New Zealand’s roads and trails cut through incredibly diverse landscapes: snow-capped peaks and watery fiords, fertile plains, subtropical forest, glacial lakes and rugged coastline can all be explored on four wheels. Here is a selection of our favourite road trips in New Zealand.
Officially called Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē, this
Incredibly, it’s a designated public highway and alternative to SH-1 – though to traverse the sands you need a 4WD, a sense of adventure and some advance planning to avoid high tide. On one side is the crashing surf, and on the other, rolling dunes backed by green forest.
The Pacific Coast Highway hugs the awe-inspiring coastline of the North Island’s
Setting out from
For One Drive to Rule Them All, head deep into the volcanic plateau of
For even more epic views of Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom), loop round to the southeast of the park to Whakapapa Village (off SH-47) to access the skifield.
Open for the summer months only, Acheron Road bumps through the stunning scree-covered hillsides and open valleys and grasslands of New Zealand’s largest farm. Drivers who brave the 207km gravel road between Blenheim and Hanmer Springs experience all that comes with exploring remote high country.
There’s no mobile phone coverage, let alone any services, but there is a real sense of excitement and solitude.
The dramatic and scenic east–west road from
Taking it easy, the 255km-route can be covered in a couple of days – Lake Pearson is a spectacular place to camp overnight, or for a little more comfort (and some incredible walks nearby) push on to the alpine village of Arthur’s Pass.
This absolute stunner of a short drive is a South Island highlight. The 46km to
The epic landscapes of this 120km stretch are what you see in your mind’s eye when you imagine road tripping in New Zealand. The jaw-dropping road (SH-94) from Te Anau to
It can be driven in a couple of hours, but you’d be crazy not to allow a full day to take photos, walk some off-road trails and take a spine-tingling cruise of Milford Sound.
If you’re in Dunedin, a leisurely day-trip driving the
The coastal drive is breathtaking, with consistently beautiful views of rocky shores and bays all the way to Taiaroa Head, at the very tip of the peninsula. Here you’ll find the Royal Albatross Centre where you can tour the albatross breeding sites and nearby Pilots Beach, home to a colony of Little Blue Penguins that gather here in the evening.
A superb side-trip takes you up and over the rugged central ridge of the peninsula, to the wild Pacific Coast and Sandfly Bay, where seals, sea lions and yellow-eyed penguins can be seen – though you’ll have to park up and walk the 3km path down to the isolated bay.
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