Great New Zealand road trips: Fantastic four-wheeled adventures

Hit the road with your own set of wheels and discover New Zealand at your leisure. Do it the motorised way or by pedal power (if you have enough puff). The roads aren’t crowded, the folk are friendly and the landscapes look like movie backdrops. Remember, it’s as much about the journey as the destination. Get ready to burn some rubber!

Auckland to Kerikeri

Cross the Auckland harbour bridge and head north. You’ll soon stumble upon sub-tropical beaches where you'll want to swap steering wheels for rubber rings. Pause to pick up creamy Puhoi Valley brie and smooth Matakana chardonnay, then picnic at the sand-fringed Mangawhai estuary. Sober up in the spooky cool of Waipu’s caves then cruise the scenic highway to Paihia, in the heart of the Bay of Islands.

Board the car ferry for the short hop across the bay to historic Russell – once a lawless port of whalers and deserters, now cute with harbour cafes. Power north to see the country’s oldest wooden building at Kerikeri. Stop at a roadside stall en route and get all dribbly over the juiciest oranges you'll ever taste.

Wellington to Napier

Journey from art Mecca to art deco, via the slalom bends of the Rimutaka Hills – if you can bear to tear yourself away from Wellington’s urban eateries and cable car views. As you whizz through the Wairarapa region, take time to enjoy Featherston’s museums, Greytown’s collectibles, Carterton’s jewellery and Martinborough’s wines.

Continue north through farm and forest to Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre, where New Zealand’s most endangered species hang out. Stop for a taste at quirky Tui Brewery, enjoy the Scandinavian heritage of Dannevirke and keep an eye on the changing light of the Ruahine Ranges. Then count the sheep and vineyards all the way down to elegant, art deco Napier. The city was re-built in the classic early 20th-century style after a devastating earthquake in 1931.

Greymouth to the Glaciers

Your wild west coast journey begins near Greymouth at Punakaiki, where roaring seas pound pancake-like rock stacks and blowholes boom. Follow the bushy coastal highway to Shantytown and try your luck panning for gold. Hokitika, with its stunning mountain backdrop, is next. Take time to visit jade-carving artisans or feast on local wild foods. Deep-fried huhu grub anyone?

Rugged remote beaches and lush rainforest lead south to Ross, crammed with goldfields history. Detour to glassy Okarito Lagoon for a glimpse of rare white heron. Birdwatching needs satisfied, it's onwards to glacier country. Park up and hike to the icy blue faces of Franz Josef or Fox Glacier. Or – if you feel like letting someone else do the driving for a change – view them by heart-stopping scenic flight.

Christchurch to Queenstown

Bid a fond farewell to Christchurch’s parks, gardens and museums and cross patchwork plains to foodie Geraldine. It’s packed with gourmet grub including chutneys and cheeses, so cram your car for a picnic. Farmland leads the way to tiny Fairlie, where alpacas outnumber humans, before the road climbs sharply to Burkes Pass. Pause for refreshment and fine views at its old colonial pub. Afterwards, descend to the icy-blue, glacier-fed Lake Tekapo and visit the cute little church on its shore.

Pull over at Lake Pukaki, where views of Aoraki/Mt Cook have a definite 'wow' factor.Then it’s off to Queenstown. After all that driving, you'll probably want a long rest. Don't count on getting much sleep in New Zealand’s biggest tourist town though: bungy jumping, jet boating, climbing and skiing are the norm here.