14 – 21 days exploring Aotearoa New Zealand
Check out epic Kiwi road trips. Lifetime memories in the making as you hit New Zealand roads. Every NZ itinerary has a detailed daily route with key attractions as well as information about the best time of the year to go. Cruise into Wanaka, South Island and find #thatWanakatree or join up with a great New Zealand holiday package. Tour NZ your way, just do it.
Road trippers have the option of expanding their trip as they link up several trip plans. New Zealand trips from 14 days to 21 days.
Rent a vehicle and follow the road (with nzjane’s tips on getting around, what to see and best time to go):
TWIN COAST HIGHWAY – NORTHLAND NZ
Explore the top of New Zealand taking a circuit around the east and west coast. Must-go destinations include Waitangi a premier attraction detailing the story of Maori and the relationship with the Crown (government), Kororareka Russell, former hell hole of the Pacific now a delightful historic settlement with throngs of visitors, scenic beaches and hot pools and fascinating settlements rich in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand. Heritage with a dollop of scenery and delicious sub-tropical foodie treats from farmers markets is a recipe for a perfect holiday experience in Northland, New Zealand… read more Twin Coast Discovery Road Trip Northland & Bay of Islands – Best Bits.
The best time to drive Twin Coast Highway, NZ is November to March. In winter the temperature is likely to not fall below 12c. Some attractions will have limited hours. Book beforehand in peak summer season. In the shoulder season and winter take advantage of travel deals.
THERMAL EXPLORER HIGHWAY – CENTRAL NORTH ISLAND, NZ
A superb link with the TWIN COAST HIGHWAY (NORTHLAND) tour as you’ve had a dose of heritage and scenery now it’s about volcanic activity, geothermal mineral spa pools and the wonder of the earth’s core on full display. And, as a bonus road trippers can take time to explore Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves, both top billing New Zealand attractions. Scenery from rolling pastoral farmland dotted with grazing sheep and cows in Cambridge, pockets of native forest and New Zealand’s largest lake, Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is beautiful with the central plateau mountains adding a gorgeous backdrop to an adventure playground on the water, in the water and by the lake water. A flourish to the trip is Rotorua where volcanic activity is dramatic with boiling mud pools, fountaining geysers of superheated water and brightly coloured mineralised rock landscapes… read more Central North Island road trip, geothermal explorer: Best Bits.
The best time to drive the (Geo)thermal highway is year round. Major attractions are open year round. Soak in a warm pool year round. Book beforehand in peak season is November to March. In the shoulder season and winter take advantage of travel deals.
Tongairo National Park and Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a #NZmustdo for many visitors. Not sure check out other shorter walks in the vicinity of the Tongariro National Park …
Walk with the kids, friends and family exploring the central volcanic plateau of the North Island,
Turangi walking trails for families
Tongariro River Trails
6 Taupo family friendly outdoors places to visit,
Check out handy guides for safer driving in New Zealand
NZ is a great place to self-drive as road signs are clearly marked, often very few roads to a place making it difficult to get lost, google maps works everywhere in New Zealand. For peace of mind combine both self-drive and guided tours (day trips) from hub destinations.
PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY – AROUND THE EAST COAST FROM COROMANDEL TO NAPIER, NZ
The quintessential summer road trip around the bays and towns of the North Island, NZ east coast. Beaches with personality such as Hot Water Beach or Cathedral Cove. Dip into the kiwi summer spirit and enjoy the beach vibe, farmers markets, pop up galleries, music gigs, and Bay of Plenty Mt Maunganui beach entertainment… Pacific Coast Highway where to go and what to see.
Check out handy guides for safer driving in New Zealand
The best time to drive Pacific Coast Highway is between December to May. Catch the summer breeze and the February Napier art deco festival. Check out the towns of Coromandel town, Whangamata, Kerikieri, Waihi Beach for summer events.
The Pacific Coast NZ route can connect with a journey from Napier to Taupo. Taupo is popular visitor destination. From Napier continue south on Wellington to Napier road trip – Best Bits. This is a road trip easily cut into four sections see Pacific Coast Highway where to go and what to see for details.
A good place to start a NZ road trip is Auckland. Auckland is a hub for the Twin Coast Highway, Pacific Coast Highway, Thermal Explorer and easily connects to Surf Highway. It is an ideal place to join guided day tours around the upper and central North Island.
Christchurch is a good hub for South Island, NZ road trips as the centrally located major city connects to Alpine Pacific Triangle, Great West Coast and easily connects to Inland Scenic Route, Southern Scenic Route via Dunedin, another wildlife hotspot.
SURF HIGHWAY 45 TARANAKI – EXPLORER WILD WEST COAST BEACHES
Get off the main tourist routes and explore Taranaki. Discover the amazing architectural gem Len Lye building, art galleries and shops in New Plymouth. Walk in outstanding gardens and parks while considering investing in your first surf school lesson. Australians and New Zealanders’ beach culture is alive and well from Raglan to New Plymouth and beyond. Find out for yourself on this very special road trip…Surf Highway 45: Taranaki things to do – Best Bits.
The best time to drive the Surf Highway, Taranaki is summer. In winter the intrepid surfer, in winter weight wetsuits, is still on their board. However the summer festival season from Festival of Lights, Taranaki Gardens to surf beach events are treats in store for summer travellers.
Surf Highway, Taranaki is easily connected to the Forgotten Highway journey. Connect in Stratford and finish in Taumarunui with 123 km onwards to Taupo. Taupo to Rotorua is an additional 79 km.
