The Ultimate 3-Day Christchurch to Dunedin Road Trip

Experience the ultimate 3-day trip with our Christchurch to Dunedin itinerary in New Zealand's South Island. Enjoy the freedom that an Omega rental car brings to discover magnificent landscapes, rich culture and historical highlights. The distance from Christchurch to Dunedin is 360 kilometres along State Highway 1, where the route is packed with coastal vistas and picturesque towns. Follow our 3-day New Zealand itinerary to experience an unforgettable Christchurch to Dunedin road trip.

Omega's Luxury SUV with rainbow in the background.

Omega's Luxury SUV

Itinerary index!

Planning your Christchurch to Dunedin roadie

The Christchurch to Dunedin drive time takes less than 5 hours, non-stop. It’s a long drive but a highly recommended New Zealand road trip. However, with the amazing attractions, outdoor activities and hidden gems located off the main highway, we know you’ll want to take your time to savour the best places to visit in the South Island.

To get you on your way, select a reliable, fuel-efficient Omega rental car that suits your needs. Visit our booking page to view our available rental vehicles from Christchurch Airport. We’ll have your car waiting for you when you arrive.

Also, set a realistic budget, book accommodation in advance, plan stops and activities, and pack essential items to ensure a well-organised and enjoyable New Zealand road trip.


Best sights to see on the way from the Southern Alps

From impressive snow-capped peaks to gorgeous lakes, lovely towns, lush native forests and spectacular natural wonders, the journey will reveal a treasure trove of awe-inspiring destinations. Prepare to be captivated by the wonders that unfold as you make your way towards the delightful city of Dunedin on the east coast of the South Island.

Day 1: Christchurch to Cromwell

After checking out of your Christchurch accommodation, it’s time to spend time exploring the Garden City!

The South Island’s largest city is a captivating tapestry of heritage and innovation. Its streets are adorned with grand Victorian buildings and Gothic-inspired cathedrals, while bold contemporary structures reflect a fearless embrace of the future. Discover the allure of this incredible New Zealand city, where every step reveals new wonders and leaves an indelible mark on your heart.

Begin with a stroll through the beautifully manicured Christchurch Botanic Gardens. A conservatory complex, gift shop and visitor centre are also on-site.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

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Located on the outskirts of Central Christchurch City is the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral, known as the 'Cardboard Cathedral'. This architectural marvel symbolises the city’s resilience and innovation after the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

Christchurch Cathedral.

Photo Credit:

Sit back and relax on a tranquil boat ride along the Avon River. Take in the incredible scenery as your skilled punter navigates the waterways.

Visit the International Antarctic Centre for interactive displays, snow and ice experiences, and a thrilling simulated Antarctic storm. Meet adorable penguins and learn about the explorers who ventured to the frozen continent.

Now it’s time to jump in your rental car and head towards Cromwell. Start your journey by travelling through the picturesque Mackenzie basin and stop at Lake Tekapo, known for its mesmerising turquoise waters and the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd. 

Lake Tekapo at Sunset.

Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand

Take a detour to Wanaka, an enchanting town nestled beside Lake Wanaka, offering walking tracks boasting great views, water sports and loads of vibrant restaurants and cafes. 

Driving 45 minutes from Wanaka will bring you to Cromwell.

Day 2: Cromwell to Oamaru

While in Cromwell, don’t miss the historic Old Town, known for its charming heritage buildings and boutique shops. 

Begin your exciting journey on day two by heading east to Oamaru. On the way, stop at Clyde Dam, an engineering marvel that offers amazing views of the surrounding landscape. Then, venture into the breathtaking Central Otago wine region, where you can indulge in wine tasting at world-class wineries and savour award-winning Pinot Noir.

Otago Wineries Overlooking the Southern Alps.

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In Oamaru, nature enthusiasts can observe the rare and fascinating rare yellow-eyed penguins at Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve. These lovable creatures waddle ashore each evening, providing a heartwarming spectacle. The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony offers the chance to witness the world's smallest penguin species return to their nests after a day of fishing.

Penguins on the beach.

Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand

Oamaru is also a great place to take one of the many walking trails to get your steps in and admire the scenic views

Day 3: Oamaru to Dunedin

Driving south from Oamaru along a scenic coastal route brings you to the famous Moeraki Boulders. These massive spherical stones are scattered along Koekohe Beach, creating a surreal and photogenic sight. Drive along Lighthouse Road to glimpse the darling yellow-eyed and little blue penguins. As you venture further, watch for the sea birds and seals perched on the rocks alongside the majestic Moeraki lighthouse, called Katiki Point Lighthouse.

As you approach Dunedin, stop in at the magnificent Orokonui Ecosanctuary. This 300-hectare wildlife sanctuary is a haven for native wildlife and the only cloud forest in New Zealand. Wander along the tracks to discover tuatara (New Zealand’s largest reptile), native birds and lush forest.

Moeraki Boulders on a sunny day.

Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand


Top Attractions in Dunedin

After you check in to your Dunedin accommodation, explore the lively city centre with its rich Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Wander through the streets to view colourful murals and graffiti artworks adorning building walls, showcasing the city's creative spirit. To sample more of Dunedin's arts and culture, visit the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, or catch a performance at the renowned Fortune Theatre or Regent Theatre. Take a scenic drive to the Signal Hill Lookout for stunning views of the city and the Otago Peninsula.

Dunedin Art Museum.

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Marvel at the grandeur of the Dunedin Railway Station, an architectural gem adorned with intricate detailing. Step inside to appreciate its beautiful interior and learn about its historical significance. 

Known as the world’s steepest street, Baldwin Street is a unique attraction that draws visitors from far and wide. Take a walk or challenge yourself to climb this iconic hill for an exhilarating experience.

Baldwin Street Steepest Street in the World.

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Discover the grandeur of Larnach Castle, New Zealand's only castle, to explore its exquisite gardens and magnificent architecture and learn about its intriguing history.

St Clair Beach is a captivating coastal destination and a melting pot of natural beauty, thrilling surf breaks and a chilled atmosphere. Its sun-kissed, sandy beach, rugged cliffs and panoramic ocean views offer a scenic backdrop for relaxation and strolls. 

St Clair Salt Water Pool.

Photo Credit: Tourism New Zealand

Take a wildlife cruise or join a guided tour at the Royal Albatross Centre, Harrington Point. The centre is the world’s only mainland breeding colony of royal albatross. Here, you can learn about the conservation efforts to protect endangered species

Venture beyond the city to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the Otago Peninsula. This gorgeous stretch of land is a sanctuary for native wildlife, where penguins, albatross, fur seals and sea lions grace the windswept shores. Embrace exhilarating outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking and surfing.


Tips for staying safe on your trip

Stay alert and adhere to road safety rules to make the most of your road trip. We ask you to respect the environment by practising responsible tourism, such as taking your rubbish with you, sticking to designated trails, and following any restrictions or guidelines in protected areas. 

Two People Hiking.


Be prepared for weather changes and road conditions by checking forecasts and carrying appropriate clothing. It is also advisable to maintain flexibility in your plans and have contingency options in case of unexpected situations, ensuring a smoother and stress-free road trip experience.


Get on the road with Omega!

Rent a car from Omega Rental Cars from Christchurch Airport to start your trip to Dunedin and back. That way, you’re free to explore the beauty of the South Island of New Zealand at your own pace. Omega Rental Cars has a wide range of well-maintained vehicles, competitive prices and excellent customer service. Let us be your companion for a seamless and unforgettable New Zealand road trip. Book your car today and start your adventure!