New Zealand’s Great Drives

Great Drives….

This section will be added to from time to time.

In New Zealand the low population and a well maintained roading system mean driving is can still be a pleasure. This page details some of the great drives that can be experienced here, with incredible vistas, great roads and a brilliant car your trip will be one of a lifetime!

Car ownership rates here are among the highest in the world and public travel systems are comparatively under-developed. With some exceptions like the excellent Tranzalpine train between Christchurch and Greymouth, train travel is limited to a single north-south line from Christchurch to Auckland, and characterised by old and slow trains.

These examples here are just a sample of the great touring roads in the South Island.
Because the pleasures of open top motoring are so similar to motorcyle touring, we supply a copy of the excellent NZ Motorcycle Atlas by Peter Mitchell which lists 100 favourite roads, each rated with smileys for their road conditions, traffic and scenic qualities.

Bealey Bridge, Otira Gorge – From Christchurch to Arthurs Pass and Greymouth on State Highway 73MX5attack

Leaving Christchurch westward on Yaldhurst Road the road climbs gradually up the flat farmlands of the Canterbury plains through the small townships of Darfield and Springfield to the foothills of the Southern Alps where the scenery changes and the road becomes much more windy. Climbing on the narrow road through the native beech forest to Arthurs Pass township is one of the best driving roads in the country. Spectacular mountain views and steep roads continue on to the top of the pass then the new viaduct swoops you down to Otira to the rainforests and mist of the beautiful west coast.

Stop at the carpark at the top of the pass and you might see the friendly native Kea alpine parrots who regrettably have long sharp beaks and and a appetite for rubber trim or convertible tops – so beware!

Kaikoura – From Christchurch head north on State Highway 1

Seals in the pools at the Ohau Seal Colony Kaikoura Coast
While the first kilometres of this road are less exciting, you soon reach the grape growing area of Waipara where it’s worth stopping to try some of the local wines. From there the road winds on over the Hurunui River and through the Cheviot downs into the more exciting Hunderlee hills with tight curves and green valleys.
At Oaro the coast is rejoined and then you cruise along close to the really spectacular coast. Kaikoura township itself is nestled at the base of a small peninsula jutting out towards the Kaikoura Trench with the spectacular Seaward Kaikoura Ranges towering above it. This area as a result attracts a huge variety wildlife including whales, dolphins, seals and birds as well as plenty of fishing opportunities so plan on spending some time here!




State Highway 1 (SH1) north of Kaikoura re-opened on the 15th of December 2017 – one year, one month and one day after the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016. This is fantastic as it reconnects the coastal corridor and neighbouring communities that have been separated since the earthquake, and it also connects Christchurch to Picton.
What you need to know, if you’re travelling between Christchurch to Kaikoura, or Kaikoura to Picton:
The road is open from 7am til 8.30pm each day, but there are road works continuing throughout the day. This means speeds will be limited, and there may be delays, so plan accordingly.
If you’d like to find out more about the re-opening of the road, and the Kaikoura earthquake –  click here to read more


Akaroa and Banks Peninsula – Just 1 hour from Christchurch 

Enjoy an MX5 through the twists of Banks Peninsula
From central Christchurch you can exit the city either east on the main street – Colombo street – and up onto the Port Hills to follow the top of Lyttelton Harbour or take Lincoln Road which winds around the edges of Banks Peninsula as it meets the Canterbury Plains. We would suggest going one way and returning the other but either way they meet up on SH75 to follow the delightfully curvy road past Lake Ellesmere towards Lake Forsyth. Little River township is worth a visit for coffee then head on up the smooth and windy road to Hilltop. From the Hilltop you either descend to Duvauchelle (early French influences here) or turn left to follow the
summit road with wonderful views to contour around the crater rim. Both roads
rejoin at Takamatua only a few kilometres from Akaroa township. The roads and
views here will put a smile on your face.

Queen Charlotte Drive – From Picton to Havelock