Want to explore the real New Zealand? A road trip is one of the best ways to rediscover the great outdoors - rugged mountains, freezing glaciers or active volcanoes, it's easy to discover New Zealand by car or campervan. We gathered together the team who've done these trips and asked them for their highlights.

1. North Island: Auckland and Bay of Islands Loop

If you only have a little time to spend in New Zealand, this short road trip encompasses the beauty of the northern coast as well as the metropolitan city of Auckland. Spot dolphins dotted among the Bay of Islands and bask on the endless beaches of Omapere before turning south towards the vineyards of the Wahike Island, a half-hour ferry ride from Auckland.

Why Drive the Auckland & the Bay of Island loop?

Driving is the easiest way to see New Zealand. City hopping by public transport is great in some countries (and New Zealand does have plenty of backpacker buses) but driving allows you to get off the beaten track. You'll find it easier to reach lesser known regions and uncover hidden delights often overlooked by the main tourist trails.

Waiheke Island, North Island, New Zealand

How to do the Auckland and the Bay of Islands road trip

  • Highlights: Bay of Islands, Waiheke Island
  • When to go: The far North is pleasant year-round inc July/August when the South Island is covered in snow
  • How long: allow a week. Short driving distances mean you won't get tired and can explore to the max!

"Whether you want to catch your dinner or catch a sunset, the islands of the north are a great year-round destination, with dolphins, whales and blue penguins among the wildlife you can encounter." Stephen

If you'd like advice on driving this route and how to pick the best vehicle, call our New Zealand specialists or request a quote by email.

2. North Island: Auckland to Wellington

This is a great route to discover the beauty of New Zealand's North Island. Explore Peter Jackson's Hobbiton before following the "Thermal Highway" south to discover a host of geothermal delights, from the bubbling geysers of Rotorua to the volcanic crater of Lake Taupo. This route winds its way through the wine regions of Martinborough, capturing the very best of the scenic North Island before arriving in Wellington to soak up the lively atmosphere of the southernmost capital city in the world.

Why drive Auckland to Wellington?

It's easy to fly between these two cities but you'll be missing out on a chunk of what New Zealand has to offer: larger-than-life national parks, natural spas and the rugged mountains that make this country famous. In a car or campervan you can make the most of the outdoorsy Kiwi way of life and meet the friendly locals. What are you waiting for?

Trek through Tongariro National Park and marvel at the volcanic landscape

How to do an Auckland to Wellington road trip

  • Highlights: Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park, Martinborough
  • When to go: Nov/Dec; you'll find pleasant temperatures and quiet sights before the Christmas peak season
  • How long: You can do it in 12 days but 16 days gives you time to linger at beautiful Lake Taupo and explore the wine region of Martinborough.

Haydn Wrath | Travel Nation
"If there's only one 'day walk' you do manage in the whole of New Zealand, make it the Tongariro Lakes Crossing - it is seriously spectacular. Tolkien fans will also love exploring Mount Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe in real life)." Haydn

If Auckland to Wellington sounds like your ideal road trip, contact one of our New Zealand specialists or request a quote by email.


3. South Island: Christchurch to Queenstown

If you don't have much time to explore the South Island, choose this short route. Hop aboard the TranzAlpine train and follow the Waimakariri river which crosses from east coast to west. Begin your road trip in the seaside town of Greymouth. Head south along the rugged coastline and visit the majestic Fox and Franz Josef glaciers before descending through the mountains to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. Skydiving, bungee jumping, white-water rafting - whatever you fancy, you'll be sure to finish your trip with a rush of adrenaline!

Why drive from Christchurch to Queenstown?

The question here should really be "why not drive?"! The lush rainforest and pristine mountain lakes that make up the west coast of New Zealand are incredible. The chance to wind your way through this World Heritage region where glaciers and mountains meet the ocean turns driving into a privilege rather than just a mode of transport.

Fox Glacier, New Zealand

How to do the Christchurch to Queenstown road trip

  • Highlights: Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers, Haast Pass
  • When to go: Autumn (March-May). It's slightly warmer than Spring and you'll avoid the busy summer period/cold winter.
  • How long: allow 7 nights but the raw beauty of the western coast may surprise you, so allow some leeway!
     

