What better way to see some of the best sights in New Zealand, than with an all-New Zealand Road Trip! You could discover some of the hidden treasures the country has to offer, with a variety of different adventures along the way. What is actually stopping you. Nothing, with these best New Zealand Road Trips!  

New Zealand has some of the most magnificent golden beaches and exhilarating hikes, just to name a few. And there’s no better way, than jumping into your vehicle and heading out onto the road with one of these best New Zealand Road Trips. If you have time, you could do a couple. 

Best New Zealand Road trips 

To help you plan your holiday, we have separated the places to visit in New Zealand between the North and South Island.   

Best New Zealand Road trips in the North Island 

Some of the best New Road trips in the north of the island.  

Coromandel Peninsula

Does driving through mysterious and dense rainforests, past picture-perfect golden beaches, through misty valleys, past cliffside drops and into secluded bays sound like an awesome road trip to you? Then the Coromandel Peninsula is the road trip destination for you!

Located only a two-hour drive southeast of Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula (or simply the Coromandel as it is usually called) has all the ingredients for an epic road trip. Even though the area is relatively small, it is so packed with things to see and do that you can easily spend a whole week driving from one amazing sight to the other.

The Coromandel’s most popular attraction, and arguably also the most beautiful, is Cathedral Cove. A 45-minute coastal walk takes you alongside cliffsides with incredible views, through the forest to a jaw-droppingly beautiful beach which is divided by a big natural rock-arch that around low tide provides passage to the other side.

Number one on our New Zealand Road trip is Coromandel Peninsula. Located on the north island.
Coromandel Peninsula

Another must-visit, and again an incredible formation of nature is Donut Island, just off the coast of Whangamata. Donut Island is a dormant volcano where after an earthquake a long time ago the roof of the island collapsed, leaving it with a hollow middle that makes the island resemble a donut. The caldera filled up with water and through a big hole in the rocks you can enter the center with a kayak or paddleboard. Guaranteed to be a highlight of your trip!

The whole Coromandel is filled with equally stunning locations, like New Chums Beach (often rated to be in the top-10 most beautiful beaches in the world), The Pinnacles, Waiau Falls, Fletcher Bay, the Karangahake Gorge, and so much more.

When looking for the most convenient location to stay, you should consider staying in Whitianga as it is quite central and has the most choice in accommodation. Even though the Coromandel isn’t the most culinary of destinations you’ll also find quite a few decent restaurants in Whitianga, and The Lost Springs; a beautiful spa with geothermal hot pools to get you in a completely tranquil state of mind.

Contributed by Tom & Zi from Craving Adventures

Best New Zealand Road trips in the South Island 

Some of the best New Road trips in the south of the island.  

The Catlins

The Catlins is full of stunning natural beauty and is an extremely underrated area on New Zealand’s South Island.  If you like waterfalls, walking tracks, and wildlife this may be the road trip destination for you.

Although there is plenty to see in the Catlins, all the best places are relatively close to one another.  This means that you could quite happily cover the Catlins in just three days, giving you plenty of time to see all the best bits at a relaxed pace.

The Catlins is home to all kinds of interesting places to explore and discover such as caves, lighthouses and bays.  It is perhaps most well known for it’s selection of impressive waterfalls, there are so many to see but some are certainly better than others.

The most iconic waterfall in the area is Purakaunui Falls which is a must see spot.  The waterfall has three tiers and is surrounded by the beautiful native scenery.  It only takes five minutes to walk to the waterfall from a car park so it’s very accessible, however this does mean it can get quite busy during the day.

Purakaunui Falls
Purakaunui Falls

Another waterfall that you can’t miss is McLean Falls.  To get to McLean Falls you will need to walk a little further than at Purakaunui Falls.  The walk is a 2.1km return journey but all your hard work will be rewarded with the outstanding 22 metre tall waterfall.  If you enjoy a good hike, the Waipohatu Waterfalls track is the place for you.  It’s a 6.5km loop track that travels through rugged rain forest up to two spectacular waterfalls. 

One of the highlights of the Catlins are the Cathedral Caves.  The caves are situated on Waipati beach and have been formed by the sea.  Over time the sea has eroded away two enormous caverns measuring 30 metres high.  The caves are a must see spot but can only be accessed during low tide so this will be an activity that has to be planned carefully.

Nugget Point Lighthouse and Curio Bay are some of the Catlins best coastal destinations.  Nugget Point is a great place to see the sunrise from because of it’s sensational panoramic views.  Curio Bay on the other hand, is the perfect destination for sunset as you will have the opportunity to see one of the rarest penguins in the world, the yellow-eyed penguin.

Accommodation wise, if you’re travelling in a campervan there are a few holiday parks and Department of Conservation camping grounds which are reasonably priced.  For those looking for a little more luxury the Whistling Frog Resort is a popular choice.  There are also plenty of options to choose from on Airbnb.

Contributed by Jonny from The Photographers Passport

West coast

The west coast of the South Island in New Zealand is one of the most pleasurable and scenic drives in the world.

The dramatic west coast has unspoiled beaches, winding roads, rugged coastline, spectacular views, hikes and trails. The drive stretches from Westport all the way to Haast or the other way around.

The highlights of this trip and beautiful places to stop at include the following.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blow hole is one of the stunning places in this route with unique limestone formations like pancakes stacked one above the other and blow holes spurting out water.

Punakaiki pancake rocks taken and owned by Jan from Leisurely Drives
Punakaiki pancake rocks taken and owned by Jan from Leisurely Drives

Paparoa National park which is located close to Punakaiki is a great place for easy and challenging hikes. Pororari River track is an easy trail with great views perfect for families.

There are two awesome gorges in this route – Buller gorge and swing bridge near Westport, and the pretty Hokitika gorge.

West coast sunsets – Pristine beaches including Hokitika and Haast are popular for their amazing and lingering sunsets over the Tasman Sea.

Two famous glaciers – Fox and Franz Josef are worth exploring. Lake Matheson offers stunning views as it reflects Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. There is a beautiful walk encircling the lake ideal for both walkers and hikers.

A west coast drive planned for 5-6 days would be sufficient to enjoy all the above highlights and more.

There are plenty of hotels and bed-n-breakfasts on the West Coast. It is best to book the room in advance especially in the high season due to the popularity of this route. Some good hotel suggestions are Alpine Rose Motel in Hokitika, Punakaiki Beachfront Motels in Punakaiki and Rainforest Retreat in Franz josef.

Contributed by Jan from Leisurely Drives

Conclusion 

We have chosen a variety of different New Zealand Road Trips, depending on your availability and interests. We would highly recommend spending at least 3 months exploring New Zealand, to really get to see some of the top places in the country.   

For a holiday of a life time, spending one year in New Zealand, will allow you to explore most of the country and what better way to do that, than to get a holiday visa.  

What New Zealand Road Trip will you take? How many do you think you could cover? Have you been on a road trip in New Zealand that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know, by leaving a comment below.  

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Check out our posts on  

Best Beaches in New Zealand

Best Hikes in New Zealand

Best Places to visit in New Zealand

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Best New Zealand Road Trips
Best New Zealand Road Trips

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