The best road trips in New Zealand
Crisscrossed with routes that thread together the country’s most stunning landscapes, must-see attractions and hidden gems, New Zealand is made for road (and train) trips. So, which one will you start with?
It’s time to discover the best road trips in New Zealand: seven to 14 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
7. A scenic day trip on the TranzAlpine train
A glorious day trip on the TranzAlpine train, 223 kilometres from one side of South Island/Te Waipounamu to the other, is full of contrasts – from the green and gold of Canterbury to the blue and silver of the West Coast.
8. A Wild West to Middle Earth road trip
This route begins in the sun-drenched Nelson Tasman region at the top of the South Island/Te Waipounamu, where every desire is met, and ends on the rugged West Coast/Te Tai o Poutini, where nature rules in spectacularly beautiful style.
9. A long and winding road trip on State Highway 35
It may only be 334 kilometres from Ōpōtiki in the Bay of Plenty/ Te Moananui Ā Toi around the tip of East Cape to Gisborne on the North Island/Te Ika-a-Māui, but State Highway 35 is narrow and winding, and worth doing slowly.
10. The Volcanic Loop road trip
The Volcanic Loop Highway is a week-long loop that takes you from Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau through some of the North Island/Te Ika-a-Māui’s most spectacular and varied locations.
11. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
You’ve explored Auckland/Tāmaki makaurau’s vibrant waterfront, shopped at Newmarket, taken an e-bike tour up to Mt Eden/Maungawhau for long views over the city and its harbours. You’ve boarded a ferry to climb brooding Rangitoto, or to sample the many vineyards, browse the art galleries or whizz down the ziplines on Waiheke Island. Now it’s time to drive south for a taste of the wide variety of scenery on offer along the Pacific Coast Highway.
12. Three of the best country road trips in New Zealand
Take a leisurely drive through the Manawatū, in the lower half of the North Island/Te Ika-a-Māui, away from the streams of trucks and cars on State Highway 1, and get in touch with local rural life and its hidden treasures. There are three routes to choose from, grouped together as The Country Road, each of them easily done in a day, although they will reward your taking time to stop and stay along the way.
13. A road trip from Christchurch to Fiordland
From towering peaks to sandy bays, this route takes you from culture to raw nature, with lots to see along the way. Heading south from Christchurch/Ōtautahi to Ōamaru for its Steampunk HQ, Little Blue Penguin-viewing Grandstand and the extraordinary huge, round Moeraki Boulders on the beach. Then on to Dunedin/Ōtepoti to visit Lanarch Castle and more before heading further south to marvel at the wildlife in The Catlins, and then basking in the otherworldly beauty of the Fiordlands and Milford Sound for the grand finale.
14. A wildlife to wine country road trip
After enjoying the delights of Christchurch/Ōtautahi, head out of town up across the patchwork Canterbury Plains and into alpine scenery at Hanmer Springs. Its well-developed thermal springs complex is a must, as is tramping its forest. Back on the coast, further north, you’ll stop at Kaikōura, to see humpbacks, and the sperm whales that live here permanently. Spectacular dolphin displays with a cast of hundreds are not unusual, and you can swim with them too. Gourmet delights await you on the final leg in Marlborough, world-famous for its wines, especially sauvignon blanc.