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Jigyasha Prasad Jan 13 2015

Tips for a road trip across New Zealand

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Think gorgeous landscapes, endless coastline and indigenous culture--a road trip across New Zealand offers this and much more! An island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, a trip to New Zealand provides much to explore and discover in the North and South Island. The scenic beauty and the picturesque coasts are best explored through a road trip that will make you fall in love with the experience of the journey in itself.



An image of New Zealand by paul bica


While driving sounds adventurous, there are several pointers you need to keep in mind before you head out. For car rentals in New Zealand, a valid driver license or driver permit in English language is a must! If your license isn’t in English, you will need an approved translation or an international driver’s permit (IDP). As in India, New Zealand has left-hand driving system. Though the distances between destinations seem short, you will need to be careful while driving through the hilly, narrow and winding terrain of the country. If you intend to cover the length of the country, a drive from Auckland to Queenstown is about 1700 km and may cost anything from NZD 1900 - NZD 2500 (1NZD = approx. 49 INR). You may contact tour operators for some local guidance before you plan your trip.


An image of Claudlands Bridge in Hamilton by Armbrust


Here is a list of places and things that you cannot miss when you start your on a road trip from Auckland to Queensland.


1. Auckland--Hamilton


Kick off your road trip with a visit to the famed Auckland Museum and watch a Maori cultural performance. Visit the sites of Mt. Wellington, Mt. Albert or Mt. Roskill which are a part of the Auckland Volcanic Field, or maybe just climb atop Mt. Eden, the highest volcanic cone of Auckland for a breathtaking view of the entire isthmus and the harbours. Fix your wildlife bug with a tour to the Auckland Zoo that has native species of tuatara, seals, penguins and of course kiwi!



An image of Auckland city by Jaafar Alnasser Photography


2. Hamilton--Cambridge


As you drive down to Hamilton, be prepared to be awed by the spectacular view of the Waikato River alongside the vast green lands. Cross the coal mining town of Huntly and the wine growing regions of Te Kauwhata to reach the extravagantly designed Hamilton Gardens that boasts of Chinese, Japanese, Italian, English, American and Indian gardens including a mini Taj.



An image of Italian Renaissance Gardens at Hamilton Gardens by russellstreet


3. Cambridge--Rotorua


Cross Cambridge, a relaxed countryside, and attend a horse show and travel to the small town of Tirau where you can indulge in some shopping for antiques and art. Head on to Rotorua and soak in mineral pools in Rotorua’s Polynesian spa. You can take a gondola up to the Skyline Luge, marvel at the Waimangu Volcanic Valley or pick up a biking trail in the Whakarewarewa Forest.



An image of the Luge track by Charlie Brewer


4. Rotorua--Taupo--Napier


Drive through pine forests and plantations as you reach Taupo and discover natural geysers, silica terraces et al. as you take diversions to a geothermal park. You have to try a massage (which uses products made from native beeswax!) at one of the geothermal pools near Lake Taupo. The road to Napier from Taupo is a dream with its gentle hills and lush valleys that are breathtaking in their beauty. Stop to visit the twin waterfalls at Waiarua Falls lookout. Walk along the coast from Clifton to visit Cape Kidnappers, a sheer peninsula that houses the world’s largest, most accessible gannet colony. Hike, bike or drive up the picturesque Te Mata Peak for a breathtaking view of ranges and Cape Kidnappers.



A view of Cape Kidnappers by Kiwi Mikex


5. Napier--Wellington


On your way to Wellington, stop at Carterton to shop for paua shell souvenirs and visit the Locomotive Museum in the town of Featherston. The capital city of New Zealand, Wellington, is famous for its bustling nightlife and offers some of the best food experiences in New Zealand. It is one place that you cannot miss on your road trip across New Zealand. Go stargazing at Carter Observatory, spot a tuatara or a kiwi at the Zealandia sanctuary or fall in love with Hollywood as you take The Lord of the Rings location tour!



An image of Quartz Hill track by PhillipC


6. Wellington--Picton--Blenheim--Kaikoura


Drive down to Picton and rest well as you take a ferry ride to Blenheim to cross over to the South Island. The ferry ride through Cook Strait takes about 2-3 hours and offers captivating views. From Blenheim, cross wineries and vineyards to reach the seaside haven of Kaikoura. An ideal destination for coastal walks, whale-watching trips, dolphin encounters and swimming with seals, Kaikoura will leave you wanting for more. Dig in a plate of local crayfish for your seafood cravings!



An image of Kaikoura countryside by MGA73bot2


7. Kaikoura--Hanmer Springs--Christchurch


Take a detour to Hanmer Springs to indulge in spa therapies or go for trout fishing, bungy jumping and horse trekking among others. The drive to Christchurch will take you through the Balmoral Forest and olive groves and past the powder-soft beaches of Amberley and Woodend. While in the city of Christchurch, revel in the tranquility of The Botanic Gardens, stroll down the New Brighton Pier, experience the polar life at the International Antarctic Centre or spot a kiwi at Orana Wildlife Park, New Zealand’s only open range zoo.



An image of the Hanmer River by AdriaanC


8. Christchurch--Timaru


Cross the towns of Rakaia, Ashburton and the city of Timaru on your way to Queenstown. If you have time, take a small detour to Geraldine for a cheese lovers’ delight at a gourmet cheese factory and a vintage car museum. The road from Timaru runs across Lake Tekapo, which has a distinct turquoise colour caused by glacier rock particles held in suspension.



An image of Lake Tekapo by Vendin


9. Timaru--Mt. Cook Village


A visit to the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is a must to view the glory of nature in its numerous mountains and magnificent glaciers. You can hike or ski or just relax and take in the breathtaking view of the landscape that surrounds you. The road from Mt. Cook Village to Queensland will take you through the sheep farming countryside of Omarama. Try your luck at trout fishing or glide down from a height of 10,000 metres!



An image of Aoraki Mount Cook by David Briody


10. Mt. Cook Village--Queensland


Queensland, the activity centre of New Zealand, has something for everyone. Take a stroll along the lakeshore, experience the thrill of bungy jumping at Kawarau Gorge, sample a world class pinot noir wine at Gibbston Valley or ride the Skyline Gondola to reach Bob’s Peak. Just 20 minutes drive from Queenstown is the old-fashioned small village of Arrowtown which turns into hues of orange, red and gold in autumn -- a must-visit!



An image of Queensland by Malcolmj


There are various comfortable stay options available in New Zealand for the discerning traveller. You may opt for some cozy bed and breakfast options or stop over at a homestay on your trip. Better yet, if you want to enjoy the country at its natural best, pack your camping gear--New Zealand has some fantastic camping sites.


While any trip to the Kiwiland will make you crave for more, this road trip across New Zealand is bound to make you appreciate the enchanting and spellbinding beauty of this island country. Do not miss the chance to experience this awe-inspiring drive which will be as magnificent as the destinations you visit. If you enjoy road trips, check out this list of the world’s most fascinating road trips.

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