How to get the most out of a New Zealand Road Trip

New Zealand is the perfect choice for an Antipodean road trip. If you’re thinking about hitting the road, here are a few things to consider at the planning stage so you can get the most out of your New Zealand road trip.

Sunrise over the Tasman Sea, New Zealand road trip
Sunrise over the Tasman Sea

How to get the most out of a New Zealand road trip

Don’t cram too much in

New Zealand isn’t a large country, but it crams a lot into a small space. If you’re planning a two or three week vacation, you’re not going to see everything. It is still possible to see the highlights of both North Island and South Island with just seven days for each. Plan a circular route to avoid backtracking or fly between the two to cut out areas that you might not wish to visit this time around. Try to include at least one of the country’s scenic highways – they’re well worth the detour.

Road to Mount Cook, New Zealand road trip
Road to Mount Cook

Factor in seasonal weather

Driving in a strange country can be daunting; and coping with icy or snowy roads more so unless you’re used to such conditions back home. That doesn’t mean you should rule out a New Zealand road trip if you plan to visit in winter. North Island in particular rarely experiences heavy snowfalls and driving is still a pleasure. If you’re worried about driving in adverse conditions further south consider a bus trip option for South Island.

Wellington City at Night, New Zealand road trip,lights,harbour,dusk
Wellington City at Night

You don’t need to hire a campervan

Hiring a campervan is a popular choice as it enables you to be more flexible when it comes to overnight accommodation. It can also work out cheaper than staying in a hotel. If you do decide to opt for a hotel or guesthouse stay, don’t forget to check it offers parking. Having a car rental rather than a larger vehicle is likely to be easier around town if you plan to spend time in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, though of course their excellent city transport means it’s easy to ditch the car altogether.

Sunset on the Coast, New Zealand road trip,dusk, sea,ocean,beach
Sunset on the Coast

Get off the beaten track

The big advantage to hiring your own transport is that you can go wherever you please. Make the most of that freedom and ditch the easy-to-get-to places. Instead, head off the beaten track into the beautiful New Zealand countryside and see some of its small villages. Remember to build in time to get out of the car – some of New Zealand’s best experiences come when you venture along its hiking trails or explore its stunning beaches.

Sunny afternoon drive, New Zealand road trip
Sunny afternoon drive in New Zealand

There’s no need to feel daunted

New Zealand drives on the left, which means you might have to get the hang of driving on the wrong side of the road. Most rentals are automatics, however, so you won’t have to contend with cack-handed gear changes. Most roads are relatively traffic free and feel quite empty, especially if you come from a town or city in Europe or North America. Signposts are easy to follow too; making this a good place to cut your car rental teeth if you’ve never done a self-drive itinerary before. Happy travels!

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

Other posts by the Author

One Response

  1. Best New Zealand 4WD Locations - Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] New Zealand has some of the most wide ranging and spectacular scenery in the world, much of it largely untouched. There’s a very good reason that tourism is one of New Zealand’s most prominent industries, because there are few nations in the world that are as incredible to look at. Compared to its close neighbour and ally Australia, which is flat, sunburnt and rugged, New Zealand is chock full of high mountains with snowcapped peaks, deep lakes, volcanic hot springs and even glaciers. For such a small nation it crams an incredible array of scenery into its landmass. […]


Leave a Reply