Heading south from Christchurch, SH1 forges straight across the Canterbury Plains connecting small farming service towns. Aside from the occasionally magnificent views of the snowcapped Southern Alps to the west, the drive south is through a monotonous landscape broken only by the broad gravel beds of braided rivers, usually little more than a trickle spanned by a kilometre-long bridge.

As the road passes the pottery town of Temuka and reaches the southern end of the Canterbury Plains, hills force it back to the shoreline at mundane Timaru. From here, SH8 strikes inland towards Fairlie, Lake Tekapo and Aoraki Mount Cook.

The coastal highway continues south through rolling hills to the architecturally harmonious city of Oamaru, and the unique and fascinating Moeraki Boulders. This is penguin country, with several opportunities to stop off and spy blue and yellow-eyed penguins. From Moeraki there is little to delay you on your progress toward Dunedin, except maybe the small crossroads town of Palmerston, where SH85, “The Pigroot” to Central Otago, leaves SH1, providing another opportunity to forsake the coast and follow a historical pathway to the now defunct goldfields inland.