Driving in New Zealand

Milford Road, Te Anau | Photo: Timothy Chan

Driving in New Zealand

Driving in New Zealand allows travellers to get off the main highways to explore the small towns and wilderness areas that make New Zealand unique.

The love of a good road trip is born into all New Zealanders. Hitting the road in summer is a thrill, whether you’re an Aucklander whipping off to the Coromandel or Northland, a Wellingtonian heading to the Martinborough’s vineyards, or a South Islander heading across one of the island’s rugged mountain passes.

Driving gives you absolute freedom, which means you can stop in all our cool small towns, making sure you don’t miss any of the country’s best pie shops (we’re looking at you, Fairlie) or artistic public toilets (there’s no beating Kawakawa).

There are a few road rules for us all to remember: The speed limit is generally 50 kph in cities and 80 or 100 kph on highways and motorways (except for the new Waikato Expressway, where there’s one stretch where you can you do 120). Don’t speed – New Zealand already has a high rate of road fatalities, especially around holidays, and speeding is a big factor. There are also often police patrolling highways, and speed cameras are common. Seat belts must be worn at all times, and both motorcyclists and road cyclists must wear helmets. There are also strict laws against drinking and driving – and the best advice is to simply not do it.

Rental companies are dotted all around the country, and can provide you with cars or campervans for whatever adventure you’re planning. If you’re on for a full-country road trip, the Interislander or Bluebridge ferries can transport and your car across Cook Strait. Some of our most spectacular roads can be quite dangerous, but shuttle companies abound. If you’re hesitant about driving up skifield access roads, take mountain transport, and consider joining a tour for the gnarly spots like Skipper’s Canyon.

We’re sharing some of our favourite road trip ideas with you – check out our itineraries to help you decide where to head.



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