Skip to Content

13 BEST Places to Stop on the Drive from Christchurch to Dunedin

13 BEST Places to Stop on the Drive from Christchurch to Dunedin

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

As the largest city on the South Island, Christchurch is the ultimate launchpad for some epic South Island road trips, including the unforgettable drive to Dunedin! At around 360 km (224 mi) long, you can bet that there are some seriously amazing stops along the way, turning a 4-hour and 30-minute journey into a full day (or even multi-day) experience.

Ever since I moved to Queenstown, I’ve been exploring as much of the South Island (and the North Island) as I can, and I’m still not done yet! So I can totally relate if you’re finding researching the best places to visit a bit of a headache.

That’s why I’ve put this complete guide to the Christchurch to Dunedin drive together, which showcases the best spots I’ve discovered over the years. This drive is particularly epic, as it traces one of the best regions in the country for unique wildlife, like New Zealand fur seals, and the rare yellow-eyed penguins.

On top of that, there are stops to see the Maori cave art in Timaru, the blue penguin colony in Oamaru, the unique and photogenic Moeraki Boulders… That’s just the start!

So let’s dive in and see what this unmissable road trip has to offer. I can promise that your camera will be pretty full by the time you’re through with this one!

Need wheels? For rental cars, I always book with Discover Cars since the website is so easy to use with great prices. For motorhomes and campervans, I really like JUCY/Star RV because of their huge selection and multiple depot locations that make pick-up and drop-off a breeze. Plus, if you use my exclusive discount code DTRAVEL24, you’ll save 5%! You can browse JUCY and Star RV’s availability here and apply the discount code at check-out.

About the drive from Christchurch to Dunedin

If you drive without stopping, the 360-kilometer (224-mile) long Christchurch to Dunedin drive takes 4 hours and 30 minutes. With that said, I’d highly recommend including some of the stops I’m about to mention, and turning this road trip into a full-day affair.

Better yet, after renting a car in Christchurch (I use Discover Cars for this), you can spend a night along the way and turn this road trip into a two-day adventure. The best towns to spend the night in, in my opinion, are Oamaru or Timaru.

Don’t fancy driving? Another option is to take the Intercity bus direct to Dunedin, with one-way tickets starting from around $50 NZD. While this will get you from A to B, you do miss out on what makes this road trip so special, all the fun stops there are in between!

If time allows, I recommend stopping at every attraction on this list – I just love them all. However, those short on time should skip the longer hikes.

This scenic drive follows State Highway 1 (SH1) the whole way. For those unfamiliar, State Highway 1 (SH1) is a well-traveled road and one of the most extensive motorways in the country, and it typically isn’t hit by any snow or ice in the cold winter months. This means it’s typically a safe and easy road to drive, especially if you aren’t too familiar with driving here in New Zealand.

Because this road trip travels along the main highway, there are lots of fuel stations, cafés, and supermarkets to fuel you and your vehicle for the long journey. You might be beginning to see why I love this drive so much!

With that said, many of the attractions on this list are off the main highway, so be prepared to drive on some backcountry roads – especially if you’re in a large motorhome. This can mean taking your time and going slower than normal (allow for that time).

Related read: Need another road trip from Dunedin? Check out the road trip from Dunedin to Invercargill or from Dunedin to Queenstown!

The BEST Stops on the Drive from Christchurch to Dunedin

1. Christchurch

A tram travels down New Regent Street in Christchurch, New Zealand
A tram travels down New Regent Street in Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch is a large, fun city – in fact, it’s the largest city on the South Island and the second largest in New Zealand (behind Auckland). With a population of just under 400,000 people, as you can imagine, there are loads of great things to do in Christchurch and excellent places to eat.

As your starting point, don’t pass on the chance to explore the city on one of the best tours in Christchurch. I know it can be tempting to hit the road, but the chance to explore more of this awesome city is just too good to pass up.

For the ultimate introduction to the city, I’d recommend going on this historic tram tour, where you can hop off at one of the 17 different stops at attractions around the city, and then jump back on to finish your tour.

