Author Topic: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads  (Read 14041 times)

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more_fasterer

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January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« on: 06 January, 2012, 12:47:22 PM »
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My 9 greatest NZ roads
By some guy with a Primera
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The Member of the Month feature is on holiday for January, so instead I've written an article on the 9 roads that I think are NZ's finest.  I'd be very surprised if anyone agrees with me on all 9, so please chip in with the roads you think are the greatest; I could easily have written an article about my top 15 or 20 NZ roads but that would be testing my patience, and yours!
Hopefully this article will, at least, whet your appetite to go and explore the fine roads we have available to us this summer.  Or even plan that trip across Cook Strait!




9.  Mangamuka Gorge, Far North (SH1)

Who would've thought that SH1 could be so damn entertaining?  The northernmost road of these 10 runs between Kawakawa and Kaitaia, the gorge itself being 40-odd km's long of constant 2nd and 3rd gear corners & constant direction switches means that this road is not the best choice if your passenger gets carsick easily!  From Kawakawa, you have the choice of taking the more open and picturesque SH10 through Doubtless Bay, or stay on SH1 for more fun (that really does seem like a backward statement!).  The Mangamuka range is NZ's lush subtropical rainforest at its finest and thickest - leave the road here and you may not be discovered for some time.  The road surface is surprisingly good, and whenever I've been through there I've found little in the way of traffic (except for a local in an Evo 6, ahem).  Travelling north, the road gets more interesting when you pass the upper reaches of the Hokianga harbour at Rangiahua until it ascends into sheer direction-switching lunacy, peaking at a summit of 733m, and then coming down again in the same fashion.  If you're planning a trip up to 90-Mile Beach or Cape Reinga, this is the way to go!




8.  Woodcocks Road / West Coast Road, Kaipara

This road runs 27km between Warkworth and SH16 near the Kaipara harbour, and is my local favourite.  Cruising out of Warkworth, the road is pretty straight and open, with the odd highway patrolman hiding in driveways on the straights.  Don't worry, you won't have to exercise restraint for long, the long, fast corners are a good warm-up for what lurks beyond the railway crossing (make sure you stop and look, your suspension / arse will thank you!).  Over the railway line, the road ascends into a tight & tricky sequence of corners through a forested hill, peaking in a near-switchback right-hander with a 25km/h sign that will have you testing the limits of your brakes.  On the way down, there are plenty more tight & twisty corners until the forest clears and you're back into typical kiwi farmland territory.  The road continues to throw entertaining sequences of corners all the way to SH16, where if you're keen for more, turn right and head for Wellsford via the best that SH16 has to offer.




7.  Whaanga Road, Waikato

Is this the world's greatest gravel road?  Quite possibly - a lot of WRC drivers seem to think so.  More commonly known to rally drivers & spectators as the Whaanga Coast stage, it is 30km of beautifully laid-out gravel road in some stunning west coast scenery.  The road runs around the Mt. Karioi National Forest and follows the coast north to Raglan, ending at the surfer's haven of Manu Bay.  For some odd reason, kiwi road builders seem to make exceptional gravel roads - well-cambered, fast and predictable, and this is the best of the bunch.  Just don't drive it after heavy rain.




6.  The Rimutaka Hill Road, Wellington (SH2)

A frequently-mentioned road on the news, this is 20km of twisty madness that also serves as a major traffic route.  There is spectacular fun to be had driving this road when traffic is light, just be very careful to keep within your (and the road's) limits as it is a bloody long way down if you fall off!  25, 35 and 45km/h corner signs are a frequent sight on this road, and it is by & large well surfaced and grippy.  Just don't expect it to be much fun if it's the middle of winter, as the road climbs to 533m and frequently cops snow in the middle of the year.  You do end up climbing quite high, and then losing all that height again - so that means on the downhill run, you are doing repeated heavy braking into slow corners; be wary of poorly maintained brakes (particularly on that shitty Falcodore tailing you cos there's no way he'll be outrun by a bloody Nissan) and always be prepared for a car on its roof around the next corner.




5.  Arthur's Pass, South Island (SH73)

This is another commonly-known road, being the main route between Christchurch and the West Coast.  Heading west, the long, flat straights so common in Canterbury come to an end after Springfield, where you begin to climb into the Alps and start negotiating some pretty tasty corners.  While you're not getting tight corners frantically being thrown at you like, say, the Rimutaka Hill road, you're still gonna be kept busy (and entertained) by the road.  The key is that it goes on for a lot longer - it's 160kms from Springfield to Kumara Junction, where the road intersects with SH6; so being able to drive at a higher average speed and at a lower level of intensity helps.  Of course, there is also some fantastic scenery to indulge in as you cross the Southern Alps, but do bear in mind that this road is often closed in the winter.




