Nz scenic drives roadtrips mount cook road
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New Zealand’s 10 best scenic drives

New Zealand is home to the world’s most stunning scenic drives. Be amazed at every turn. Picturesque towns. Glistening lakes. Rolling farmland. Towering mountains. Plunging waterfalls. The best way to discover the ever-changing landscape is by car.

Be inspired by 10 of our favourite scenic routes

#10 East Cape

Start your road trip in Gisborne, a remote region on the east coast of the North Island. Follow the coast past white sand beaches, native forest, small Maori villages and rolling surf breaks. A route less known by tourists, enjoy the endless ocean views often uninterrupted. Steeped in Maori history, make sure to visit Tolaga Bay, Hicks Bay, and Tokomaru Bay along the way.

#9 Crown Range Road

The Crown Range Road is New Zealand’s highest road, reaching an altitude of 1121 metres. It lies between Queenstown and Wanaka and takes approximately one hour to drive. Take your time and stop to admire the mountainous and lake views. Visit the iconic Cardrona Hotel or the quirky Cardrona Valley Bra Fence.

East Cape coastline | New Zealand holiday
Follow the remote and rugged East Cape coastline
Iconic hotel along the Crown Range Road | New Zealand holiday
Stop at the iconic Cardrona Hotel along the Crown Range Road
© Dmitri Kotelevski

#8 Surf Highway 45

Follow the coast from New Plymouth to Hawera. Set on the west coast of the North Island, Surf Highway 45 is not just for surfers. From black sand beaches, rolling hills and sheep-filled farmland to the striking Mount Taranaki in the Egmont National Park, art galleries, museums and coastal walkways.

#7 The Milford Road

Milford Road is the gateway into the heart of the Fiordland National Park. The journey between Te Anau and Milford Sound is simply breathtaking. There is plenty to see, so make sure you have plenty of time to stop, take photographs and discover the walking trails. There are endless highlights including deep valleys, thick native bush, wild lupin flowers and the mirror lakes.

Driving along Milford Road is simply breathtaking
Driving along Milford Road is simply breathtaking
© Hans Wijker
Enjoy spectacular views of the striking Mount Taranaki
Enjoy spectacular views of the striking Mount Taranaki

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#6 Haast Pass

Begin in the vibrant alpine town of Wanaka and make your way through Mount Aspiring National Park into the heart of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area. Haast Pass is bursting with spectacular views and short walks. Have a pit stop along the way and walk the Blue Pools Track. From ancient rainforest, plunging waterfalls, crystal clear lakes to towering mountains and braided rivers, you won’t be disappointed with the scenery along Haast Pass.

#5 West Coast Route

Stretching along the west coast of South Island, from Westport to Haast is the West Coast Route. A rugged coastline with quirky towns, rainforests, glaciers, deserted beaches, and national parks. Visit the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, explore Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, and don’t forget to taste the famous whitebait fritters in Hokitika.

Refreshing dip at Haast Pass Blue Pools | New Zealand active holiday
Jump in for a refreshing dip at Haast Pass Blue Pools
Travel at a relaxed pace and find the hidden gems of the West Coast Route
Travel at a relaxed pace and find the hidden gems of the West Coast Route

#4 Mount Cook Road

Connecting Pukaki with Mount Cook National Park, this scenic drive follows the lake edge of Lake Pukaki. Soak up the views of the bright blue water and the striking Mount Cook and Southern Alps. Do you have some extra time? Take a slight detour and hike the Hooker Valley Track. This track is 10 kilometres and suitable for all fitness levels.

#3 Arthur’s Pass

Climbing 924 metres through the heart of Arthur's Pass National Park is one of the highest settlements in New Zealand. A stretch of mountainous road connecting Christchurch with the wild West Coast, is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in the South Island. Arthur’s Pass Village is the starting point for many walks through the national park. Including Bealey Spur Track, Avalanche Peak and the Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall.

Keep a lookout for cheeky Kea in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Keep a lookout for cheeky Kea in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
Stunning views on Arthur's Pass | New Zealand nature
Be amazed at every turn on the Arthur's Pass

#2 The Southern Scenic Route

A road less travelled but no less fascinating. The Southern Scenic Route is quite the journey from Dunedin to Queenstown. Leading you along the coastline of The Catlins to Invercargill. A variety of wildlife, deserted beaches, rainforests, lakes, mountains and plenty of activities to tick off your bucket list.

#1 Lindis Pass

A dramatic alpine road that runs through Cromwell in Central Otago to Omarama, North Otago. From golden tussock covered mountains to a blanket of snow, depending on the time of year. Enjoy a picnic by the Ahuriri River, discover the walking trails or go horseback riding and mountain biking. There are plenty of native bird species to spot, including the kārearea - New Zealand falcon.

Spot unique wildlife on the remote Southern Scenic Route
Spot unique wildlife on the remote Southern Scenic Route
Beautiful river in the Lewis Pass | New Zealand nature
Enjoy a picnic lunch by the river in the Lewis Pass

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