From coast to coast, New Zealand offers an array of road trip opportunities. Whether you’re touring the North Island or driving across the South Island, you can take in a variety of stunning landscapes, from pristine beaches and rainforests to volcanic cones, expansive lakes, and mountain peaks dotted with waterfalls. Secure your campervan hire, and plan a New Zealand road trip that’s bucket list worthy. Consider these destinations for your once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
- Inland Scenic Route
Journey through New Zealand’s heartland on the Inland Scenic Route, which takes you from Christchurch to Oxford. During this one-hour trip, you’ll weave through mountains, driving at the foot of the Alps, all the way to Mount Hutt, a popular skiing destination. You’ll catch vast farmlands near Canterbury. When you get to Oxford, you can even visit or stay at a farm for a true New Zealand experience. Check out Oxford Forest, where you can hike, picnic, or climb to Ryde Falls to take in the country’s natural beauty.
- Pacific Coast Highway
Explore the coastal areas of the North Island as you travel on Pacific Coast Highway. Start your trip in Auckland, New Zealand’s most populated city, where you can enjoy big-city amenities like restaurants and nightlife. Forty-eight extinct volcanoes surround the city. Then, for a more relaxed vibe, take the 200-kilometre drive to Whitianga, a beach town that offers fishing, mouth-watering seafood, surfing, and beach walks. For more marine adventure, continue to Tauranga, where you can watch for dolphins and go sailing on the open waters.
- Wine Country
Wine connoisseurs can’t miss a road trip through New Zealand’s wine country. This 380-kilometre trip takes you through three wine regions, allowing you to sample the country’s best vino. In Hawke’s Bay, the nation’s oldest wine region, you can tour vineyards, sample wines, and try fresh produce from the farmers’ markets. Continue to Wairapara, where you can explore 20 award-winning vineyards. Your wine country tour ends in Marlborough, the largest wine-producing region. Which produces chardonnay, reisling, and pinot noir.
- The Great Alpine Highway
A three-day journey down the Great Alpine Highway takes you from one coast to the other. You’ll pass through the Southern Alps, which results in a scenic drive with views of mountains and lakes. You’ll also have the opportunity to explore nature, as you drive through Arthur’s Pass National Park. Stop by Castle Hill, where you can explore ancient limestone rock formations, which are a must-see if you’re a rock climber. If you start in Christchurch, your road trip will end along the Wild West Coast.
- Twin Coast Discovery Island
Head to the North Island for a ocean-inspired road trip. On the Twin Coast Discovery Highway, you can tour both coasts, with a starting and finishing point in Auckland. Check out Ninety Mile Beach in Kaitaia, go surfing in Whangarei, or grab a bite to eat at a quaint restaurant at the Whangarei waterfront. This 5-day road trip allows you to explore the coasts while taking in the natural beauty of the North Island.
- Thermal Explorer Highway
Another trip through the North Island takes you through the centre of the country. Also starting in Auckland, this route guides you to Napier. Along the way, you’ll drive through Rotorua, where you can check out its geothermal attractions. Go fishing in New Zealand’s largest lake in Taupo, which is a fishing paradise. Napier allows you to take in some local culture, where you can explore the Art Deco architecture or enjoy a glass or two of New Zealand’s finest wines.
- Queenstown to Milford Sound
Milford Sound sits on the South Island’s West Coast and is known for its stunning scenery. Fiords jump out of the water, seemingly reaching the sky. Mountain peaks feature cascading waterfalls. Your trip to Milford Sound begins in Queenstown and takes you through some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. Travel through mountain ranges and rainforests as you venture to Milford Sound. Make a pit stop at Fiordsland National Park to take a hike and explore.
- Middle Earth
Fans of The Lord of the Rings might want to travel to Middle Earth for a real-life exploration of this famous area. Start in Auckland and travel to Hobbiton, a village featuring 44 hobbit holes that appeared in the film. Then, explore the cliffs, rock formations, and forest in Hairy Feet Waitomo, which was also a spot where the movie was filmed. Check out the Waitomo Caves, which include underground sinkholes, caves, and rivers hidden under farmland. Middle Earth is an expansive part of New Zealand, so explore it for a few days or a few weeks.
- Lake Tekapo
Travel from Christchurch to Dunedin Central, with a pit stop in Lake Tekapo for some unforgettable scenery. This 541-kilometre road trip allows you to drive alongside mountain peaks and sparkling lakes. Plan to spend a day or two on Lake Tekapo, where you can stargaze in its clear night sky or take a boat ride to the nearby Tasman Glacier. During your drive south to Dunedin, look for the Moeraki Boulders, a stunning rock formation that’s more than one million years old.
- Alpine Pacific Triangle
Let your road trip along the Alpine Pacific Triangle begin in Christchurch. Then, drive up the coast, where you can visit untouched beaches in Kaikoura. Keep your eye on the ocean, where you can spot whales, seals, and dolphins that live nearby. You can hop onboard a catamaran or take a flight for prime whale watching. While you’re in Kaikoura, be sure to grab a seafood dinner – after all, it’s what the area is known for.
Whether you want to enjoy a relaxed beach road trip, explore nature, or sip on wine, New Zealand has something to offer you. These top 10 road trips promise an experience of a lifetime and unforgettable memories.