How to Have the Best Road Trip in New Zealand

Discovering New Zealand by car is awe-inspiring. It’s evenly spread out with magnificent varieties of scenery, culture, and landscapes. New Zealand is also small enough to discover its picturesque treasures in just 24 hours by road. A road trip characterized by a few hours on the perfectly maintained roads in any direction opens you to the most scenic beauty you’ve ever beheld, from alpine highland ruggedness, picture perfect sunny beaches, thriving cities, beautiful rural towns, and expanding sleek wine country

From rolling splendor of sizzling volcanoes, sputtering geothermal wonders to flower fields spread with gorgeous magenta lupins and symmetry aromatic lavender in rows, to superbly trimmed alpine households, New Zealand has surprises on every road turn with picnic viewpoints in the heart of beautiful nowhere with amazing natural sights.

First thing’s first

Whether you’re opting for a car rental on the North Shore or renting a big campervan on the Southern Island, you need a meticulously maintained car with air-conditioning and matters like taxes and insurance taken care of. Wherever you rent your car will have basic information on driving in New Zealand which is bound to be different from your home country. Knowing the rules of the road before jumping in your car will make your road trip a lot easier and stress-free. Book before you land or at night and collect the car early in the morning.

Essentials you need for the road trip

Once you’ve booked your ride. get your road trip essentials in place. These include flash light, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen or sun creams, long-sleeve wear for sunburn protection, bottle and can opener, water bottles and print maps just in case you find yourself in a section without cellular coverage or a dead phone. Self-drive road trip itineraries are the best because you can choose the places to visit, driving speed, points to stop, how long to rest, and routes to take to make the experience one of a kind.

Road trip highlights in Kiwi Country

With lots of things to see and areas to visit, it’s possible you won’t visit the entire breadth of New Zealand. Some of the highlights not to miss for the world include:

  • Lake Wanaka in the night for magnificent night sky
  • Mackenzie and Pukaki country turquoise magical waters
  • Picnic viewpoints on sundrenched surroundings and gorgeous landscapes over some kiwi Pinot Noir wine and fresh berries
  • Drive around Crown Range and Coronet Peak in Queenstown
  • South Island lake scenes, especially for the indulgent clouds
  • Rotorua’s thermal magnificence for mud baths, volcanoes spits, steaming geysers and fumaroles etc.

North Island

Always a good place to begin your New Zealand ultimate road trip, North Island is a must-see. Explore North Island’s beauty from the Hobbiton movie set seen in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings film series by Peter Jackson. Follow the explosively stimulating thermal thoroughfare to gape at geothermal natural masterpieces right from Rotorua geysers to Lake Taupo’s volcanic crater. Don’t forget to bask at the wine regions as you wind down Martinborough before you arrive in Wellington to enjoy the southernmost world capital.

The best time to make your North Island road trip would be between November and December in order to enjoy pleasant temperatures prior to the busy Christmas season. 10-15 days is a perfect period to load and soak yourself with the delights of Martinborough and Lake Taupo.

South Island

For a shorter route laden with its share of natural beauty, a South Island road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown is a perfect choice. It’s an incredible journey by road through immaculate lake mountains and lush green rainforests along New Zealand’s west coast. See mountains and glaciers meeting up with the blue ocean. Don’t miss Haast Pass and its whitebait delicacy, Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers as you let Fergburger foods complete your Queenstown adrenaline charged activities.

Plan your South Island road trip for autumn between March and May to avoid the snowy period while avoiding the busy summer time. Seven nights along the western coast should be sufficient.

Coromandel Peninsula

Before you make your way to Rotorua, it pays to drive through the Coromandel Peninsula for a total of three hours on the road. Sprouting out of North Island’s eastern corner, it has woodlands and beaches to die for with lots of picnic points along the way. For your detour you’ll find quaint B&B facilities to recharge and commence your road adventure fully refreshed.

Whale watching

With lots of things to see and experience in New Zealand, don’t leave without a whale watching display. Kaikoura is the whale watching paradise of New Zealand. Walk the traverses of Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway for extra stunning shots of rare birds such as the albatrosses and titis, seal colonies and lots of flora in between. Arm yourself with a raincoat, water bottle, and top quality camera and make it for the walkway, which is free to enter and park. And don’t leave before sampling some delicious seafood BBQ.

Milford Sound

Driving to Milford Sound must be on your road trip list lest you miss the spectacular marvels that Rudyard Kipling found so enthralling that he believed it to be World’s Eighth Wonder. With a full tank at Anau gas station and snacks (stores along the way are few if any) get prepared for Milford. See the postcard perfect Mitre Peak Mountain and let your jaw drop at the Fjordland and if you have time, enjoy a cruise at Milford to closely appreciate sea-lions, waterfalls and fantastic Milford Sound landscapes.

Chat with locals

If you decide to venture along the unbeaten path, make a habit of chatting with locals. They’re well-known for being friendly to tourists and will direct you to authentic local delights that even tourist guides in New Zealand probably have no clue about. Apart from driving off with lots of local knowledge and deep insight of the Kiwi culture, you might make long lasting friendships.

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