New Zealand road trips

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Start planning your road trip in New Zealand

New Zealand’s excellent roads were made for a self-drive adventure. Hop in a car or camper van and discover the North Island’s gorgeous bays and islands before arriving at the capital, Wellington. Then cross to the South Island to admire majestic peaks, pristine lakes, and enormous glaciers. Road trips in New Zealand make for an unforgettable vacation. 

What Makes New Zealand a Great Destination for a Road Trip?

New Zealand is a country rich with natural wonder, and its diverse landscapes mean a road trip is a great way to experience its beauty. The country's well-maintained roads make getting around by car easy, and driving in New Zealand offers flexibility and independence. Stop anytime to take a break, soak in the view or savor delicious food and wine.

The best road trips in New Zealand

A self-drive road trip in New Zealand is the perfect way to enjoy your vacation at a leisurely pace. Drive along the dramatic coastline, explore alluring lakes and natural parks, and navigate winding mountain roads. Road trips in New Zealand are spectacular. Here are the top routes.

Take the road from Auckland to Rotorua

On the 142-mile journey from Auckland to Rotorua, you can relish ocean views as you leave the city, then stop at the award-winning Hamilton Gardens or unwind at Lake Karapiro. On arrival in Rotorua, marvel at erupting geysers and immerse yourself in hot mud pools in Rotorua.

Take a leisurely drive from Rotorua to Wellington

This 280-mile drive takes you via the hot springs in Kerosene Creek. After leaving Rotorua, have a hot soak before getting on your way. Then stretch your legs at the Bason Botanic Gardens in Whanganui before driving onwards to Wellington. Here in the country's capital, check out the National Museum and the buzzing night markets where you can taste some of New Zealand’s finest food and drink.

Enjoy an epic Queenstown to Milford Sound road trip

Put aside at least two or three days to do this 178-mile drive, rated as one of the most beautiful in the world. The journey will take you to beautiful lakes, passing through thick forests, climbing past snowy mountains, and down to verdant valleys.

Drive the southern scenic route from Queenstown to Dunedin

The most direct route to Dunedin is just a 173-mile hop, but take the scenic route via Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city, and you’ll enjoy coastal views and great places to stop off. Ease off on the gas pedal and stop at the Caitlins for its surf beaches, forests, and wildlife. Drive along the Otago Coast to Nugget Point to spot sea lions. Finally, in Dunedin, check out the modern architecture and join the lively bars and clubs for a night out.

Get inspired on a drive from Christchurch to Queenstown

This 306-mile journey should be done slowly, as there are some spectacular sights to see along this route. Drive towards Lake Tekapo for some excellent views and photo opportunities, then continue towards Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and relish the splendid peaks of Aoraki. From the park, head south towards Wanaka and visit the fishing village of Omarama.

Tips and advice for touring New Zealand by car

Driving in New Zealand is easy. With relatively few cars on the road, you’ll find it relaxing and enjoyable to get used to driving here. Rental cars, both automatic and manual, are available at airports and cities, and in New Zealand you need to drive on the left side of the road and to navigate roundabouts by driving clockwise and giving way to the right. Be sure to carry blankets and plenty of water in case of emergencies.

When to go in New Zealand?

Go and explore Maori culture in the land of rugby. The best period to travel to New Zealand ranges from December to April. Effectively, it's the period when the weather is warmest. That's what makes it the best time to discover this magnificent country and to enjoy the many extreme sports on offer. During the winter, it's not just a question of lower temperatures, but also the strong winds that blow. (On the other hand, this is the best period for winter sports).
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