There's no shortage of natural wonderment in this ruggedly beautiful country of ours and a car trip is often the best way to take it all in. Here are just a handful of our most iconic journeys, assured to take the breath away
Jumping in the car for a road trip is pretty much a Kiwi rite of passage. Fill the tank, get the sing-along playlists ready, stock up on car treats and prepare for some scenic jaw-droppers wherever you go. With many routes to choose from, here are just a handful of iconic stunners to get the wheels turning.
Twin Coast Discovery Route
As the name implies, this picturesque circular route takes in both coasts of the winterless north. The 800km trip takes in the east coast via SH1 from Whangarei, through Kawakawa and then through Kerikeri, before reconnecting with SH1 up to the tip top of the country at Cape Reinga. Highlights along the way include Waipoua Forest, Doubtless Bay (great fish and chips at the Mangonui Fish Shop) and the sub-tropical lushness of Paihia. The Tutukaka Coast on the way back down was named one of the top coastal destinations in the world by National Geographic and travelling along the Whangarei Heads will see you wind past pohutukawa fringed bays with soul-soothing views of the Ocean Beach.
Surf Highway 45
From New Plymouth to Hawera, lies the "Surf Highway". Again, the clue's in the name for what you'll be in store for. The ocean swells along Taranaki's hemispherical coast is a surfer's fantasy. There's more than thunderous wave views in store, though; Egmont National Park is within easy reach or stop by at the region's impressive collection of galleries, artists' studios and beautifully manicured gardens.
Driving the 334km from Gisborne to Opotiki along SH35 may not be huge in distance but the winding route means it's best to take your time – more opportunity to absorb the incredible surrounds. Rugged bush, wild beaches, kiwifruit orchards, fields of maize and plenty of livestock sharing the roads (think sheep, cattle, goats, chickens and horses) are just some of what you'll encounter. Tolaga and Tokomaru Bays will blow off the cobwebs and be sure to drop by East Cape Lighthouse before heading for a day of hiking or mountain biking in Opotiki. There's much to do in between too so do as the East Capers do and "slow down".
Arthur's Pass: The Great Alpine Highway
Head from the South Island's east to west coast on the Great Alpine Highway and you'll be afforded some dramatic changing landscapes. From the Canterbury River plains you'll find charming historic towns before traversing Arthur's Pass over the Alps. After passing Arthur's Pass Village, prepare for your jaw to drop at the site of the incredible Otira Viaduct. Then descending towards the West Coast, watch as the landscape becomes greener with lush rainforests.
Milford Sound Highway
While Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound need no introduction, what's just as impressive is the road there. On this unforgettable drive, you'll pass mountain ranges, glacier-carved valleys, pristine lakes and thick native rainforest. At its highest point, the Milford Road is 940 metres above sea level. Make sure you are well prepared, as there are no shops or petrol stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound and limited cell phone coverage.
Crown Range Road: Queenstown to Wanaka
The Crown Range Road lies between Queenstown and Wanaka and is the highest main road in New Zealand reaching an altitude of 1121 metres. With great heights, come great views and they don't get much more dramatic than on this 68-kilometre drive. Allow plenty of time to navigate the hairpin bends and steep grades, and stop where you can to safely admire the alpine wilderness and views over Queenstown. You may even get lucky with an encounter with a cheeky kea. Heading towards Wanaka, stop in at Cardrona's famous hotel for a bite and a glass of something cold.
House of Travel offer:
TranzAlpine, Glaciers & Lakes - 5 nights, car hire and TranzAlpine train including iconic Crown Range Road from $949 per person share twin*.
Northland's Twin Coast Discovery Route - 7 nights from $960 per person share twin*.
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com