Planning A New Zealand Adventure Route

New Zealand has an excellent network of adventure routes. For the adventure tourer there are numerous stretches of immaculately maintained tarmac and excellent gravel roads that wind through jaw dropping scenery. For the adventure rider that enjoys sinking their teeth into a challenge there is a multitude of grade 3, 4 and 5 routes over mountain ranges, expansive valleys, barren tussock land, lush native bush and crystal clear mountain streams. New Zealand offers adventure riders a smorgasbord of outstanding terrain and epic vistas that are truly world-class.

The only catch is that many of the remote routes and epic locations are tucked away and easily missed. To ensure your route doesn’t skip any of the gems it really pays to either spend the time researching, or using a resource that has already done the hard work for you and tells you exactly where all the good routes and locations are. The following resources are a mixture of paid and free options to help you assemble a truly epic New Zealand adventure route. 


RemoteMoto sits at the top of the list as the best route planning resource for the South Island of New Zealand. It is considered by many adventure riders as the Rolls-Royce of route planning. It does have an annual subscription however the high level of routes, campsites, huts, points of interest and fuel stations makes it worth every cent if you want the best of the best.

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View the RemoteMoto routes

DOC Website

The DOC (Department of Conservation) website has got information on a few good 4X4 routes throughout New Zealand. The routes are spread quite sparsely around the country meaning it is not possible to plan an entire route from this one website, however it is a free resource and can provide some great route ideas. 

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View the DOC website

Topographic Maps - Website is one of many websites that displays topographic maps of New Zealand for free. These websites can be helpful for exploring route options however there is one important thing to note; many of the tracks on these maps cross private land or conservation land and require permission to access. In many cases tracks are not open to vehicle access at all. If you are going to use this type of resource to plan your route you will need to accompany it with some website/phone research to establish who the land owners are and how to contact them to get legal access. 

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View the topo map website

Topographic Maps - Paper Copies

While the paper copies of the New Zealand topographic maps have the same issue as the topographic websites whereby they don't display legal access details, they are brilliant for planning a New Zealand route. Main routes and backup routes can be drawn onto the map making it a very convenient way to visually evaluate the route you are planning. The maps are compact and weigh almost nothing so they are perfect for carrying with you on your bike for reference on-the-go.  

The most practical topographic map size is the 1:250,000 scale. Simply purchase the maps that cover the areas you are planning to ride and then carry the maps individually, or tape them together so you have one big foldout map that displays your entire route.

The 1:50,000 scale topographic maps offer far greater detail of a smaller area. They are great if your route is in a relatively small area however if your route covers a large area you will potentially have to purchase dozens of 1:50,000 scale maps. For routes covering large areas the 1:250,000 scale maps are a far better option.

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Buy maps from DOC

Motorbikin DVDs

Phil is an Australian adventure rider and moto videographer. While his DVDs primarily cover Australia he has come over to New Zealand a number of times to specifically film DVDs that showcase many of the great New Zealand adventure routes. 

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View Motorbikin's DVDs

Exploration Routes 

Exploration Routes are the best New Zealand routes put together in a convenient package with GPX files and printable route notes containing information on terrain, cautions, fuel stops, food supplies and accommodation. One of the best Exploration Routes is the Rocky Ridges. This is an EPIC 11 day adventure route that delivers pure awesomeness from start to finish. 

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View the Exploration Routes

Kiwimaps Complete Driver's Atlases

The Kiwimaps Complete Driver's Atlases offer a good amount of information at a good price. They don't feature the more challenging adventure routes New Zealand has to offer however they do comprehensively cover the network of tarmac and gravel roads plus a few of the iconic 4X4 tracks of medium grade. They are a good option for general adventure touring of New Zealand however if you are an adventurous rider looking for the more reomote routes and locations, you’ll likely want to consider a different resource. 

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View These Atlases

Twisting Throttle New Zealand 

The Twisting Throttle New Zealand book features Mike Hyde’s top 50 New Zealand rides. The routes are made up of a mixture of tarmac and mild gravel roads. It is by no means an exhaustive guide to riding in New Zealand however it covers some of the gems and gets high praise from many overseas adventure riders. 

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View this book

4WD South Book

Mark Wilson’s book 4WD South covers 115 routes and suits the adventure rider looking for off-road routes. The book doesn’t supply GPX files with each route however it does offer the convenience of being able to carry the book with you. The book costs $60.

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Route Planning Software

Once you have researched ideas for the route you want to create, you can use route planning software to build GPX files to export to your GPS unit or smartphone. This is covered in detail on the Route Planning Software page

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Route planning software
Author of this article: RMOTO