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New Zealand Tours | Top 5 South Island Drives

New Zealand scenery is brimming with picture-perfect landscapes and awe-inspiring views, so you’ll leave this island with your eyes wide open and your camera well-used.

New Zealand driving routes

So if you're looking to fizz up your vacation itinerary a little, read on for our top five scenic drives in the South.

Te Anau to Milford Sound.

The road to Milford Sound offers some of the most beautiful and iconic scenery in the country. From crystal clear lakes and towering mountains to lush glacier formed meadows, this area is dramatic and unyielding. Stretch your legs on the Chasm Walk, a short stroll through native beech forest to see several powerful waterfalls. Continue on through the Homer Tunnel, an engineering marvel at 1219 meters long. Arriving into the village of Milford, you will be greeted with an amazing view of Mitre Peak. A day cruise into the heart of the sound with Real Journeys is not to be missed. You’ll learn about how this magnificent area was formed and experience the wonder of the falls that line the Fiord.

Queenstown to Haast, West Coast.

Crossing the Crown Range, the highest sealed road in the country, you arrive into the picturesque lakeside resort town of Wanaka. The route then follows the shores of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea before you enter the township of Makarora, gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park. Just past here is the Blue pools a spectacular 30 minute walk through pristine native beech forest. Descending into Mt. Aspiring National Park and towards the Haast Pass, crashing rivers and waterfalls are around every corner. Crossing the Haast River you are now truly on the wild West Coast, a 600 kilometer stretch of glaciers, bush, rainforest and podocarp.

Greymouth to Westport.

The west coast of New Zealand’s South Island holds some of the best scenic driving in the country. Stretching from Wanaka to Nelson and encompassing dense subtropical rainforest, glaciers, beaches, mountains and rivers, you’ll get five for the price of one when you take this route. But by far the biggest highlight is the road between Greymouth and Westport. Ranked as one of the best scenic drives in the world, you'll travel with the wild Tasman coast on one side and the towering peaks of the Southern Alps on the other. Go through historic gold-mining settlement Barrytown then continue on to Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park. Consider staying the night here and spend time exploring the forest, limestone cliffs, canyons, caves and underground streams. Another must-see is the unique geological Punakaiki Pancake Rocks before continuing on through Perpendicular Point and Charlestown to arrive in Westport.

Nelson to Kaikoura.

This drive takes you through Marlborough, New Zealand's largest wine growing region and its main center, Blenheim. Timing your day to arrive at lunch time with the view to sampling some of the locally produced wines at one of the 40 wineries you’ll pass highly recommended. Crossing the ‘dry hills’ of the Marlborough ranges you head towards one of the most incredible coastlines of the South Island, the Kaikoura Coast. The road hugs the shore for around 50 kilometers and offers many chances to view the native wildlife such as seabirds and New Zealand fur seals. To the east is the turquoise South Pacific Ocean and to the west the towering Kaikoura Ranges. Kaikoura Township is bustling place with many cafés, restaurants and shops - but the main reason for visiting is the wildlife, as it is one of the few places in the world where whales can be seen all year round.

Dunedin to Te-anau.

This drive isn't one of the classic tourist routes, but it is still noteworthy all the same. The drive to Te-Anau takes you through classic Southland farming scenery - head off-the-beaten-track today and follow the coastline instead going inland. Pass through the Catlins area, home to lush waterfalls and rugged coast. Be sure to take a detour through Kaka Point to view its majestic cliffs and pounding surf. Continue on through Invercargill to Riverton and Colac Bay, and then head north to Manapouri. From here you can embark on a day or overnight cruise to the remote Doubtful Sound - renowned for its natural beauty. Just a short way further will bring you to your lakeside destination of Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.