Anytime is the ideal time to get out and enjoy one of many fabulous New Zealand road trips.
We live in paradise, yet too many of us never explore our own country. Our impressive, endless scenery, fascinating history, and cultural opportunities are waiting for us. Let go of whatever is stopping you, and check out this list of fabulous South Island and North Island New Zealand road trip options.
Whether you chose one of the New Zealand road trip itinerary suggestions below or just a segment of it, you are pretty well guaranteed to discover something new and amazing.
As American expats who have been living in and exploring NZ for over 20 years, we see things from both a local’s perspective and from that of a visitor. Therefore, we understand what it’s like to come here and have things be similar, but not always exactly what we are used to. We share the information on this page from this perspective.
Our New Zealand road trip map
We think road trips in New Zealand are the best way to explore our country. While our cities are amazing, so much of the magic is discovered off the beaten path.
We like to take it slow. By allocating no more than a couple of hundred kilometres of driving in a day, we have time for lots of stopping. Be it a scenic view, a hike, an interesting cafe, or a chance to dip our toes in the sea, there is always something exciting to find in our flexible New Zealand road trip itinerary articles.
New Zealand road trip map
A preview of what you’ll see on a New Zealand road trip
Renting a car, motorcycle, or campervan in New Zealand
Unless you are using your own vehicle, you will need to hire one for your road trips in New Zealand. We live here, so we usually take our own vehicle, but sometimes we fly to our destinations. Then, we always rent a car from RentalCars, an aggregator that provides options from both local and international rental car agents, including ratings and prices. Start your search or reserve your rental car here.
Where to go on your New Zealand road trip
Extra things to bring on any NZ road trip
A few things to keep in your car to make road trips in New Zealand even better:
- Have a torch (flashlight) for each person. You will need them if you stumble upon caves and tunnels.
- Make sure your insect repellent works on sandflies, especially if you are touring the west coast of the South Island.
- Carry a towel with you in your car.
- Bring a windproof jacket, even in the summer.
- Download your map and driving directions, as the internet may be spotty in areas.
What international drivers need to know before starting New Zealand road trips
- In New Zealand, we drive on the left side of the road.
- New Zealand motorways and city roads are great. Rural roads, however, are sometimes gravel (called ‘metals’) or just not in as good of shape as what you might expect.
- New Zealand speed limits on the open road are up to 100 kph (62 mph). However, they are slower as you pass through towns, or on windy or rural roads.
- Most importantly, know New Zealand’s driving rules. Be sure to understand how to cross the one-way bridges.
More tips to have the best New Zealand road trips
- There are toilet facilities in most NZ towns. Blue highway signs identify them. We generally find them clean with flush toilets.
- If you are travelling by camper, there are campsites throughout the country, and also many areas allow freedom camping.
- Be sure to check for NZTA road closures before you begin a rural or off-the-beaten path journey, especially if it has rained heavily recently.
Curious about some of the lesser-known, yet interesting facts about New Zealand? Check out this list of fun New Zealand facts.
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