The long road home – 5 of the best self-drive routes in Australasia

What could be more liberating than to hit the open road and be surrounded by extraordinary landscapes? A self-drive holiday in Australasia, by car or motorhome, is cost-effective, flexible and offers the chance to go at your own pace. Happily, the quality of the roads, the signposts and the style of driving of the locals in both countries are very similar to those in the UK – they even drive on the left.

Here’s our pick of the routes you really shouldn’t miss

1. Great Ocean Road, Australia

This remarkable 243km stretch of road offers drivers rugged oceanic splendour, raw seascapes and superb rock formations around every twist of the road. With many a sandy beach to choose from, simply stop at the side of the road whenever you tire of driving for a refreshing dip. Otherwise, divert from the main road and head inland to the Cape Otway lighthouse for great views and a snack – try spotting wild koalas lazing in the trees surrounding the road on the way up. Whatever you do, don’t miss a stop at the famous Twelve Apostles, the cliffside limestone stacks rising up out of the water.

The Great Ocean Road

2. The Milford Road, New Zealand

The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound in the South Island is nothing short of spectacular, with lakes, mountains, waterfalls and wildflowers. Winding its way through the lush Fiordland National Park, there are plenty of places to stop and admire the views or to take a short walk – Eglinton Valley, the Mirror Lakes and Lake Gunn are just some options. Another highlight is driving through the Homer Tunnel; cut through solid granite, it took twenty years to construct. And while Milford Sound is the ultimate destination, the journey getting there is just as impressive.

Milford Sound

3. Christchurch to Blenheim, New Zealand

Travelling past surf beaches, coastal ranges and whale-watching spots, this drive spits you out in Blenheim – the heart of Marlborough wine country. Following the east cost of the South Island, this drive can be done in one day, though you may want to stop at the mid-point of Kaikoura to take a whale watching tour, spot fur seal colonies, and enjoy locally caught crayfish for lunch. Swing by Lake Grassmere, where the salt ponds turn a bright pink in the summertime, and follow the Awatere Valley, where vineyards look out to the Pacific Ocean. When you reach your final destination, be sure to try a glass of sauvignon blanc, the speciality of the Marlborough region.

Humpback whale, Kaikoura

4. Cradle Mountain, Australia

The scenic drive north to Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, a world heritage area, passes by dramatic glacial landscapes. To drive directly from Hobart will take up to five hours, though a more scenic drive is from Strathan on the east coast, which will take you past the roaring seas on Ocean Beach, and on winding roads through numerous park reserves. Passing through only a couple of small towns along the way, you’ll feel like you’re truly driving through wilderness. End at beautiful Cradle Mountain, which rises 1,545 metres above sea level and is dotted with native fauna like tanglefoot beech and button grass. You’re likely to spot wombats, pademelons, echidna and perhaps even a Tasmanian devil.

Cradle Mountain

5. The Rarotonga loop, Cook Islands

The island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands offers drivers a leisurely journey around the entire island, which takes just 45 minutes and passes swaying palm trees, tropical beaches and colonial buildings. There are plenty of places to distract you along the way – perhaps head to Avarua, known locally just as ‘town’, for a meal, to explore the historical buildings or drop in to the local market. If you’re there on Sunday, expect to hear a cappella singing from small churches. Although the island is surrounded by lagoon, coral reef fronts the beaches in the north, so it’s better to stop on the southeast coast if you want a swim. With no traffic lights on the island, it’s a quite relaxing drive – just watch out for any dogs or chickens crossing the road (or even the odd coconut falling from the trees).

Avarua main road, Rarotonga

Katie Parsons is the PR Manager at Cox & Kings.

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