4 Amazing Coastal Drives in New Zealand You Shouldn’t Miss
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New Zealand’s coastal beauty is no secret. This little island country has beaches for miles, and its scenic drives are second-to-none. That’s why we reckon every keen traveller should take the time to load up the car and get exploring on some of New Zealand’s beautiful coastal roads.
But which route should you choose in a country chock-full of amazing coastal drives? We’ve managed to whittle it down to the top four – so rent yourself a campervan or a zippy car and hit the road.
- The Great Coast Road
We couldn’t write up a list of the most amazing coast drives in NZ without mentioning the Great Coast Road. Traversing a portion of New Zealand’s West Coast, the Great Coast Road will have you driving from Westport to Greymouth, given the wild topography that this part of the South Island is famous for. You’ll wonder whether you’ve ventured into untouched territory!
In gorgeous Southland, you’ll have your pick of prime lookout points for requisite photo opportunities. In addition to the amazing mountain views, Great Coast Road encompasses the famous pit-stop destinations of Nine Mile beach and the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.
- Haast Pass
Found in the incomparable Central Otago region, the Haast Pass drive is widely reputed as one of New Zealand’s best. At 140 kilometres long, this drive joins Haast – a charming coastal town – to the popular tourist destinations of Wanaka and Queenstown. If you’re flying into Queenstown, simply rent a car from the airport and drive straight on through to the West Coast via Haast Pass Road.
Do it in the winter, and you’ll be able to feel the fresh, biting air rushing in your car window, as well as to glimpse the ice-capped mountains to either side. Plus, if you’re into your waterfalls, Haast Pass is definitely the drive for you: along the way, you’ll find myriad nature hikes and falls to break up your drive.
Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook
Photo Credit: Paul Bica via Flickr under License
- Mission Bay, Auckland
If you need to stay close to the city but are still looking to get a taste of the genuine Kiwi roadie, then driving the Tamaki Road to Mission Bay just outside of central Auckland is a fantastic compromise.
You’ll cross various landmarks on the short 15-minute drive out there, from the Parnell Rose Gardens to the culturally-significant Okahu Bay. When you hit Mission Bay proper, you’ll be greeted by the imposing Savage Memorial at the top of Bastion Point, and can catch sight of incredible views of the Hauraki Gulf. And of course, Mission Bay is one of the best beaches around, with a collection of lively cafes and restaurants just across the road for when that post-swim hunger hits.
- East Cape
Driving New Zealand’s East Cape is quickly emerging as a must-do for locals and visitors alike. The good news, though, is that most people still don’t know about it, so you’re unlikely to have traffic to contend with when travelling these roads! The East Cape’s located in the North Island, and will take you around some of the most culturally significant sites in the country (this region remains heavily Maori-influenced, so if you’re interested in New Zealand’s native culture, making a road trip around the East Cape will be right up your alley).
Prime pit-stops along this route include the East Cape lighthouse, found at the easternmost point of NZ, and the black-sand beach of Tolaga Bay. Make sure you take home a piece of driftwood – a signature of this region’s beaches!
Although freelance writer Harper has travelled to dozens of amazing cities and countries, there will always be no place like home for her – New Zealand. To read more about Harper and her published work, see her Tumblr page.