New Zealand Road Trip

Road Trip Junkies Alert! 10 New Zealand Road trips that will help you discover yourself

Road trips in general are popular among travellers because the feel of the wind in your hair, the music cranked up, the spirit of adventure is something that can only be experienced when you’re on the road. What’s also interesting is that most of the time, a road trip often gives enough space for one to become a little more insightful, to understand new aspects of themselves and sometimes, it becomes a journey of self-discovery.

There are few countries in the world that are so wonderfully suited to a road trip than New Zealand. Winding roads, beautiful highways, gorgeous visions of fragrant blossoms, volcanoes, beaches and picture perfect villages are just some of the heart stopping sights that you will come across here. Scenic vistas are often lined up one after the other and sometimes, just the sight of the fluffy clouds hanging low is enough to give you a thrill like no other. What’s more, whether you’re having an adventurous time or simply lounging by a turquoise blue lake enjoying a picnic, you’ll certainly be having the time of your life. New Zealand road trips might just spoil you for good and you will want to come back, again and again to explore different facets of this gorgeous country. Preferably on road. 

Here are ten New Zealand road trips that you must go on to discover yourself:

1. Auckland to Hokianga

Number of days: 6

Distance: 263 km

Get ready for some picturesque beaches, delightful cycle and walking trails and enjoy the native locations as you go on this road trip. From Auckland to Waipoua Forest where you can come across the largest Kauri tree in the world, you can also visit Hokianga Harbour, home to the first Māori settlers in New Zealand. Fishing villages, breath taking beaches, fruit orchards, Shipwreck Bay, Doubtless Bay are some of the fascinating places you will come across. After visiting the treaty house in Waitangi, see stunning views of the Ocean Beach and finally, return to Auckland via the coastal road. 

2. Middle Earth Discovery

Number of days: 7

Distance: 643km

Whether or not you’re a big fan of Tolkien’s, you’ll enjoy this road trip immensely. Head off to Coromandel Town and the extremely picturesque Cathedral Cove and finally come to Matamata where you can spend some time at the original Hobbiton Movie set that is simply too enchanting for words. Rotorua’s geysers and pools are fascinating, and there are more filming locations that are all very Instagram worthy. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a very challenging one-day hike that offers some stunning views. Lastly, the trip ends in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.

3. Rotorua to Gisborne

Number of days: 4

Distance: 273 km

Not many people explore east Rotorua but it actually has some really stunning views. On the East Coast, you’ll find plenty of campers and moving on from there, there’s the town of Whakatane and later on, Gisborne, which is considered to be among the best places for surfing and catching the sunrise. At Tokomaru Bay, enjoy the rugged coastline and go on to Te Kaha, with its charming ocean front buildings.

4. Alpine Lakes Itinerary

Number of days: 7

Distance: 484 km

This amazing road trip begins in Christchurch where you can spend the day enjoying numerous adventure activities such as punting in Avon River or biking in the Port Hills or even going on a hot air balloon early in the morning. The trip moves on to Lake Tekapo which is known for its brilliant turquoise waters and do try to stay here in the night. It’s one of the best places to view the Southern Lights. Mount Cook Village is next on the itinerary and if you love mountain climbing, you’ll simply love this part of the trip. Move on to Wanaka where there are numerous outdoor activities and then come to Queenstown which is gorgeous no matter what the weather.

5. Auckland City to Auckland’s West Coast

Number of days: 3

Distance: 14.1km

If you’re not up for a strenuous road trip, then why not try this smaller trip which will take you to Waiheke Island which is also known as the Island of Wine. Indulge in some wine tours or enjoy some of the fun outdoor activities such as zip lining, sea kayaking and horse riding. The other places you can visit from here include the West Coast where you can ride the waves on the beach at Piha. You can explore the beach, look at the birds swooping in, or even head on to the slightly secluded O’Neill Bay.

6. Auckland to Napier

Number of days: 4

Distance: 415km

There’s something quite magical about this road trip. As you travel deep into the heart of the North Island, you will go along the Thermal Explorer Highway. The journey begins from Auckland and goes on to Waikato, which is renowned for the enchanting glow worm caves in Waitomo here. From here, you can visit Hamilton, and then move on to Rotorua which is on the Pacific Ring of Fire which makes it a hotspot for geothermal activity. You can explore the Whakarewarewa Forest and soak in a Polynesian spa to refresh your mind and body. Next up, there’s Taupo with its fabulous Orakei Korako Caves or even just the Lake Taupo where you can enjoy some wonderful adventure activities. The trip winds up in Napier, where you will come across Hawke’s Bay which has numerous wineries. 

7. Christchurch to Dunedin

Number of days: 4

Distance: 362km

An amazing road trip that you can enjoy is one that begins in Christchurch, where you can enjoy the many sights the city has to offer such as the botanic gardens or a ride on the historic tram. But it gets even more wonderful from here onwards when you visit the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony which is simply delightful and one of the must-see attractions here. From Oamaru, head on to Dunedin and you’ll realise that the journey can be as beautiful as the destination especially if you are on a road trip in New Zealand. Beautiful beaches line your path as you head on to the city of Dunedin with its heritage buildings and museums.

8. Queenstown to Milford Sound

Number of days: 2 to 3

Distance: 287km

The drive from Queenstown to Milford has often been referred to as one of the best road trips in New Zealand and maybe even the world. You’ll pass by awe-inspiring mirrored lakes, snowy mountains, dense forests and end at Milford Sound with its waterfalls and soaring cliffs. Although the trip takes just 8 hours, it’s recommended to break it up over 2 to 3 days so you can enjoy some of the wondrous sights along the way. Those who loving hiking should think of stopping by at Fiordlands National Park and enjoy some quality time with nature. 

9. Auckland to East Cape

Number of days: 9

Distance: 518.3km

If you are in the mood for an extensive road trip, then you should certainly try this one. It begins in Auckland from where you head on to Whitianga with its glorious white sand beaches. From here, head on to Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. The volcanic tours in White Island and historical Māori sites are added attractions as you move on to Whakatane which has often been referred to as New Zealand’s sunniest town. This exciting road trip then covers places like Tolaga Bay, Gisborne, Waikaremoana and Wairoa. Other places to hit up on this itinerary include Taupo, Rotorua, Hobbiton and Hamilton. 

10. Queenstown to Dunedin

Number of days: 3 to 5

Distance: 280km

A short but fun road trip is one from Queensland which takes you Invercargill and then to Caitlins. Now Caitlins is a national park that has much to offer – beaches, forests, coastline paths and even rare animals. It’s commonly believed that the Caitlins is what New Zealand was like in the prehistoric times. From here, you can head on to Nugget Point which is a viewing point from where you can see fur seals, sea lions and the fascinating yellow bearded penguin. As you reach Dunedin, you can explore this city as well which is famed for having the world’s steepest street – Baldwin Street or you can check out the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. 

Tips to Remember

  • New Zealand roads are hilly and windy and it’s best to drive slowly.
  • Do make it a point to make sure your driving skills are on par and undergo a driver’s test before going on a road trip. 
  • Hire a campervan so that you can enjoy a 3 to 5 day road trip with ease. 
  • If you’re doing a road trip during winter, do make sure you add snow chains or there are chances you can get stranded.
  • New Zealand allows for free camping in many public places but only if your camper van comes with facilities such as toilets. Some places don’t allow for camping, so be careful you don’t park your van there or you can attract a hefty fine.
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