ROAM Loop Must-Dos



A trip around the central South Island is a must-do for a lot of kiwis as well as international visitors. Seeing sights as the iconic Aoraki/Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo and the rolling hills of the Waitaki, it’s an area that’s sure to please all, although, some people wonder where are the best places to stop along the way.

We’ve developed a driving loop called ROAM - Rivers. Ocean. Astro. Mountains. It encompasses the best of the what the central South Island has to offer.

Below is the list of the must-stop locations and sights along the 350 kilometre loop.

1. Explore the Māori Rock Art in Timaru

New Zealand original art galleries, the ancient Māori rock art of the Aoraki region will leave in your awe. Te Ana is the only guided Māori rock art experience in New Zealand. Follow in the footsteps of our ancestors on a personalised guided tour to the rock art sites, or explore the history and culture of Ngāi Tahu at the rock art centre in Central Timaru.

2. Watch the Little Blue Penguins/Kororā come ashore

Caroline Bay in Timaru has a resident rook of Little Blue Penguins/Kororā which nest in the rocks from October through to March each year. Just 40cm tall, they are the world’s smallest penguin. Each night, after sunset they come ashore after a long day fishing, so dress warmly and head down to the Southern end of Caroline Bay and wait quietly to spot them as they return.

3. Sample a pie (or two) at the Fairlie Bakehouse

The world famous Fairlie Bakehouse is located in Fairlie, 50 minutes from Central Timaru on route to the Mackenzie District.  The family-owned establishment is open 7 days.  They believe that fresh is best with all their delicious offerings being baked onsite daily.

With unique flavours such as salmon and bacon as well as classics like Mince and Cheese you will certainly come away satisfied.

4.  Stargaze  in the world's largest Gold Dark Reserve

The Aoraki  Mackenzie International Dark Reserve is the world's largest, at 4,367 square kilometres. You can jump on a tour with one of the many operators in the Mackenzie District offering the opportunity to explore the skies, or alternatively, grab a blanket and a chair and find a special place to ponder below the stars.

5.  Soak it up in the hot pools at Tekapo or Omarama

After a long day exploring, spend some time relaxing at Tekapo Springs or Omarama Hot Tubs. Take in the glorious views of the Mackenzie District while you plan your next stop. These are a perfect place to finish a day of hitting the slopes.

6. Hit the slopes on one of the three ski fields

With three ski fields dotted through the region, you will be spoilt for choice of where to go. Mount Dobson, Roundhill and Ohau, ski areas offer less congested runs and more area to explore all while overlooking stunning lakes and mountain ranges.

7.  Take a selfie at the impressive Omarama Clay Cliffs

A geological wonder, the Clay Cliffs, was created from layers of silt and gravel deposited by ancient lakes and rivers around 20 million years ago.  They have since been uplifted and tilted by the nearby Ostler Fault.

The cliffs are located on private land with an honesty box at the gate where you are asked to pay $5 per car. Once you reach the carpark it is a 10-15 minute walk to explore the cliffs. Closed in, sturdy footwear is advised.

8.  Explore the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

Bring your bike, or hire one and head along the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail.  Starting at Aoraki/Mount Cook, the track meanders through the district, finishing at seaside Oamaru.  The track is broken into nine sections you can ride the full length over five to seven days, or pick one or two sections as a day trips between the regions towns.

9. Sample fabulous wines in the Waitaki Valley

The rich limestone soils of the Waitaki Valley have become famous for producing varieties like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling. The regions wineries are becoming world-renowned for good reason!

Stop at the River T Winery cellar door for a share platter and a glass or pick up a bottle from the likes of Ostler, Q Wine or Kurow Village to name a few.

10.  Check out the silo art in Waimate

Waimate is home is one of NZ’s largest pieces of street art on the landmark Waimate Grain Silos. Painted by artist, Bill Scott, and feature the images of four key Waimate historical figures.

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