There’s no better time than summer for exploring the wide open spaces and hidden highlights of the open road, especially in the southern countries of Australia and New Zealand. Not every route is ideal for a summer road trip however - for example, attempting to traverse Australia’s Red Centre is much easier and more pleasant during cooler months. In spite of this, there are dozens of incredible places in NZ and Aussie that are ideal for a summer vacation on the road with a car hire
- we take a look at just a few of the very best below.
Hobart to Port Arthur and Freycinet National Park
While the central Outback is a forbidding oven during the summer, if you head further south you’ll find a slice of Australia that is ideal for summer road tripping: the island state of Tasmania. Tassie’s temperate climate lends itself perfectly to travelling under sunny skies - and the climate is far from the only reason to visit this amazing place.
You’ll want to start out from Hobart but before you pick up your car rental
and head on your way, take some time to explore this exciting coastal city. If you happen to make it to the city sometime around New Years, you’re in for a real treat. Hobart’s Summer Festival runs from late December to early January and one of the most popular features of the fest is the Taste of Tasmania. You’ll find both local and international delicacies at Taste but a special emphasis is placed on Tasmanian food and drink.
Whether or not you can make it in time for the Summer Festival, it’s worth planning a trip to the Salamanca Market. Every Saturday, vendors come to Salamanca Place and offer fresh local produce, ethnic street food and delicious locally sourced treats, clothes, leather goods and more.
If you’ve got the kids with you, consider heading along the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. Not only will you be able to see fascinating Aussie animals in an environment carefully crafted to resemble their natural habitat. Night tours are a particular highlight, allowing you to see what Bonorong’s nocturnal denizens get up to when the sun goes down.
About an hour and a half from Hobart lies Port Arthur - the former site of one of Australia’s most notorious prisons, and Tasmania’s leading tourist attraction. Walking among the ruins (some eerily decrepit, others remarkably well preserved) is a solemnly tranquil experience. Some will be content with the standard tour, but there’s also the option of taking a trip out to the Isle of the Dead, Port Arthur’s convict graveyard - the stout of heart might even be interested in a nighttime “ghost story” tour.
Once you leave the haunting ruins behind, it’s time for a 3 hour trip up along the Great Oyster Bay coastline, where you have the chance to see dolphins and fur seals frolicking offshore, to reach the stunningly beautiful Freycinet National Park. If you’re not sure where to go first, try Wineglass Bay. Named among the top ten beaches in the world by a number of different travel authorities, Wineglass Bay combines gorgeous sands with magnificent surroundings - the deep green bush and looming granite peaks add to the sense of seclusion and wild beauty that is evident throughout Freycinet.
Do be sure to book your accommodation and transport as soon as possible for this road trip, as Freycinet National Park in particular can get a little busy during the summer months.
For those who want to start out from a city other than Hobart in Tasmania, take a look at the Launceston Airport Car Hire
Nelson to Queenstown
It’s hard to find a bad place for a summer road trip in the beautiful country of New Zealand. Whether you head to sub-tropical Northland, the breezy beaches of the Bay of Plenty or the southern rainforests of the Catlins, God’s Own Country is sure to oblige you with spectacular scenery and friendly locals. But if you had to pick just one NZ road trip route, you could do a lot worse than following State Highway 6 from Nelson to Queenstown.
Nelson is one of the sunniest cities in the nation, and is surrounded by top-notch wineries, a world famous nature trail and secluded golden sand beaches. If sitting in the shade on a sunny day, sipping a glass of wine and sampling a cheese platter sounds like a bit of you, booking a wine tour before you leave Nelson is a must. These generally come with transport from your accommodation and back again so there’s no need to argue over who’s going to take driving duties; the tour guides are well versed in the history of the area and can provide intriguing tidbits of local trivia along the way. If you have the time to explore a little outside of Nelson, heading for Abel Tasman National Park is a great choice. Not only is the Abel Tasman Coast Track one of the best walking tracks in the country, but just next door is the secluded Golden Bay.
Stop in Punakaiki to get a close up view of the bizarre Pancake Rocks - you might even be lucky enough to spot a native fur seal. Greymouth has an excellent brewery tour while Hokitika boasts an excellent annual Wildfoods Festival that you may be in town for if you take a late summer trip.
Driving a little further south you’ll head inland to Franz Josef Glacier. Make sure to set aside a day to explore the wonders of this massive frozen river.
The Gates of Haast lie ahead of you now - this is a region renowned for its ecotourism and is home to a large number of rare and endangered native species.
Leaving the coast for the final time, you’ll drive through Mount Aspiring National Park before skirting the shore Lake Hawea and arriving in the quaint tourist town of Wanaka. Families will love Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World, a realm of illusion and mind bending conundrums. Make sure to catch a film at the local Cinema Paradiso, where you can watch the feature presentation from the comfort of a sofa, armchair or classic car - plus, halfway through the movie they sell freshly baked cookies! What more can you ask for?
Just over an hour from Wanaka is your final destination: Queenstown. Known as the Adventure Capital of World, this is a place that knows how to cater to thrill seekers. Skydiving, paragliding, bungy jumping, whitewater rafting… it is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise. Fortunately for those who are not so recklessly inclined, it’s a natural paradise as well. Set on the shores of the crystal clear Lake Waktipu, in the shadow of the jagged Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown is the prize jewel in the South Island’s crown. Enjoy a gourmet meal with a lakeside view, head out to nearby Cromwell to sample the fine vintages that Otago is famous for, or drop in to an ice bar to meet new people in an undeniably cool setting - the choice is yours. If you want to venture a bit further, and drive in the opposite direction, consider a Christchurch Airport car hire
Check out all of the other Airport Rentals New Zealand car hire
options on offer. New Zealand's south island not take your fancy? Take a look at what Airport Rentals has on offer for car hire at Auckland Airport
The Great Ocean Road
For our last pick, we’ve chosen a route that is not only a classic Australian road trip but one of the greatest coastal journeys on earth. Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, the Great Ocean Road is the world’s largest war memorial.
Starting from the city of Torquay (a little southwest of Melbourne
) you’ll trace your way along the southern coastline of Victoria. This a much shorter trip than the other two, but it’s still well worth taking your time to fully experience all the breathtaking scenery along the way.
With the sea on one side, and a mixture of rolling hills and fertile vineyards on the other, road trippers are treated to a multifaceted scenic banquet. The most famous of the sights along the way is the Twelve Apostles - a series of sandstone pillars that march along the coast, partially submerged beneath the waves. These eye-catching formations lie within Port Campbell National Park, which has a number of natural attractions to tempt the curious traveller. There’s excellent reef and wreck diving just off the coast, and a number of brilliant walking tracks including the Bay of Martyrs Walk and the Port Campbell Discovery Walk.
It will take you less than an hour to reach your final destination of Allansford once you leave Port Campbell, and although the entire trip may take you no more than a day, there’s no doubt that you’ll carry fond memories of your time on the Great Ocean Road for many years to come.
A car hire from Melbourne Airport
is the way to go for your Great Ocean Road adventure or flip the trip around by starting with an car hire from Adelaide Airport