4.  The Milford Sound Road, Fiordland (SH94)

SH94 is the only way in & out of Milford Sound, which means you get to drive it twice, which is definitely a good thing as you will invariably be staring at the scenery on the way in.  The road meanders alongside Lake Te Anau for about 30kms, then the scenery gets progressively more beautiful as Fiordland arrives, with high, snow-capped peaks (even in January) plunging down into impossibly smooth and clear lakes.  You end up driving along a U-shaped valley with some ace corners laid down, with other U-shaped valleys branching off it.  Then, you're waiting at the traffic lights of the Homer Tunnel, playing in the snow and hoping the pesky Kea don't rip your wiper blades off!  The tunnel itself is a surprisingly steep descent, and pretty slippery to boot... plus the road surface is shit.  It's quickly forgotten when you emerge from the tunnel and are met with a gorgeous winding descent of smooth, sticky tarmac into Milford Sound itself.  Get there, check in to the backpackers, and spend a night revelling in the unbelievable beauty of the place.  Then, get up and do the 118km return journey.  Note that the BP in Te Anau only has 91 and 95, and the gas pump in Milford Sound only has overpriced 91.




3.  Waioeka Gorge, Opotiki - Gisborne (SH2)

Another section of SH2 that is bloody good fun, and the complete antithesis to the Waikato section of SH2!  Opotiki and Gisborne are 142km apart and the road entertains for the entire journey, but it's the 62km gorge section between Waioeka and Matawai that will really have you relishing your car's handling.  The road through the gorge is typically wide and well-surfaced, with the odd passing bay thrown in for good measure.  The road also has plenty to choose from in terms of corner speeds, unless you're hell-bent on losing your license as, for the bulk of the gorge, you will be struggling to achieve the speed limit.  If you want to get picked off for doing 111km/h then there are cop-infested straights at the Gisborne end.  Sod that... by the time you've thrown the car around for the 62km's of gorge you'll be quite content to relax for a bit!  Or maybe that's just me...
Like many of the roads in this article, the Waioeka gorge can be a lot less fun in rubbish weather & with the sometimes sheer hillsides rising up beside the road, rockfalls, slips and even flash waterfalls can be a possibility in heavy rain.




2.  West Coast Road, Hokitika - Wanaka (SH6)

This is easily the longest stretch of road in this article, at 457km point-to-point.  But, hot damn, is it worth it!  Last time I checked, Hokitika & Greymouth both have 98 octane, unlike just about every remote place in the South Island.  The road doesn't actually follow the coastline all that much, but it is still so immersed in natural beauty and full of twists & turns and ups & downs that you simply won't care.  The road really increases in intensity between the Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers, but fortunately it is wide, well-made and typically well-sealed for the entire journey.  The road then returns to the coast for the remainder of the run down to Haast, which is the furthest south you drive to on the west coast apart from Milford Sound.



If you want to, spend a night at the backpackers in Haast (which is pretty much all there is of Haast) before continuing through the Mount Aspiring National Park the following day to reach Wanaka.  This section of road, normally known as the Haast Pass, will also provide a great workout for your arms and side muscles as you throw the car corner-to-corner.  Again, take the opportunity to pull over and gawp at the outstanding scenery on offer before you get too immersed in the road and find it's all behind you.  The road eventually emerges at the top of Lake Wanaka, at which point it's time to ease off, check out Mount Aspiring in the rear view mirror, and cruise along the lake until you reach Wanaka.  This road is an absolute must-do for any kiwi, just hope like hell it's not raining!




1.  Crown Range Road, Otago

This road is, quite simply, the best road that I have ridden or driven on, anywhere in the world.  It runs from Queenstown to Wanaka and is the "short cut" between these two towns instead of the longer and much more boring SH6.  You turn off SH6 at the Arrow junction and are immediately faced with 15km/h switchbacks as the road clambers its way up the steep mountainside.  These are entertaining, but it's once you're past them that the real fun begins; the road then begins a series of 35 and 45km/h signed corners as it continues to cling to the side of the range, before turning towards Wanaka and crossing the range.  You're then presented with a sumptuous series of 35-65km/h signed corners that are all designed perfectly and, last time I checked, surfaced in smooth, grippy hotmix.



