Mar 15, 2024
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The Best 10 Road Trips and Scenic Drives in New Zealand

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Explore New Zealand’s diverse landscapes and thrilling adventures through these ten remarkable roads. From the breathtaking Milford Road to the rugged Forgotten World Highway, each route promises a unique journey filled with scenic vistas, cultural discoveries, and unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re seeking alpine panoramas, coastal wonders, or geothermal marvels, these roads will immerse you in the natural beauty and rich heritage of Aotearoa. Buckle up and embark on an unforgettable road trip across the enchanting terrain of New Zealand.

Milford Road (State Highway 94)

  • Location: South Island
  • Scenery: Spectacular views of Fiordland National Park, including the famous Milford Sound
  • Highlights: Homer Tunnel, Mirror Lakes, and numerous waterfalls
Milford Road (State Highway 94)

Milford Road (State Highway 94)

Embark on an unforgettable journey along Milford Road, winding through Fiordland’s majestic landscapes. Marvel at cascading waterfalls, mirror-like lakes, and the grandeur of Milford Sound. Prepare for an adventure of a lifetime amidst New Zealand’s pristine wilderness.

Great Coast Road

  • Location: West Coast, South Island
  • Scenery: Rugged coastline, wild beaches, and rainforest
  • Highlights: Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki, Cape Foulwind Seal Colony
The Great Coast Road, New Zealand

The Great Coast Road, New Zealand (Pinterest)

The Great Coast Road is one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives, renowned for its breathtaking coastal views and natural beauty. Located on the west coast of the South Island, it stretches for approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) between the towns of Westport and Greymouth. Traverse rugged cliffs, golden beaches, and ancient rainforests. Witness nature’s raw power at Pancake Rocks and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Cape Foulwind.

State Highway 6 (SH6)

  • Location: South Island
  • Scenery: Diverse landscapes including mountains, rainforests, and coastline
  • Highlights: Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Buller Gorge, and the scenic drive from Wanaka to Haast Pass

Embark on a scenic odyssey along State Highway 6, where every twist and turn reveals a new wonder. From glacier-carved valleys to wild coastlines, this route showcases the diverse splendor of New Zealand’s South Island. Prepare for an unforgettable journey through nature’s masterpiece.

Thermal Explorer Highway

  • Location: North Island
  • Scenery: Geothermal wonders, volcanic landscapes, and Maori cultural sites
  • Highlights: Rotorua’s geothermal parks, Tongariro National Park (including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing), and Lake Taupo

Journey through New Zealand’s geothermal wonderland on the Thermal Explorer Highway. Encounter bubbling mud pools, steaming vents, and ancient Maori villages. From Rotorua’s cultural richness to Tongariro’s volcanic majesty, every stop along this route is an adventure waiting to unfold.

Forgotten World Highway (State Highway 43)

  • Location: North Island (Taranaki Region)
  • Scenery: Remote and rugged terrain, rolling hills, and forests
  • Highlights: Whangamomona Hotel (republican town), Tangarakau Gorge, and the historic village of Whangamomona

Step back in time and venture into the heart of New Zealand’s past on the Forgotten World Highway. Traverse rugged terrain, dense forests, and forgotten settlements. Discover the charm of Whangamomona and the wild beauty of Tangarakau Gorge on this unforgettable road less traveled.

Crown Range Road

  • Location: South Island (Between Queenstown and Wanaka)
  • Scenery: Alpine vistas, winding mountain road
  • Highlights: Cardrona Hotel (historical pub), panoramic views of the Southern Alps

Ascend to new heights along Crown Range Road, where alpine vistas and winding roads await. From Queenstown to Wanaka, immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of the Southern Alps. Experience the thrill of adventure and the serenity of nature on this iconic high country route.

Arthur’s Pass

  • Location: South Island (Between Christchurch and Greymouth)
  • Scenery: Alpine landscapes, beech forests, waterfalls
  • Highlights: Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall, Otira Viaduct Lookout, and numerous hiking trails

Cross the spine of the Southern Alps on Arthur’s Pass, a journey of breathtaking beauty and rugged grandeur. Traverse ancient beech forests, cascading waterfalls, and towering peaks. Whether hiking the alpine trails or marveling at the Otira Viaduct, every moment on this route is a testament to nature’s wonder.

The Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail

  • Location: South Island (Southland Region)
  • Scenery: Rugged coastline, lush forests, and wildlife
  • Highlights: Nugget Point Lighthouse, Purakaunui Falls, and Curio Bay (home to a petrified forest and yellow-eyed penguins)

Embark on a coastal odyssey along The Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail, where wild landscapes and rich history collide. Explore rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and dense forests. Encounter rare wildlife at Nugget Point and witness the ancient fossil forest of Curio Bay on this unforgettable journey.

Coromandel Peninsula Loop

  • Location: North Island
  • Scenery: Pristine beaches, native forests, and coastal cliffs
  • Highlights: Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, and the Driving Creek Railway

Embark on a journey of discovery along the Coromandel Peninsula Loop, where golden beaches and lush rainforests await. Explore hidden coves, natural hot springs, and iconic landmarks like Cathedral Cove. Whether kayaking in secluded bays or relaxing in thermal pools, every moment on this route is an invitation to paradise.

The Southern Scenic Route

  • Location: South Island
  • Scenery: Varied landscapes including coastlines, forests, and fjords
  • Highlights: The Catlins, Fiordland National Park, and the coastal town of Riverton

Embark on a journey of epic proportions along The Southern Scenic Route, where rugged coastlines and pristine wilderness await. From the windswept shores of The Catlins to the majestic fjords of Fiordland, every twist and turn reveals a new wonder. Prepare to be captivated by the untamed beauty of New Zealand’s South Island.

Remember to check road conditions, especially during winter, and plan for accommodation and supplies, particularly in more remote areas. Enjoy your road trip through the stunning vistas of New Zealand!
Featured Image: Juan Alberto Garcia Rivera

New Zealand · Oceania

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