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Self drive New Zealand: Unmissable summer road trip destinations

Driving across Aotearoa is a prime way to soak up the beauty of New Zealand and experience a true taste of Kiwiland. So, this summer, get behind the wheels and park up at these amazingly beautiful destinations around our country.

Cape Reinga

At the top of New Zealand, Cape Reinga is the ultimate summer spot with Ninety Mile Beach and giant Te Paki sand dunes – perfect for sandboarding. It’s also the place of leaping – very sacred to the Maori community as it marks the final journey of the spirits of deceased Maori to their ancestral home of Hawaiki. As you’d expect in this part of the country, the beaches are epic; you can get off the main highway at a number of places to enjoy the sun, sand and water.

The Coromandel


Cool off with a swim and a kayak at Cathedral Cove

No Kiwi roadtrip is complete without a jaunt to The Coromandel – iconic for its crimson pohutukawa tree, coastal roads, camping and beaches. It is our summer playground, and it is simply gorgeous. Cathedral Cove is the regional (and country icon), with a gigantic arched cavern that passes through a white rock headland to join two secluded coves. Soak in the Hot Water Beach. Enjoy the kai moana (seafood) at one of the many eateries in Whitianga. Laze on the beaches at Waihi or Whangamata. There is no stopping this beauty in summer!


In the centre of it all, away from the beaches (but with 18 lakes!), Rotorua is a hot spot – both geothermal and cultural. To self drive in New Zealand without visiting this gem would be incomplete (okay, we’re a little bit bias, but we really love our backyard!) Think a thrilling luge, warm lakes and spa soaks. Visit a geothermal park to experience the raw anger of the earth. Then head to us for an Evening Experience at Tamaki Maori Village to understand how the Maori have lived on this steaming land for generations – our connection with the whenua.

Mount Maunganui

If you surf, this is one of the spots you wouldn’t want to miss when on a self drive vacation in New Zealand. “The Mount” is a relaxed beach town at the southern end of Tauranga Harbour. Here you can cruise, jet ski, kite surf and enjoy the beach. Make sure you get to the top of Mauao for some of the grandest views of the Pacific Ocean.


Take the road less travelled, by visitors of course because we locals love it, to the East Cape. The East Cape has beaches galore (Tolaga Bay and Waihau Beach are our favourites), horses everywhere and a very rich Maori culture waiting to be discovered.

Mount Cook


Quintessential New Zealand – the Hooker Valley, near Mount Cook, is a must-see

So much to love about New Zealand is right here, and summer is the perfect time to take it all in. It is located at the base of our highest mountain (Aoraki Mount Cook), features fabulous walks (must do the Hooker Valley Track), has the clearest skies in the world being an International Dark Sky Reserve and just a short distance away from this tiny township are the most stunning turquoise lakes you’ll ever see. Just park up and take it all in!

Milford Sound

You’ll drive on one of the most scenic roads in the world – Milford Road – to reach the fjords that have captured the imagination of millions. Featuring fabled mirror lakes and epic walks, Milford Sound and Fiordland are not your typical summer getaway, but will charm any holidaymaker who is looking for more than a sandy beach.


More laid-back than its sibling, Queenstown, Wanaka’s sublime lakeside setting and less cluttered street get our vote for a top summer spot. It’s not short of great cafes and restaurants, and you’re never too far from the excitement of Queenstown. Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park, which features stunning river valleys, remote wilderness and high mountains – ideal for summer hiking.


Everything you associate with summer is here in this tiny region on the top of the South Island – offering a true taste of Kiwi summer. Here, berry fruits abound, beaches are golden and the craft beer is epic. The region has a vibrant cafe culture and produces some of New Zealand’s best artisan fare. The Abel Tasman National Park, our smallest but grandest coastal experience is to be found here. Hire a kayak or strap your boots to enjoy the beauty of this seaside national park.


Coastal walks featuring seals, whale watching and the best crayfish you can find this side of the Tasman; Kaikoura is a spot of wonder on the Great Kiwi Roadtrip Classics. It is affected by earthquake currently, so check the routes carefully before driving here.


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