The country of New Zealand is well-suited to road trips. Due to how small it is, you can drive across the whole country in 24 hours, yet within that fairly small space, there is an incredible variety of cultures and landscapes. Travelling just a couple of hours in any direction can bring you to a thriving city, quaint rural town, wine country, rugged alpine highlands, or a sunny beach. With the numerous options that are available to you, it won’t be hard to find a majestic place to visit. However, in order to ensure that you get the most out of whatever route you decide to take, the following are some of the top road trip tips for New Zealand from people who have spent numerous hours exploring the back roads and highways of this amazing country.
Visit South Island
Although North Island has plenty of incredible destinations for you to visit, if you are going to go on a road trip in New Zealand without visiting South Island along the way, then that definitely would be a huge mistake. The easiest way to get started is to fly into Christchurch airport, and then rent a car and set off in whatever direction you choose. To the north there are beautiful beaches, vineyards, and whales; to the west, a wild coastline, glaciers, and a majestic mountain pass; to the south is the world’s adventure capital with jagged mountain ranges and stunning lakes.
Go off of the beaten path
Of course, metaphorically speaking. Although those renting a car in New Zealand can stick with the main State Highways and be able to discover many of the country’s attractions still, if you head out on some of the smaller roads, there is a high potential for discovering some great hidden gems. Road trips, after all, are not all about the destination – having wheels of your own gives you the advantage of being able to detour whenever you want and discovering incredible places that most other people would pass up.
Chat with locals
Doing this in combination with tip No. 2 works beautifully. As a general rule, New Zealanders are very friendly people who are happy to get you pointed in the right direction or have a nice chat with you if they have the time for it. Tapping into this local knowledge will enable you to find genuine experiences that tourist guides are not even aware of. Also, getting to know some of the locals will immeasurably enhance your experience, allow you to make a couple of new friends, and gain more insights into the local Kiwi culture.
Although that might not seem important, it actually is. New Zealand has so many amazing vistas that you definitely want to schedule plenty of time in to stop and enjoy them – and of course take photos, so that you can make everybody insanely jealous back home. Making frequent stops will also allow you to take in all of the charms of the small towns in New Zealand and get a taste for Kiwi rural life.
Explore on foot
Although renting a car in Christchurch will give you the freedom to travel the roads of New Zealand, so much of the country can be best seen by leaving your car behind sometimes and exploring areas by foot. New Zealand, after all, is well-known for its natural beauty, and you can only see so much nature from the road. In order to get the most from your road trip in New Zealand, you will want to take some good walking shoes with you. Even if you aren’t a real outdoorsy type, New Zealand still offers a number of short “bushwalks” that take you into the country’s lush native forest and will get you back to your car within a half hour.
Allow enough time
One common mistake that many road-trippers make who are not familiar with the roads in New Zealand is not to allow enough time to get from one place to the next. Racing at top speeds across the country is literally impossible, in addition to causing you to miss some amazingly beautiful views. Even New Zealand’s state highways can be hilly, winding affairs, apart from a few major cities. It may be seen as an annoyance or obstacles in other countries, but here it just encourages travels to slow down and truly appreciate the amazing vistas that are available.
Experiencing something completely new
One of the amazing things about exploring a country that is new to you is having the opportunity to try out things that you haven’t ever done before – and potentially would never be able to experience at home. Whatever the new experience happens to be doesn’t really matter. Whether it happens to be a beautiful vista, a daring feat (you can experience 8 full seconds of free fall in Nevis Bungy close to Queenstown), or a certain food (despite looking odd whitebait fritters are delicious), or even a visit to the best New Zealand Casinos – don’t set out on a road trip without making sure to fully embrace an experience that you will remember for a lifetime.