The US has Route 66 and Europe has its diverse cultures and historic landmarks, but there’s no doubt that New Zealand and Australia can still rival the best of the Northern Hemisphere when it comes to road trip territory. Many of these Antipodean road trip routes have become famous - the Red Centre journey through the heart of the Australian Outback, the unbelievably scenic Christchurch/Queenstown/Milford Sound drive through New Zealand’s South Island, the east coast odyssey from Sydney up to Brisbane… but for your next getaway, why not get away from the throngs of long weekend holidaymakers and discover something new? The journeys below still take advantage of the spectacular landscapes of these two (very different) southern nations, but they aren’t renowned tourist magnets, which will let you enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscapes without having to fight through heavy traffic or annoying crowds - win/win!
New Zealand’s west coast, Auckland to Wellington
Taking a road trip from Auckland to Wellington isn’t unusual, but the vast majority of those who drive between New Zealand
’s two largest cities take the most direct route down the centre of the island. Those who decide to opt for alternative scenery along the way go through the pretty art deco city of Napier, but few opt for the western route, in spite of its many attractions.
The first part of your trip after you pick up your Auckland car rental won’t differ greatly from the standard trip south, as you head down State Highway 1 toward Hamilton
. If you love beautiful green spaces, it’s worth heading to the city just for the Hamilton Gardens, a public garden park which features extravagantly themed enclosed gardens, otherwise you’ll want to detour around Hamilton to the west and head straight for Waitomo. Almost all New Zealanders know of the Waitomo Caves, but even many Kiwis still haven’t visited this huge cave system renowned for its impressive stalagmites and stalactites, and the countless glowworms that lend a gentle, phosphorescent glow to the subterranean darkness.
Shortly after Waitomo you’ll start curving toward the coast to drive along the North Taranaki Bight, before arriving at New Plymouth
. The largest city of the Taranaki region, New Plymouth is well known as a major event centre, hosting large scale fests like the Taranaki Powerco Garden Spectacular and the TSB Bank Festival of Lights. However, Easter weekend travellers will be more interested in the city’s year-round attractions like the visually arresting Len Lye Centre art space and the scenic Coastal Walkway, an 11 kilometre seaside promenade which equally perfect for an early morning job or a leisurely evening stroll.
As you head on along the coast-hugging State Highway 45, make sure you stop in at Opunake Beach providing the weather is kind. This great surf beach for beginners and veterans alike, and its sandy beach and tidy waves make it popular with casual swimmers and sunbathers too.
After you continue south past the pun-laden town of Bulls (even the police station is labelled “Consta-bull”!) you’ll come across the gorgeous Kapiti Coast, one of the most beautiful examples of small town coastal New Zealand. Once you’ve left the Kapiti Coast behind, you’re just down the road from Wellington. This isn’t just New Zealand’s capital but a mecca of art and culture - not to mention great food!
Brisbane to Eulo
The Warrego Highway, also known as ‘Adventure Way’, follows the old Cobb & Co. stagecoach track west from Brisbane into the outback, allowing holidaymakers to retrace the journeys of hardy 19th century Australians. Those who want to follow the Warrego Highway all the way to its end will turn around at Innamincka, just over the border in South Australia, but Easter weekend travellers may find that tackling the entire Adventure Way then heading back to Brisbane again in the space of 4 days is a bit of a big ask - stopping at Eulo will give you plenty of time to appreciate the heritage and explore the landscape of this history-laden route.
Once you’ve got your Brisbane car rental
sorted and are on your way west, you’ll reach the city of Toowoomba
in around an hour and a half. Famous for its genteel beauty, Toowoomba is a place of gardens, universities and cathedrals - for a leisurely start to your journey, spend a few hours soaking in the serenity of the city’s picturesque parks and cathedrals.
Dalby, another hour and a bit down the road, is a great place to delve into early Australian pioneer history thanks to the Pioneer Park Museum, while those wanting to get out and about can explore the Bunya Mountain National Park.
Keen anglers will want to bring their fishing tackle along on this trip: the town of St George straddles the Balonne River which has a reputation as an excellent spot to snag Murray Cod and Yellowbelly. Those less keen on the joys of fishing may want to head out Riversands Vineyards for a free personalised wine tasting (they’re especially well known for their ports and muscats) or a bite to eat in the garden cafe.
