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New Zealand driving conditions & getting around

  • 2 minutes

Lake Pukaki, New Zealand

New Zealand road conditions

New Zealand roadie, blasts of fresh air and where you pick the schedule. Choose when to stop and linger or simply motor through. New Zealand is a country built for a road trip where the itinerary is designed around your interests. Road conditions vary with narrow winding roads to major motorways around metropolitan areas such as Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.

Road sign warning of kiwis near Arthurs Pass, South Island, New Zealand
nz road sign designating wildlife



  • Few vehicles on roads outside major metropolitan areas
  • Phenomenal scenery with plenty of off road viewpoints to savour the moment
  • Modern firm roading system
  • Excellent road mapping system (thank you google maps)
  • Well signposted system for directions, heritage sites and tourist routes

Discover a country with a mere five million inhabitants and plenty of open spaces. The major routes are from North to South with a significant aerial route, state highway one the road for heavy transport and occasionally more than one lane. State highways (SH) width and ease of passing slow traffic are easily idenifible by the numbering system. State Highways 1 – 6 will have passing lanes on uphill climbs and winding roads in designated areas.


Passing lanes – be prepared to be patient. New Zealand does not have a motorway (freeway) system throughout the country. The longest motorway system is in Auckland and it is less than 150 km in length going South.


The selfies with the endless road reaching out into the snow capped Southern Alps, South Island is an easy shot. There are very few cars on the two lane highway.

Road conditions, travel distances for a New Zealand holiday are part of the itinerary information portfolio ensuring your holiday is a once in a lifetime experience.

Getting around, follow visitor road signs


Road conditions, steep sharp narrow rural roads, New Zealand
Narrow, winding roads, slow down for driving conditions

TIP:  travel from Europe / North America involves considerable travel.  Give yourself a day (or two) to get your body clock in sync with where you are before embarking on a road trip.  For our neighbours, Australia we just a short hop across the ditch (three hour flight to Sydney).

TIP: New Zealand roads can be narrow and winding.  Road signs indicate rest stops which are usually good spots to take in the views.

(image road conditions steep sharp corners)

Journey planner and checking road conditions before you depart.  The New Zealand government has Regions, a New Zealand Transport Authority online portal for motorists.  A great way to find out if the road is blocked, closed due to maintenance or simply congested.

Drive safe New Zealand

Tips for your arrival:

  • If you are arriving on a long-haul flight, consider staying overnight in that destination. That will ensure you are fresh and ready for the drive ahead.
  • Make sure your drivers licence is valid and has been translated (if required).
  • You must have your current and valid driver licence with you at all times when driving in New Zealand. If you have an International Driving Permit you must also carry your current and valid driver licence.
River Access, Hurunui district side roads to quiet rivers, Gravel road, Canterbury NZ
Gravel road, slow down, poor driving conditions
Motorhome RV camper van road trip on New Zealand
Relax, take a break and enjoy the journey
  • If your overseas driver licence is not in English, you must carry an accurate English translation issued by one of the following:
  • An International Driving Permit (issued in accordance with a United Nations Convention on Road Traffic) is acceptable only as a translation.


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