19/06/2024

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State Highway Highlights – You Might Wanna Stop to Take a Look Here!

5 min read
State Highway Highlights – You Might Wanna Stop to Take a Look Here!

There are so many things to see everywhere all around New Zealand. And there is just so little time to see everything. This is a list to tell you the main interesting highlights along the 8 National Highways.

It is not possible to cover all the major attractions along all the highways, as some of them are relatively short with not much scenic views unless you consider paddock, cow and sheep as scenery.

State Highway 1 – Desert Road
The Rangipo Desert is not an actual desert, but it looks like one. The vegetation is minimal and in shades of yellow and brown. The lack of greenery is due to the harsh alpine conditions, poor soil quality and drying winds.

A large portion of Rangipo Desert is 1,000 metres above sea level, with ground frosts for about 270 days annually, and heavy snowfalls. Hence, Desert Road is frequently closed off during winter.

Along this road, you get a fantastic view of the 3 volcano peaks – Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Do you know that the Black Gate of Mordor scenes were shot in this Rangipo Desert in year 2000?

State Highway 2 – Napier
Napier is well known for the 1930s Art Deco architecture all around the town. Art Deco is an artistic and design style originated from Paris in 1920s. At that time, this style was seen as elegant, functional and modern.

In 1931, the Hawkes Bay earthquake changed the entire landscape of the region. The coastal areas around Napier were lifted by 2 metres. This caused about 40 square kilometres of seabed to turn into dry land.

Over at Marine Parade, the statue called Pania of the Reef is one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the country. Pania, a figure in Maori mythology, is a beautiful maiden living in the east coast.

State Highway 3 – New Plymouth
There is an award-winning walkway here in Taranaki region. This 7km stretch gives a close-up experience of the Tasman Sea, from the mouth of Waiwhakaiho River in the east and Ngamotu Beach in the west, passing New Plymouth CBD.

You can cruise around the Sugar Loaf Islands and Marine Park Reserve in Happy Chaddy’s Charters. The Captain takes you through some magical humps and bumps of nature to enjoy the volcanic remnants on the coast.

At this region, there is a volcano named Mount Taranaki or Egmont. It is considered unusual as it experienced at least 5 of its major eruptions by method of cone collapse. Only few volcanoes have undergone more than once.

State Highway 4 – Tongariro National Park
This is the oldest National Park in New Zealand and the fourth national park established in the world. Tongariro National Park is also one of UNESCO 25 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Sites today.

Tongariro National Park surrounds the 3 volcanoes – Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro. The biggest ski field – Whakapapa – is located on the northwestern slopes of Mount Ruapehu.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the most popular one-day tramp in New Zealand. Most of this track is also part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit, a 3-4 days 50-km tramp around Mount Ngauruhoe in this National Park.

State Highway 5 – Fitzgerald Glade
As you drive between Tirau to Rotorua, you will pass through this section known as the Fitzgerald Glade. This area on the western side of Mamau Plateau is a well-known native forest remnant.

Keep a lookout for the Fitzergald Glade sign, even though you may or may not miss this stretch. It is rare in New Zealand where the native bush grows right up to the roadside, and the trees forming a canopy overhead like a green tunnel.

Stop by at the café, or perhaps enjoy the view for a moment. At this scenic reserve, you can try spotting some New Zealand native trees such as Tawa, Mangeao, Rewarewa, Pukatea and Nikau.

State Highway 6 – Haast Pass
Haast Pass is one of the 3 passes where a road crosses through the Southern Alps. The other 2 passes are Lewis Pass and Arthur’s Pass. There is also a Homer Tunnel that goes under the Main Divide.

The highest point of Haast Pass is 563metres above sea level, at the valley of Haast and Makarora River. It is also the lowest of the passes traversing the Southern Alps.

The Maori name of this trail is Tiorapatea, which means, “The way is clear.” This road for Haast Pass follows an ancient trail used by Maori travelling to the West Coast in search of greenstone (also known as jade, pounamu or nephrite).

State Highway 7 – Hamner Springs
This award-winning Hamner Springs Thermal Pools & Spa is set in a natural landscape surrounded by forests and mountains. Even the spa is one of the better ones I have seen in New Zealand.

Thermal waters contain a wide variety of minerals, such as sulphur, sodium chloride, calcium, carbonates, magnesium, potassium and others. Not only is it relaxing, you can soak in the water for hours and your skin won’t wrinkle!

Like all places, this spa is opened 364 days a year, except Christmas Day. I spent the last day of my South Island holiday at Hamner Springs, relaxing in the pools for hours and ended off with a facial. That was awesome!

State Highway 8 – Cromwell
Cromwell is a place where it looks quite different throughout the year. It is known as the “Fruit Bowl” of the South with the large number of orchards around here. You can try fruit picking if you are here at the right time!

The world’s first bungee is located here at the Kawarau Bridge, where AJ Hackett and Henry van Ash started it all. This is one of the bungees where you can choose to bob above the water, touch it, or be fully immersed.

You will also get to see the Clyde Dam as you drive along the highway on the Clutha River. This is New Zealand’s largest concrete gravity dam, with a height of 100m, length of 490m, and width of 70m on base and 10m at crest.

Most people enjoy road trips around New Zealand. That’s because these are some of the places you can’t access without a car. Coach buses don’t really stop there, and walking there is quite a challenge.

To many, New Zealand is a relatively small island. However, in comparison to Singapore, it is a big country. There are just so many things to see and do all around the country.

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