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New Zealand frequently asked questions about road trips & journey planner

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In this Article

FAQ – how to create and plan a holiday

Let’s get you started on how to map out and plan the holiday to New Zealand. Where to start the journey and the fear of missing out, FOMO can ruin the best holiday plans. Here is a brief summary of what New Zealand has to offer visitors in each region. Then it’s onto the exciting bit of actually constructing a holiday itinerary and booking the trip.

NEW ZEALAND, NORTH ISLAND KEY ATTRACTIONS  – WHAT IS HAPPENING AND WHAT TO SEE & DO

In the carousel below are a series of pre-prepared itineraries which you tweek to suit your interests as well as a summary of the key attractions in the New Zealand regions. From scenic road trips to heritage sites and foodie experiences New Zealand has a wealth of attractions and activities to choose from. Create and plan your trip with the solid foundations of the pre-prepared selection of itineraries available on BEST BITS.

Bridge to nowhere, New Zealand
Bridge to nowhere
Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Waikato, New Zealand
Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Waikato

AUCKLAND & NORTHLAND

A superb hub for North Island experiences Auckland is New Zealand on a plate, New Zealand adventures at your fingertips and New Zealand culture on its doorstep.

  • Vineyards, wine trails and food goodies in weekend markets
  • Heritage & historical sites, places of interest with easy access to NORTHLAND and Waitangi where the story of contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand had its beginnings
  • Adventure adrenaline activities start with a jump off the harbour bridge and just gets better
  • Vibrant multicultural city with a unique twist as the largest Pasifika population (largely polynesian) in the world as well as strong Maori identity
  • Superb hub into the Waikato with Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton within easy reach
  • Beaches, regional parks and the great outdoors is Auckland’s backyard
  • Auckland is New Zealand on a plate

Check out Auckland & Northland prepared road trips for inspiration

Hot Springs Algae, and Emerald Terrace, Orakei Korako, Rotorua
Hot Springs Algae, and Emerald Terrace, Orakei Korako, Rotorua

ROTORUA,  BAY OF PLENTY & EAST CAPE (GISBORNE)

The heart of the iconic indigneous unique Maori cultural attractions is situated in Rotorua and Bay of Plenty. Combined with the outstanding marvel of the pacific ring of fire, geothermal energy Rotorua is a must-go destination for generations of visitors to New Zealand.

  • Resort town specialising in thermal activities and attractions, world beating hot pools and displays of boiling mud, steaming vents from the earth’s interior
  • Luxurious spa treatments with mineralised mud a speciality
  • Centrally located with LAKE TAUPO – Central Plateau lakes and mountains within 1 – 2 drive
  • Rich treasure trove of Maori history and guardianship of natural resources
  • Stunning thread of beaches where locals flock in summer
  • Hot pools and the perfect glamping spots

LAKE TAUPO

A local gem for New Zealand and Australia visitors who relish the magnificent Lake Taupo, the North Island central plateau and the sense of wilderness and natural beauty of the area. The area can be overlooked by overseas visitors especially whose who have limited time.

  • Outdoor enthusiasts adore the Central Plateau with its alpine scenery dropping into lush forests and lakes where waterfall torrents spill over cliff faces. Summer is hiking and winter is skiing
  • Lake Taupo is irresistible with water sports a major attraction and then there is world class trout fishing
Couple on wooden brown jetty on calm relaxing Lake Taupo, North Island, New Zealand, NZ
Lake Taupo

Taupo

Rotorua

Clear blue sky at The Pekapeka Wetlands, Hastings, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
The Pekapeka Wetlands, Hastings, Hawkes Bay

HAWKE’S BAY

Another gem in the North Island where the classic summer holiday New Zealand experience is augmented by the delight of Hawke’s Bay farm to plate bounty. The pastel pretty art deco city of Napier is a bonus with its lively town offerings.

  • Art deco delight in a storehouse of buildings reflecting the 1930’s
  • Food culture as befitting one of New Zealand’s premier food production areas
  • Wine trails and small villages reflecting their agricultural past
  • Wildlife on remote beaches

New Plymouth, New Zealand @Azamara
New Plymouth @Azamara

WAIKATO / TARANAKI

Aotearoa New Zealand contemporary culture, fascinating small towns each with their own stories and plenty of scenic reserves and parks to keep nature / outdoor enthusiasts happy.

  • Towns and villages with personality plus
  • Magnificent National Parks from Mt Taranaki to Whanganui River excursions
  • Regional museums and farmers markets
  • Gardens and parks uncrowded yet landscaping jewels
  • Well known attraction Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton are in these regions
  • New Plymouth, small regional town is well known for its creative galleries
  • Surfing mecca for the wild west coast beaches
  • Adventure activities from canyoning to rock climbing

COROMANDEL PENINSULA

A classic summer resort feel to the peninsula where gloriously beautiful beaches beckon encourage visitors to explore the marine world through adventures snorkelling, diving or simply paddling in rock pools.

