Best Drives In New Zealand For Your Next Holiday


Every corner of New Zealand is a sight to behold. From soaring mountains and rolling pastures to frigid glaciers and sandy shorelines, the shifting landscapes this country offers are among the world’s best.

Moreover, the interconnected road system of New Zealand allows you to explore every nook and cranny of this island nation, adding to the country’s sheer brilliance.

Whether you’re driving for a few hours or a few days, driving the vast network of roads in New Zealand is bound to leave an imprint on your heart.

Anyone looking for an unforgettable holiday and wanting to explore the best of New Zealand, hop on board. Here are some of the best drives you can consider in New Zealand for your next holiday.

1. Auckland to Wellington

Source: wellington.govt.nz

The Auckland to Wellington drive takes you through some of the North Island’s most beautiful landscapes, including Hawke’s Bay, the Rotorua, and the Hobbiton Movie Set.

Stop for a hike or a swim along the way and make sure to take in the stunning views. On top of exploring the various nature spots that speckle this route, you can also learn more about Maori culture and stop by the various museums in these prominent North Island cities.

Even if you decide not to go straight from one city to another, the shifting landscapes will be sure to please you. Driving past the Rimutaka Ranges, for instance, will give you a chance to have a close look at one of the country’s most renowned mountain chains.

2. West Coast Drive

Source: westcoast.co.nz

If you’re in Franz Josef Glacier opposite Christchurch, continue driving north for a little over 200 kilometers until you hit Westport. From there, travel onward to the northeasternmost city of the country, Picton. It’s also possible to start in reverse should you start your trip from Picton.

This drive will expose you to New Zealand’s wild and untamed west coast. With towering mountains, lush rainforests, and pristine beaches, it’s easy to see why the west coast is one of the best drives in New Zealand.

The road trip will also take you through some of the country’s most stunning glacier formations and mountains. Expect to approach hours of twists and turns as you go, but the ever-changing views will be sure to make up for it.

3. Arthur’s Pass

Source: wikivoyage.org

Winding mountain roads, rushing rivers, and temperate rainforests—this drive has it all. Arthur’s Pass is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations for good reason.

Be sure to stop by the Ōtira Gorge and the Brunner Mine as you make your way through Arthur’s Pass National Park. The thoughtfully designed viewing areas will give you a chance to take in the natural beauty of this region without putting yourself in harm’s way.

That said, if heights aren’t your thing, you may want to cross this road trip off your list. The Arthur Pass is 900 meters above sea level, making it the South Island’s most elevated highway. But muster the courage to brave the heights, the roads are engineered for your safety and also make for one of the best drives in New Zealand.

4. Te Anau to Milford Sound

Source: newzealand.com

This drive takes you through Fiordland National Park, home to some of New Zealand’s most breathtaking scenery. From rainforests to rivers, you’re sure to witness the vast array of natural wonders that this region has to offer.

Aside from driving around, be sure to stop by Mirror Lake for a reflection selfie before continuing to Milford Sound—a must-see for any nature lover.

Once the sun starts to set, end your day with a scenic cruise of Milford Sound before heading back to Te Anau for the night.

However, do come prepared. Phone reception is hard to come by once you step out of Te Anau. Make sure you have car navigation apps and a reliable car from Go Rentals or other car rental companies. The last thing you want to happen is to get lost miles away from civilization.

5. Queenstown to Glenorchy

Source: campglenorchy.co.nz

Less than an hour away from Queenstown lies Glenorchy—a small locality nestled amongst mountains and the brilliant blue Lake Wakatipu.

Take in the stunning scenery on this short but sweet drive before spending a day or two exploring all that Glenorchy has to offer, from hiking and biking trails to horseback riding.

In addition, this road trip will take you to Paradise, a beautiful small town that served as one of the geographical backdrops for Middle‑earth, the fantasy world of the Lord of The Rings movies. This is mainly in part due to the various snow-capped peaks that tower large in the background.

No matter whether you’re a fan of the LOTR franchise or not, this short drive is bound to offer breathtaking sights.

6. Christchurch to Queenstown

Source: skyline.co.nz

The drive from Christchurch to Queenstown is a major one, spanning nearly 500 kilometers and lasting approximately 8 hours.

But that’s if you go the fast and direct route. The more scenic route, however, will take you through the Omarama Clay Cliffs, Lake Tekapo, and Mount Cook National Park.

Omarama Clay Cliffs, for example, is a cluster of jutting cliff formations that formed millions of years ago by now-extinct glaciers.

Lake Tekapo, on the other hand, is a tranquil body of water located in the heart of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. The lake is so clear that it’s often used as an astronomy research site.

And finally, Mount Cook National Park is home to one of New Zealand’s tallest mountains—Mount Cook. The national park also offers various short and long trail walks for adventurers and thrill-seekers.

7. Waihi Beach to Thames

Source: newzealand.com

The Thames to Waihi Beach route weaves through the scenic roads of New Zealand’s North Island, passing through stunning coastlines and ending in historic village with gold mines in a nearly 200-km stretch.

The Bay of Plenty is known for its magical coastline and close proximity to the bustling cities of Auckland and Hamilton. And at the northern tip of this magnificent bay lies Waihi Beach, a charming beachside village with a pasty-white shoreline that’s to die for—even if you don’t step out of your vehicle!

Starting from Waihi Beach, you travel inland once you’ve had your fill of the tropical bliss of the location. Afterward, drive past the Rapaura Water Gardens and coastland Coromandel Town, preferably during the summer season for a good view of the blossoming pohutukawa trees.

Eventually you’ll reach Thames, where you can explore and learn more about the fascinating historical significance of this small but charming town.

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