New Zealand because
of its size, is an easy country to travel around by car. A few hours
drive will take you city to city on either island and there are many
small towns and points of scenic or historic interest in between.
Visitors are often
surprised to find that they can travel from the east coast to the
west coast in a matter of only a few hours. Of course how much you
see of the country will depend on how much time you have available
and what your interests are.
accommodation is readily available and it's a good idea to get off
the beaten track and meet the locals and check out New Zealand's
unique scenic beauty.
There is no national
network of multi-lane motorways/highways or freeways in New Zealand,
except for high density population areas around Auckland, Hamilton,
Wellington and Christchurch, so travel is on
standard 2 lane highways where the speed limit is 100 km/h
(Kilometres per Hour) and is rigidly enforced by New Zealand Police.
If you're accustomed
to driving in Europe, Asia, India, South America, Canada, USA or from
other countries where traffic drives on the right
hand side of the road, you need to be particularly careful to
stay on the left side of the road when driving in New
If you're just
wanting to drive around and enjoy the scenery and have a relaxing
holiday through either or both the North and South Islands - these
are just some general tips -
- When driving in New Zealand, allow for 5-6 hours of
driving per day. This allows you to have driving breaks on the way and
plenty of time for sightseeing.
- If you arriving into Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington or
Queenstown on an international flight from a country where you are
use to driving on the right hand side of the road, please do not try
any long distance driving. Stay in your arrival city or location for
a least for 24 to 48 hours, so you become familiar with New Zealand
driving and road conditions, before starting any long distance
- 55% of New Zealand has hills and mountains, so speed limits
will reduce to 50 to 60 km/h for hilly or mountain regions, so when
planning your New Zealand driving, work on the the mean average on
80 km/h when travelling between destinations.
The map on the left gives you approximate (not actual) driving times between
With the advent of mobile devices map apps (applications) like
Google Maps, driving times and/or suggestions are not accurate, as
in most cases that the time and distance given by this map apps are based on the the
shortest distance between destinations and not the
actual driving time and/or distance between those destinations nor
reflect traffic, terrain and weather
Please note - State Highway 1 between
Picton (south of Blenheim) to Kaikoura and Christchurch is closed
for an indefinite period due to severe damage resulting from 14 Nov
16 North Canterbury earth quake. The inland temporary route from Picton to
Christchurch is via Murchison. Please allow additional 2-3 hours
travelling time from Picton or Blenheim to Murchison and Christchurch.
Inland road access on State Highway 70 from Christchurch (Culvendan)
to Kaikoura is now available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Caution
There is currently no road access from Picton and Blenheim to
Most rental car and campervan/motorhome operators, offer one way rentals,
allowing you to travel the full length of the
country or if you prefer, you can drive down one coast and back up
the other and leave from the same airport you arrived at.
Travelling by Ferry
- North and South Islands
There are regular
ferry services from
Picton or vice versa providing
roll on/roll off passenger, car, campervan and freight services.
Travelling by ferry across Cook Straight gives you the opportunity
to see the beautiful Marlborough Sounds and Picton.
Cook Strait ferries take about 3.5 hours to cross
Cook Strait between Wellington in the North Island and Picton to
If travelling by
rental car, you leave your car at the ferry terminal and collect
another car at the other side. When you check in, your bags are
taken care of and you're free to relax on the ferry and enjoy the
If you are picking a
rental car in Picton, you will need to have a reservation on a Cook
Strait ferry service in advance, as most rental car
operates in Picton will have vehicles available for prebooked hires
only due to the isolated nature of Picton.
If you are dropping
off in Wellington and picking in Picton or dropping off in Picton
and picking up in Wellington, it is strongly recommended that you
have a confirm reservation on an Interislander or Bluebridge ferry,
so you can advise your rental car operator of your reservation when
you first pick up your rental car.
It is strongly recommended that you prebooked your Interislander or
Bluebridge ferry sailing in advance, especially during public
holidays and between December to March.
The are no ferry services that carry cars or campervans/motorhomes
between the South and Stewart Islands. These ferry services are for
Travelling on The TranzAlpine train
If you want to travel
from Christchurch to Greymouth, you will need to drop off your
rental car the night before your travel date on The TranzAlpine
train and pick up your new rental car in
Greymouth. If you pick up
your new rental car within 24 hours of the drop off, there will be
part of the rental rate that your have booked for. If you pick up
your rental car in excess of 24 hours, this will deemed to be a new
hire and you might have to pay different rate compared to the
original rate as originally booked.
If you are picking a
rental car in
Greymouth, you will need to have a reservation in
advance, as most rental car operates in
Greymouth will have vehicles
available for prebooked hires only due to the isolated nature of the
West Coast of the South Island.
Please make sure that
you rent a car more than 4 days if using a 1 tier rental car company
or 7 days is using a 2 tier rental car company, if picking up in Greymouth or you
will pay a 'Pick Up Fee' of NZ$75 to NZ$150.00 (depending on rental
car operator used) if hire is less than 4 or 7 days. This also applies if
dropping off in Greymouth and if the hire is less than 4 or 7 days.
If you are dropping
off in Christchurch and picking in Greymouth or dropping off in
Greymouth and picking up in Christchurch, it is strongly recommended
that you have a confirmed reservation on The TranzAlpine train, so
you can advise your rental car operator of your reservation when you
first pick up your rental car.
operates once a day from Christchurch to Greymouth and back to
New Zealand Police Officers regularly conduct drink-drive blitzes,
often setting up screening checkpoints all around an area, including
all lanes of motorways. Being caught drinking and driving will
result in being invited to accompany the officer to a police
station, or a roadside Booze Bus for an evidential breath test,
blood test, or both. Being found with excess breath alcohol, or
refusal to undertake testing will result in an arrest, appearance in
Court, with a possibility of time in prison, as well as a hefty fine
and disqualification from driving in New Zealand. There are NO
Fixed and mobile speed cameras as well as hand held and car speed
detectors are used frequently. Police have no official discretion
for speeding offences and will write tickets for all vehicles caught
exceeding the speed limit by more than 5 km/h. In some locations,
such as near schools, even exceeding the speed limit by only 5km/h
will result in a ticket.