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NEW ZEALAND ROAD TRIP? TICK.

It’s no secret that New Zealand boasts magnificent scenery. The North Island is peppered with volcanic landscapes and sweeping beaches, while the South Island has dramatic peaks, deep fjords and age-old glaciers. And a New Zealand self-drive holiday is the best way to see it all.

On a New Zealand road trip, you’ll have total freedom to explore at your own pace in a hire car or campervan. Your route can be as short or as long as you want it to be, focussing on one island or both. You could drive in a loop – returning to the same place you started – or drive from A to B, with dozens of scenic stops in between. Tick off major attractions like Huka Falls, Mount Cook and Milford Sound; hike or bike along scenic trails; and stroll around urban hubs like Rotorua, Queenstown and Wellington. Wherever your journey takes you, one thing is certain – you can expect stunning views in every direction.

If you’re concerned about the driving itself, you needn’t be. New Zealand has great roads with clear signage and, best of all, it’s left-hand drive like the UK. If you’re travelling in a campervan, you can park up in a variety of campsites, ranging from simple spots to large complexes with a pool, shop and restaurant. New Zealand self-drive holidays can also be done by car, allowing you to stay in some lovely B&Bs and hotels along your route. You’ll also be able to take your car or campervan on the Interislander ferry – so you can easily travel between the North and South Island, if you wish.

Whether you’re hoping to see cities or countryside, wildlife or wineries, we’ve got you covered. All our New Zealand self-drive holidays can be tailored to suit you. If you find an itinerary you like, but you’d like to make some changes, just let us know. Our travel specialists will help you create a bespoke New Zealand itinerary and plan a route to suit your timelines and interests.

North Island

South Island

Car vs campervan

Best time to go

North Island self-drive

If you’re planning a self-drive holiday around New Zealand’s North Island, you’ll find plenty to do. The smaller of the two isles, the North Island is well-connected and very easy to navigate – even if you just followed Highway 1 from top to bottom, you’d pass a lot major sites.
It’s likely you’ll begin your North Island road trip in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, but where you go next is up to you. You could venture north to the Bay of Islands in search of pretty isles, lovely beaches and wild dolphins, along with the historical Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Or you could head east to the Coromandel Peninsula to admire Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. 

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Alternatively, if you drive three hours’ south of Auckland, you’ll reach Rotorua. This geothermal wonderland is filled with active geysers, bubbling springs and hot mud pools. Nearby Taupo, meanwhile, is home to the incredible Huka Falls and a lengthy list of watersports. Keen hikers should have Tongariro National Park on their North Island itinerary, too. But if you’re more into wine than walking, make tracks for the vineyards in Hawke’s Bay or Martinborough instead.
Finally, no North Island road trip would be complete without a visit to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. This artsy city is crammed with coffee shops, craft breweries, theatres and museums – so a couple of chilled-out days makes the perfect ending to your adventure.

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South Island self-drive

The South Island is crammed with attractions. But, on a self-drive New Zealand holiday, you’ll soon discover that the journey is just as impressive as the destination. The South Island serves up eye-popping views around every bend, from turquoise lakes to snow-capped peaks. It’s common for a South Island itinerary to begin in Christchurch and end in Queenstown, or vice versa. But you can choose where to travel in-between.
You could head northeast of Christchurch to see whales and seals in Kaikoura, before driving on to world-famous Marlborough for a wine-tasting session or two. If you continue towards the northwest corner of the island, you’ll reach Abel Tasman National Park – a scenic area filled with wildlife, lush forests and powdery beaches.

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If it’s stunning scenery you’re after, though, head west out of Christchurch and drive along Arthur’s Pass towards the west coast, where you’ll find Pancake Rocks, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Later on in your journey, you’ll be able to explore hip Wanaka, and try all sorts of adventurous activities in picturesque Queensland.
You could also explore the Southland region. Here, you can marvel at Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park and see sparkling glow worm caves in Te Anau. Then drive east to Dunedin, where you’ll be able to spot albatross and rare penguins, along with New Zealand’s only castle.

Show More
Show Less

Car or campervan?

When planning your New Zealand self-drive holiday, you’ll need to consider whether you want to travel by car or campervan. There are benefits to both, but they offer different experiences.
If you hire a campervan, you’ll have total freedom to change your route as you go – there are hundreds of campsites available across New Zealand so, even if you amend your itinerary last-minute, you’ll be able to find somewhere to pull up for the night.

Show More
Show Less

In a hire car, you’ll be able to travel around more quickly – but you’ll need to stick to your planned route in order to reach your accommodation each night, which will feature boutique hotels and cosy B&Bs. So there are positives to both options – you just need to decide which one sounds better for you.
If you opt for a New Zealand campervan holiday, we’d recommend hiring a Maui motorhome, as this will give you exclusive access to Winery Havens. You’ll be able to stay in some of New Zealand’s best vineyards in the comfort of your campervan – and you can sample the delicious produce, too.

Show More
Show Less

Best time to visit New Zealand

New Zealand’s climate varies across the four seasons, which occur at opposite times to those in the UK. The best weather is in summer – December to February – while the winter season from June to August is best avoided. Unsurprisingly, summer is the most popular time to go so, at this time of year, attractions will be busier – but, even so, you’ll find that the roads rarely get congested.

