Electric avenues: NZ road trips by electric car

Ewan McDonald, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 28 Jan 2022, 4:25pm
(Photo / Supplied: Emily parker)
(Photo / Supplied: Emily parker)

Electric avenues: NZ road trips by electric car

Ewan McDonald, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 28 Jan 2022, 4:25pm

Motor Industry Association statistics show a record 3290 Teslas registered in Aotearoa last year, up from 592 in 2020. That accounts only for new Teslas – add other brands, used EVs, hybrids and other low-emission vehicles, and it's obvious something's giving way on our roads. 

The vehicles' ever-increasing range and an explosion (possibly the wrong word) in charging stations are making it easier to take your EV for a roadie, and many regional tourism organisations have compiled itineraries designed for greener motorists. NZTA lists charging stations that meet its criteria at journeys.nzta.govt.nz/ev-chargers/chargers. 

The NZTA lists charging stations that meet its criteria online. Photo / 123rf The NZTA lists charging stations that meet its criteria online. (Photo / 123rf) 


The Twin Coast Discovery Highway and sibling Northland Journeys routes are the best way to roadtrip around Te Tai Tokerau. The Northland Journeys break the 800km highway into 10 manageable 50km-150km stretches. Each map includes charging points in the icons (check before you travel to ensure they are available and compatible). 

The Coromandel 

The Coromandel EV Scenic Touring Route is a classic summer journey. The State Highway 25 loop through Karangahake Gorge and around the peninsula's coasts takes in all the sights with regular stop-off points and the entire route is electrified - that is, you'll find charging stations at useful distances. 
Find more information at bit.ly/3nxVeLQ. 


Touring the Waikato's surf beaches, forests and other attractions, you'll have no trouble powering up your EV or hybrid – charging stations are dotted around the region from Hampton Downs motorsport mecca in the north to provincial centres like Morrinsville, Matamata, Cambridge, Te Awamutu and Te Kūiti, even smaller fishing, swimming and surfing spots like Raglan and southerly Mōkau. 

Hamilton's many options include malls (The Base and Garden Place are two). Check out local developer Hikotron: download their app and locate the two stations (SH1 expressway, Frankton, and the exciting Innovation Park, Ruakura), monitor how much power is being drawn down and make payment. They hope to roll out this technology throughout the country in coming months. 


Holidaymakers have been getting a charge out of Rotorua for generations, and most of the area's attractions provide power points. There are several around the CBD (1134 Haupapa St, across from the library) and outskirts. 

North of town, e-motorists can recharge at Skyline Rotorua, one of the region's most-visited venues with the gondola up Mt Ngongotahā, summit cafe, restaurant and wine tasting room. At the southern end of town, Te Puia is home to the Southern Hemisphere's tallest active geyser, Pōhutu; the surrounding geothermal valley; Kiwi Conservation Centre and more. Naturally, there's plenty of kai and a charging station in the southern carpark. On the way to Hell's Gate or whitewater rafting in Ōkere Falls, recharge at Rotorua Airport. 

Lake Taupō 

It's easy to get off the beaten track in the Taupō region with a number of accommodation providers providing EV chargers. Motutere Bay Top 10 Holiday Park and Motuoapa Bay Holiday Park, on the lakeshores between Taupō and Tūrangi, have chargers on site; Tongariro Lodge, on the banks of the legendary trout-fishing river, offers free charging for guests. 

Chargers are available outside several visitor experiences – the battery can power up while you're taking a Taupō Tandem Skydive over the lake, a soak or treatment at DeBrett's Spa, a Hukafalls Jet joyride or browsing Sunday's Market Central. 

Tongariro Lodge, on the banks of the legendary trout-fishing river, offers free charging for guests. Photo / SuppliedTongariro Lodge, on the banks of the legendary trout-fishing river, offers free charging for guests. (Photo / Supplied)


Ruapehu's Adventure Highway opens the door to two national parks, the dramatic volcanoes, landscapes ever-changing from almost lunar landscape to rivers and lakes and the dense greenery of Pureora Forest. 

Take the time to explore this too-rarely visited location with pit stops like the 7.5m carrot at Ōhakune Carrot Adventure Park; Makatote Viaduct, one of our great engineering feats; fresh mountain air at National Park Village; Kiwi-as Smash Palace in Horopito or a secret lagoon at Ohinetonga Scenic Reserve. 

Recharge at the National Army Museum, Waiōuru; Ōhakune and National Park Village; Whakapapa and Tūroa wintersports resorts, Mt Ruapehu; and Hakiaha St, just off Taumarunui's main drag. 


Don't let the name fool you. The Country Road is not one but several routes designed to skip main highways and divert visitors into Manawatū's dramatic landscapes, valleys, villages and towns to enjoy secret swimming holes, country pubs, lush gardens, short bushwalks or backcountry hikes and riverside camping spots. 

Charge your EV in Mangaweka, starting point to routes bearing names like Peep-o-Day, Stormy Point and less imaginatively Manawatū Scenic Route. You'll easily reach Palmerston North for another zap before you hit the road to your next destination. : target='_blank'>manawatunz.co.nz/the-country-road 

Wellington Region 

Leave the capital and take a trip over the Remutaka Hill (my 5ft-nothing grandmother used to do it weekly in a 1930s Ford when it was a one-lane clay track, so your EV will handle it) and get right off the highway with a roadie to the North Island's southern coast. 

