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What are the best driving routes in New Zealand?

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With so many well-maintained state highways, popular roadside tourist attractions, scenic panoramas and everything else you could love in a road trip holiday, New Zealand is the perfect place to escape to no matter the season.

There are numerous fantastic driving routes spread throughout the nation, ranging from wide, straight roads with undulating farmland views to winding coastal jaunts that offer a stunning ocean vista. To help you figure out where you might like to go, check out our list below. We’ve picked out some of the country’s top routes from both the North and South Island.

North Island

Auckland to Kerikeri

The Bay of Islands is a historical place, not to mention beautiful. Both Russell and Waitangi are on the way, in addition to the pristine Goat Island.

Kaitaia to Cape Reinga
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Indulge in the sights of Northland by travelling to its peak. You’ll find 90 Mile Beach en route, and it’ll only take an hour and a half to get there.

Auckland to Wellington

At around 649 kilometres, Auckland-Wellington is an all-in-one North Island trip, featuring Matamata, Taupo and Palmerston North.

State Highway 35

Why drive straight from Opotiki to Gisborne when you can take the 327-kilometre seaside scenic route?

Coromandel Peninsula
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One of our most famous tourist areas, drive from Thames up to Whitianga, down to Hot Water Beach and back to Thames for the ultimate loop.

The Taranaki Loop

The roads surrounding Egmont National Park make for a unique blend of scenery; containing coastal, mountain and farmland areas.

Matamata to Mount Doom

Fans of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ should start their quest at Hobbiton, Matamata, before driving through geothermal country to get to Tongariro National Park – the sight of Mount Doom.

Gisborne to Napier

Enjoy one of the North Island’s premium wine growing regions by exploring the Bay of Plenty, from Gisborne down to art deco Napier.

South Island

Picton to Christchurch

Drive off the Interislander and meander 330 kilometres south to Christchurch, passing through Marlborough wine country and Kaikoura.

Geraldine to Twizel

To witness NZ’s gorgeous Mackenzie countryside, travel past sapphire-blue Lake Tekapo, below towering Mount Cook and amid salmon-filled canals to Twizel.

Arthur’s Pass

Cut through from Christchurch to the West Coast via Arthur’s Pass, a great place to hike, spot the cheeky kea parrot and see unparalleled alpine forests.

Greymouth to Westport

Soak in the sights of the rugged West Coast by travelling up 100 kilometres from Greymouth to Westport. Along the way, you’ll even see the famous Pancake Rocks – a must-photograph spot!

Te Anau to Milford Sound
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There are few roads in the South Island more famous than the Te Anau-Milford Highway. It weaves through dramatic mountainscapes, along sparkling lakes and rivers, and finally into the unbelievable Sound itself.

Wanaka to Queenstown, via the Crown Range
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The Crown Range is the highest main road in NZ (altitude 1,121 metres), and offers up an awesome view of Lake Wakatipu, Lake Wanaka and everywhere in between.

Wanaka to Haast (and beyond!)
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Interested in spectacular lakeside views, blended with winding, craggy mountains? Take SH6 from Wanaka to Haast, and be sure to stop at the Blue Pools for a picnic.

Southern Scenic Route

The famous Southern Scenic Route begins in Queenstown and encompasses all the top sights of the lower South Island. You’ll see Te Anau and Western Southland, pass by Invercargill and oyster-friendly Bluff, roam back up through the must-see Catlins and finally hug the east coast until you reach Dunedin. How’s that for a diverse Kiwi package?

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