Driving in New Zealand

 

  Driving in New Zealand


 

 

  New Zealand Roads 

Driving in New Zealand is pretty easy, but may be different than what you are used to. Distances between towns are relatively short, traffic is light (except for Auckland), and the roads are usually in good condition, though there are few multi-lane highways in the country. There are brief stretches of motorway around the major cities, but elsewhere the highways are single-lane in either direction and pass through the towns.

Generally the roads are hilly and windy, so do take this into consideration as it may slow you down a little. The speed limit on the highways is 100km/h, but count on averaging around 80km/h as you may get stuck behind a truck. As the weather is also very changeable - and when it rains in New Zealand, it pours - , driving conditions may become difficult, so do take care.

Kiwis drive on the left hand side of the road, and for those used to driving on the right, take care. Every year serious and fatal accidents happen involving foreign drivers, many of them driving on the wrong side of the road!

 

Some things to remember

 We drive on the left-hand side of the road

 it's easy to underestimate travelling times

our roads are narrower, more winding and sometimes steeper than you might expect

our roads are mostly two-way, with one lane in each direction - we have few motorways

not all railway crossings have active warnings

seat belts are compulsory

it's illegal to use a phone while driving.

 

Make sure you allow plenty of time and take regular breaks. The trip may be slower, but the scenery is amazing so take your time and enjoy your journey.

A good resource for an introduction of the road rules for visitors who want to drive in New Zealand is provided by the New Zealand Transport Agency and can be found here. 


  Driving Licenses and Permits 

You can drive in New Zealand if:

you have a current and valid overseas license or driver permit, and

you haven’t been given a disqualification or suspension in New Zealand, and

you came into New Zealand less than 12 months ago, and

your overseas license is in English, or you have an accurate translation, and

you haven’t been granted a New Zealand driver license since you last entered New Zealand.

 

If you don't meet all of these requirements, you must apply for a New Zealand driver license to drive in New Zealand.

To ride a motorcycle you must have a valid motorcycle license or special endorsement on your home country driver's license.

All drivers must know the road rules, what the road signs mean and how to drive safely. Picking up a copy of the NZ road code is a wise investment that will tell you all you need to know. It's available at the NZ Automobile Association (AA) offices and bookshops.


  Hiring a car in New Zealand 

A valid, unrestricted driver's license from your home country is required to rent and drive a car in NZ. Usually you must be at least 21 years old to rent a car in NZ and under 26 often incurs a larger insurance excess.


  Other things to remember when driving NZ

Avoid fatigue

If you're tired you're much more likely to have a crash. Before driving, allow plenty of time to rest when you first arrive in New Zealand and then make sure you get plenty of rest before each long drive. Ensure you allow enough time to drive safely between your destinations. If you find your attention wandering when driving, pull over to the roadside and have a rest.

Watch your speed

Excessive speed is one of the biggest killers on our roads. If there is a line of traffic behind you, find a safe place to pull over and let them go past.

Weather related hazards

The weather can vary considerably, even within a single day. During the winter months and early spring, watch out for ice and snow and other weather-related hazards.

Driving a camper

Many requirements for driving a motorhome are the same as for car drivers, such as the road and licensing rules, but there are other things you need to know, such as where to dispose of your waste at dump stations.

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and drugs, including some drugs given to you by a doctor, can seriously affect your driving. They can slow your reaction times and affect your senses. You risk causing death and serious injury to yourself and other people if you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


  New Zealand driving times and distances

 

 

Driving in New Zealand

 

 

 


 

 

 

More articles to help you plan your New Zealand self driving vacation

Facts for the New Zealand visitor

New Zealand travel maps

New Zealand Touring Itineraries

Facts for hiking in New Zealand

Traveling around New Zealand in a motorhome

Best time to visit New Zealand

Best places to visit in New Zealand

Coromandel Beaches

Along the Milford Road

The coastal paradise of Abel Tasman National Park

Top things to see and do in Tongariro National Park

Cape Reinga : More than just the lighthouse

Two days in Fox Glacier

The Coromandel : A small peninsula with a big character

Amazing hikes in and around Lake Taupo you shouldn't miss

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Taranaki

 

 

Taranaki might be a slightly less known region in New Zealand, unless you're a keen surfer or windsurfer. The landscape is dominated by the perfectly shaped volcanic cone which is Mt Taranaki, or Mt Egmont. At 2500m not only does it entirely dominate the landscape, but it also creates its own climate. On any given day, the winds may be reaching gale force on one side of the mountain, while on the other side you may be relaxing on the beach without a sigh of wind, such is the impact of the mountain.

