New Zealand scenic highways and routes

Get a list of official touring routes in New Zealand with a map displaying each scenic highway along with driving distances, directions, and driving times.

Apart from the fact that you can get in a car and drive to almost anywhere in New Zealand to find scenic spots, there are a couple of official scenic routes and highways that you could also follow to see nice scenery.


The terms nice scenery and scenic route pretty much depend on the preferences and judgment of the person who designated such places or routes as scenic.

Therefore, not all of these routes will have a big emotional impact on you from a photographer’s point of view, and do not forget to take the time to stop to enjoy the scenery once in a while, because not all of it can be properly appreciated from within the comfort of a car.

Official scenic highways on the North Island

The official scenic routes on the North Island are:

Official scenic highways on the South Island

The official scenic routes on the South Island are:

From the scenic driving routes mentioned above, I would say that the Canterbury Pacific Highway is a good one to do, but then extend it and drive from Blenheim all the way down to Dunedin.

Scenic driving route in New Zealand

The best parts are between Blenheim and Kaikoura and between Timaru and Dunedin, because these parts are closest to the coast and will give you the opportunity to see the lovely Pacific Ocean, especially when driving in clockwise direction on the South Island.

You can also stop along the way to really enjoy the sound of breaking waves. Driving all the way down to Dunedin would also allow you to stop at Moeraki to see the Moeraki Boulders. While I’m not a big fan of Dunedin, the city has nice beaches north and south of it.

Inland Scenic Route 72 may not have a big emotional impact on you, but I like it a lot for the emptiness of the roads. It is a really relaxing drive to do and a lot of the roads are nice and straight. It also crosses two rivers, the Raikaia River and the Waimakariri River, so those would be two places to briefly stop at.

Driving distances for scenic highways in New Zealand

The scenic highways and routes as well as the driving directions, driving distances, and driving times for those routes shown on the map at the bottom of this page are automatically calculated by Google Maps and may not always be accurate, but should give you a good idea of how long each route is or would take to drive.


The driving distances listed below are according to what Google Maps has calculated them to be.

Note that these calculations may differ from time to time and/or from future calculations.

Distances for North Island scenic highways:

Note: For the Thermal Explorer Highway, the branch from Hamilton to Waitomo and back is about 164 km (102 mi) long and is estimated to take about 2 hours and 20 minutes (return) to drive.

Alternatively, you could take a shorter route to get back onto the Thermal Explorer Highway when you are driving back from Waitomo to Hamilton.

Distances for South Island scenic highways:

Maps with scenic driving routes and highways in New Zealand

Click on a scenic route or highway to open a map in Google Maps.

North Island scenic highways

Trip Distance Time
Twin Coast Discovery Highway 789 km / 490 mi 11:59 hrs
Pacific Coast Highway 1065 km / 662 mi 15:58 hrs
Thermal Explorer Highway 615 km / 382 mi 08:08 hrs
Thermal Explorer Highway – Volcanic Loop 281 km / 175 mi 03:35 hrs
The Forgotten Highway 43 149 km / 93 mi 02:11 hrs
The Surf Highway 105 km / 65 mi 01:25 hrs

South Island scenic highways

Trip Distance Time
Alpine Pacific Triangle 445 km / 277 mi 06:25 hrs
Canterbury Pacific Highway 347 km / 216 mi 05:00 hrs
Great Alpine Highway 245 km / 152 mi 03:24 hrs
Inland Scenic Route 72 216 km / 134 mi 02:47 hrs
Southern Scenic Route 486 km / 302 mi 06:26 hrs

This article falls under Scenic Drives.

Note: Roads can be changed or get closed. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.

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