Self Drive New Zealand is a great experience . Having driven across the length and breadth in India , we have acquired a passion for self-drive trips. We enjoy the sense of individuality, independence, adventure, quest for the unfamiliar, certainty and uncertainty alike. I am a 4WD enthusiast and seek out prospects to take vehicle off the road.
Should I drive in New Zealand ?
ABSOLUTELY, if you are an able driver. This should be the only mode of travel in New Zealand, whenever you plan to visit. For me it was a no brainer. I drive in India amidst the unruly traffic continuously. Hence, driving through the New Zealand countryside seemed a cakewalk. And you have to drive on the left side of the road in New Zealand. And everyone follows traffic rules. Need I say more! The vistas are unparalleled, the roads are good and the towns are not too distant from each other. Take your time and enjoy the absolutely amazing vistas that New Zealand offers on a road trip.
What vehicle should I rent ?
- Rent a camper van if you love camping. The facilities are really very good.
- Or an RV perhaps .
- If you are not too comfortable with driving a stick shift on a mountain road with high gradient, please go for an automatic transmission.
- If you plan to travel north of Auckland towards Cape Reinga or Ninety Mile Beach & Te Paki, you need to check with the rental company for permissions. Not all car rentals allow that plus you would need a 4WD vehicle to go there.
- There are restrictions regarding night driving in the Milford Sound area. But, in short, all New Zealand roads are in good condition, thus you can rent any car based on your budget and you will thoroughly enjoy the experience.
What do I get to see in a day’s drive ?
- Enjoy the rolling hills dotted with lambs.
- Spend a while absorbing the serenity in the paradise-like setting.
- Relish the wind beside the ocean view roads Get carried away by the sight and fragrance of the varied wild flowers in all possible hues.
- Get stuck in a traffic snarl caused by hundreds of sheep.
- Wonder at how the Mountain Keas perch atop your car antenna when you stop at Arthur’s Pass.
- Marvel at the snow-capped peaks, rivers, surreal blue lakes and wild flowers all in the same frame! Sounds like a fairytale, but it is true, my friends.
How much should I drive in a day ?
Things to keep in mind
Well there is nothing to be apprehensive about while driving in New Zealand apart from traffic rules. You will find mostly “undivided” highways in New Zealand. That means traffic flows in both directions on the same tarmac divided by a white dotted or firm line. Cities like Auckland have a couple of divided highways.
FOLLOW THE SPEED LIMIT
We did not find any stark example of individuals breaking the traffic rules at will. You will seldom see police or patrol on the route. Hidden speed radars and cameras are placed in all locations. Even the remotest ones! I know of a friend who sped to his heart’s content with no one in sight. And Lo and Behold! Back Home , a few months later, while gloating at the fact of having driven at twice the speed, the traffic tickets started arriving by mail which were charged to his credit card with the rental company. And if you do not pay, the next visa request will be refused. Guess who had the last laugh!
TRAFFIC SIGN – “STOCK”
SINGLE LANE BRIDGES
What are the best roads to drive?
The North Island is picture perfect with rolling hills dotted with sheep while the South island is wilder at heart with less population. You might be lucky to see a car on the way, whereas houses and people can be a remote possibility. Personally I liked the South Island more, but I needed to see the North to understand that.
Seems like the following few places will remain etched in my memory for ever.
- One must drive from Westport to Greymouth. I have driven in the famed ‘Route 1 South’ of California and any day I feel that this is way more memorable.
- Driving over Arthur Pass while traveling from Greymouth to Christchurch is a must. In my opinion this was the best drive during our travel.
- We could not drive Blenheim to Kaikoura. The recent earthquake in New Zealand had completely damaged the road. Do that drive as well when you travel there.
- We also found the ‘Southern Scenic Route’ after Dunedin very picturesque as well .
- Then comes driving beside Lake Tekapo and then Lake Pukaki towards Aoraki Mt. Cook. The lakes look surreal . Consequently you keep stopping at every corner.
- Finally, the drive to Milford Sound. Very highly rated and absolutely amazing, we needed to cross the Homer tunnel. Once you cross the tunnel, snow melts drip down the entire mountain panorama.
But my all-time favourite in the whole trip remains the Arthur Pass.