In winter you may ski down the mountain in the morning, and in summer there are a number of excellent hiking opportunities, including hikes to the summit or right around the mountain.

Surf Highway 45 offers word class surf and windsurfing conditions and the black iron sandy beaches are wild and beautiful and aplenty.

 

Marlborough

 

When travelling from the North Island to the South Island on the Interislander ferry, the sheltered waterways of the Marlborough Sounds are the first sight. Picton is the destination port, and a good base to go walking, fishing, sailing, kayaking and exploring the many secluded bays in the Sounds. 

The Marlborough region is internationally recognized for its world class wine, most notably its Sauvignon Blanc, and there are many different ways to sample these wines as their are many wineries offering excellent wine tours. By bike, or by luxury old timer cars, the creativity with which these tours are organized is brilliant. The seafood in this region is also sumptuous, great to combine with a glass of the local wines.

Those put off by the large crowds on the Abel Tasman Track will love the Queen Charlotte Track. The beaches are a little less exquisite, but the coastal scenery is still stunning and there are many accommodation options aolong the track.

Nelson - Tasman

 

 

The Nelson-Tasman region is blessed with an incredibly diverse natural beauty, offering no less than three of the finest National Parks in the country. From the golden beaches of Abel Tasman National Park, dramatic and lush rainforests in Kahurangi National Park, to the alpine environment of Nelson Lakes National Park, this region has it all. The area around Nelson is also one of the sunniest in the country, due to the protecting surrounding hills, so it's a popular region with travelers.

Nelson is the South Island's second largest city, noted for its fruit-growing industry in the Motueka Valley, wineries and micro-breweries. It also has an energetic local arts and crafts community with local artists exhibiting their products on the famed Nelson market every Saturday. Nearby Rabbit Island boasts great swimming beaches, boating fishing and forest walks. 

Further west, Motueka is the centre of a green tea, hops and fruit-growing area, and is a good base to explore the nearby parks. The drive over Takaka Hill takes you into Golden Bay, whre you may find the biggest cave in the Southern Hemisphere as well as New Zealand's largest freshwater spring, the Waikoropupu Springs, simply called "Pupu Springs", with reputedly the clearest water in the world.

Kaikoura

 

Kaikoura is a unique place by the sea where marine wildlife lives in abundance, against the backdrop of the impressive Kaikoura mountain ranges. It is well known for its range of eco-tourism activities and getting up close with the main inhabitant along its shores, the giant Sperm Whale.

Whale watching in Kaikoura is simply a must-do as you're guaranteed to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, and along the way you're most likely to see a pod of bottlenose or duksy dolphins play in the water, be impressed by the take-off and water landing of the Royal Albatross, and see a bunch of sea lions lazing about on a rock, suc is the diversity.

The ocean here also provides some spectacular seafood, and a stay in Kaikoura may not go by without having tried the crayfish

Aoraki - Mt Cook

 

 

The approach to new Zealand's tallest mountain, Mt Cook, via the blue lake of Lake Pukaki is something you will remember for a lifetime. At 3754m Mt Cook entirely dominates the landscape and as you draw ever closer, its imperious glaze on you only gets more and more impressive.

Mt Cook National Park, along with Aspiring and Westland National Parks, have been incorporated into a World Heritage Area extending from the Cook River in Westland down to the base of Fiordland. Of the 27 mountains in New Zealand which are over 300om, 22 of them are in Mt Cook National Park. The park also boasts New Zealand's longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier.

The park offer numerous hikes to get up close with Mt Cook, but also offer many other exciting adventure activities, such as mountaineering, helicopter flights, heli-skiing and sea-kayaking on glacial waters.

West Coast - Glaciers

 

 

The West Coast or Westland is a rugged and wild land with rocky beaches, deep river gorges,  bush-clad hills and towering icy-peaks. Extending across a 600km long stretch on the western side of the Southern Alps, a visit here takes you through a myriad of five National Parks, yes five!!, including the World Heritage Area - Te Wahipounamu. Each of the national parks - Kahurangi, Paparoa, Arthur's Pass, Westland and Mt Aspiring National Parks - have their their own unique and distinct features. You'll find New Zealand's highest mountains, most dense and lush rainforests, natural rivers, glacial lakes, deepest gorges,  and of course the two phenomenal Glaciers themselves, Fox and Franz Josef.

