Self-drive holidays in New Zealand

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.

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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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