Top Road Trip Routes In New Zealand

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New Zealand as a tourist destination screams to be driven.
It's low population density means only the main centres are well serviced by public transport, and the stunning natural landscape means you don't want to miss a thing.
Whether you are planning a long trip and plan to buy and sell a vehicle to tour in, or whether you want to avail yourself of one of the many car rental companies, get your driver's license ready, do a quick refresher of the road rules (remember to keep left!), grab your maps and go! You can leave Auckland and head the Winterless North to Kerikeri on State Highway One.
You'll pass through the beach towns of Whangaparoa, Red Beach and Orewa.
You can stop for a soak at the famous Waiwera Hot Pools, then get back in the car and keep heading North.
A boutique cheese factory at Puhoi and a stop at one of the many wineries at Warkworth or Matakana will provide delicious treats for your journey.
Further north you'll enjoy the shopping, cafes and galleries of Whangarei and Russell.
If you are into diving or fishing, you won't want to miss Tutukaka and Paihia.
Finally head to Kerikeri, home of some of New Zealand's oldest buildings and also home to amazing fresh fruit, handmade chocolates and gourmet foods.
If natural beauty and splendid isolation are your kind of thing, it is hard to go past the road from Hawkes Bay to Whakatane.
An ideal place to start is Napier where you can pick up a rental car at the airport.
Napier is unique in that the whole city was rebuilt following a devastating earthquake in 1931 and it encapsulates the spirit of the times in its rebuild: it is a mecca for all elements of Art Deco design, something it embraces and celebrates in Art Deco weekends in February and July.
Heading north from Napier you are quickly surrounded by the rugged beauty of native bush and before long you get the opportunity to cross the 137m viaduct over the Matahorua Gorge.
Stop at Mahia and enjoy the views to Young Nick's Head and Gisborne.
Enjoy the sights and wineries of Gisborne then continue north to Tolaga Bay, a walk along the wharf is an absolute must.
From here to Whakatane you can enjoy the splendour of the Pacific Coast Highway with its tiny isolated villages and amazing beaches, many of which have seaside campsites.
For a real slice of rural New Zealand life, few areas compare with the down to earth feel of Taranaki.
See a rental car agent at New Plymouth airport, and then you can circumnavigate the majestic Mt Taranaki before heading east to the Central Plateau on the Forgotten World Highway.
Taranaki is a great place to explore the history of the New Zealand Land Wars, and is also home to many spectacular parks.
One word of warning though, make sure you fill up with gas at Stratford as there are no gas stations between Stratford and Taumaranui.
It is a particularly popular route for motorcyclists, with a number of thrilling saddles to traverse.
After catching the Ferry from Wellington, get a rental car in Picton and head to Nelson, via the stunning Abel Tasman National Park and the jaw dropping St Arnaud and Murchison lakes.
You will want to make sure your memory stick has plenty of room for this trip; the photo opportunities just keep on coming in this corner of New Zealand.
Nelson is famous for its many hours of sunshine and its high concentration of artists including glass blowers and silversmiths.
Queenstown to Haast is also popular with drivers.
Queenstown is one of New Zealand's premiere tourist destinations with an abundance of adventure opportunities and some of the most glorious scenery, not to mention world class skiing, hunting and fishing.
A word of warning: some car rental companies will not cover the side trip to Skippers Canyon.
The trip to Haast takes you through picturesque Arrowtown (truly spectacular in autumn), the lake town of Wanaka, and the tiny settlement of Makarora before the ascent into Mt Aspiring National Park.
The Gates of Haast Bridge is a necessary stop before winding your way back to the coast and the Tasman Sea.
Whichever route you choose, make the most of your trip to New Zealand by getting off the beaten track and taking your time: it's worth the journey.
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