Author: Drew Pennell Blog

New Zealand is actually, believe it or not, quite a sizable landmass. It's also very hilly, which means the roads have curves. Therefore, it takes a while to get from A to B, X to Z, here to there, yadda yadda yadda and when there's traffic on Auckland's Southern Motorway, then it's a whole different kinda ballgame. If it's your first time driving on the right side of the road (the left), make sure you're extra alert and are not distracted by phones, views, nagging wives giving you the wrong directions, or annoying children. We give you a list of the best routes to drive in this amazing land of ours.  

Whangarei - Cape Reinga   

The winterless north is what they call it and boy does it get its fair amount of sunshine. This is a 265km drive taking around 3.5-4 hours featuring lush greenery, epic rainforests, lots of squiggly roads, and massive sand dunes. Stop by the Bay Of Islands and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds & Museum and learn more about one of New Zealand's most significant historic sites, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. If you're into tree hugging, check out the old kauri forests that tower above you and have been growing for years! Cape Reinga is where the road comes to a grinding hold because you've reached the tippy top of the country! Park up, walk out to the lighthouse and watch the waves collide with each other, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. This is a sacred place for our indigenous Maori people who believe that this an entrance for the departed to enter the underworld and let the spirits be set free. Pretty cool I reckon.  


Gisborne - Napier 

Start off this journey in surfy Gisborne (or Gissy as it's affectionately known as). This drive looks easy-peasy, but it's one of those surprisingly long treks. 215km's and 3 hours is just about what it takes. You'll see plenty of sheep on this journey folks and if you're travelling in winter, the snow covered fields over the hills are a spectacular sight to behold. It's a moody drive, with quirky little towns lying in between, but you're sure to see some spectacular scenery of course!


Lake Taupo - Waiouru  

The biggest lake in New Zealand, you'll view it as an ocean. A 112km drive taking approximately 1.5 hours. This is where the longest river in NZ, the Waikato River finishes up. At a length of 50km's and width of 35, it's pretty impressive by our standards. From Taupo, drive south through the spooky Desert Road, where you'll feel like you're on the moon and is almost always moody. New Zealand's one and only desert, it's home to the army, so this is not a place for off-roading kids. In fact, there are warning signs that combat training could be taking place, so be aware of flying bullets... we're joking, just stick to the road. 


Picton - Kaikoura 

This one really is a classic! Drive through Blenheim and through the rolling hills, passing alongside the top of the snow-capped Southern Alps. With the Pacific Ocean on the other side, as a driver you're sure to wish you were in the passenger seat as there's so much to see! 160km's and 2 hours, 40 minutes of pure New Zealandness. If you weren't impressed with the scenery yet, how about now? Finishing in Kaikoura, this town is renowned for its fresh and delicious seafood - fish n' chips anyone? This is also where all the whales like to hang, so if you get the chance, go whale watching! 


Westport - Fox Glacier 

This one is a gas gurgler, so make sure you fill your tank up to full in Westport. This is a 4-4.5 hour drive of 300km's, covering almost half the length of the South Island. This drive is quite similar to the Picton-Kaikoura route, except it's on the West Coast alongside the Tasman Sea. Quirky ol' towns that contain a couple of petrol stations (if you're lucky), a handful of bakery's, a dairy and a mechanic that circle a town clock. If you're looking for towns that haven't yet exited the late 70's, you've come to the right place. I find it quite unique that towns like the ones on this trip can maintain their heritage, they're proud of it and rightfully so. This voyage will take you past the famous Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki and make sure you check out the moody, rough, wild, wild west beaches along the way! You'll end up passing the Franz Josef Glacier and end up at the base of Fox Glacier, both tremendous sights to encounter. 


Queenstown - Milford Sound

Probably the most recognizable drive in New Zealand, this journey is like pulling a massive u-turn. A 4 hour long trek and 300km's, does it really have to take this long NZ Transport Agency? Apparently so. Does it matter when the scenery is this good? Passing alongside The Remarkables mountain range, through some farmland, the cows will be mooing and the sheep baa-baaing upon entering Te Anau. The drive from there into the Sound is speechless. Am I entering heaven? This is my pick of the bunch. If there's one to choose from this list, make it this one! Check out JUCY Cruise while you're there and head out into the Sounds for an unforgettable experience. 


Auckland - Coromandel 

Coromandel is always popular with visitors to our shores, due to its stunning tropical beaches backed by more hilly terrain. It's surrounded by numerous out-lying islands, with some epic waterfalls (making for the perfect 'gram!). If you can navigate your way through central Auckland and the notorious traffic on the Southern motorway then you're already half-way there! A bit of a lie, at 2.5 hours and 170km's it's another one of those downsie-upsies! You'll pass through sleepy Thames and venture along the coastal roads. Once you arrive in the beautiful Coromandel township, you'll have an endless number of beaches to choose from! Take a look at our 15 Beaches You Need To Visit In New Zealand blog to get some sandy inspiration!


Whakatane - Gisborne  

Passing through the rugged Te Urewera Forest, this 2.5 hour, 185km journey is all about the bush, a handful of lakes and waterfalls and some very disorientating driving as it feels like you're constantly back-tracking descending down the hills. Make sure to give way to the big logging trucks and get into the passengers seat if you get the chance, because this drive will also have you staring in amazement at the pure greenery. Finishing in chilled out Gisborne, this roadie is for those seeking peace, relaxation, and a beachy vibe.  


Stay safe out there folks, put the phone away, always wear your seatbelt and allow plenty of travel time. If you're a first timer driving here, take a quick read of the NZ road-code. Happy driving and have an epic roadie!

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