ocean, and spotted even more albatrosses and fur seals. We took the rest of the day slowly, wondering when we would get the chance to be in such close proximity to wildlife again.
*This is a non-sponsored post.