The Southern Scenic Route goes from Queenstown down to the Foveaux Strait, across to Invercargill, through the Catlins, up to Balclutha, and winds up in Dunedin. It shows you a less hurried, more unexplored side of the South Island. While we drove from Queenstown to Te Anau and Manapouri, we did that to get to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. When it came time to take the Southern Scenic Route, we really started in Manapouri, where we had left our things while we took an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. (More on that later.)
Our first stop was the Clifden Suspension Bridge. The bridge was built in 1899 and is one of the longest bridges on the South Island. It was definitely worth a stop.
Next up was Tuatapere, the self-proclaimed sausage capital of New Zealand. Since it was a Sunday, the butcher was closed, but we stopped at a little restaurant, The Hungry Hippo.1 We ordered three sausages, three Bluff oysters, and one chips. Actually, I only ordered two sausages; my wife ordered one. New Zealand sausages, however, are much like bangers (as opposed to bratwurst). Since my wife prefers brat, I got two and a half. She did, however, enjoy the Bluff oysters. We later learned that the day before, which was March 1, was the first day of the Bluff oyster season, so we were getting them right away.
We then headed to the Foveaux Strait and stopped at McCracken’s Rest.
We didn’t have time to see much in Invercargill other than the Romanesque water tower from 1889. Invercargill was flat, with wide streets and not many trees, certainly no tall trees. It had a suburban feel. And it seemed big. It was certainly the biggest town we had been in since Wellington (after we landed in Picton, we drove down the west coast).
After Invercargill, instead of following the Southern Scenic Route, I followed my GPS. Sometimes that worked great. For example, if I had followed my own directions from Wanaka to Queenstown, instead of the GPS, I would have missed the Cardrona Hotel and the Crown Range road.
In this case, however, the GPS got me probably 50 kilometers of gravel road. Instead of going along the water, we went right through the middle of the Catlins. It was interesting, I guess, but it was also slow, dirty, and bumpy. Oh well.
Our destination was the Pounawea Grove Motel. It was a wonderful place. The room was very nicely decorated, and there was a gorgeous view of the South Pacific Ocean from the common room.
The next morning we stopped at Nugget Point Lighthouse and Roaring Bay. It was windy, but so beautiful.
We had lunch in Balclutha. My wife had made a salad, while I had fish and chips, in newsprint, of course, from what was mostly a Chinese take-away. I noticed that a number of fish and chips place in New Zealand also did Chinese food. Maybe that is because you need the same kitchen equipment for both. In any case, the fish and chips were great.
The Southern Scenic Route was a wonderful drive through a relatively unexplored area of New Zealand. We were unable to spend as much time as I would have liked on it, but with only six weeks, there wasn’t enough time to do everything.
1 I am not sure how much longer the Hungry Hippo will be there. According to a report I saw from March 2015, the location is for sale and the sellers are “motivated.”