Best scenic drives in New Zealand

If you are looking for a leisurely New Zealand holiday then the country's roads offer a fantastic opportunity to see outstanding scenery close-up. 

In summer 2011-12 New Zealand Autocar magazine published its top 10 roads trips, based on quality of scenery, the destinations and the type of road itself.

Here they are - are these the most scenic drives in New Zealand?

1. Stratford - Taumarunui (142km)

Despite a twisting road with many tortuous corners, this slow haul provides glimpses into the country's pioneering past and the mountainous interior of the North Island. Known as the Forgotten World Highway, it includes a stopover at Whangamomona, the small town declared an independent republic by its 40 or so residents. 

2. Taihape - Napier (152km) 

This North Island road is affectionately known by locals as Gentle Annie and takes visitors through high sheep country. Till recently, much of the road was unsealed, making the nickname somewhat ironic - but these days, the drive provides a comfortable  drive through spectacular scenery. 

3. Motueka - Collingwood (107km) 

Autocar describes this South Island drive over the crest of Takaka Hill as "one of the great moments in New Zealand motoring." It includes views of the glacier-carved Takaka valley, mountains of Kahurangi National Park and the distant Farewell Spit. 

4. Maungatapere - Kaikohe (71km) 

Visitors to the Bay of Islands, in the North Island, can take this road to bypass Whangarei and head north using the less busier road through bush-lined valleys. 

5. Westport - Kohaihai (117km) 

The Karamea Highway might be seen as a dead end, but it offers motorists the chance to see sub-tropical rainforests, wild birds and animals, with stunning views. 

6. Christchurch - Culverden - Hanmer - Maruia Springs - Reefton - Westport - Punakaiki - Greymouth - Arthur's Pass - Christchurch. (598km). 

Conde Nast Traveller once named the Westport to Greymouth leg of this route the world's second greatest drive (after the Corniche). The drive is notable for having luscious green wilds on one side, and crashing seas on the other. 

7. Christchurch - Motunau Beach - Kaikoura (196km) 

Most of this drive is on State Highway 1 in the South Island. 

8. Gisborne to Opotiki (320km) 

Gems along this route include New Zealand's biggest pohutukawa tree and the East Cape lighthouse. 

9. Murupara to Wairoa (160km) 

This trek takes you through one of the more remote places in the North Island. The State Highway 38 section goes through Te Urewera National Park and Autocar recommends a sedate pace of travel. 

10. Christchurch - Akaroa - Christchurch (160km return) 

The magazine points out you can do this return trip in three hours - but that doesn't account for how many times you stop to enjoy the view!