Wanaka

 

 

Wanaka receives slightly less attention than it's more famous neighbour Queenstown, only about an hour away, but one may argue which of the two towns is nestled in the most impressive scenery. While that may be a very difficult question to answer, Wanaka boasts a similar range of adrenaline activities, but with some more serenity about it all.  The town offers fine dining and living and is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park and the Treble Cone, Cardrona, Harris Mountains and Pisa Range ski areas. Every second Easter, Wanaka hosts the incredibly popular Warbirds over Lake Wanaka, a huge international air show that sees the town swell with visitors.

The central feature of the region is Mt Aspiring, surrounded by the national park with the same name. The alpine scenery does not get any more dramatic than this in New Zealand, and offers some of the best hiking in the country. The park has wide valleys, secluded flats, more than 100 glaciers and towering mountains. The southern end of the park around Glenorchy receives most visitors and includes popular hikes such as the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's great walks, but there are also excellent shorter walks and more demanding hikes in the Matukituki Valley close to Wanaka. 


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Millenniumm Queenstown

 Image result for millennium queenstown

Right in the heart of the action, Millennium Hotel Queenstown is just minutes from Queenstown central shopping, entertainment and outdoor activities such as bungy jumping, white water rafting and jet boating. The popular ski destinations of Coronet Peak, Remakables, and Cardrona are also close by. 

This luxury hotel also offers accessible rooms for special needs guests with their friendly staff on hand to assist you anytime. Most of this accommodation also offers scenic views of Queenstown city and mountains, providing the perfect backdrop to your trip. Millennium Hotel Queenstown is a 4-star plus and Enviro-Gold Qualmark rated hotel, with an Environmental Sustainability Plan for the future. 

Citylife Wellington (Heritage)

 Image result for citylife wellington

Wellington prides itself on being not only the country’s capital, but also its cultural capital – and there’s no better place to soak up the atmosphere than CityLife Wellington, with hotel accommodation located right in the heart of the city. Situated on Lambton Quay, you’ll find the best shopping, tourist attractions and cultural landmarks all within easy walking distance.

When you want a breather, the hotel offers plenty of ways to make the most of your downtime. Enjoy a hotel experience unlike other Wellington hotels.

Whether you’re seeking Wellington accommodation for work, rest or play, our spacious rooms offer you the comforts of home - with the added benefits of housekeeping and room service.

Offering a range of one and two bedroom serviced apartments, After an exciting day of sightseeing or business, you can now enjoy an even better night's sleep with extra comfy beds in all rooms.

 

Rutherford Nelson (Heritage)

 Image result for rutherford nelson a heritage hotel

Whether you’re visiting our incredible region for business or pleasure, Rutherford Hotel Nelson is the obvious choice for luxury accommodation in Nelson.

Rutherford Hotel Nelson is Nelson’s only 24-hour fully-serviced hotel, offering luxurious rooms and suites – ideal for corporate travelers, families and conference delegates. The central location means Nelson’s many galleries and City attractions are just a stone’s throw away. All rooms have a view of the harbour, city, historic South Street or Nelson’s beautiful cathedral.

The stylish accommodation will suit anyone looking for a great place to stay in Nelson, whether you’re here on holiday, in town for a wedding or visiting Nelson for a conference. 

 

Distinction Hotel Lake Te Anau

 

Get away from it all, and escape into the serene surroundings of Distinction Luxmore Hotel, Lake Te Anau before heading out to explore the world-famous beauty of Fiordland including Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. With its range of modern hotel accommodation options, 2 on-site restaurants, FREE unlimited WiFi, complimentary guest car parking and an excellent standard of service, the team at Distinction Luxmore Hotel will make your stay in Te Anau comfortable and enjoyable.
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Conveniently located in the heart of Te Anau's town shopping centre and a short stroll from Lake Te Anau, the South Island's largest lake and launching pad for many water based activities. The 180 room Distinction Luxmore Hotel offers guests a wide range of modern, refurbished hotel accommodation.

