Getting off the beaten track with a Self-drive holiday in New Zealand

West Coast Remote Walk
Elliot’s Bay in Northland

Getting off the beaten track with a Self-drive holiday in New Zealand

Picture hitting the open roads and beginning a vacation full of freedom, independence and fun. Visiting destinations that are well off the beaten track is part of what makes a self-drive holiday one of the best ways to experience the real New Zealand. With your own rental car and a loose itinerary, you’ve got the ability to soak up New Zealand exactly the way you want to. Part of the attraction of self-driving is the opportunity to take your time and stop in at places that you might not otherwise see on a tour.

Discover: Tiny, isolated beaches and hidden natural treasures. Stumble across fruit stalls selling delicious citrus or stone fruits, or play a round of golf with local kiwis you’ve just met over a beer. Who knows what’s just round the corner when you’re behind the wheel – sometimes, it’s the unplanned surprises that truly make a holiday.

Whether you’re an avid golfer, someone who loves the outdoors or a big fan of New Zealand food & wine, you’ll discover secret gems around every corner. Here’s how you can get off the beaten track and indulge in your passions when you’re behind the wheel in New Zealand.

Stoney beach, NZ's West Coast

Hidden coastal gems

Some of New Zealand’s most charming beaches are far off the tourist trail – perfect to explore with the freedom of your own car. Elliot’s Bay in Northland is one such location. A cosy stretch of sheltered, white sandy beach, Elliot’s Bay looks out to the Pacific Ocean and is fringed with Pohutukawa Trees. Near Russell in the North Island, magical Elliot’s Bay is not on tour group itineraries and is often only dotted with a handful of locals during the summer time. It’s a short and rewarding detour when you’re exploring this part of the far North.

On the West Coast of the South Island and fringed by a backdrop of the towering Southern Alps is Gillespie’s Beach, rated one of the top beaches in New Zealand. With a title like that, it comes as a surprise that this beach is well off the tourist trail and a secret local gem. Reached by turning off before you get to Fox Glacier, this wild and dramatic piece of coastline is good for the soul and not often visited by other tourists. On a self-drive holiday, choose to stop at Gillespie’s for a picnic lunch on your way to the glacier, taking your time to soak up the rugged beauty of this special piece of kiwi coastline.

Franz Josef Glacier

Unique New Zealand golf, your way

Inspired by the idea of playing quality courses with friendly, kiwi locals? On a self-drive holiday, you’ve got the freedom to play the courses you choose – as much as you like! Golf courses in New Zealand are world-class, with many having been designed by famous golf architects like Alister McKenzie and Tom Doak. The Arikikapapa Course, located just out of Taupo, is a special course that’s off the beaten track and not often visited by tourists. Punctuated by both dormant and active geothermal sites, boiling mud pools, colourful volcanic minerals, steam vents and craters making for some very unique hazards! Courses as different as this one will have you wanting to play them more than once – a luxury you’ll have with the flexibility of a self-drive vacation.


Steaming Fairway Taupo

Food & Wine

New Zealand is a nation of passionate foodies who love a glass of beautiful vino. Not surprisingly, there are dozens of world-class wineries dotted throughout the country; many are charming and boutique and very much off the beaten track. For those that love fresh, delicious produce and local wine, Hawke’s Bay is a great region to get off the tourist trail on your self-drive vacation. With a compelling mix of vineyards, farmer’s markets and boutique cafe’s, this is a place to enjoy hours chatting to friendly locals with a glass of your favourite local drop in hand. In the Hawke’s Bay, the beauty of having the freedom of your own vehicle is in the surprises that lie just around the corner. Stop in at the local market for a bag of fresh produce and a cup of coffee, pull over at a roadside stall selling delicious stone fruits or enjoy an impromptu picnic at Ocean Beach. With the flexibility of a loose itinerary, you’re able to indulge and explore – all on your own time.


Farmers Market Hawkes Bay

New Zealand is a country that’s made to be explored with a self-drive vacation. The time and flexibility this type of holiday offers to discover secret local gems and to get off the beaten track is priceless. First Light Travel offers an extraordinary variety of New Zealand Self-Drive Tours, eliminating all of the guess work and allowing you to enjoy a vacation that’s full of freedom and flexibility. Contact us now – we’d love to help you create the kiwi vacation of a lifetime!


More articles to help you plan your New Zealand Holiday of a Lifetime:

Getting to New Zealand
New Zealand Passport and Visa Requirements
Smooth as possible on arrival to New Zealand
Travel Insurance for New Zealand
Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound?
What is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand?
Driving in New Zealand
Safety in New Zealand's Great Outdoors
What to Pack for a New Zealand Holiday
New Zealand Accommodation Guide
New Zealand's Need to Know Facts
What do things cost in New Zealand
Which island is better - the North or South Island?


Steve Taylor
Steve Taylor
: 2 Mar 2017 (Last updated: 12 May 2021)

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