New Zealand packs a lot in for such a small country. Our mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers and beaches are all connected by spectacularly scenic roads that make journeying between destinations a real joy. Magnificent alpine scenery, jewel-coloured lakes, endless golden coastline and lush, verdant rainforests are some of the things you’re likely to see on the road. In New Zealand, the journey is just as beautiful as the destination. A small group coach tour is a great way to experience the beauty of our roads without the stress of getting behind the wheel – which for some involves coming to grips with driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road! Instead, you’re able to sit back and soak up the natural drama just outside your window.
Below, we’ve listed a few of our favourite stretches of road on tour – there are plenty of photo stops to make the most of the stunning surrounds!
Lindis Pass, Central Otago
This dramatic stretch of road links the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago and is characterised by towering mountains covered in golden tussock. For many months of the year, this area is home to dustings of snow; often down to the roadside. Big country surrounds the road, and rugged, isolated landscapes – punctuated by ribbons of pristine rivers - can be seen in all directions. You’ll enjoy taking breaks to stretch your legs or take photos and if you’re lucky, you will see various species of native bird live here, including the rifleman, fantail, grey warbler and falcon.
Milford Road, Fiordland
Milford Road is one of the most special roads in the country. Linking Te Anau with the natural wonderland of Milford Sound, this is a very special journey. Winding deep into the heart of Fiordland National Park, the road showcases glacier-carved valleys, mirror-like lakes, fields of golden tussock and mountain peaks often dusted with snow. Look out for the Eglinton Valley, once entirely filled with ice. Stop for a photo at the Mirror Lakes – on a still day, they perfectly reflect the Earl Mountains. Here, birdsong and the sounds of nature abound. Before descending into Milford Sound you’ll come to the 1.2km-long Homer Tunnel, carved entirely out of solid granite over a period of 20 years. Appreciate this man-made wonder before enjoying the spectacular drama of the Sound itself a few kilometres later.
The southern gateway to the West Coast, the landscapes surrounding Haast Pass are home to lush rainforest, rapids, wetlands and pristine, glacier-fed rivers. Winding over the Southern Alps, the pass is based on an old Maori track that was used in pre-European times and showcases some of the country’s most pristine beech forests. At the road’s edge lies a number of short walks that lead through rainforest to stunning waterfalls and bright blue pools – don’t miss this opportunity to experience a little bit of Mount Aspiring National Park, the boundary of which Haast Pass winds along.
In the heart of the Central Otago region lies the Kawarau Gorge, where the emerald green ribbon of the Kawarau River tumbles and roars through a deep, rocky valley. On all sides are towering cliffs and rugged, golden hillsides – this is old gold mining country. The road follows the flow of the river, threading its way along the gorge until it reaches the Gibbston Valley. The lookout at the Roaring Meg Power Station, on the banks of the river, is a great place to quickly stretch your legs and take a few pictures of this spectacular waterway.
While you could hire a car and explore these stunning roads independently, enjoying them by coach is twice the fun – there’s no need to worry about maps, directions or driving on the ‘right’ side; you’re able to kick back, relax and enjoy the beauty that’s unfolding just outside your window. Many of our MoaTrek small group tours incorporate these stunning driving experiences into their itineraries. Find out more here, or contact us now.