I love that you can follow this tram tour entirely at your own pace, and the on-board commentary is a great stepping stone to exploring the gems that this city has to offer! Tickets are also super affordable at only $35 NZD per adult and can be purchased here.

Riverside Market is also a great place to go to eat lots of different food! This indoor market is located right in the CBD and has everything from breweries to specialty cookie shops. There are also some unique boutique shops to check out. Wander around and see what catches your eye!

And while I’m speaking of places to eat, one of my favorite restaurants in the city is 5th Street on Elgin St in Sydenham. I love the southern fried chicken, and if you dare, their 700g (24.7 oz) rib eye.

For your coffee fix in ChristchurchC1 Espresso can’t be missed. Your food is delivered by pneumatic tubes, which you can watch overhead. It’s one of the trendiest coffee shops I’ve ever been to!

Bailey walks through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens
The Botanical Gardens!
Bailey inside the Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand
Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand

The National Antarctic Center is a must-see and offers a unique insight into life in Antarctica – not something you get to experience every day! It is one of the most popular attractions in Christchurch and is a great day out with kids. Stepping into the Storm Dome will give you the feel of the freezing cold weather in Antarctica.

There’s also a Penguin Rescue Center here, a 4D Cinema, and the opportunity to ride a Hagglund (an amphibious Antarctic vehicle). Admission is $59 NZD and can be booked online here.

Just a short drive from the Christchurch CBD, you’ll find the Christchurch Gondola, which I think is pretty underrated! It offers spectacular 360-degree views and is a great family-friendly activity too. Once at the top, there are some cool hiking trails as well as a café to relax at.

Tickets to the gondola start from $40 NZD for adults and $18 NZD for children.

I’m also a big sucker for outdoor adventure activities, and although Christchurch is a big city, it still has a range of fun adventure experiences to try. This Christchurch ziplining tour is a firm favorite, including no less than 4 epic zipline rides, and amazing views of the city as you go.

The Adrenalin Forest Obstacle Course is another great activity for kids (and big kids!) to burn off steam, with all sorts of fantastic jungle-gym-type activities up in the trees. I’ve given it a go and honestly loved it!

A stroll through Christchurch Botanic Gardens with a coffee from one of the amazing cafes in the city is a great way to spend an hour or two. And no visit to Christchurch is complete without visiting Quake City, which tells the story of the devastating 2011 earthquake.

Other worthy sights to pay your respects to the earthquake victims include the Oi Manawa National Memorial located on the Avon River in town, and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, which was left a ruin from the earthquake and is currently undergoing reconstruction. 

There’s just so much to do in Christchurch – in fact, I advise spending at least two nights in this fascinating city (if time allows).

Where to stay in Christchurch

There are lots of different hotels in Christchurch to choose from. One of the best places out by the airport is the LyLo Christchurch. It’s actually located within walking distance of the airport!

Another cool hotel close by is the Commodore Airport Hotel Christchurch. Although a short drive away, they offer a free shuttle and have amazing reviews.

In the city center, the Crown Plaza Christchurch is perfect for those wanting a typical luxury stay. It’s a large hotel with amazing views of the city.

For budget travelers, the social but comfortable YHA Hostel is a good option. Although cheap, it’s located in the heart of the city and only a short walk from Hagley Park. You also have the option to book on either or to find the best deal!

Hot Tip: Consider renting a campervan in Christchurch for your road trip! Having a home-on-wheels is so much fun!

Related Read: Visiting Christchurch on a budget? Check out all of the free and cheap activities in Christchurch!

2. Ashburton

A view of Mt Sunday in Ashburton Lakes, NZ
View of Mt Sunday in Ashburton Lakes

Ashburton, just an hour’s drive from Christchurch, is a large town surrounded by gorgeous farmland. It’s our first stop on this epic road trip after Christchurch, some of the best things to do in Ashburton involve getting out into nature.

