I have just returned from a two week holiday in New Zealand, a whistle-stop tour of both the North and South Islands. For most of this trip, we had a rental car to get around from from one stunning place to another. My husband drove all of it, and though we were on the road for anywhere between 3 – 6 hours almost everyday, he ended each day with a smile, if not a big grin.
True. New Zealand is the ideal destination for road trips. And here are a few reasons why you should think of a self-drive car when you visit the country.
1. The roads are practically empty
Come on, this is a country with a population of a staggering 4.4 million, so how many people are you likely to find on the roads? Of the entire population, almost a third lives in Auckland in the North Island, so the highways on scenic routes are devoid of any traffic. On some days, on some routes, we went for miles without seeing another car. In some ways (oh my god, what if this car suddenly stops), it is a little scary but it also makes for super easy driving.
2. Everyone follows road rules
If you are a traveller from India, you will know what a surprising and pleasant experience this can be: right of ways, speed limits, no honking… sheer bliss! You get to drive comfortably in the knowledge that some car (or worse, pedestrian, autorickshaw or cow) is not going to appear on the scene at great speed from a side lane. Although most of the country roads are narrow and single lane, it is easy to navigate them at a decent speed, since everyone keeps to their lanes, without tryingovertake as if in a great rush to get somewhere. So, it follows that driving in New Zealand is not stressful or tiring as it can be in some Asian countries.
3. The roads are super smooth
I don’t mean just the condition of the roads but also the way in which authorities make life happier for drivers. The roads are clearly marked, with excellent banking, so that curves are easy to tackle. Apart from the standard speed limits – 100 kmph on highways and 50 kmph inside towns – we found that every single curve on the winding mountain roads (and they are everywhere in the country – I mean everywhere) had yellow reflective signs and specific speed suggestions, making sure that we were driving at the safest and smoothest speed. And you do not need an SUV or large, fancy car to get around – there are enough budget rental options that will work just as well.
4. Driving is the easiest way to get around
Road trips are the quickest and most convenient way of travelling within this country, especially given that bus and train connections are not that frequent or regular. Of course, there are inter-city buses like Kiwi Bus and scenic trains like the Tranz Alpine, but these may not always match your schedules. So, get into a car and start driving. The added bonus is that you get to stop and explore a dozen new places along the route every day, instead of just getting from Point A to Point B. After all, that is the fun of a road trip, and New Zealand has enough easy walks, seaside attractions, forest paths and crystal clear lakes to entice you.
5. The landscape changes every half hour
And finally, what is perhaps the most interesting thing about driving in New Zealand – no stretch along the road is like others you have seen earlier. Several times in an hour, you will find that the scenery looks different. And this is despite the fact that most of the country (especially in the South Island) is filled with hills and lakes of all sizes and shapes. One minute you are driving on a windy hill road and the next, you find yourself right next to the sea that gives you company for the next hour or so. And then the cattle – hundreds of cows and thousands of sheep grazing in lush green patches right by the roads… heck, we even saw ostriches once – Believe me, you will never get bored or tired in a “been there, seen it” kind of way. The flip side to this is the temptation for the drive to look at the stunning landscape or stop at random to take photos. But hey, that’s why there are all those stopping bays and lookout points everywhere.
So, if you ever find yourself in New Zealand or even planning a trip, make sure to include a few days of self drive in your itinerary. Who knows, this may turn out to be your most favourite experience in the country?
4 thoughts on “5 reasons why New Zealand is great for road trips”
I am so pleased you enjoyed your time in our beautiful country. I would add to this that while road conditions, speeds and traffic are very good compared to road travel in India that I have experienced. (I have travelled in Kerala and right across the North). You should try and take your time, also the New Zealand AA travel times/distances are much more accurate of the real time it will take you to get from A to B than Google Maps. But remember neither allow for stops/sightseeing. I would add at least an extra 1-2 hours for sightseeing, especially when you are travelling some of the most scenic roads – i.e on the Haast Highway from Wanaka to Haast there are no fewer than 8 short side walks to amazing waterfalls, veiw points etc all of which I would recommend are worth stopping for and there are many more on the Milford Highway from Te Anau to Milford Sound. The Department of Conservation http://www.doc.govt has some short PDF guides on these scenic routes that you can download which are helpful for planning. I have lived in New Zealand all my life and I still sometimes just have to pull over the car and sit and and marvel at how beautiful a vista is.
Thanks for dropping by, Natasha 🙂 I agree, sometimes the views are so stunning that we just had to pull over to admire it. Really enjoyed our driving holiday in NZ.
Those landscapes are sheer stunners! No sane person would say no to a road trip across the Kiwi land. Loved the frames.
Thanks, Niranjan. True, NZ had some stunners and a road trip is the best way to explore and enjoy the country 🙂