FORGOTTEN WORLD HIGHWAY STATE HIGHWAY 45 FROM TAUMARUNUI TO STRATFORD (OR REVERSE)
Discover narrow hand cut tunnels to drive through (motorhomes will just fit), gravel roads with pristine lush temperate forest on either side. A place with abandoned coal mining towns and forgotten bridges to nowhere. A place of stunning beauty and definitely a road less travelled. The journey easily connects to New Plymouth and the attractions in Taranaki…Forgotten highway weekend.
The best time to drive the Forgotten Highway is between late November to mid March, NZ’s summer season. The gravel road is narrow and winding and not recommended in winter.
GREAT WEST COAST – FROM TOP OF THE SOUTH ISLAND TO FIORDLAND
Route 66, USA eat your heart out, here’s a route with attitude. State Highway 6, rugged, hidden corners and a journey through the soul of scenic Aotearoa New Zealand.
Country blues, folk music, empty roads and drop dead gorgeous scenery. This is not a detour or byway, rather a major aerial route into the beautiful remote West Coast of the South Island. The Great West Coast Road runs between Murchison, Westport and Greymouth has been named one of the Top 10 Coastal Drives in the world according to Lonely Planet. The road hugs river gorges and skirts the coast and the hills as it wends its way south… read more about one of nzjane’s favourite road trips Great West Coast road trip, route 6 – Best Bits introduction.
NZ’s Great West Coast Road Trip connections are Southern Scenic Road trip, a magical journey encountering New Zealand’s wildlife from penguins to seals. The road trip flows easily towards Fiordland and the tourist hot spot of Queenstown and Arrowtown. This is a road trip easily cut into sections, see Great West Coast road trip, route 6 – Best Bits for details.
INLAND SCENIC ROUTE 72 EXPLORE CENTRAL OTAGO, SCENERY, GOLD MINING TRAILS
Discover who turned up and named places and the legacy left behind. There are railway bridges, lonely cemeteries and railways now reimagined as cycle trails. Find the people who now call the places home. From artists creating magic in the folded hills of Otago to active adventurers who challenge visitors to experience the new. Eat, drink and savour the taste of Otago. Single origin family owned vineyards where passionate wine makers create pinot noir magic. Sample delicious pub food and bakeries along the way. Soak up the landscapes from the high country tussock of Maniototo to lush green pastures as you reach Dunedin. Linger in forgotten Victorian era gold mining towns. .. read more Inland Otago road trip guide where to go and what to see – Best Bits.
Check out handy guides for safer driving in New Zealand
The best time to travel inland central Otago on route 72 is mid spring (November) to mid March (early autumn). The route can be travelled in winter with spectacular views of snow however be prepared for road closures due to ice and snow.
Inland Scenic route 72, Southern Scenic route and exploration of Queenstown and Arrowtown can easily use DUNEDIN as a southern hub. Dunedin is an authentic university town with roots reaching back to the nineteenth century gold fields.
SOUTHERN SCENIC ROUTE WILDLIFE BONANZA SAFARI
Arguably the best road trip in NZ. Scenery outstanding, wildlife bonanza with large impressive sea lions and majestic seabirds, the Northern Albatross as wildlife stars, fascinating history of cold mines, timber clearances and traditional fishing practices and waterfalls to satisfy any waterfall seeking fans. Beaches where the footprints could only be yours and communities where you are a valued guest.
The Catlins is the region between Balclutha and Invercargill / Bluff. The climate could be off putting for some visitors with its changeable weather. The day could be a mild summer day folded into a cool mist the next. Who wants cocktails on a balmy beach when visitors have massive sea lions to gawp at. Pack your swimmers (togs) and a good raincoat. Take your time to linger and savour southern hospitality. Distances are not far and enjoy a leisurely wander through the southernmost part of New Zealand… read more Southern Scenic Road Trip Guide Dunedin to Queenstown – Best Bits.
Southern Scenic route NZ easily connects with visitor hot spots Queenstown and Arrowtown. You can easily use DUNEDIN as a southern hub. Dunedin is an authentic university town with roots reaching back to the nineteenth century gold fields.
The best time to travel the Southern Scenic Route is year round. Check your bucket list, be it wildlife arrivals, new pups or chicks (seals / sea lions / marine seabirds) or the fury of the Southern ocean in winter pounding the coast at Nugget Point Lighthouse. A journey into the wilderness of New Zealand with a touch of comfort along the way.
The main artery is sealed throughout the journey, side roads to beaches where wildlife roam could be gravel as right of way is managed by private landholders. The itinerary clearly flags whether the stop to view wildlife and/or scenery is gravel.
New Zealand road trips can be one or two days or several weeks, each trip can be cut into day trips creating your own personal itinerary.
SOUTHERN SCENIC ROUTE – WESTERN EXTENSION INVERCARGILL TO QUEENSTOWN
The journey trails the eastern boundary of the Fiordland National Park and the raw beauty of the south coast. The scenery is an excellent introduction to the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. Your journey is arguably one of the world’s beautiful road trips. The sheer variety of scenery from coastal towns, lowland forest, heritage sites and sub-alpine scenery wrapped around lakes where bush and waterfalls vie for attention is breathtaking.
For hiking and walking enthusiasts discover the Hump Ridge Track, a spectacular 3-day hike from the ocean to the mountains via native forest and old viaducts… read more Southern Scenic Road Trip: Invercargill to Fiordland National Park – Best Bits.
BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE