Undoubtedly known as one of the most spectacular places on earth, New Zealand is scenic and photogenic all at once. With an amazing range of breathtaking landscapes, subtropical forests, beaches, national parks, and islands, New Zealand has something for everyone. No better way to discover it than a New Zealand road trip.
No better than us to tell you which are the best routes to take, that will give you the best experience of a lifetime.
However, one single post alone wouldn’t do justice to capture all of its beauty. After all, the LOTR and the Hobbit movies would’ve been more than a day long affair, if they weren’t split into 3 movies. Below, we shall focus on the prominent highlights of one of the famous South Island road trip.
The Southern Sting Ray New Zealand road trip
Queenstown – Dunedin
Ignite your engine for your NZ road trip at Queenstown early in the morning after rejuvenating for a day and head towards the eastern coast. Post an hours drive, make a quick stop at the quaint town of Cromwell. Indulge your breakfast session along with some tropical ‘drupe’ a.k.a Stone Fruit and pick up a bottle of their native Wine for the night – that is processed at the basin of Central Otago.
Post breakfast at Cromwell, head out further towards the eastern coast of New Zealand road trip. Roll your window down and let your hair loose, as you feel the countryside’s wind blow beyond your imagination. From Cromwell, it will be around a 2½-3 hour drive to hit the coast. Take a detour up north of Dunedin, to have yourself marvelled amid the Moeraki Boulders along the shores just in time for sunset. It’s a pleasant 45 minute walk from the village to the boulders and you may be lucky enough to spot some yellow-eyed penguins and fur seals.
Drift down further for a couple of hours till you reach Dunedin at night, and retire for the day. Or if you feel that your day hasn’t come to an end – chill out at the Speight’s Ale House or at Pequeno for some laid-back jazz. For those looking for a little adventure – drive east beyond Sandymount in the Otago Peninsula and explore the paranormal chills at the Larnach Castle.
Total Time spent on Road : 5 – 6 Hours
Dunedin – Kaka Point
Wake up to the towns breathtaking sunrise over the Otago basin and enjoy a walk along the lakeside before you start your New Zealand road trip.
Or are you still tired from the previous day’s drive and yet want to explore some lovely scenery? Hop aboard the Taieri George Railway and pass through narrow tunnels, deep gorges, rugged canyons. This 2 hour one way trip comes in handy for those who plan a cycle back downhill along the Otago Central Rail Trail.
Re-Ignite your engines in the afternoon and pull the top of your car down as you whisk past the eastern coast of your New Zealand road trip. After a couple of hours drive and making quick photo-stops by the Taieri Beach and Toko Mouth, you will cross the Kaka Point just in time for sunset, and you will find yourself facing the king of the Catlin’s viewpoint. Walk up to the lighthouse at the edge of the Nugget Point and loose your inhibitions as you watch the sun sink into the western waters. Lodge the night at either Nugget or Kaka point.
Time spent on Road : 2 – 3 Hours
Nugget Point – Te Anau
Many feel the previous evening’s magic was not good enough to marvel their eyes at. So they drive back to the Nugget Point just in time for sunrise to enjoy a scenic breakfast on your New Zealand road trip by the bay as the waves tune their music by crashing into the cliffs. With a satisfied joy, we move ahead towards the other end of the coast. Detour in through the Catlins Forest Park and dip into the waters of the Purakaunui Waterfalls. Roll down further to Papatowai to watch the surfers work their magic into the waves and for a quick photo stop where the forest meets the sea.
Move up north along the S94 Highway and pass through some scenic villages like Edendale , Mossburn, and Lumsden. These pathways are blueprints given by nature for man to lay roads on and give the traveler a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As dusk takes its place in the skies, you would’ve started rolling into the Fiordland National Park from where the epic fjords have your jaw drop down at every corner you turn. Check into your accommodation at Te Anau and engage in some Kayaking into the waters surrounded by the mountains or check-in to the Redcliff Cafe or Black Dog Bar. Or did the long drive build up a good appetite? Feed the carnivore in you at the Fat Duck with their delicious Steak Burger.
Time spent on Road : 4½ – 5½ Hours
Te Anau – Milford Sound
So the road trail from Te Anau to the Milford Sound is said to be one of the scenic portions of Southern New Zealand road trip, but the challenge faced by people on the road is on where to hit the breaks, for the best photo stops. Well below you can find the top areas to hold your breath and fill the memory card in your camera. Starting from the Mistletoe Lake to the Humboldt Falls, these are some of the best parts making Fiordland a must visit for locals and travelers.
Are you an early riser? Or did the stars in the skies keep you up all night? Either way, it is totally worth to get to the basin of Lake Te Anau to experience the sunrise over the plans and mountains.
The highlights mentioned above are some of the best spots to stop along the side of the road to click the most scenic snaps. But the Eglinton Valley Highway connecting Lake Mistletoe and Lake Gunn is known to be the most romantic pathways that will make you want the New Zealand road trip not to end.
Tip: Try to start early in the morning or post 11am to avoid the tourist buses crowding up the roads and random photobombers.
A Selfie Stop at the Mirror Lake along with your reflection in the water (if possible) is totally worth diverting your route from the Key Summit to the Mackay Creek on your New Zealand road trip.
Check into your lodge along the shores of Milford Sound and get have your eyes treated by the shooting stars and the milky way (if you are lucky and travel at the right time) all night. The ambiance is said to work out its spell, in calming your nerves from the long drive along the fjords.
Time spent on Road : 3½ – 4½ Hours
Milford Sound – Queenstown
Wake up to a stunning sunrise over the avalanche of trees, that fall from the top of the sheer rocky cliffs to the dark waters. Cruise into the waters, as the majestic Mitre Peak rises dead ahead of the landscape that keeps your chin up and eyes popped out. The surrounding makes humanity seem tiny in comparison to nature’s vastness.
Post breakfast, pack yourself a picnic lunch or some quick bites for a long beautiful drive back to Queenstown in a path what we call as the ‘Horseshoe Trail’. Fill your gas tank up and head east to make a quick scenic photo stop at the foot of the Alpine range at Mt Christina. Re-live the scenic landscapes along the fjords of Fiordland as you drive back down to Te Anau.
Steer through the massive U- turn till you reach the quaint sheep village of Parawa. Move up ahead for an hour more till you reach the neck of Lake Wakatipu at the town of Kingston for some tea or stop at the Devil’s Staircase to enjoy a glass of wine as you bask in the view of the sun setting into the vast landscape. From here onwards, its just a 45 minute drive to Queenstown before you drop your vehicle and retire for the evening.
Time spent on Road : 4 – 5 Hours
Had your mind blown as you went through this Haj across Mother Nature’s Lap? Or are you Not able to keep the excitement within, as something inside tells you “I Have to go here NOW!!”..? Drop us a Postcard and let one of our New Zealand Experts make this a reality for you.