Themed Highways

New Zealand’s carefully selected themed highways guide you through some of the best scenery and most enjoyable destinations the country has to offer. Look out for the distinctive brown signs that mark them when travelling, or plan ahead to travel one or more of them as part of your New Zealand road trip.

Thermal Explorer Highway

For a journey into the mystical heartland of New Zealand, resonant with Maori culture and geothermal activity, take to the road on the Thermal Explorer Highway. From its beginning in Auckland, this touring route visits some of the nation’s most famous destinations, from the geothermal areas of Lake Taupo, Ruapehu and Rotorua, to the eerie underground world of the Waitomo Caves. (This itinerary can also be combined with the Pacific Coast Highway for those with more time to explore.)

Pacific Coast Highway

If you’re looking to sample New Zealand’s coast and culture, the Pacific Coast Highway is a great option. Beginning in Auckland and following the North Island’s spectacular east coast, you’ll discover wonderful beaches and craft galleries in The Coromandel, surf culture and forest walks in the Bay of Plenty, and wineries and heritage in the remote Eastland region and Art Deco capital of Napier in Hawke’s Bay.

The Twin Coast Discovery Highway

Beginning in Auckland, this very popular themed touring route takes visitors on a circular journey around New Zealand’s subtropical north. Enjoy coastal scenery (including fantastic beaches!) and a great range of water adventures as you visit Whangarei, the Bay of Islands, Kaitaia, Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach. The Twin Coast Discovery Highway also forms the basis for a series of themed trails to suit all kinds of interests, from heritage and wine trails, to golf and art trails.

The Treasured Pathway

Introducing visitors to Marlborough and Nelson in the northern South Island, The Treasured Pathway covers more than 260 kilometres from Picton, through the peaceful coves of the Marlborough Sounds, the bustling cultural community of Nelson and the sandy beaches of Golden Bay, to Farewell Spit.

Southern Scenic Route

If you’re interested in exploring New Zealand’s spectacular wilderness, the Southern Scenic Route is perfect. Beginning in Dunedin, where wildlife such as penguins, fur seals and Royal Albatross are easily accessible, through the magnificent coastal forests of the Catlins and the southern city of Invercargill, it concludes at the lakeside settlement of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park.

Great Alpine Highway

The Great Alpine Highway traverses the South Island from Christchurch City to Greymouth on the West Coast. In just a little over 250 kilometres, drivers will encounter a wide variety of landscapes, from wide-open plains to rugged, snow-capped mountains and green rainforest-clad hills.

Alpine Pacific Triangle

Blending eco-adventure and indulgence, the Alpine Pacific Triangle links some of the South Island’s most popular visitor destinations – the wildlife of Kaikoura, the wineries of the Waipara Valley and the thermal resort of Hanmer Springs.

Other Themed Highways To Explore

Surf Highway 45 and the Forgotten World Highway in Taranaki, the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail from Hawke’s Bay to Marlborough and Inland Scenic Route 72 in Canterbury. The drive from Haast to Jacksons Bay has been rated as one of the top 10 road trips in the world by Lonely Planet‘s Bluelist.

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