Top 10 NZ roads: Number 10

22:12, Jan 29 2012
Akaroa strap
PICTURESQUE: The charming township of Akaroa.

New Zealand is a beautiful country, and one blessed with so many great roads. Some are best taken for the scenery, others for their sheer driving pleasure.

Over the next two weeks we'll be counting down the top 10 roads in New Zealand, starting with the charming Christchurch to Akaroa stretch.

10. Christchurch - Akaroa - Christchurch

Distance: 160km return

The good thing about this drive is that you don't have to come back by the exact route that you took to get there.

A simple point to point, there and back drive need only take three hours, but that's predicated on you being immune to the scenery and resistant to the charms of roadside eateries and shops on the way.


Heading straight through to Tai Tapu on SH 75 from Christchurch, and then around the languid, well-sighted and expertly cambered curves of the flats leading to Lake Forysth and Little River, the route is an easy cruise at 100km/h - except where indicated.

While involving, this part of the drive is not that challenging.

The challenge comes as you head out of Little River and move into the switchback of curves that make up the run to the Hilltop Tavern and then down to DuVauchelles, Barry's Bay and eventually Akaroa itself.

Local knowledge is handy on this serpentine stretch. Banks Peninsula commuters have learned over the years to take the classic 'wide in' and 'tight out' approach to cornering, which ensures you only use as much road as you need.

This is especially poignant when you realise that other road users include delivery vehicles and light trucks shuttling from Christchurch to settlements all over the peninsula.

There are numerous scenic stopping points, including the Hilltop Tavern. It has a view right down Akaroa Harbour, which at this point seems tantalisingly close.

The return drive from Akaroa can be made using the 'top' or Summit route to just beyond the Hilltop.

That way you can branch off to Okain's Bay and Pigeon Bay before rejoining the main road back into Little River.

Instead of taking the same route back into town, the signs point right to Teddington and a drive around Lyttelton Harbour to the port itself.

Earthquake damage still occasionally prevents us from taking the delightful over-the-top route into Sumner, but a run through the Lyttelton tunnel takes you back into Christchurch, rounding off an exciting day of driving on some of the least predictable - but the most scenic - roads in the South Island.

What do you think is the best road in New Zealand?