Desert Road

Desert Road: a rather remote drive of NZ

Located in New Zealand's North Island, the Desert Road is a section of State Highway 1 running along Rangipo's Desert. Be careful as the weather can change very quickly. The scenery is stunning. The area is frequently lashed by wind.

What is Desert Road NZ?

The straight road is totally paved. It’s 63km (39 miles) long crossing the alpine desert and links the small towns of Turangi, on the North Island Volcanic Plateau in Waikato región and Waiouru, in the Ruapehu District. This road gains its name from being completely remote. Rangipo Desert (Te Onetapu) is a barren desert-like environment. Its inhospitable weather makes it an interesting route to drive along. The drive is rather remote. Due to the unproductive nature of the land, the region is largely uninhabited. The road was constructed in the 1940’s, as part of a strategy to increase the tourist flow in the area.

Is the Desert Road open?

The drive tops out at 1.078m (3,536ft) above the sea level. At this elevation, the Desert Road is the point on the New Zealand state highway network. The road is closed for short periods most winters with barriers arms due to severe snow storms and icy road conditions. The winds not only dry the desert but blast exposed plants, causing wind-burn at any time of the year and often freeze-burn during the cold months. The winds can be brutally cold and will whip off the mountains and through any unprotected places like a frozen knife.

Is Desert Road worth it?

Plan about one hour to complete the drive without any stops. However, it’ll take longer as this is an unforgettable road trip with amazing landscapes and incredible scenery. Along the way you'll enjoy amazing views of Tongariro National Park's volcanoes. The Black Gate of Mordor from the Lord of the Rings films was shot here.


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