Explore New Zealand’s remote backcountry areas by 4WD vehicle – the perfect way to combine adrenalin-charged activity with the enjoyment of fresh air and superb alpine and coastal scenery.

Off-road tours are popular because they open up vast backcountry areas that remain ‘hidden’ to the general public. Where the tarseal ends is where the fun begins in nature’s own realm ‘Off the Beaten Track’.

Commercial 4WD companies can be found in a number of North Island centres including Auckland, Rotorua, Ohakune and Te Puke. South Island operations are based in Christchurch, Queenstown, Omarama, Hanmer Springs, Waipari, Greymouth and a few other centres. Several companies are dedicated 4WD training centres. Others operate day trips for passengers or provide vehicles for you to drive on ‘self-guided’ trips or ‘tag-alongs’ (where you follow an experienced trip leader). Some specialise in multi-day expeditions that circle the North or South islands.

For spectacular scenery it is hard to beat the station-to-station adventure tours that go through the foothills of the Southern Alps. You can choose to travel in hassle-free, comfortable ‘shiny’ tours that don’t threaten the paintwork, or push the limits in ‘hard yakker’ tours that follow pioneer trails over braided rivers, rockbound ridges and remote mountain passes.

An added attraction on some tours is a ‘bush’ camp with a traditional campfire and yarns under the stars. Watch out for special interest tours that focus on heritage trails, goldfield towns, eco-adventures, hunting, fly-fishing, photography or mystery packages.

So why not break away from conventional transport modes and get into low gear in high places? The sheer freedom of off-road travel in the high country is food for the soul. As you top a ridge and see endless waves of snow-capped peaks, life gains a fresh vitality and zest. Don’t miss the wide-open spaces of backcountry New Zealand.