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Windy New Zealand Roads

There is no such thing as right angles in nature … or in New Zealand’s road network.

There is no such thing as right angles in nature … or in New Zealand’s road network.

New Zealand roads are really something special. They call be described as continuously curvy — back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Driving in this country feels like sledding down a luge track. Seriously, the road sometimes banks way up on curves, tipping your vehicle slightly sideways.

At first, I thought I was just driving along a particularly windy stretch of roadway in a hilly part of the country but I soon realized that all the roads are like that — even those on relatively flat land.

For some days I wondered how that could be. Did they actually build the roads around farmer’s established property lines rather than claiming eminent domain and blazing a straight path right through the middle like they do everywhere else in the world? Did they intentionally make the roads windy because they think it keeps drivers’ attention better (and easily weeds out poor drivers and drunks — vrooom! gone)? Did they just never upgrade the road system from what it was during the days of horse paths?

Then it became apparent that roadways in New Zealand tend to smoothly run within the ebbs and flows of the natural environment, like contour lines on a physical map. So rather that blasting straight roads through mountains they wind them gradually up and down the sides. Instead if rerouting a river to make it run straight and then slapping an equally straight road next to it they defer to the natural curves of the waterway.

As far as windy roads on flat-ish pasture land, I have no explanation for this. Perhaps they just like the looks of curvy highways better than straight ones?

Filed under: New Zealand, Travel Diary

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3440 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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