Auckland media relations man John Coker has driven most of New Zealand’s roads, either behind the wheel of a rally car, or plotting test-drive routes for carmakers. In no particular order here are his 10 best roads. We talked about them on Face TV at 8pm on Wednesday, April 9. It’s a ‘bucket list’ of sorts, the roads you must drive before you turn up your toes. A bit like Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson (above) did in the hit movie.
Broadwood Road – Turn off State Highway One at Mangamuka Bridge in the Far North and follow the signs to Broadwood, Herekino and Ahipara at the bottom of Ninety Mile Beach. This is a road for good handling cars through a rugged rural area. About 60km.
Blackmount Road – A cruisey drive on a usually deserted western Southland road, except for the day it’s used for a stage in the Tour of Southland Cycle Race. Start at either Te Anau or Manapouri in the north or Riverton/Tuatapere in the south. Stunning scenery and the best thing is the lack of traffic. Over 110km.
State Highway 35 – The road from Opotiki to Hicks Bay hugs the coast, twisting and turning through one jaw- dropping bay to the next. Apart from January, there is not a lot of traffic. Take a car that will handle the curves and look out for local kids riding horses. About 150km.
The Catlins – The south-eastern corner of the South Island makes a great alternative to Highway 1 between Balclutha and Invercargill, or vice versa. Lots of native bush with several walks to break up the journey. There are some long straights across the eastern Southland plains, but get used to turning the steering wheel over the 172km.
Forgotten World Highway – Highway 43 from Stratford to Taumarunui. The alternative route from the King Country to Taranaki or vice versa. Lots of corners and “saddles” to climb and descend. There is still about 10km of gravel through the Tangarakau Gorge. Stop half way through at the “Republic of Whangamomona”. 162km.
The West Coast – Highway 6 is its official name. South of Hokitika, it’s sparsely populated, with the southern Alps on one side, bush often all around and glimpses of the Tasman Sea. Stop at Franz Josef or Fox Glacier. Continue south to Jacksons Bay and then through the Haast Pass to Hawea. Magnificent scenery. 440km.
Gentle Annie – There are several “Gentle Annies” around NZ but this is the Daddy of them all. It starts at Fernhill, inland from Napier and Hastings, and climbs into the scenic Kaimanawa Ranges and on into Taihape. The last few kilometres of the road have only recently been sealed. Not recommended in winter. 141km.
Inland Kaikoura Road – Tired of tourist traffic on the Kaikoura Coast? Turn off Highway 1 just south of Kaikoura and on to Highway 70 for the 85km to Waiau. Plenty of bends to keep driving enthusiasts happy. At Waiau–Culverden rejoin Highway 7 to head for Lewis Pass and the West Coast or Christchurch.
Old Highway 52 – From Waipukurau to Masterton through the back blocks of southern Hawkes Bay and the northern Wairarapa. Blink and you will miss the small rural settlements. This used to be a designated state highway, but because traffic volumes were so light the designation was removed. So were many signposts. Nearly 200km.
Highway 65 – North of the South Island between Fern Flat and Springs Junction. For the most part it is a succession of sweeping curves along the Maruia River Valley. Halfway along is the delightful Frog Flat Junction and the turnoff to the gravel back road to Murchison through the Matakitaki Valley. 75 km.