New Zealand is a country of great and varied beauty. You have volcanoes, beaches, dramatic coastlines, glaciers, and national parks aplenty. It would be a shame to miss out on these by only staying in the cities when you visit the country. The open roads are calling, it’s up to you to answer.
The Thermal Highway
The North Island of New Zealand is home to several volcanic sites and the road that runs between Wellington and Auckland will take you there. Along the way, you’ll find incredible geothermal sights, including the geysers of Rotorua and the volcanic crater at Lake Taupo. Thanks to all of this volcanic activity, the area is also incredibly fertile, making it lush and green. It’s also great for wine farms, and there are quite a few for you to stop at and enjoy a tasting or two. The entire route should take about two weeks to complete, if you want to really experience it all.
The Forgotten World Highway
Also on the North Island, the Forgotten World Highway traces the route of the centuries-old bridle paths from colonial days. It runs between the towns of Taumaruni and Stratford, with the tiny town of Whangamomona situated somewhere in the middle of it all. The trip can be done in a day as the road is only 93 miles long, and if you’re a passenger you can pass the time on your phone placing bets at Beteasy NZ. However, it is a very tricky drive through the mountains and features a one-lane tunnel, a river gorge and cliff faces. The road may be more modern and newly built than the original pass, but it is definitely not for a normal vehicle. On the other hand, the views are incredible and well worth the drive, as is the incredible sense of beauty in isolation.
Down on the South Island, there are some amazing trips to take and the road heading north out of Wellington can take you through Glacier Country. You can take as little as four days touring through the national parks or you can extend it for as long as you want visit. You start surrounded by lakes and mountains, winding your way through the valleys. Then, you head up into the mountains to find the glaciers in the Mount Aspiring National Park and the Mount Cook National Park. There are many beautiful walks you can take, so pack your hiking boots and your camera.
Rivers, Oceans and Middle Earth
The West Coast of the South Island is a particularly beautiful stretch of land. The town of Nelson provides a perfect starting point and allows you the opportunity to stock up on great local produce before hitting the road. Your first stop should be the Pelorus River where parts of The Hobbit were filmed – particularly the dwarves floating down the river in barrels. The Abel Tasman National Park is next along the road, followed by the Nelson Lakes National Park. Finally, you should finish your journey at the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. There are also plenty of chances to enjoy outdoor sports like hiking or swimming.