Lake Hood, a short drive from town, is a popular spot with locals for fishing, boating, and waterskiing. The picturesque Ashburton Domain is also a great place to see nature on a walk, with 37 hectares (91 acres) of lawns and gardens.

In town, the Ashburton Art Gallery and Heritage Center delves into the town’s history and also showcases lots of unique art. They’re open daily from 10 am to 4 pm, and if the weather is looking a bit touch and go, this is a great spot to escape for a while.

If you’re a shopping fan or just want to pick up a few unique souvenirs, I recommend heading out to Ashford Village, which is set in and around an old Mill. There are lots of quirky gift shops and a café. 

For food in Ashburton, try out Cleavers Corner Gastro Pub for some fantastic pub food, or Ashburton Armadillos for some hearty meals, including burgers, seafood, and more!

If you have plenty of time to spend, then consider driving out to the Ashburton lakes and visiting Mt Sunday also known as Edoras from Lord of the Rings. It’s a 2-hour drive into the mountains, but the 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mi) one-way walk from the parking lot is stunning.

Did you know: Ashburton was an aviation training base during World War Two, and the Ashburton Aviation Museum (near the airport) is a great place to see historic and modern aircraft!

Related read: New Zealand is full of fantastic tours inspired by Peter Jackson’s films, check out some Lord of the Rings tours from Queenstown!

3. Timaru

Te Ana Maori Rock Art
Some of the Te Ana Maori Rock Art. Photo credit: Te Ana Maori Rock Art

About an hour’s drive southwest of Ashburton, you’ll arrive at the lovely town of Timaru, built around the golden sand of Caroline Bay.

One of my favorite things to do in Timaru is to enjoy a walk along Marine Parade at dusk to see native blue penguins! Unfortunately, the only safe spot to view the penguins is behind a roped section on the path (just look for a large group of people if you’re struggling to find it).

From here, you can watch the adult penguins come ashore, who return at this hour of the night to feed their chicks who are nesting on the beach. It’s quite a sight to see these beautiful creatures feeding their young right in front of you!

In Timaru town itself, the South Canterbury Museum is a great way to pass a few hours. Here, you can learn about the region’s history and culture, another great rainy day activity. They’re closed on Mondays but are open Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 4:30 pm, and on the weekend from 1 pm to 4:30 pm.

If you’re an art fan, the Aigantighe Art Gallery is the third-largest art gallery in New Zealand and is located on Wai-titi Road in the town. I love walking through their sculpture garden on a sunny day!

Speaking of sunny days, one fun free thing to do in Timaru is walking the Timaru Botanic Gardens, which is open daily from 8 am and closes around 8 pm (depending on the month). The gardens date back all the way to 1864, and have been a local favorite spot ever since. There’s also a children’s playground for the little ones to burn off some energy!

Alongside seeing the super cute penguins, the star activity to try in Timaru is a guided tour with Te Ana Maori Rock Art. With the entire tour lasting around 3 and a half hours, you’ll get to visit the Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre before being shown Maori art painted on caves at some of the most important cultural sites on the South Island.

Worth noting is that you must drive yourself to these caves, your guide will tell you the way. This is an incredibly unique experience and gives insight into the history and culture of the native Ngau Tahu people (the prominent Maori tribe on the South Island). At the Rock Art Center itself, you can hold a Moa bone and even create your own rock art – fun for all the family! 

Where to stay in Timaru

I highly recommend spending the night either in Timaru on this road trip, or in Oamaru, which is up next. One of my favorite accommodation options in Timaru includes Coastal Ridge Apartments, which offers studio and one-bedroom apartments for a very fair price.

There’s also the Cedar Lodge Motel, which is right around the corner from the Timaru Botanic Gardens. This hotel is also great value for money, and I’ve had some great experiences with the staff here, who are so friendly and helpful!

4. Oamaru

A cute street in Oamaru
The gorgeous streets in Oamaru!

One of the most famous tourist towns in this region, the beachside town of Oamaru our next stop on the drive from Christchurch to Dunedin, and it’s a very popular one! For the best viewpoint of the town, head to Oamaru Lookout Point, it’s especially pretty here at sunset. You can also take on one of the many scenic walking trails from here.

