The Best New Zealand Road Trips

Driving across New Zealand is an adventure that takes you through rolling hills, the rocky coast, and fantastic mountain paths. It will show off the diverse landscape of this stunning country.

Of course, one of the best ways to take in everything the country offers is by good New Zealand road trips! New Zealand is a free camping nation, meaning you can park everywhere (excluding no parking or no camping signed areas common in popular towns).

If you are planning on travelling to New Zealand by one of the hop-on-hop-off bus tours, it is better to hire a car or campervan in one of the major towns and enjoy a 3 to 5-day road trip.

There is absolutely no better way to experience the rugged natural beauty of New Zealand than to take a classic road trip. These three of the best trips around the country are guaranteed to blow your mind.

Auckland to Cape Reinga: 3-4 days.

Hiking to the Cape Reinga lighthouse-New Zealand road trips
Hiking to the Cape Reinga lighthouse

From the City of Sails, head north via the Northern motorway to the picturesque beach town of Paihia. Often considered as the gateway to the Bay of Islands, this stunning one of the New Zealand road trips is a little town that is a fantastic place to spend a few nights.

While there, you can swim with dolphins, take a sailing trip to see the infamous hole in the rock, or head to the historic Treaty of Waitangi grounds, where the most important document in New Zealand history was signed.

Leave the car behind from Paihia and head to Russell on the ferry. Along the way, you might even see a dolphin or two.

Once there, spend some time walking around to get a feel for the classic New Zealand town before checking out the beach and swimming. Make sure you also head to the Pompallier house and the Cape Brett lighthouse in this one of the New Zealand road trips.

Continue north to the spectacular 90 Mile beach. This beach, which only actually measures 55 miles, is a fantastic place to do some sandboarding or to take in the natural beauty of New Zealand.

It is then a short drive to Cape Reinga and the topmost point of New Zealand. Hiking to the Cape Reinga lighthouse is an absolute must if you want to say you have been as far north as possible. It is also worth it for the view.

Auckland to Wellington: 8 days

Auckland to Wellington 8 days
Auckland to Wellington 8 days

It may be quite a stretch, but driving from Auckland to Wellington is a great way to explore New Zealand’s North Island’s many beautiful spots on your New Zealand road trips.

After leaving Auckland, your first destination on this one of the New Zealand road trips will be the Coromandel Peninsular on New Zealand’s east coast.

Cathedral Cove, the hot water beach, and the extraordinary green coastlines are absolute must-sees here. Spend a few days in this magical spot before heading to Tauranga, another popular beach city.

From Tauranga, drive back inland to the small town of Matamata. From here, you can head to Hobbiton, the home of the Hobbits from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, located just outside the town centre.

Then, on to the beautiful but smelly city of Rotorua. Centred around some stunning lakes, many geysers, and a volcano, Rotorua is a must-see for anyone travelling through New Zealand.

I had to Taupo from there and spend a few days on the shores of the pristine lake. If you can handle cold temperatures, jump in for a swim or head to a spot popular among the locals on the edge of the Waikato River, where you will find hot thermal water spilling into the cold river waters.

When you have seen all there is to see in Taupo, continue south via the wine country of Napier to the windy city of Wellington. There is no better place to find yourself after several days of exploring during one of the New Zealand road trips.

Queenstown, Lake Wanaka and Mt Cook: 3-4 days

Queenstown, Lake Wanaka and Mt Cook 3-4 days
Queenstown, Lake Wanaka and Mt Cook 3-4 days

Begin your journey heading northeast from Queenstown to the jaw-dropping Lake Wanaka. Not only is the road leading there absolutely stunning, but when you get to Wanaka, you will likely fall in love with the clear blue lake and the surrounding natural landscape.

You can enjoy some great skiing and snowboarding during the winter months of this one of the New Zealand road trips or grab a bike and pedal along the waterfront in the summer.

Continue from Wanaka to Lake Tekapo, another mind-blowing natural New Zealand wonder. You won’t have seen anything like the stunning blue of the waters here.

Even better, head to the hot water pools overlooking the lake and soak in the waters while checking out the scenery in this one of the New Zealand road trips. If you are a keen hiker, consider exploring Mt Cook – New Zealand’s tallest mountain.

Once you have had your fill of the beautiful scenery, make your way to the small east coast town of Timaru and from there to Oamaru, a town filled to the brim with art galleries and small cafes. It will feel like you have entered a time machine and returned to the Victorian Age.

Make sure also to check out the famous colony of little blue penguins while you are there on one of the New Zealand road trips.

The trip’s final day will take you back up the coastline to Queenstown. Watch for the eerie-looking Moeraki Boulders sitting in the ocean and the scores of wildlife along the shorelines.

Wherever you go in New Zealand, prepare to be enthralled by the epic natural beauty of this small island nation and New Zealand road trips.

About the author

Michaela Scott

Michaela Scott

Michaela Scott stands as one of the leading voices in New Zealand's online gaming scene.

With a tenure spanning nearly a decade at PokiesMobile NZ, Michaela's contributions range from meticulously crafted game reviews to in-depth industry analysis.

Hailing from Christchurch, she brings a mix of local insights and global perspectives to her writings.

Her dedication to staying ahead of industry trends and her unparalleled expertise make her pieces both educational and enjoyable.