Christchurch - Dunedin

Allow 5 - 6 hours. 364 km via SH 1


Highway near Dunedin

There are several routes out of Christchurch, from the central city and it's usually more convenient to head on to the southern motorway or Blenheim Road which follow out onto State Highway one heading south.

If you're in the north or west of the city, it is usually more convenient to head for the airport and the city bypass route which joins State Highway one at Hornby.

The traffic is often bumper-to-bumper any time of day, but after Templeton one can usually pick up a little speed and there are even a couple of passing bays before Rolleston. This is one of Christchurch's newer satellite towns.

The open highway really begins after passing Rolleston. The traveller here needs endless patience and sharp concentration as there are often many impatient drivers willing to take any risk to jump ahead in the queue.

The highway is boringly straight and the village of Rakaia is the first real opportunity to take a toilet break or get some refreshments. This is also the turnoff to Thompsons track, an alternative route to Geraldine and Queenstown.


Garden ornaments at Riverstone

Continuing south, there is little to see other than endless fields and the distant mountains. The next significant town is Ashburton. If you're looking for a public toilet here, turn left over the railway line and right into the town's main street. The public toilets which are well-maintained are on the right-hand side of the main street and you may have to pay to park.

The road south from Ashburton is a slow crawl through the adjoining township of Tinwald, a favourite haunt of the traffic police. Once you are back in the 100kmph zone, there will likely be a lot of slow traffic. There are many passing lanes, but unfortunately many idiotic drivers who travel well under the speed limit on the dual carriageway will suddenly accelerate which means to pass them, one must break the speed limit.

If you find yourself becoming impatient or intolerant of stupid drivers, there are some small villages where you can stop, but don't expect any relief from the traffic until you've passed by Timaru.

Timaru is the largest town before Dunedin and it's often a destination in its own right. It's a great place to explore the South Canterbury District. But as you continue south, there is usually a little less traffic and the roads have some curves.

On the right-hand side after crossing over the Waitaki Bridge is Riverstone. This is an art and craft centre and a place to stop for lunch.  Don't expect a bargain here, but you'll be amazed how much stuff is packed into this curiosity store.  If you find yourself in Oamaru, you've missed it.


The old city and arts centre in Oamaru

The next significant town is Oamaru, this is also a nice destination and a place to stay a while. You can see penguins and explore the region. Even if you're just passing through, as well worthwhile to detour into the old part of the city where you'll find refreshments and a nice variety of craft shops.

Continuing south from Oamaru, the road follows through rolling hill country and on the south side of the town there is an option to take a scenic coastal route.

The next significant stopping point is the Moeraki boulders. It's a good place to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, more coffee and souvenirs.

The next township is Palmerston after which the road becomes a little more unpredictable and interesting. At Karitane, there is a nice coastal detour is joins the main highway to follow around the shore of Blueskin Bay to Waitati before driving over the last couple of big hills heading down into Dunedin.


Moeraki Boulders

This highway is generally in good condition and if it wasn't for the traffic, the trip could be completed in 4.5 hours without stops.

A personal journey


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