Show More
Show Less

If you want to avoid the crowds, consider going on your New Zealand road trip between September and November. In these spring months, the weather will be warm enough for outdoor activities, but the South Island’s peaks will look picturesque with the remnants of winter’s snow. Autumn – March to May – is also a great time for your New Zealand self-drive holiday, as you’ll be able to see the changing leaves.

When planning your New Zealand itinerary, just remember that the North Island is typically warmer than the South Island, and the temperatures will be cooler the further south you go. It’s also worth bearing in mind that showers are common throughout the year – so make sure you pack a waterproof.

Show More
Show Less

North Island

North Island self-drive

If you’re planning a self-drive holiday around New Zealand’s North Island, you’ll find plenty to do. The smaller of the two isles, the North Island is well-connected and very easy to navigate – even if you just followed Highway 1 from top to bottom, you’d pass a lot major sites.
It’s likely you’ll begin your North Island road trip in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, but where you go next is up to you. You could venture north to the Bay of Islands in search of pretty isles, lovely beaches and wild dolphins, along with the historical Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Or you could head east to the Coromandel Peninsula to admire Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. 

Show More
Show Less

Alternatively, if you drive three hours’ south of Auckland, you’ll reach Rotorua. This geothermal wonderland is filled with active geysers, bubbling springs and hot mud pools. Nearby Taupo, meanwhile, is home to the incredible Huka Falls and a lengthy list of watersports. Keen hikers should have Tongariro National Park on their North Island itinerary, too. But if you’re more into wine than walking, make tracks for the vineyards in Hawke’s Bay or Martinborough instead.
Finally, no North Island road trip would be complete without a visit to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. This artsy city is crammed with coffee shops, craft breweries, theatres and museums – so a couple of chilled-out days makes the perfect ending to your adventure.

Show More
Show Less

South Island

South Island self-drive

The South Island is crammed with attractions. But, on a self-drive New Zealand holiday, you’ll soon discover that the journey is just as impressive as the destination. The South Island serves up eye-popping views around every bend, from turquoise lakes to snow-capped peaks. It’s common for a South Island itinerary to begin in Christchurch and end in Queenstown, or vice versa. But you can choose where to travel in-between.
You could head northeast of Christchurch to see whales and seals in Kaikoura, before driving on to world-famous Marlborough for a wine-tasting session or two. If you continue towards the northwest corner of the island, you’ll reach Abel Tasman National Park – a scenic area filled with wildlife, lush forests and powdery beaches.

Show More
Show Less

If it’s stunning scenery you’re after, though, head west out of Christchurch and drive along Arthur’s Pass towards the west coast, where you’ll find Pancake Rocks, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Later on in your journey, you’ll be able to explore hip Wanaka, and try all sorts of adventurous activities in picturesque Queensland.
You could also explore the Southland region. Here, you can marvel at Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park and see sparkling glow worm caves in Te Anau. Then drive east to Dunedin, where you’ll be able to spot albatross and rare penguins, along with New Zealand’s only castle.

Show More
Show Less

Car vs campervan

Car or campervan?

When planning your New Zealand self-drive holiday, you’ll need to consider whether you want to travel by car or campervan. There are benefits to both, but they offer different experiences.
If you hire a campervan, you’ll have total freedom to change your route as you go – there are hundreds of campsites available across New Zealand so, even if you amend your itinerary last-minute, you’ll be able to find somewhere to pull up for the night.

Show More
Show Less

In a hire car, you’ll be able to travel around more quickly – but you’ll need to stick to your planned route in order to reach your accommodation each night, which will feature boutique hotels and cosy B&Bs. So there are positives to both options – you just need to decide which one sounds better for you.
If you opt for a New Zealand campervan holiday, we’d recommend hiring a Maui motorhome, as this will give you exclusive access to Winery Havens. You’ll be able to stay in some of New Zealand’s best vineyards in the comfort of your campervan – and you can sample the delicious produce, too.

Show More
Show Less

Best time to go

Best time to visit New Zealand

New Zealand’s climate varies across the four seasons, which occur at opposite times to those in the UK. The best weather is in summer – December to February – while the winter season from June to August is best avoided. Unsurprisingly, summer is the most popular time to go so, at this time of year, attractions will be busier – but, even so, you’ll find that the roads rarely get congested.

Show More
Show Less

If you want to avoid the crowds, consider going on your New Zealand road trip between September and November. In these spring months, the weather will be warm enough for outdoor activities, but the South Island’s peaks will look picturesque with the remnants of winter’s snow. Autumn – March to May – is also a great time for your New Zealand self-drive holiday, as you’ll be able to see the changing leaves.

When planning your New Zealand itinerary, just remember that the North Island is typically warmer than the South Island, and the temperatures will be cooler the further south you go. It’s also worth bearing in mind that showers are common throughout the year – so make sure you pack a waterproof.

Show More
Show Less

ITINERARIES

Hotels

Plan your New Zealand self-drive holiday

Take a look at these suggested itineraries, or ask our travel specialists to create a tailored route just for you

Top destinations

Find out more about these popular places in New Zealand

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