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A Driving Guide to Scenic New Zealand

Reviewed by Dorothy - 19/02/09

A Driving Guide to Scenic New Zealand cover
Click here to view a larger version

This guide, put out by Craig Potton Publishing, is the fourth title in the Bird's Eye Guide series.

The main text in this book is that used in Driving Scenic New Zealand, written by Dave Chowdbury and updated and revised by Simon Henshaw.

The maps by GeographX with their 3D impact assist drivers to comprehend the nature of the area through which they are planning to drive. As the routes covered in the book are chosen for their scenic appeal they are likely to traverse hilly or mountainous areas. It is helpful for the driver to be aware of what lies ahead. It will also help them to understand why the time suggested seems disproportionately long for the distance set down for the journey.

The other factor slowing progress on routes where the scenery is outstanding is the time spent pausing to enjoy the scenery and take photos. Both of these considerations apply to many of the most scenic drives.

The trip from Arthur's Pass to Greymouth (pages 120-121) includes travel through the scenic and steep Otira Gorge.

From Te Anau to Milford Sound (pages 138-141) travel is slowed by the steep road through the mountains and the impressive scenery.

The zigzag road up the Crown Range (pages 134-135) on one route from Queenstown to Wanaka reaches the highest elevation of any road in New Zealand and therefore necessitates slow travel, and the vista from the top demands a stop and photography.

On the outstanding scenic trip from Rotorua to Lake Waikaremoana and on to Wairoa (pages 52-53) - the longest forest drive in New Zealand - the road is unsealed.

The trip from Rotorua to Taihape (pages 30-31, 64-65) offers wonderful sights including glimpses of steam bores at Wairakei, Lake Taupo, volcanic mountains and views which encourage slow travelling.

The guide offers advice on the best places to stop and take photos. It also gives recommendations on where to stop for exercise, especially nature walks with time for walking included. These inspire me to travel the roads again, try the recommended places to eat and include the walks, some of which we passed by because without the guide we sped past them.

A further valuable aspect of the advice on routes is the careful detailing of alternative routes, such as choosing the longer scenic route beside the Firth of Thames to travel to Thames from Pakuranga instead of the busier shorter and more direct route. Similarly driving along the Catlins Coast from Balclutha to Invercargill and travelling over the Crown Range from Queenstown to Wanaka are recommended alternatives to the main roads.

The photos in the book are carefully chosen to capture the atmosphere of the area, so they are not necessarily taken in brilliant sunshine, and a shot of the Upper Otira Valley shows the area on a cloudy day rather than the somewhat rare view of a clear blue sky.

Readers who are familiar with Craig Potton's magnificent photos of back country scenery may have expected the book to be dominated by large photos, but the publishers have resisted the temptation to turn this into a coffee table book of scenery. It is essentially what the name suggests � a guide for drivers.

There is advice on practical factors influencing the travellers' comfort � where to eat and drink, buy fuel and find toilets � and where these amenities are not available.

To browse through this book can tempt the reader to relive old journeys or plan new ones � a pleasurable exercise in either case. For any travellers who remember driving over the rough and tortuous road from Taupo to Napier in the middle of the twentieth century the improvements described in the Guide are a temptation to return.

In the back cover of the book there is a large map of the North Island and South Island routes described in the book. It is essential that you combine study of these maps with use of the individual maps in the book and that you look for the arrow indicating north.

In many maps the direction is changed so much from the convention of having the North point going up the page that I found it difficult to get the perspective right and at the same time read the place names. This is the only disadvantage for me in what is otherwise a valuable and interesting guide.

Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 978 1 877333 94 1
Price $NZ34.99

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