Bushy Beach is my top recommendation for Oamaru, and here you can see yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals, and sea lions from the viewing platform. It’s a 10-minute leisurely walk from the parking lot on Bushy Beach Road to the viewing platform. The best time to see the unique wildlife here is at dusk.

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is another excellent place to see blue penguins (also known as the world’s smallest penguin) – this is a paid experience, which costs $43 NZD per adult. The colony is located 5 minutes from Oamaru and typically, the viewing tours begin at 8 pm each evening. 

In Oamaru town, the Forrester Gallery is a truly impressive building (neo-classical style). In fact, it reminds me of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Inside there’s an amazing collection of local and international art.

You can also take a stroll through the interesting Studio Realm boutique art store and find something quirky to take home, or just enjoy the decor!

As for eating out in Oamaru – for dinner, I recommend Riverstone Kitchen – they also offer a delicious breakfast menu if you’re planning on staying the night in Oamaru. For lunch or your coffee fix, the Coast Cafe is a great option. I particularly like the burgers here!

Where to stay in Oamaru

If you wish to spend the night in Oamaru (which I highly recommend doing) then The Old Confectionary and Poshtel are great mid-range options. Poshtel is one of my favorites, as it’s located right in the heart of town, however many dates do book out weeks in advance, so it’s worth taking a look in advance to secure your spot!

5. Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders at sunset on the South Island
Have you ever seen something like that before?

The Moeraki Boulders are one of the most-visited tourist sites in New Zealand, around 30 minutes from Oamaru. Would you believe there are about 50 large spherical boulders scattered along the beach – some of these boulders are up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) tall! Even more unique, some have cracked open like eggs, others are still intact, but one thing is for sure… They’re weird!

Of course, I couldn’t miss out on including the boulders as a stop on this road trip. Visiting the boulders only takes an hour or so, and the best time to photograph the boulders is at either sunrise or sunset. There is a café nearby with parking and access to the beach. That said, they do require a small fee of $2 NZD to use their beach access.

If you don’t want to pay, you can also access the boulders via the DOC parking lot nearby. Just be sure to look on Google Maps and go to the public parking area, not the café.

As far as interesting places to visit on the South Island go, Moeraki Boulders is a clear winner! If you want to stay nearby so you can visit at sunset, the town of Moeraki is the best option, but Hampden is also nearby. Alternatively, just stay in Oamaru – that’s what I do!

Did you know – Hundreds of years ago, according to a local Maori tale, these giant boulders were washed up on the beach by the voyaging canoe Araiteru when it was wrecked after hitting land.

banner asking people to click to join the Queenstown Diary Facebook Group

6. Katiki Point

yellow-eyed penguins at Katiki Point
Seeing one of the Penguins with a chick was amazing!

Just a 12-minute drive from the Moeraki Boulders, Katiki Point is the perfect scenic spot to see fur seals and even yellow-eyed penguins. The lighthouse here, also known as the Moeraki Lighthouse, was built back in 1878, and the Lighthouse Keeper’s house is used as a rehabilitation center for sick and injured penguins.

This center is run by Penguin Rescue New Zealand. There’s a donation box at the entry gate where I recommend donating to the penguin center (about $5 to $10 NZD per vehicle is appropriate). 

The reserve here is strictly open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm daily to protect the penguins. At dusk, no flash photography is allowed, and you are not permitted to go within 5 meters (16 feet) of the penguins and other wildlife.

You can find Katiki Point at Lighthouse Road near Moeraki. For my fellow nature lovers out there, this is a stop that you can’t miss!

7. Shag Point Lookout

Shag Point Lookout
Shag Point Lookout!

Shag Point Lookout is another quick stop on your drive from Christchurch to Dunedin, but just like Katiki Point, it’s a fantastic place to see local wildlife! Instead of penguins, you can often see loads of fur seals living their best lives lazing on the rocks below.

