Driving in New Zealand
It’s a hard choice when you have limited time in New Zealand – do you drive and see the countryside? Or do you fly between fishing stays and get more valuable fishing time?
There is no easy answer to this. Although New Zealand looks like a couple of small islands floating in the big South Pacific Ocean, it is in fact quite a long country when you go to drive it, 400 kms (220 miles) longer than the state of California. And with a varied terrain, the drive times can be a lot longer than you may think. There are also excellent fishing lodges on both main islands, so the choices increase.
If, like many fishing folk, your intention is to fish, then we usually suggest you fly to the airport nearest your chosen lodge (or lodges) and use lodge transfers or a local rental car to get there.
If your intention is to drive the length of New Zealand over several weeks, with a bit of fishing along the way, then that’s what you will be doing – lots of driving, some fishing. This can be an adventure in itself as there are so many places to stop at along the way you’ll be spoilt for choice. But if driving is your goal we still advise booking your lodge stays and guides ahead of time.
If you choose to drive, either all or part of the way, there are a few things to note. Apart from a few stretches of motorway (freeway) out of the main cities – Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Christchurch, Dunedin – the roads are either state highways or regional roads. And these vary from wide well-formed highways through to steep mountain ranges and passes, narrow gorges, open alpine desert, winding coastline, and many kilometres of lush green pasture land. New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road (steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle) and the give way rules are similar to most countries that drive on the left.
But there are things to watch out for – there are few places to pass on the more mountainous and winding parts. It’s easy to get impatient and try and pass in tight places, but patience is the name of the game here as it’s much better to arrive at your destination in one piece, although maybe a little late. And be aware of animals and slower farm vehicles on rural roads. GPS coordinates don’t always give you the best option to get to a place – you may end up with a river in the way or a road on the map that is actually a goat-track. So check road maps if you’re heading somewhere off the beaten track.
Another good source of info is –https://nzta.govt.nz/traffic-and-travel-information/which has good info for route planning and road closures.
If there has been bad weather where you are heading check that the roads are open before you leave in the morning. Roads through all the mountain passes in the South Island, the Desert Road in the North Island, around Kaikoura, and the West Coast of the South Island may all change without warning.
Check your car rental insurance if you’re renting a car. It is worth upgrading to a zero excess policy so you’re covered for most issues. However, even these policies may not cover for broken glass, lost keys or tyre damage. And always check, if you’re planning to travel on unsealed (gravel) roads, that your policy will remain valid off the seal – most don’t unless you have a 4WD, and even they vary. Ask us for info on this.
And lastly, if you’re heading somewhere out of the way fill your fuel tank before you leave. Safe driving and enjoy the vast beauty of rural New Zealand.
We can help with all your driving and travel queries – just send an email and we’ll get back.