In two countries known for their long stretches of road and an endless supply of gorgeous scenery, selecting the best road trips is a tricky task. Our writer Scott, spent almost a year exploring this part of the world so we asked him to choose a few of his favourites…
When I look back at my adventures in Australia and New Zealand I realise a list like this could have been endless – these are two incredible travel destinations that seem to made for exploring by car. Some of the routes I have chosen for the scenery, others for cultural interest and the rest because they just offer a truly heart-stopping drive.
The Red Centre, Northern Territory
This area is arguably the most famous in Australia and should be added to everyone’s itinerary, although this area is important Aboriginal spiritual centre and it should be respected accordingly. I recommend driving through the vast red sands of the desert from Alice Springs to Uluru, especially if you have access to a 4WD (DriveNow.com.au have some great options). You should of course include Uluru and Kings Canyon on your trip but don’t make the same mistake others travellers make and miss out Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) – the most underrated highlight of this part of Australia.
The Nullarbor Plain, Western Australia and South Australia
You can travel to Nullarbor Plain by coach or train but I really think you’d be missing out if you didn’t try it by car. This is one of the longest road trips in the world and by far the longest on this list – at a leisurely pace it could take anywhere from seven to nine days to complete. The views of the vast, treeless landscapes dotted with the odd kangaroo mob are mesmerising and this journey is a once in a lifetime experience, despite its length.
Gibb River Road, Kimberley, Western Australia
One of the world’s last great wildernesses, Kimberley is possibly Australia’s most awe-inspiring landscape. It spans an area larger than Germany but only 30,000 people call this place home. The only option to get across the Kimberley is the Gibb River Road, a 660 km cattle track that realistically requires a 4WD to safely cross and even then it can be tricky. Allow it’s worth the risk, as you follow the track you will come across a series of beautiful gorges (Geike Gorge was my favourite) and the Bungle Bungle range, a distinctive set of beehive-shaped towers made up of sandstones.
The Great Ocean Road, Victoria
The Great Ocean Road is perhaps the most famous drive in Australia and trust me the 250 km journey along the gorgeous southern coastline is every bit as phenomenal as you’d expect. The most famous and probably key attraction is the Twelve Apostles, an imposing set of gigantic rocks nestled in the sea. During this drive also expect to see beautiful rainforests, interesting towns and some great surfing beaches.
Darwin to Kakadu and Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory
This is a must-do drive that leaves Darwin and heads 250 kilometres into Kakadu National Park, a beautiful area that has been listed as a World Heritage site. From there you should travel a further 500 kilometres to Litchfield Park where you can doing a bit of bushwalking, swimming in water holes and relaxing under waterfalls before making your way back to Darwin. Just make sure you avoid the crocs.
Christchurch to Malborough
If you travel all the way to New Zealand it would be rude not to sample some of the country’s famous white wine. I recommend you do this in Malborough, New Zealand’s largest wine-growing region. This is not one for the adrenalin seekers, more for those who love beautiful scenery and appreciate the finer things in life. The Canterbury countryside is idyllic and the road to Malborough will take you through Kaikoura, where you’ll be able to see the gorgeous Pacific Ocean. If you have time, indulge in a bit of whale watching where you might be able to catch a glimpse or two of some gigantic Sperm Whales before continuing to Malborough to sample the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc.
Wanaka to Queenstown
This is another great road trip on the South Island. The drive from Wanaka should include driving over the Cardona Pass, which is also home to the Cardrona Hotel – the oldest historic and most photographed hotels in New Zealand. The rest of the trip gets increasingly more thrilling as the roads get steeper and more challenging. The views of Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown make the tough terrain worth it. Once at the final destination, park up and enjoy some of the extreme sports that this town is famous for.
Te Anau to Milford Sound Highway
This is possibly one of the best drives you will ever have. It’s not the longest, but two hours after leaving Te Anau you will find yourself amongst thick rainforest, surrounded by mountains that are covered in moss and shrouded in clouds. You’ll also pass through the Homer Tunnel is which is an impressive 1200 metres long (and lots of fun to drive through). When you reach your final destination make sure you jump on a boat and enjoy a ride where you can witness some of the most amazing waterfalls, although be warned you’re more than likely to get wet.
Westport to Greymouth
The West Coast can be a challenging area to drive – it’s one of the wettest and windiest parts of the country – but this place is very special. Drive this route and you will see the majestic snow-capped Southern Alps and Punakaiki, a place of unusual rock formations that look very similar to layered pancakes.
Maraehako Bay to Whangara
This is definitely one for culture and history fans as this route will provide you with an interesting insight into the Maori culture. The area was Maori legend Paikea’s ancestral home and for starters, I recommend starting at Maraehako Bay Retreat which is Maori-owned and known for its friendly hospitality. From there head down the SH35 to Tikitiki where you will find St Mary’s Church. It looks plain from the outside but venture inside to find a huge collection of Maori ornaments. Also make sure you stop at Tokomaru Bay, Tolga Bay and one of the many towns on route to Whangara where you can learn more about the Maoris and even get involved in some of the activities on offer.