Alpine Resort Wanaka (Distinction)

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Distinction Wanaka Alpine Resort is nestled in a quiet Lake Wanaka location and guests can enjoy access to the resort facilities whilst staying in the serviced apartments. The stylish, self-contained, serviced apartments each provide a high level of personal comfort and convenience, perfect for all seasons.

They offer a fully equipped kitchen, televisions with 50+ channels of SKY channels, free WiFi, under-floor heating in the bathrooms, private & secure car garages, perfect for storing additional equipment such as skis and bikes. Enquire about daily, weekly and longer term servicing options..

Scenic Hotel Napier

 Image result for scenic hotel napier

We invite you to enjoy quality 4-star hotel accommodation of an international standard. From the moment you step into our spacious, light-filled lobby, you will experience our commitment to quality and customer service. If you fancy waking up to serene ocean views, Scenic Hotel Te Pania is the perfect place to start your day in Hawke’s Bay. Simply leave the curtains open, roll over in bed, and soak it all in. 

Hawke's Bay is one of the first places in the world to see the light each day, with Napier hotel enjoying a premium waterfront location on Napier's Marine Parade. The hotel’s slender curved form echoes the shape of the bay and guests are treated to sweeping views out over the water. A fresh, contemporary style hotel, Scenic Hotel Te Pania is just a short stroll from Napier’s main art deco style street and is located in close proximity to many of Napier's attractions..

 

Scenic Franz Josef

 Image result for scenic hotel franz josef

In the heart of the village and edge of the Westland World Heritage Park, the Scenic Hotel Franz Josef Glacier is only a breath away from the spectacular Franz Josef Glacier. 

This hotel offers everything you need to be able to explore this dramatic region in style and comfort. With an exceptional restaurant, serving hearty, West Coast fare, and the Moa Bar with its open fireplace, you are never without choice. Plus, with the private hot pools and our Amaia Luxury Spa close by, you can enjoy time out to rejuvenate after a day taking in the many walking tracks and other outdoor pursuits. 

Free WiFi is available throughout the hotel, plus a guest information and booking service will ensure that you can make the most of every minute you spend in the Westland region.

 

Funyaks + Jet Boat

  Image result for funyak + jet boat queenstown

This day in and around Queenstown takes you deep into "Paradise", near Glenorchy in Mt Aspiring National Park.

An unmissable experience with the exhilaration of a wilderness jet boat ride combined with a leisurely downstream float on easy to use Funyaks (inflatable kayaks) awaits you. This trip is a must-do to explore the truly unique Dart River. Your amazing journey begins with an exhilarating jet boat ride up the Dart River deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt Aspiring National Park. From here you’ll then travel back down river at your own pace in our unique Funyaks exploring pristine waters as they flow from the Southern Alps to Lake Wakatipu, hidden side streams with amazing rock pools and dramatic chasms.
Just when you think your Funyaks adventure is over, you will enjoy a gourmet buffet lunch before heading via 4 wheel drive coach to locations used in the movies to illustrate Middle Earth from ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’.

Milford Sound Cruise

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Description: A spectacular two-hour cruise to the mouth of the fiord on a spacious, classic vessel with excellent viewing opportunities. The Haven has large windows, spacious decks and beanbag lounges which offer uninterrupted views of towering peaks and surging waterfalls. Keep a look out for seals basking on the rocks, dolphins and penguins. Enjoy scenic highlights such as Mitre Peak and Stirling Falls. Informative commentary from the captain explains the history and highlights points of interest during the cruise. Suitable for all ages.

Departure Point: Milford Sound Visitor Terminal, Milford Sound.

Peppers Bluewater Resort - Lake Tekapo

 Image result for peppers bluewater resort

Near the shores of Lake Tekapo, in the heart of Mackenzie Country in New Zealand’s central South Island, is Peppers Bluewater Resort. Overlooking Lake Tekapo this resort is located in an intensely beautiful part of the world.

Peppers Bluewater Resort is set amongst the purest natural landscape. Romantic and secluded, your accommodation in Lake Tekapo reflects the beautiful landscape surrounding you.

You can explore the natural wonders of Mount Cook and the Mackenzie region from here. Marvel at an International Dark Sky Reserve with millions of stars. Ride horses through the mountains, catch a scenic flight to Franz Josef glacier, go skiing, or immerse yourself in the Tekapo Springs Day Spa and Hot Pools.