Although Eulo is a small outback town, primarily sustained by opal mining, that doesn’t mean it’s without tempting attractions. Australia’s most remote winery can be found here, Palm Grove Date Farm and Winery. Don’t leave without trying some of their distinctive date wine and indulging your sweet tooth with one or two other tasty date products. There’s also the luxurious Artesian Mud Baths. Wine, tasty nibbles, relaxing milky grey mud baths… if that’s doesn’t make for a fantastic culmination of a long road trip, I don’t know what does.
East Cape, Auckland to Gisborne
Like so many other Kiwi road trips, this one starts with picking up an Auckland car rental
but instead of curving westward like the Wellington trip above, this journey will send you veering off east toward the sparsely populated East Cape, effectively stepping back in time several decades to a slower-paced, simpler New Zealand.
Instead of carrying on down State Highway 1 toward Hamilton, take SH 2 toward Tauranga and the Coromandel to begin your eastward journey. Make sure you turn left toward Ngatea when given the chance in order to take the scenic route to the east coast. This road will take you through Paeroa, “world famous in New Zealand” as the home of L&P (or Lemon and Paeroa), a distinctly Kiwi soft drink. Shortly after you leave Paeroa, you’ll be surrounded by the rich foliage of the winding Karangahake Gorge. Emerging from the serpentine curves of the gorge, you’ll be not much more than half an hour from Katikati - a lovely little town that may not merit a long visit, but be sure to keep an eye out for the many murals as you pass through.
The sunny city of Tauranga
makes for a brilliant place to end a day’s journey. If the weather’s fine, a visit to the golden sands of nearby Mount Maunganui beach is an excellent way to pass several hours - and those seeking a pleasant walk need look no further than Mauo, the extinct volcano at the end of the peninsula. Take it easy with a relaxed stroll around its base or exert yourself a little in pursuit of amazing views from the summit.
Continue east with the shining waters of the Bay of Plenty on your left, through the town of Whakatane, and up along the East Cape itself. Don’t rush this part of the journey - this is a place well suited to a slower pace, and you’ll be glad of the chance to take in remote coastal vistas. Make sure you bring a tent along - there are quite a number of places where you can free camp, and the East Cape is ideal for a rustic Kiwi camping holiday. Hicks Bay in particular is a charming little settlement near the northern tip of the region, perfect for setting up camp and staying a day or two with no agenda and no responsibilities.
From Hicks Bay it’s less than 3 hours drive beside rivers and bays to reach your ultimate destination, the city of Gisborne
. Whether you choose to get a taste of the local culture or the local wine, you’ll find plenty in New Zealand’s easternmost city to enjoy at the end of your journey.
Perth to Kalamunda
It’s no secret that you don’t have to go far from Perth to find incredible road trip locations, but many never suspect that there are amazing places to visit in the hills that can be seen from the city itself. One of the best parts about getting a Perth car rental
and taking a trip out into the hills east of the city is the fact that you don’t have to dedicate much time to actually getting there, but can instead spend more time enjoying the attractions of the region.
Mountain biking enthusiasts would do well to find a way to bring their bike along as the Kalamunda Trails area is Western Australia’s most popular mountain biking destination, with a large range of top notch trails in the midst of both State Forest and National Park. However, those who prefer to do their exploring with their own two feet rather than two wheels have plenty of options
available to them. One of the most famous of these is the Bibbulmun Track, one of the world’s longest walking tracks at nearly 1000 km, though of course you can opt to tackle a much more bite sized portion.
If that all sounds far too strenuous for your kind of Easter weekend, you might find a visit to Mundy Regional Park more to your taste. Lesmurdie Falls Picnic Area is a local favourite with stunning views nearby - bring a picnic lunch along and remember to bring your own drinking water as there’s none available here. Indulging your inner foodie is another relaxing way to spend your time in this scenic hill country. The Bickley Valley & Carmel Wine Route is an idyllic journey that wends its way past boutique wineries, open gardens, fresh produce stalls and cute cafes, allowing plenty of flexibility for you to decide which of these gastronomic delights to indulge in.