It may take a few moments to spot the seals as they blend in so well with the rocks, so keep your eyes peeled. One man we met at the viewing point told us that he had been there a few days before and seen over a hundred seals on the rocks! 

From the parking lot, it’s just a few minutes to the viewpoint. Be sure to bring a camera with a good zoom lens to get some great shots of the seals. We got some great photos when we visited! Nearby, there are also some boulders similar to the Moeraki Boulders, although I personally think that the Moeraki ones are far more impressive.

The viewpoint is located on Shag Point Road, which is around 20 minutes from Katiki Point. 

8. Huriawa Historic Site

Huriawa Historic Site
Huriawa Historic Site!

The Huriawa Historic Site is home to the Huriawa Pā Walk, a 45-minute easy loop track that boasts spectacular views of Taiaroa Heads and Butterfly Bay. At 2.4 km (1.5 mi) long, you can even spot several blow holes along the track. It’s a pretty neat thing to see and is what turns this walk from good to great!

Starting from the car park by Barvas Street, this is also a fantastic walk for kids, as several plaques along the walk help to teach the history of the area. Kids can earn a Kiwi Guardian Medal here too (this is a children’s activity program that encourages learning about nature)!

The reserve here was once an important Maori village (pa) and was the home of Ngai Tahu Chief Te Wera. It is believed to have been built in the late 18th century. So, as you can imagine, the area is a very sacred place to the native Maori people of the area!

9. Blueskin Bay

Just 25 km (15.5 mi) from Dunedin, Blueskin Bay is a famous estuary filled with “cockles,” also known as southern clams and oysters. In fact, these clams and oysters are exported overseas in abundance, making this one of the biggest industries in this small area!

As you drive past the lake, look out for Arc Brewing Co. This small local brewery crafts amazing beer, but they are only open Friday to Sunday, so if you’re stopping by on the weekend, you’re in for a real treat.

The quirky little village of Waitati is built overlooking Blueskin Bay, and I love the Blueskin Nurseries Café for a coffee break. This little village definitely has an alternative vibe, with most residents being alternative energy enthusiasts. The village has no sewage system and has become an important center in New Zealand for the development of composting toilets. 

Nearby, you’ll find the Orokonui Scenic Reserve which is really a nice hiking area. The 3-kilometer (1.8-mi) loop track is a peaceful stroll. You can also drive out to the Doctor’s Point Reserve and enjoy a walk on the beach to explore some caves at low tide.

10. The Mole (sea wall)

Views on the Heyward Point Track
The views of the Heyward Point Track are breathtaking!

The Mole (officially called Aramoana, which is Māori for “pathway of the sea”) is a man-made breakwater that extends out to see for around 1,200 meters (3,900 ft). There were plans for it to be extended another 600 meters (1,968 ft), but this turned out to be impossible due to instability – that’s the power of the sea for you!

I love taking a walk along The Mole to enjoy the scenic views of the surrounding coastline. You’ll also be sure to see huge albatross swooping into the ocean in search of food (definitely pack your binoculars for a closer look at them).

On top of that, this area is popular with seals, and they sometimes lay on the sea wall itself. Be cautious though, as they have been known to chase visitors who get too close.

There’s also a walking track here called the Heyward Point Track that takes you to Heyward Point Scenic Reserve. The 5-kilometer (3.1-mi) return track offers stunning views of the area and is a must when it comes to hikes on the South Island.

11. Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Takaha bird at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary
A Takaha!

Orokonui Ecosanctuary, 20 km (12.4 mi) from Dunedin CBD, is the only cloud forest in New Zealand. If you’ve never heard of this type of forest, these are actually some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, and are where clouds sink and dissipate. They’re quite a sight!

The Orokonui Ecosanctuary is open Thursday to Monday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, and is home to rare and endangered native birds like Kiwi, Kaka, Takaha, and Tuatara. There are also no predators here to threaten these unique birds!

You’ll find 9 different walking tracks you can take within the reserve – the most popular being the 1.5-hour Kaka/Bellbird/Kiwi Track, which takes you on an easy path to see Kaka and Bellbirds. If you’re lucky, you might also spot one of the elusive kiwi too.

