4 New Zealand Road Trips That Will Make You Want to Hit the Road Right Now

Parul Sharma

Last updated: Oct 11, 2018

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Milford Sound, called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" by Rudyard Kipling
Waipoua Forest, home to the 50-metre high and centuries-old Tane Mahuta, a kauri tree


Swim with the dolphins at Bay of Islands


The famous blue penguins, the world’s smallest penguins, in their natural habitat, at Oamaru


Tradiional maori cuisine that often consist of a "boil up", made of pork, kumara (sweet potatoes) and dumplings
rēwena or "Maori bread", which is made with fermented potatoes


Handmade arts and crafts at Vesta, Queenstown
Food, wine and souvenirs at Rotorua Night Market

Want To Go ? 

The best way to experience the great outdoors is to take a road trip. And what better place for a road trip than New Zealand? From rugged mountains and calm seas to glaciers and active volcanoes, New Zealand has it all. Here are four routes that will make your New Zealand road trip a truly remarkable one.

Route #1: Auckland to Wellington

hobbiton new zeland
Photo Credit: Tom Hall/Flickr Common


Auckland>Coromandel Forest Park>Matamata>Rotorua>Taupo> Tongariro National Park>Napier>Martinborough>Wellington

Distance: 1,080 kilometres (20-hour drive)

Days: 12-16 days, depending on how long you stay at a place

Best time to go: November to December

Whether you’re a big fan of Lord of the Rings (LOTR) or just someone who enjoys soaking up natural beauty, this route is for you!

Starting off from Auckland, your first stop will be Coromandel Forest Park. Walk the Pinnacles Track, a 12-km long overnight walk. Head to to Matamata, or Hobbiton for LOTR fans.

With 18 lakes, geothermal wonders and adventure activities, Rotorua is the perfect pit stop on your road trip, followed by Taupo Lake. Next up is Tongariro National Park, which boasts of one of the most beautiful walks in the country. Pass through the wine cities of Napier and Martinborough to finally end the road trip at Wellington.

Read more: Discovering Lord of The Rings Film Locations in New Zealand

Route #2: Auckland and the Bay of Islands Loop

opua new zealand
Photo Credit: Jim Tucker/Flickr Creative


Auckland>Opua (Bay of Islands)> Omapere>Waipoua Forest> Baylys Beach>Waiheke Islands> Auckland

Distance: 716 kilometres (12-hour drive)

Days: 7 days, depending on how long you stay at a place

Best time to go: July to August

Fascinated by the idea of dolphins jumping out of green-blue waters right next to your boat? Then this is the road trip for you.

Starting from Auckland, your first stop will be the Bay of Islands region. Take a day and go for a cruise to experience the clear blue waters and the jumping dolphins. Spend a quiet night at Omapere before heading out to Waipoua Forest. This forest is home to the 50-metre high and centuries-old Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest), a kauri tree.

After the forest, head to the sea! Take a walk down Baylys Beach and enjoy the beautiful view at Waiheke Islands.

You will have to catch a ferry to and from Waiheke Island before you drive back to Auckland.

Route #3: The Quick South Loop

lake tekapo new zealand

Christchurch>Franz Josef Glacier>Haast Pass>Milford Sound>Lake Tekapo> Christchurch

Distance: 1117 kilometres (20-hour drive)

Days: 10-15 days, depending on how long you stay at a place

Best time to go: March to May

If you have only a short time to explore the South Island, this would be the route to pick.

The longest and most challenging leg of the drive will be till you reach the Franz Josef Glacier. With two passes to cross and a mountainous road ahead, it is better to take a night halt around Hokitika.

The following drive to Haast is probably one of the most scenic routes in New Zealand. Stop to take a few pictures before you drive to the beautiful Milford Sound. This enchanting fjord, called the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ by Rudyard Kipling, is truly a sight to behold. A stop at Lake Tekapo is definitely a fitting end to this scenic and adventurous road trip before heading back to Christchurch.

Read more: 7 Reasons Why You Should Be Planning an Adventure Holiday to Auckland, New Zealand

Route #4: Best of the South Loop

milford sound new zealand

Christchurch>Nelson Lakes National Park>Abel Tasman National Park>Franz Josef Glacier>Haast Pass>Milford Sound> Bluff> Catlins Forest Park>Oamaru>Lake Tekapo>Christchurch

Kilometres: 2,700 kilometres (40-hour drive)

Days: 21-30 days, depending on how long you stay at a place

Best time to go: March to May

The mother of all South Island road trips; this route starts at Christchurch and takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

Nelson Lakes National Park, with its beautiful lakes surrounded by steep mountains, is your first stop. Then head over to Abel Tasman National Park to go kayaking, diving or just take a walk down the beach. Drive south to Franz Josef Glacier and head through the Haast Pass to Milford Sound.

Head further south to Bluff, one of the oldest European towns, and the gateway to most Antarctica trips. Take a day trip to Stewart Island or just soak in the calm of this small town while sampling its famous oysters. Stop over at the Catlins Forest Park to view lush forests and beautiful waterfalls before you head to Oamaru to see the famous blue penguins, the world’s smallest penguins, in their natural habitat. Finally stop by at Lake Tekapo before heading back to Christchurch.

Good to Know: All you need for a New Zealand road trip is an international license and you are good to go! Plus, they drive on the left side of the road, so there’s even less to worry about.

So, what are you waiting for? Head over to Maori land for some epic LOTR-style adventure on the road! Let us know which route you chose in the comments below.

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