A recent survey from Rentalcars.com, the world’s leading car hire agency, found that almost 60 per cent of Brits have never been on a road trip before, but many also say they long for an off the beaten track style holiday, full of adventure and exploration.
The research found that this year alone, a third of British holidaymakers plan to journey on a road trip and travelling to remote destinations, free from tourists was revealed as one of the most important holiday must-haves.
What’s more, New Zealand topped the list of ‘dream’ destinations and the country’s appeal is no surprise, since it boasts countless remote and idyllic hotspots.
But New Zealand has a reputation for being an expensive holiday choice and holidaymakers stated this as being one of the main barriers to visiting.
Although it can be expensive to fly to, once you’re there, there are many things you can do for little cost, or even for free, and a roadtrip is an inexpensive way to cover off a huge chunk of these adventures.
Travelling by car also gives you the freedom to explore the country at your own pace and on your own terms and so Rentalcars.com have put together a selection of scenic routes to discover the open road.
Auckland to Wellington
New Zealand is made up of two large islands – North and South Island – along with several smaller ones. This North Island road trip is a beast a more of a once-in-a-lifetime trip for those up for the challenge.
The route will take you from the country’s biggest city, Auckland, to the capital Wellington, on a 400-mile journey to the Island’s southernmost point.
A large chunk of the route follows the Thermal Explorer Highway and takes in many of the North Island’s most amazing volcanic sites.
Lake Taupō is a mecca for watersports like fishing, water-skiing, sailing and kayaking, and its hot pools provide a great place to stop and relax.
The Waitomo caves are a magical experience that is completely unique to New Zealand, so it’s worth splashing out on a boat ride through the cave network, which is lit up by millions of tiny luminescent glow worms that cling to the rocks.
The route also takes you through the wine regions of Martinborough before arriving in Wellington, which is a foodie mecca, with a wealth of options including great street food.
If you don’t fancy the extensive drive, it’s possible to focus on the bits you do want to see.
The Great Alpine Highway
A shorter but equally impressive trip is in the South Island. Journey along the Great Alpine Highway, which takes you across 150 miles from the west coast to the east coast, starting in Christchurch, a city known for its historic buildings and cool art scene.
Then travel west across the spectacular Canterbury Plains and into the foothills of the Southern Alps, stopping for a hike at Castle Hill, where giant boulders up to 50m high dot the surreal landscape.
Arthur’s Pass marks the halfway point of your trip: It’s the highest and most spectacular pass across the Southern Alps, famed for its hiking and mountaineering, and you may even spot a kea - the world's only mountain-dwelling parrot, unique to South Island.
As you descend onto the western coast, the landscape changes completely, from snow-topped mountains to lush rainforests ready to explore.
And once you reach Greymouth, the largest town on the west coast, you’ll be ready to relax on one of the many beautiful beaches in the area, and maybe enjoy a locally-brewed Monteith’s – one of New Zealand’s best-loved beers.
The Pacific Coast Highway
f you love to spend time by the sea, this route is for you. The Pacific Coast Highway is back on North Island and runs from Auckland to Napier, a distance of around 250 miles.
The route packs in a huge amount of off-the-beaten track options, including the Coromandel Peninsula, home to the truly spectacular Cathedral Cove, an enormous natural stone archway linking two secluded coves.
It’s only accessible by foot, but well worth the one hour walk.
The coastal route also takes in the diverse beaches of the Mahia Peninsula, where you’ll find tranquil sandy coves and lively surfing spots.
If riding the waves is your thing then Black’s Beach – named for its distinctive black sand – is just the place to shred the surf.
The route ends in Napier, in the heart of Hawke’s Bay.
It’s home to some of the world’s finest wine producers, so it’s just the place to raise a glass to New Zealand and your journey of discovery.
And finally, handy and budget-friendly reminders for visiting New Zealand:
- A bonus for Brits is that New Zealanders drive on the left too!
- Avoid high season -which runs from December to February - and use a car hire agency to book with a smaller local company who will charge a reasonable price. Remember to book in advance for additional savings.
- Many of New Zealand’s most amazing attractions, such as hiking in its national parks and kicking back on the beach, don’t cost a cent. Lonely Planet have a range of New Zealand guides, including this one, which offer a wealth of ideas for all types of budgets.
- Invest in a city pass. If you do want to visit many of New Zealand’s top attractions (in Auckland and Wellington), these discount passes will get you in for a fraction of the cost, when compared to paying for individual admission.
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