The corners continue for the remainder of the 30km between the Arrow junction and Cardrona, gradually opening up as they do.  Last time I drove this road was on my bike, and I reached the famous Cardrona hotel with my heart pumping and a massive smile on my face.  The hotel is also, conveniently, a great place to stop and have a meal and a pint, and to contemplate whether you should turn round and do it all again, just for the hell of it!  The other option is a cruisy 25km to Wanaka on a pretty unremarkable road.  This road is very much a summer-only road if you want to fang it - it gets bloody icy in the winter and I've had a couple of heart-in-mouth moments when travelling at a VERY sedate pace.  Stupid ice... however, the area looks so beautiful when there's been a fresh snowfall that you probably won't mind.  Unless you crash.  So don't.


« Last Edit: 16 January, 2017, 09:50:18 PM by more_fasterer »


Kieran: thank you for being amazing... Have my babies.

Moles

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #1 on: 06 January, 2012, 12:56:25 PM »
AHHHHH!!!

I've driven 5 of them including all the ones in the South Island. Will have to get up to Northland this summer and try those out too!

NARacer

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #2 on: 06 January, 2012, 01:28:58 PM »
Fantastic Kieran. You make me want to head on a South Island road trip!

robbo

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #3 on: 06 January, 2012, 03:44:53 PM »
Cool article, I can think of some to add later once I've had a proper read

chiccruiser

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #4 on: 06 January, 2012, 05:23:33 PM »
Very awesome write up there Mr president! Thanks for the time & effort taken to write it.
Look forward to hearing other opinions on some awesome roads we do have out there beside the huge amount of poorly designed, badly sealed & rim destroying city roads we have!

Rabbit

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #5 on: 06 January, 2012, 06:20:09 PM »
I just came back from Doubtless bay, Tokerau beach, great trip on SH10 and SH1 through....:)
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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #6 on: 06 January, 2012, 09:00:43 PM »
thames - coromandel rd is one of my favourites well in  the offpeak season and scottman valley rd for a spirited drive

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napman

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #7 on: 06 January, 2012, 11:33:52 PM »
Wow those roads all blow my favourite out of the water, I'm going to make it my mission to take my car to at least one of the above

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #8 on: 06 January, 2012, 11:54:59 PM »
I've been on all of them multiple times except for 3,7 & 8. Problem is i haven't driven any of them. :(
But they are wonderful roads to travel on. Scenery is breathtaking as well.

Now that i have a car that is well setup i intend to do more open road driving.

Very well written :)
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robbo

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #9 on: 07 January, 2012, 11:31:00 AM »
I can completely agree with the Crown Range Road and West Coast as I drove those on my honeymoon, a few years ago now. We drove from Franz Joseph all the way to Wanaka in one day and it was epic, I can still remember it today.  ;D ;D

I recon that this is a goodie too

Forgotten World Highway (SH48)



We did this years ago in my old P10 starting at the Stratford end. You know you are in for a serious drive when the a large sign on the way in, warns you that there is no gas for 150km. This road is truly in the middle of nowhere!



A stop at the Whangamomona pub for a beer is must , but only have one, as the road gets serious from here on in. You need to have you whits about you, as it's mainly 3rd and 2nd gear cornering and I've never seen so much wildlife on the road, so things are always popping up and out at you. Besure not to take anyone who doesn't like the windies and this is sure to get them reaching for a paper bag!

It's probably the only road in NZ with it's own website, plenty to stop and look at if that's your thing.

http://www.windwand.co.nz/heritagetrail.htm

Juleonska

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #10 on: 07 January, 2012, 04:01:30 PM »
Awesome right up! I hope to be driving the crown range a fair few times this year, although it will deffinatly be in the heart of winter, so no fanging it for me...

base

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #11 on: 07 January, 2012, 07:05:37 PM »
sdfh gbleg
« Last Edit: 22 August, 2012, 09:22:54 PM by base »

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #12 on: 07 January, 2012, 10:34:48 PM »
Fantastic Kieran! Done a couple of your picks...summit road across the Port hills is a favorite 'Tarmac rally' style blast for me
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Moles

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #13 on: 08 January, 2012, 07:37:08 PM »
just dont expect to find bp98 up there anywhere

No BP 98 at Frankton BP anymore?

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Re: January 2012: My top 9 NZ roads
« Reply #14 on: 09 January, 2012, 01:32:08 PM »
How old russell road is overlooked i have  no idea  :o

like 90kms of constant twisties along beautiful coastline and not much traffic!