Having seen all the stunning landscapes around Queenstown and Milford, the Southern Scenic Route felt a bit boring in comparison. It leads south from Te Anau down to the Coast, through paddocks, fields and some more paddocks. The country flattens toward the ocean and opens the view to the endless farmland.
It got more interesting shortly before Invercargill, where a heritage trail offers some stops on the way if you are interested.
We had a look on Gemstone beach and sadly left without any of the promised sapphires. We found some other nice looking stones instead. Probably wouldn't even have known a real gem if it lay right in front of our feet. There were multicolored stones all over the place, and we also saw some people cracking open bigger rocks to find more. That place must be heaven for geologists. :)
Following the coastline from Invercargill, you soon enter the Catlins, the area most worth visiting along the Southern Scenic Route. It has large bits of native forest (though only a short taste of it around the highway) and a nice coastline of cliffs, beaches and some rare Penguins, if you are lucky enough to see some.
Interesting stops on the Catlin coast are:
Waipapa Point, from where you can see an old shipwreck at lowtide.
Slope Point, the Southernmost point of the South Island.
Petrified forest & Penguin colony at Curio Bay, a big area of rocky shoreline where you can see the round inlays of wood turned into stone. Penguins can be spotted in the late afternoon.
Niagara Falls, not quite as impressive as the ones in America, Niagara Falls NZ are more of a little joke along the way than a real sight.
Nugget Point, a beautiful lookout from the lighthouse over the 'nuggets' of rock scattered in the ocean.