5 Unforgettable New Zealand Road Trip Routes

New Zealand is a country that begs to be explored.

Its awe-inspiring landscapes, from rugged coastlines to towering mountains, make it a dream destination for road trips. Whether you’re seeking picturesque beaches, untamed wilderness, geothermal wonders, or a blend of all these, New Zealand has it all. Embarking on a road trip is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the country’s natural beauty and experience its rich cultural heritage. 

In this article, we present five unforgettable New Zealand road trip routes that will leave you spellbound. From the North Island to the South Island, we’ll guide you through various landscapes, including stunning coastlines, ancient forests, dramatic mountains and vibrant cities. 

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or a foodie, there’s something for everyone in these unforgettable road trip routes. So, start planning your journey, pack your car and prepare to be captivated by the beauty of this extraordinary country.

Hiring A Car

If you live in New Zealand, you’ll likely have a car. But for international travellers who fly from overseas, hiring a car is necessary for those who want to drive around the country.

Luckily, numerous car rental companies operate throughout New Zealand, providing a wide range of vehicles to suit your needs, including compact cars for city exploration and durable SUVs for off-road adventures.

Hiring a car allows you to travel to remote areas, explore scenic routes, and stop at viewpoints to soak in the breathtaking vistas. It also allows you to plan your itinerary and spontaneously detour to attractions that catch your eye. 

With a well-developed road network and stunning landscapes at every turn, having a car allows you to venture off the beaten path and discover hidden gems.

You can hire a rental car with Go Rentals here. However, if you do, it is essential to familiarise yourself with New Zealand’s road rules, drive responsibly, and respect the environment and local communities.

North Island

If you are on New Zealand’s North Island, here are three unforgettable road trips you can take.

1. The Pacific Coast Highway

One of the most mesmerising road trip routes in New Zealand is the Pacific Coast Highway. Stretching from Auckland to Napier on the North Island, this scenic drive showcases the best of New Zealand’s eastern coast.

The journey takes you through stunning coastal towns, charming beaches and picturesque countryside. During it, you can explore the golden sands of the Coromandel Peninsula, where you can soak in natural hot pools at Hot Water Beach. You can also explore the vibrant marine life and crystal-clear waters of the Bay of Plenty before arriving in Napier. Once there, you can marvel at its art deco architecture and visit world-class wineries.

Overall, the Pacific Coast Highway offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences and delightful coastal discoveries. It is sure to leave you in awe of New Zealand’s stunning coastal landscapes.

2. The Thermal Explorer Highway

Embarking on a road trip along the Thermal Explorer Highway is a journey that immerses you in New Zealand’s geothermal wonders and rich Maori culture.

Beginning in Auckland and winding its way to Wellington, this route takes you through the heart of the North Island’s geothermal region. 

You’ll love exploring the bubbling mud pools and towering geysers of Rotorua, where you can witness the incredible forces of nature up close. If you continue your drive to the picturesque town of Taupo, you will find yourself beside the magnificent Lake Taupo, where you will be captivated by the deep blue waters of Huka Falls.

As you approach Wellington, take the time to delve into the captivating exhibits of the Te Papa Museum and savour the city’s vibrant arts and culinary scene.

Promising a road trip filled with natural marvels, cultural encounters, and unforgettable experiences, the Thermal Explorer Highway showcases the unique geothermal landscapes of the country.

3. The Forgotten World Highway

If you are looking for a road trip route that takes you off the beaten path and into a realm of adventure and isolation, look no further than the Forgotten World Highway.

This unique and unforgettable drive begins in Taumarunui and winds through remote and untouched landscapes, offering a glimpse into New Zealand’s pioneering history.

As you traverse this scenic route, you’ll encounter dense forests, rolling hills, and even an eerie tunnel known as the ‘Hobbit’s Hole’. Be sure to stop at the Whangamomona Hotel, a historic pub in a quirky self-declared republic, where you can soak in the charm of this offbeat destination.

The Forgotten World Highway offers a road trip experience like no other in New Zealand, immersing you in the raw beauty of Aoetearoa’s untamed wilderness and leaving you with lasting memories of a journey off the tourist trail.

South Island

If you are on New Zealand’s South Island, here are a couple of exceptional road trips you can take.

4. The Southern Scenic Route

If you’re seeking a road trip that showcases the unparalleled beauty of New Zealand’s South Island, look no further than the Southern Scenic Route. This iconic drive takes you on a journey through some of the most stunning landscapes in the country.

Starting in Dunedin, you’ll wind through the enchanting Catlins, where untouched forests, rugged coastlines, and majestic waterfalls await. As you continue, prepare to be captivated by the breathtaking vistas of Fiordland National Park, home to the world-renowned Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.

Also, make a point of stopping by the lakeside town of Te Anau and bask in the tranquillity of its surroundings. Finally, venture into Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, where towering peaks and pristine alpine scenery will leave you in awe.

Ultimately, the Southern Scenic Route offers a road trip of epic proportions. Every twist and turn unveils a new, jaw-dropping vista, ensuring that your journey through the South Island is nothing short of extraordinary.

5. The West Coast Wilderness Highway

For an awe-inspiring road trip through the untamed beauty of New Zealand’s South Island, the West Coast Wilderness Highway is a must. This remarkable route, also known as State Highway 6, takes you on a journey through lush rainforests, past cascading waterfalls, and alongside roaring rivers.

You’ll need to pinch yourself as you marvel at the magnificent Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, where you can take guided tours or even try heli-hiking for a truly unique experience. Additionally, stop by Punakaiki to witness the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes, where the power of the ocean creates an incredible natural spectacle.

The West Coast Wilderness Highway is a road trip that unveils the wild side of New Zealand, taking you on an unforgettable adventure through a landscape that will leave you in awe. As you drive it, you’ll be surrounded by the untamed wilderness that defines the region, offering a true sense of its rugged beauty and tranquillity.


Embarking on a road trip through New Zealand is an experience that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

From the captivating Pacific Coast Highway to the pristine beauty of the Southern Scenic Route, the five unforgettable road trip routes outlined above perfectly showcase New Zealand’s diversity and natural splendour.

Each route offers a tapestry of landscapes, cultural encounters and hidden gems waiting for your discovery. Whether you’re captivated by rugged coastlines, majestic mountains, geothermal wonders, or remote wilderness, a road trip route in the land of the long white cloud will ignite your sense of adventure and leave you utterly enchanted.

All you need to do is jump in your car and start driving.

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