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, since not all of it can be properly appreciated from within the comfort of a car.
The official scenic routes on the North Island are:
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.
The best parts are between Blenheim and Kaikoura and between Timaru and Dunedin, since these parts are closest to the coast and will give you the opportunity to see the lovely Pacific Ocean.
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. And 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.
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:
Select a scenic route or highway from the drop-down list box below to have it appear on the New Zealand scenic highways map. Driving directions as suggested by Google Maps are displayed below the map.
Figure 1. Map of scenic driving routes and highways in New Zealand.
Note: Roads can be changed or get closed. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.
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