To walk the tracks, you either have the option of going on a self-guided walk, or going as part of a guided group tour. For the ultimate introduction to this unique area, I’d highly recommend one of the guided walks, as you’ll be joined by a local expert who will be happy to answer any questions you may have. That said, if you fancy walking on your own, that’s totally fine too!

Both options do require you to purchase a ticket, with the self-guided tours recommended being booked in advance. It costs $22 NZD per adult for the self-guided option, and starts from $40 NZD for the guided option.

The visitor center here is often referred to as a “showpiece of environmental design.” There’s also the Horopito Café inside the center that boasts excellent views over the cloud forest and has a varied menu

The reserve was built by the Otago Natural History Trust, and the idea for the reserve first came from local cartoonist Burton Silver – it’s come quite a long way since!

12. Leith Saddle Walk

The Leith Saddle walking track is a 3.5 hour (5.8 km) return easy walking track. With that said, in the beginning there’s quite a steep climb, so I’d recommend only tackling this one if you feel relatively fit. Nevertheless, the trail is one of the most popular hikes near Dunedin and climbs through the unique cloud forest and up to a spectacular viewpoint of Dunedin CBD.

After this viewpoint, the track up to Swampy Summit becomes a little trickier, and to me, more resembles a tramping track. It’s a great challenge though that offers some pretty sweet rewards!

It’s also a great walk for bird-watching fans, with the opportunity to spot native birds like the fantail and kaka. The walk is also flush with unique flora like the Dicksonia tree fern, rimu, miro, and totara. 

You can start this track from Waitati Valley Road, about 12 minutes from Dunedin.

13. Dunedin

Tunnel Beach in Dunedin, New Zealand
Tunnel Beach in Dunedin!

How time flies! Our final destination on this list, Dunedin, is the second-largest city on the South Island and is surrounded by gorgeous coastlines and even a cloud forest. The city of Dunedin is a historic city filled with Victorian-style buildings, and an interesting fact about Dunedin is that the city has a distinct Scottish heritage (a lot of locals are of Scottish descent).

The best example of this influence is Larnach Castle, which is well worth a visit. There’s also a Highland Games and Festival held at the beginning of April every year – which is easily one of the best things to do in Dunedin.

If you’re spending a few days in the city (which I highly recommend doing), then be sure to visit the Otago Museum, which has one of the largest collections in the country. There’s even a Planetarium and an interactive Science Center, which houses an immersive tropical butterfly experience. Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, it’s also a great activity to try if the weather isn’t looking so great.

The Toitu Settlers Museum is another fun attraction in the city that tells the story of Otago’s first people in a pretty unique way. There are loads of super-informative interactive displays dotted throughout the museum, which tells the story of the gold rush era and the settlement of Scottish Presbyterians in the city. 

Dunedin is known as a “student city” and as a result, there are a lot of quirky restaurants and cafés in the CBD. Check out The Good Earth Cafe and Morning Magpie for great food and coffee! Emersons Brewery is also a fun spot to try some local craft beer. I love the funky art on their beer cans, but it’s the taste which brings me back each time!

One of my favorite places outside the CBD is St. Clair Beach, where I often grab a bite to eat at one of the seafront eateries there, plus there’s the chance to see sea lions on the beach itself! Tunnel Beach at the end of Green Island Bush Road is also gorgeous and well worth a visit.

For a great overview of Dunedin’s natural attractions, consider doing this top-rated wildlife and wilderness tour with an ex-ranger. While seeing penguins is never a guarantee, joining a local expert is the best way to maximize your chances, and seeing the yellow eyed penguins in the wild is such a special experience! Tickets for this half-day tour cost $265 NZD per person.

If you fancy a shorter experience, then this 90-minute guided evening penguin experience might just be what you’re looking for! On this evening tour, you’ll learn all about the local penguins and their environment, and you’ll be joined by an expert biologist who will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

You can book your spot on this tour for just $55 NZD per person, but make sure to take a look in advance, as this tour often books out ahead of time!