"A day trip to the beautiful Milford Sound from Queenstown is a must do! And make sure you try the whitebait in the Haast Pass, it's a local delicacy." Stephen


"From the spectacular landscape of Arthurs pass and the natural wonders of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers to possibly the best town in the world, the adrenaline pumping Queenstown where you can jump out of planes, fly off mountains or ski your way back down and grabbing a bite to eat at the infamous Ferg Burger to end your perfect road trip" - Darren


Want to drive from Christchurch to Queenstown? Just contact one of our New Zealand specialists who can help you plan your trip and find the best vehicle, or request a quote by email.


4. South Island: Christchurch South Loop

This route begins with the TranzAlpine rail journey across the width of New Zealand before making your way south past the windswept beaches and impressive glaciers of the west coast. After the excitement of fun-filled Queenstown, sweep south. Stop off at the stunning Milford Sound and the wild beauty of the Southlands. You'll encounter the rare Yellow-Eyed Penguin in the Caitlins and the historical centre of Dunedin before ending your adventure under the starry skies of Lake Tekapo. Finishing back in Christchurch, this route takes you on an unforgettable journey through the unspoilt landscape of New Zealand.

Why drive the Christchurch south loop?

Driving is the perfect way to see the scenic South Island, with great roads through the Southern Alps before swinging back north up the Otago coast. Having a car or campervan to get around means you can structure this route as you want with the additional bonus of being able to arrive in places earlier than the tour buses!

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

How to do the Christchurch and the South road trip

  • Highlights: Milford Sound, Lake Tekapo
  • When to go: Nov- March is the best time for the South Island, with warmer temperatures and long days
  • How long: After the TranzAlpine, allow 2 weeks to drive or perhaps 17 days at a leisurely pace.

"Don't miss Lake Tekapo at night! Wrapped up in warm coats and sipping hot chocolate, you'll be able to see the Milky Way, Saturn and a whole host of southern hemisphere constellations. Amazing!" Darren


If you'd like to include New Zealand in your RTW trip, see Adam's South Island trip blog for more of the highlights, then contact one of our New Zealand specialists, or request a quote by email.


5. South Island: Christchurch North Loop

This route is a great way of exploring New Zealand's wine, wildlife and winding roads. Heading north from Christchurch will take you to the seaside town of Kaikoura where you can try the local delicacy of crayfish and go whale watching before reaching the far north of the South Island - the Marlborough Sounds. With outdoor activities galore, there's time to try them all before driving to the nearby Nelson Lakes. Nelson is the perfect spot to base yourself to visit Abel Tasman National Park before you head south to Hokitika and the drive through the Arthur Pass that will return you to Christchurch.

Why drive the Christchurch north loop?

The delightful north region of the South Island is home to vineyards, lakes and areas of stunning natural beauty. Having a car or campervan to hop between them means you can stay as long as you like as you're not bound by the timetables of public transport - so it's no problem if you find that perfect Sauvignon Blanc and feel a few more days in Marlborough might be necessary!

Kayak, hike, fish, swim or just enjoy the passing marine life that comes to visit

How to do the Christchurch and the North road trip

  • Highlights: Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman National Park
  • When to go: Summer (Nov-March). The short ferry ride to the North Island means you can easily combine with Wellington
  • How long: allow 14 days but 18 days is more leisurely - you'll become accustomed to the slower pace.

"The Queen Charlotte Track is the most beautiful 3 day walk in the Marlborough Sounds. If you're in a rush it is still worth walking a section of it. You can get taxi boats to different points in Picton." Nadine

Fancy including New Zealand's South Island in your trip itinerary? Contact one of our New Zealand specialists or request a quote by email


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Ready to go?

If you want to plan a trip to New Zealand and include a self-drive, we can help you choose a campervan to suit, or pick the right car and advise on hotels, motels or luxury lodges - whatever suits your style and budget. To start planing your trip, contact one of our New Zealand specialists or request a quote by email.