The best routes in new zaeland

New Zealand’s roads and trails cut through incredibly diverse landscapes: snow-capped peaks and watery fiords, fertile plains, subtropical forest, glacial lakes and rugged coastline can all be explored on four wheels. Here is a selection of our favourite road trips in New Zealand.

1. For adventure: Ninety-Mile Beach

Officially called Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē, this seemingly endless stretch of beach from Ahipara to Scott Point in the far north of New Zealand is actually only 55 miles (88km).

Incredibly, it’s a designated public highway and alternative to SH-1 – though to traverse the sands you need a 4WD, a sense of adventure and some advance planning to avoid high tide. On one side is the crashing surf, and on the other, rolling dunes backed by green forest.

2. For coves and beaches: the Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway hugs the awe-inspiring coastline of the North Island’s Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, East Cape and Hawkes Bay.

Setting out from Auckland you can take it slow on a six-day tour and take your pick of picturesque coves and bays to explore. Ridiculously beautiful highlights include Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, Ohope Beach and Ohiwa Harbour, Waipiro Bay and its three historical marae (Maori meeting grounds) and the beaches of Mahia Peninsula. Be aware that the East Cape in particular is winding and steep and can be a challenging drive.

3. For Lord of the Rings: Tongariro National Park

For One Drive to Rule Them All, head deep into the volcanic plateau of Central North Island where Peter Jackson found the perfect location to bring Mordor to the big screen. Most people come here to ski or tramp, but there are some incredible landscapes and lookouts to be seen from the highway: the long, straight Desert Road (SH-1) to the east of the park is a dry and bleak stretch with amazing views toward the trio of volcanoes.

For even more epic views of Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom), loop round to the southeast of the park to Whakapapa Village (off SH-47) to access the skifield.

4. For high country: Molesworth Station

Open for the summer months only, Acheron Road bumps through the stunning scree-covered hillsides and open valleys and grasslands of New Zealand’s largest farm. Drivers who brave the 207km gravel road between Blenheim and Hanmer Springs experience all that comes with exploring remote high country.