Did you know – The steepest street in the world is right here in Dunedin! Baldwin Street is a popular attraction and perfect for taking some fun photos.

Related Read: Heading to Kaikoura after Christchurch? Read my blog about the drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura. From there, you can continue the drive from Kaikoura to Picton!

Where to Stay in Dunedin

bathroom in the Distinction Dunedein Hotel
How gorgeous is this bathroom! Photo credit: Distinction Dunedin Hotel

Also known as New Zealand’s ‘little Scotland’ Dunedin is a great place to spend a night or two. First off, the city center isn’t too big but has everything you need and is easy to stroll around. Thankfully, there are also lots of fun things to keep you occupied, too. Plus, there’s a fantastic array of great restaurants.

Some great places to stay in Dunedin include:

On Top Backpackers – $

Just a few minutes walk from many of Dunedin’s attractions, On Top Backpackers is a great budget pick. With its very own café and bar with 19 pool tables, it’s a fun, comfortable, unique, bright, and sunny hostel with a relaxed vibe.

You can choose from shared dorms, single and double rooms with shared facilities, or our deluxe double private rooms with en suite. A bed in a dorm here starts as low as $36 NZD per night – you can check availability and book your bed online here.

538 Great King Motel – $$

A 4-star motel that’s within easy walking distance of the city, 538 Great King Motel offers clean and comfortable rooms, plus there’s guest laundry on-site. The building itself is pretty trendy, and I love how modern and tidy everything is here! I also have to make a note that the beds are suuuper comfortable – especially important after a busy trip.

Rooms here at 538 Great King Motel start from around $184 NZD for a compact studio, ranging up to around $385 NZD for a penthouse apartment. Of course, for the best prices, it’s always a good idea to check online and book in advance.

Distinction Dunedin Hotel – $$$

Once a post office, the Distinction Dunedin Hotel is historic and charming and has recently been renovated. This 4.5-star hotel has a restaurant and bar on-site, and the rooms are modern and luxurious. One cool feature is that you can choose to dine privately in one of the original vaults of Dunedin’s former Post Office!

While a stay here doesn’t come cheap, the hotel is located in a fantastic area in Dunedin and offers a host of rooms, from studios to junior four-bedroom suites. If you’re looking to make your stay in the city that much more special, then you really can’t go wrong with a stay here! Rooms start from $309 NZD per night and can be booked online here.

St Clair and Brighton

If you want a stay a little out of the city, then I love St Clair and Brighton. St Clair is one of my favorite areas in Dunedin, just an 8-minute drive from the city center. There’s a long white sand beach here, where you can spot sunbathing seals if you’re lucky. There’s a small but varied selection of great bars and restaurants too. Hotel St Clair is a great place to spend the night here.

Brighton Beach is an 11-minute drive from the city and boasts a white sand beach and a long ocean jetty. The jetty is a beautiful place to catch the sunset. Stay in School by the Sea is a lovely home accommodation option in Brighton.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey from My Queenstown diary at Studio Realm Oamaru
Thanks for reading! (me at Studio Realm Oamaru)

The road trip from Dunedin to Christchurch has always been a well-traveled route and one that should not be missed. I’m sure you’ll agree there’s some incredible wildlife, stunning viewpoints, and some very unique towns listed above. Whether you stop at just one or all of the above stops, the drive from Christchurch to Dunedin is sure to be one to remember.

I hope this blog helps you make the most of your Christchurch to Dunedin road trip. If you did find it helpful, then feel free to browse some more of my blogs! I have tons of road trip guides, hiking guides, and tons of information on Queenstown, Wanaka, and more. I’ve also included a few blogs I think you’ll find interesting below:

Queenstown to Wanaka Scenic Drive (The BEST Route and Places to Stop!)

Is Milford Sound Worth it? – My Honest Review

22 Epic Things to do in Fiordland National Park +COMPLETE Guide


Monday 30th of January 2023

Great info, thanks!