Top Four Most Scenic Drives of the South Island

New Zealand is the perfect destination for an awe-inspiring road trip. This is especially true for the South Island: it’s a paradise filled with jaw-dropping mountains, a rugged landscape, glacier lakes, and so much more. In fact, anywhere you look will be the most perfect view, so a road trip here is not one for car naps as you’ll want to take it all in as you drive to your next destination! This blog will show you the top four most scenic drives of the South Island, so buckle up and drive safely, because you’ll definitely want to include these destinations on your next vacation. 

The Milford Road

This is arguably one of the most famous road trips in New Zealand. The road to Milford Sound starts in Te Anau and will captivate you from the moment you press down on the accelerator pedal. It’s a 118-kilometre drive that finishes up at Milford Sound - a beautiful Fiordland once described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. The alpine trip will take you through the most beautiful sites. Keep a look out for mirror lakes and misty mountains as you drive through - a description made world-famous by the Lord of the Rings films. Other incredible sites include Lake Marian, Pop’s View, Key Summit hiking trail, the Chasm, and Eglinton valley. The end spot is the star of the show: Milford Sound is an incredible Fiordland that will undeniably take your breath away. With thundering waterfalls, towering mountains, and a serene lake, it’s the perfect spot to end such a beautiful road trip.

The Milford Road road trip can be taken by hiring a car from our Queenstown Airport location or our Invercargill Airport location

The road to Arthurs Pass.
Arthur’s Pass

This is a mountain pass that has been adored by millions of visitors across the world. Arthur’s Pass takes you across the Southern Alps from the west coast through to the east coast. It’s a 248-kilometre drive that will certainly have you constantly pressing your nose to the window for a better view! Make sure to fill up on petrol before you leave though, as there are no spots to refuel along the journey. Some notable stops include Porters Pass Lookout, where you’ll find rolling brown mountains, and the Castle Hill Rock Formations, which are eroded limestone sculptures. Then, there’s the Cave Stream which is a 362-metre cave system that you can wander through, as well as the incredible Arthur’s Pass Viaduct. Try and get here for either sunrise or sunset for an unforgettable moment. 

Arthur's Pass Road can be best explored by hiring a car from Greymouth Railway Station.

Gateway to Paradise

With a name like this, you know there’s the promise of an unforgettable road trip! The Gateway to Paradise takes you from Queenstown to Glenorchy. This 45-kilometre road trip might be short but it’s ever so beautiful as it features one of the most remote but jaw-dropping landscapes in the entire country . This road trip will take you along the Southern Alps as you follow the lakeside road: you’ll constantly see the incredible sights of the mountains soaring high above you as you drive through. If you can, continue to drive past Glenorchy once you’ve enjoyed visiting the town: this section of the journey will finish at Mt Aspiring National Park

The Gateway to Paradise road trip can be taken by hiring a car from our Queenstown location.

The Pancake Rocks near Punakaiki.
The West Coast

From Punakaiki to Lake Wanaka, this multi-day road trip takes you through some beautiful towns, scenic spots, and picture-perfect stops. You’ll drive through the remote but wildly rugged West Coast while undertaking the 507-kilometre journey - and with plenty of stops along the way, you can stretch out this trip for as long as possible! While driving you’ll see Haast Pass, Franz Joseph and the Fox Glacier, Pancake Rocks, Lake Matheson, Blue Pools, and Thunder Creek Falls, to name a few. We recommend stopping for a day or two in Franz Joseph if you can - and if you want a truly once in a lifetime trip, journey up the glacier in one of the helicopter rides offered there. It’s simply incredible. 

The West Coast trip is accessible by hiring a car from our Westport Airport location.

The South Island is full of road trips - simply head out for a drive and you’ll find the most incredible views that you’ll never find in another country. However, the four listed in this blog are some of the best road trips you can take. They are famous for a reason - with the best views everywhere you look, you simply must try at least one of them while holidaying on the South Island. Take your time and soak in every view you find - it’ll be worth it!

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