The allure of taking to the open road has never been more apparent. By Amy Louise Bailey
In April, the travel tip website The Vacationer anonymously polled 1,096 people to find out a bit more about their summer vacation plans. According to the results, nearly 80 percent say they’re planning to take a road trip.
And sure, a domestic, road trip sounds great, but why not dream a little bigger? Why not consider a road trip further afield?
Need some inspiration? We suggest looking into New Zealand, where the country’s natural grandeur is best explored by car.
There are many beautiful sights to see in New Zealand, but if an epic road trip is up your alley, the Great Coast Road is an adventure that is well worth the journey.
The Great coast road: A beautiful coastal drive
New Zealand’s Great Coast Road isn’t only great in name. It’s made its way to the top 10 coastal drives in the world, according to Lonely Planet, and is a favoured tourist destination revered for its stunning scenery. Think Big Sur, but in the South Pacific, with wild crashing waves to the right and lush rainforests to the left.
This scenic stretch of State Highway 6 can be explored in either direction, but a popular option is to start in Westport and venture south along the coast to Greymouth, where the road seamlessly blends into the environment.
There are plenty of salty vistas along the way, which are excellent places to stop and take in the views and get a blast of fresh ocean air.
“Typically, the drive takes around 90 minutes, but our recommendation would be for you to slow down and enjoy the journey,” Sarah Handley, general manager of Tourism New Zealand in the Americas and Europe, tells Travel + Leisure. “There are so many beaches and nooks and crannies that you may want to take the whole day.”
Some road-trippers veer off to Cape Foulwind to see the seal colonies and catch a surf break at Nine Mile Beach, while others set Charleston’s historic goldfields as their first port of call.
One of the most popular stops on the drive is the Paparoa National Park, which is a short 35-mile (56.32 km) drive south of Westport. The park is home to one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Paparoa Track, where you can do a multi-day, lodge-based hike.
But if you’re doing a day trip, set out on the Truman Track, a 30-minute round trip hike through a magnificent subtropical rainforest that leads out to the Tasman Sea. There are waterfalls, panoramic coastal views, and rare native plant life, including the national fern, nikau palms, and rimu.
Venture five minutes more south by car, and you’ll encounter the most-visited natural attraction in the West Coast region: the Pancake Rocks, located at Dolomite Point near Punakaiki. These ancient limestone rocks (formed 30 million years ago) are a geological wonder, appearing like an actual stack of pancakes jutting out into the ocean. You can also catch a glimpse of the stunning Putai Blowhole as it blasts sea spray up into the sky.
After navigating your way through Punakaiki, continue along the coast, where you can pull over for a swim at one of the picturesque beaches. And if all of this driving has worked up an appetite, head to the vibrant foodie haven of Hokitika, which is 23 miles (37.01 km) south of Greymouth.
Gatherer Wholefoods & Bar is a great option, with a variety of Mexican-influenced, plant-based fare. If you happen to be there in March, there’s the famed Wildfoods Festival, where you can try adventurous local cuisine, including pukeko and huhu grubs.
As of 1 May, vaccinated travellers from visa waiver countries can visit New Zealand, so it’s an excellent time to consider a visit and embark on an exhilarating road trip unlike any other.
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