Best Scenic Drives in South Island New Zealand

Think driving is just about getting from A to B? Not in our magnificent little corner of the world! The South Island has some of the best scenic drives.

Think driving is just about getting from A to B? Not in our magnificent little corner of the world! New Zealand is made for self-explorers – our picturesque highways weave around rugged coastlines, enchanting forests and awe-inspiring mountain ranges – and the best part is, when you hit the open road yourself, you can do it at your own speed and discover people and places you never would dream of otherwise. We’ve put together some of the best scenic drives in South Island New Zealand to help you with your itinerary.

The Milford Road

Forget one of the best scenic drives in South Island New Zealand – the Milford Road is one of the best scenic drives in the world! Zig-zagging through misty valleys, under cloud-piercing granite cliffs and amongst lush rainforest, you will need to allow way more than the estimated four hours for your journey, as at every turn you will be stopping to absorb this natural wonderland.

In-fact, you may want to go off-road to fully experience it – stretch your legs with short walks like the track to Key Summit or the Lake Gunn loop track, or jump in a kayak and skim the waters for a glimpse of Milford’s lively marine-life.        

Haast Pass

As you follow in the footsteps of our Maori ancestors on their search for Pounamu (greenstone) you will appreciate the 90-odd years it took to fully complete this spectacular road. The winding route from Wanaka to Haast, traversing the towering Southern Alps mirrored in aquamarine glacial lakes to the wild shoreline carved by the Tasman Sea, can turn even the most technologically-challenged into professional photographers. The dramatic landscape is complemented by a bunch of fun activities - hiking; trout fishing; jetboating - but be sure not to miss the thundering waters of the Gates of Haast.     

Lindis Pass

Wide-open, wind-swept and wild – cruising the rolling tussock country between the Mackenzie basin and Central Otago is one of those times you truly feel the extent of our wondrous world. As one of the most unique scenic drives in South Island New Zealand, Lindis Pass offers dynamic weather patterns – there is often snow on the ground all year round so pack a jacket! – and an abundance of native birdlife, so park up the car a get off the beaten track to experience the enormity of this exposed alpine area. 

Queenstown to Glenorchy

The journey from Queenstown to Genorchy following the edge of Lake Wakatipu will be one of the most unforgettable 45 minutes of your life. We hope you’ve got enough memory for your camera because the views of vast mountain ranges encasing the crystal-clear waters are something to record forever. With Queenstown being the adventure capital of the world and Glenorcy settlement a historic and charming destination, there is plenty to set your time to; plus, Lord of the Rings fans rejoice! The filming locations for Lothlorien, Amon Hen, Orthanc and Isengard are all in this region.

Scenic drives in South Island New Zealand are First Light Tours passion and specialty. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you tick New Zealand off your bucket list.