What is the best way to travel around New Zealand?

Paul and his wife are planning a self-drive holiday around NZ and want some advice.

Paul and his wife are planning a self-drive holiday around New Zealand and want to know if they can do this and visit both the north and south islands without too much hassle.


Q. Paul
My wife and I have spent the past 12 months driving around the mainland of Australia. We rented a motorhome and had a really great time. Now we are thinking we would like to try something similar across the ditch in New Zealand. Obviously, this presents more of an issue as the country is two islands. What is the best way to go about over coming this problem and are there any other tips when taking a self-drive holiday around New Zealand?

A. Travelling between the two islands in a motorhome is surprisingly easy with the Interislander Ferry, which operates between Picton and Wellington. Most of the motorhome companies you hire off can even book your ticket on the ferry for you. One expert piece of advice is to try and book a trip on the Kaitaki ferry, which is the largest ferry crossing the Cook Strait. This is the only ship that loads from the bow at Wellington and discharges from the stern at Picton, which means you are already pointing in the right direction and can drive straight off when you arrive at your destination.

Most people drive north to south in New Zealand, but frequently this leaves a surplus of vehicles in Christchurch and Wellington. Doing a Christchurch to Auckland Self Drive holiday can give you a bigger choice of vehicles, and sometimes better rates.

One thing to keep in mind is the weather at the time you choose to travel. Snow is common on the South Island and this may have an impact on how you want to travel around New Zealand. During the winter months, some of the high road passes such as Arthur's Pass, Lindis Pass and Lewis Pass (effectively, the roads that join the east coast of the South Island to the west coast) might be closed following a heavy snowfall. However, road crews generally open these within a few hours of the storm passing.

Rental car companies do prohibit driving their vehicles on certain roads during certain hours (usually 11pm–6am) and seasons, so it is worth checking before you plan your itinerary.

Have you taken a motorhome around New Zealand? Do you have any advice for Paul?



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    2nd May 2020
    I'm originally from NZ and these are a few things you might want to keep in mind. The South Island is much more scenic, so doing the South Island first and then going to the North Island might be a little disappointing. Motels are expensive, so a motorhome is a good idea and although there are only two of you, hiring a 4 berth one will give you some extra room. In the South Island you can draw water from almost all rivers as the water is crystal clear, though not in the North Island. It's a good idea not to have a tight schedule as you may miss something you really want to see, so have a few days up your sleeve so you can wait around until the weather clears. The glow worm caves at Waitomo are well known, but I would recommend the Te Anau caves in Fiordland which includes a trip across the lake and can be done in the late evening if you're pushed for time. At Milford, we took the 9am trip with Southern Discoveries which includes a great hot breakfast and goes all the way out to the sea. Milford Sound is amazing whether it's wet or fine, great views when it's fine and when it's wet, the cliffs are a cascade of waterfalls. Queenstown is now very commercialised, still worth seeing and lots to do. Don't miss the Shotover Jet if it's back up and running, and a trip over the Crown Range (if your rental company allows it) is well worth it for the views, and it takes you to Wanaka, which is a beautiful place on the lake. While you're there, get lost in the Maze. And don't forget the wine all through NZ, but especially in Marlborough and Otago. If you want to know more, just ask.
    2nd May 2020
    How about you look to support Australia, Australians, and run around your OWN coutry, supporting your OWN people first?
    2nd May 2020
    Tarabelle, they spent 12 months going around Australia, now they want to go to NZ. Did you read the article?
    2nd May 2020
    Many people have done that already, I've spent 10 years doing that, 2 million kms, numerous trips all over for work, time for new sights now.
    3rd May 2020
    My favourite way to travel around New Zealand is hiking through their magnificent National Parks. I travel to NZ every year and hike one of their Great Walks. I’ve now hiked all eight of them. A new Great Walk has just opened up on the West Coast of the South Island (Paparoa Track), so when international travel is allowed, I’ll be booking a trip there.

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