Best Places to 4WD in New Zealand

New Zealand has some of the most wide ranging and spectacular scenery in the world, much of it largely untouched. There’s a very good reason that tourism is one of New Zealand’s most prominent industries, because there are few nations in the world that are as incredible to look at. Compared to its close neighbour and ally Australia, which is flat, sunburnt and rugged, New Zealand is chock full of high mountains with snowcapped peaks, deep lakes, volcanic hot springs and even glaciers. For such a small nation it crams an incredible array of scenery into its landmass.

With such a strong tourism industry, there are obviously many ways you can pay to see the sights of the North and South Islands. However, if you’re the type of person who prefers to go it alone then there are ways to do that as well. One of the very best is to jump in a four wheel drive and see the sights that way. Whether you’re a wide eyed tourist or a local, there is always something great to see, why not get out and see it?

Best New Zealand 4WD Locations

Ninety Mile Beach

This amazing beach is actually designated as an official state highway, and is every now and then used as such. For that reason you can legally drive on it. Though it is accessible by a 2 wheel drive vehicle, you’ll undoubtedly have an easier time of it if you go the 4X4 route. There are various four wheel driving tracks in the surrounding area, so a car with roof racks that can handle all the parts of the journey you might want to see is good to have.

Best New Zealand 4WD Locations: 90 Mile Beach
90 Mile Beach

Ninety Mile Beach is located pretty much as far north as you can go. It stretches from the very tip of the North Island some ninety miles down the west coast (as you might have assumed given the name). The highlight of the beach, apart from the fishing, are the incredible dunes at the northern end. They’re a popular location for dune surfers, and you can reach incredible speeds flying down the sand on a body board.

Oteake Conservation Park

Oteake has a range of 4X4 tracks winding their way through its high country scenery. Oteake is full of rolling, hilly plains and some historic landmarks including the country’s highest altitude gold field.

Best New Zealand 4WD Locations: Mt Kyebyurn, Hawkdun Range Oteake Conservation Park Samuel Mann CC BY 2.0
Mt Kyebyurn, Hawkdun Range, Oteake Conservation Park: Photo on Flickr by Samuel Mann / CC BY 2.0

Oteake National Park has a lot to offer the four wheel drive enthusiast, but it also has a range of other activities available to enjoy. Throw a couple of mountain bikes in the back of the truck and then get out and enjoy the miles of tracks the park offers with pedal power. Or if walking’s more your thing, then there are huge array of hiking trails from easy to advanced to challenge yourself with.

Skipper’s Canyon

Another historic gold mining location in the country’s South, Skipper’s Canyon is just a few kilometres north of Queenstown and has some spectacular and varied scenery to take in. From the historic suspension bridge that spans the river 100 metres below to the wild country of Skipper’s Point and a road cut through the hillside a way back in the 19th century, Skipper’s canyon is a trip down New Zealand’s colonial period.

Best New Zealand 4WD Locations: Skippers Canyon Maori Point Queenstown
Maori Point, Skippers Canyon, Queenstown: Photo by YSander / CC BY-SA 3.0

Make your way through eerie, misty high country and over icy blue rivers, all the while soaking up the history of the area.

Big River Mine

Yet another example of New Zealand’s gold rush days, Big River Mine can be accessed by four wheel drive from Reefton. The path is a rough one and was created by dray well over a century ago.

Best New Zealand 4WD Locations:
Big River MIne

Located in a remote area of the Victoria Forest Park, the Big River Mine is in stark, lonely country with frequent snow. The trip is half the fun, but there is plenty to see once you reach the mine itself including restored equipment of the day and some tourist info on the mine’s operation and what it meant to the surrounding area.

Wakatipu Basin

This South Island adventure takes you through historic gold mining country (again!) but this time with a twist. From here you’ll be up close and personal with the Remarkables, the mountain range that saw extensive use in the Lord of The Rings trilogy. If you were blown away by the movies then you’ll probably have a great time exploring the area and trying to pinpoint exactly where the fellowship climbed Caradhras, or where Aragorn fell off the cliff during the Warg battle.

Best New Zealand 4WD Locations: Wakatipu Basin from Crown Range Queenstown
Wakatipu Basin from Crown Range: Photo on Flickr by russellstreet / CC BY-SA 3.0

There is an incredible amount to see in New Zealand, but the wild and untamed country means you want to be prepared before you set out. A four wheel drive that can handle the countryside and take you where you want to go is one of the best investments you can make during your travels. Load up and see the sights.

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About Matt

Matt is a young Australian who enjoys nothing more than exploring the great outdoors with his dog. When he isn't amongst the outdoors, he can also be found writing. Combining his two passions, Matt loves to be apart of a global community of like minded people.

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One Response

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    Andy Holt

    During our visit to NZ from the UK we saw the wide open spaces and refrained from driving our hire car on 90 mile beach because their T&C forbade driving on unmetaled roads. frequently during our travels we would have loved to go off road as we do in the UK but thought NZ laws might be broken. What is the position with offroading and the law in NZ. i would like to know before our next visit in 2017


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