With so much to see that's off the beaten track, the best way to really experience New Zealand is by car. Pack your bags, rent some wheels and head for some of the most spectacular views on Earth…

Auckland to Omapere.

If you're planning a trip on the North Island and you want a mix of city life and scenic views, take the round trip from Auckland to Omapere - driving the tropical northern coast and returning via the Bay Of Islands and Whangerai.


Best stop-off: Paihia. It might be the busiest tourist destination in the Bay Of Islands, but Paihia is the departure point for most of the region's cruises - either hopping the islands in the archipelago, taking a day trip to Cape Reinga, or following one of the many dolphin pods that visit the bay.

Rotorua to Raglan and Lake Taupo.

Start out in Rotorua (just south of Tauranga) and head west to the hippie surf shacks of Raglan - heading back inland to Lake Taupo via Waitomo and back up to Rototua.


Best stop-off: Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Above ground, Waitomo is just a quaint dairy farm - but underground lies one of the most dazzling wonders of the natural world. Take a boat ride through a network of caves and marvel at the bioluminescent gnats that carpet the walls and ceiling.

Auckland to Wellington.

Cruise along the “Thermal Highway” between North Island's two great cities and past hot springs, mountains and geothermal pools before detouring through Tongariro National Park and hitting the vineyards of Martinborough.


Best stop-off: Queen Elizabeth Park. If you're a Lord Of The Rings fan, you won't be able to resist a stop at the ‘Hobbiton’ set at Matamata, but if you'd like one of the film's more authentic locations, check out Queen Elizabeth Park near Paraparaumu, which doubled for ‘Pelennor Fields’ in Return Of The King (and also makes a great picnic spot!)

Christchurch to Queenstown.

If you're staying in Christchurch, take the breathtakingly scenic TranzApline train over the Southern Alps to Greymouth, running along the west coast to Queenstown. The route will take you through the rainforests and mountain passes that make up New Zealand's most dramatic World Heritage region.


Best stop-off: Fox Glacier. If you're heading down Highway 6 you can't miss Fox Glacier on the edge of Aoraki National Park. Not only is it one of the biggest and best glaciers in the region, it's also one of the most accessible - with helicopter hikes and ice climbing adventures for adrenaline junkies and still-surreal ice-walks for everyone else.

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