Get a good charge at Te Kairanga estate or Martinborough's Top 10 Holiday Park and stroll around the quaint wine-and-food village. From there, head south, stopping for fish 'n' chips at Lake Ferry Hotel and another charge if you skipped it at Martinborough. 

Not-to-be-missed sights include Pūtangirua Pinnacles (rock spires technically known as "hoodoos") from The Lord of the Rings; Cape Palliser, where the brave and fit can climb 258 steps to the candy-striped lighthouse. Overnighting? Nip back around Lake Ōnoke to Wharekauhau Country Estate, which has a handy charging spot, and home past vast, shallow Lake Wairarapa. 

The 340km itinerary for the Central Otago Touring Route has been established as EV-friendly. Photo / Supplied
The 340km itinerary for the Central Otago Touring Route has been established as EV-friendly. (Photo / Supplied)


Despite its lengthy coastline, Marlborough is a compact region, its landscapes ranging from Kaikōura's temperamental coast to serene vineyards and the utterly gorgeous sounds. Some ideas: head down the east coast to Marfell's Beach, picnic and walk up to Cape Campbell lighthouse, return to Blenheim for shopping and a winery lunch (recharge at Ward or Raparua Rd, Blenheim). It's a quick run to Picton for an award-winning toastie; from there, venture into the sounds by car or cruise. 

Arthur's Pass National Park 

If you've "done" Christchurch and Banks Peninsula, how about a change of scenery? A two-hour drive west from the city is Arthur's Pass National Park. Surrounded by the Southern Alps, the namesake village is the ultimate spot for tramping or day walks such as Castle Hill and the Devil's Punchbowl, a short, popular waterfall track with excellent photo opportunities. Watch for kea – they'll peck anything off an old-school gas-guzzler or your shiny new e-car. 

You'll find charging stations at Darfield, Springfield, Castle Hill and Arthur's Pass Village. For tips and deals on touring central Te Waipounamu by EV. 

Mackenzie Country 

Many would be hard-placed to pinpoint it on a map but the Mackenzie Country can claim our highest mountains, longest glaciers, turquoise-est lakes, golden tussock and some of the world's darkest skies. Hint: it's inland from Timaru, centred around the heartland town of Fairlie (population 940 and a charging station). 

Head towards Lake Tekapo and its 165ha forest park, picnic sites, dog runs and 24km of bike and walking trails. You'll find another charger across the road from the world-renowned Dark Sky Project before continuing to the district's largest town, Twizel. 

The Hydro Heritage Trail is a great insight into the engineering expertise that went into creating the hydro-power system and the communities that grew around it – an excellent way to explore the region. Charger is in the town car park. 

Central Otago 

This region has more than its fair share of charms, many combined into the new Central Otago Touring Route through those spectacular landscapes between Dunedin and Queenstown. The 340km itinerary has been established as EV-friendly with charging stations installed in Dunedin, Middlemarch, Ranfurly, Ōmakau, Alexandra, Cromwell and Queenstown. 

Along the way, explore heritage sites, curling in Naseby, Highlands Motorsport Park – fancy a lap in their all-electric Porsche Taycan, 0-100km/h in 2.4sec? – wineries, quirky villages and all those other attractions you associate with this year-round playground. 

At both ends of this route (also at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch), Go Rentals enables you to travel carbon-neutral by hiring a Tesla, which might be a good test-drive for those considering investing in an EV. See gorentals.co.nz/tesla-rental-nz. 


For those concerned about their footprints, Nomad Safaris runs luxury private tours of Queenstown's history, people, lakes, and mountains using zero-emission vehicles (nomadsafaris.co.nz/queenstown-tesla-private-tours); Envy Experiences has a similar offering based around Milford Sound. envyexperiences.co.nz. 

Nomad Safaris runs luxury private tours of Queenstown's history, people, lakes, and mountains using zero-emission vehicles. Photo / SuppliedNomad Safaris runs luxury private tours of Queenstown's history, people, lakes, and mountains using zero-emission vehicles. (Photo / Supplied) 

Southern Scenic Route 

The Southern Scenic Route is a 610km triangle between Queenstown, Invercargill and Dunedin with side trips to Fiordland. The 200km, 2½hr Western Southland section from Te Anau to Invercargill skirts Fiordland National Park and the rugged south coast, a glimpse into Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. 

Take your time: apart from the gobsmacking views, you've got activities like mountain biking, trout fishing, hunting, boating and caving. The three-day Tūātapere Hump Ridge Track is a world-class outdoor experience; so too jetboating across Hauroko, our deepest lake, and Wairaurahiri, the 27km river that falls 200m to the sea, nicknamed "New Zealand's longest waterfall". 

There are charging points in Invercargill, Riverton, Tūātapere and Te Anau. fiordland.org.nz/visit/southern-scenic-route 

Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail 

On the southern coast, the Catlins Coastal Heritage Trail is a rewarding detour off the main roads, covering 70km of road, part tar-seal and part gravel. From this area of isolated beaches, dramatic coast, native forests and wildlife, sheep and beef farming, you'll gain an insight into settler New Zealand. There are charging points in Fortrose, Curio Bay and Papatōwai. 

Check traffic light settings and Ministry of Health advice before travel at covid19.govt.nz