  • Rockstar attraction Cathedral Cove is a sea sculptured rock arch surrounded by a fine white sandy beach
  • Hot Water Beach is a firm favourite where impromptu natural spas are handily dug with a locally acquired spade
  • Flourishing art and craft communities with a vigorous festive season
Cathedral Cove incoming tide sunset
Cathedral Cove

Te Papa interior, Wellington, New Zealand
Te Papa interior

WELLINGTON

A government town and storehouse of stories about the story of New Zealand. Museums, collections, buildings and objects will intrigue visitors who enjoy heritage narratives.

  • Picturesque brightly coloured timber framed houses are stacked on the steep hills of Wellington overlooking the harbour
  • Wide array of cultural attractions from Te Papa, National Museum with over twenty heritage sites worthy of attention
  • Food culture (although the entire country benefits from its agricultural base / seafood bounty)
  • Great access to the charms of Nelson and Marlborough
  • Over the Remutaka hill (admittedly it is a steep narrow climb) to picturesque Martinborough and Greytown in the Wairarapa

NEW ZEALAND, SOUTH ISLAND KEY ATTRACTIONS

Scenery is the star attraction with the Southern Alps and mountain ranges framing lush forests and deep inky lakes. The quintessential postcard shot of New Zealand invariably captures the beauty of fine gold sandy beaches or dense cliffs covered in forest plunging into Miford Fiord or Marlborough Sounds. The pristine natural wilderness is a gift to visitors with plenty of open spaces to grab gulps of fresh air and relax into the sound of birdsong.

NELSON

  • Rockstar Abel Tasman National Park has extraordinarily captivating scenery from fine gold sandy beaches, walks through lush forests and past waterfalls to natural rock sculptures
  • Wine, craft beer and food trails
  • Summer festival season
  • Walkers heaven for visitors
Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Abel Tasman National Park

Wooden pier during the sunset in French Pass, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
French Pass, Marlborough Sounds

MARLBOROUGH

  • Gives Nelson a run for their money in the captivating scenery stakes with the Marlborough Sounds, Queen Charlotte Track a hidden gem
  • One of New Zealand’s world class, award winning wine regions with the bonus of flat easy trails to bike / cycle your way around
  • Fascinating heritage trails from a whaling past to reaching back to the earliest human settlement of Aotearoa New Zealand

WEST COAST

Remote fascinating West Coast is a must-go destination for visitors wishing to explore the travails of gold and coal mining in far away places. A must-go for adventurers who wish to explore underground worlds and hike in temperate rainforests.

  • Rugged isolated spectacularly beautiful Kahurangi National Park, interesting rock forms from Punakaiki Pancake Rocks to Oparara Arches and Hokitika Gorge extraordinarily blue water
  • Fascinating heritage of timber, gold and coal extraction with a legacy that invokes images of 19th century gold rush fever
  • Poumanu (jade) is highly sought after and this is the place to go
  • Adventures galore with the scenery as a delicious backdrop
  • Glacier Country where receding glaciers are stark reminders of climate change
Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand @Department of conservation
Kahurangi National Park

CANTERBURY / OTAGO

Christchurch, Canterbury is the gateway city to the South Island, and similar to Auckland has a wealth of attractions at its doorstep.

The Yellow-eyed Penguin in Catlins
  • Visitor hotspots from Queenstown / Arrowtown with an array of adventure sports, the Southern Alps offering year round activities and interesting gold mining heritage trails
  • Queenstown is a sophisticated hospitality and tourism destination
  • Fiordland National Park is located partially in Otago
  • Boutique family owned wine trails and foodie delights
  • Wildlife trails from massive sea lions in the CATLINS to royal northern albatross soaring over the Otago Peninsula. Along the coast are penguins, dolphins and KAIKOURA with its whale migration story
  • Cool climate gardens and parks
  • Dunedin with its Victorian legacy and cultural attractions is a hidden gem for overseas visitors. Dunedin is a gateway to the beautiful Otago Peninsula and high country sub-alpine landscapes

SOUTHLAND

A quiet corner of the South Island with relatively few visitors has areas of outstanding natural beauty with Fiordland National Park within its boundaries.

  • Whaling stories, wildlife, rugged coastlines
  • Fiordland National Park is a Southland highlight
  • Walk in areas where people have lightly trod
  • Fascinating small towns with Invercargill’s heritage buildings a calling card for architectural fans
  • Cool climate gardens and parks
Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Fiordland National Park

NEW ZEALAND COUNTRYWIDE ROAD TRIPS

New Zealand is a bucket list destination, a place at the edge of the world. Aotearoa New Zealand is a pacific nation with an ocean between New Zealand and the rest of the world. Breathtaking natural spaces where 100% pure New Zealand is a chance to recharge the senses.

If it is your first time to New Zealand there are three itineraries focusing on the scenery, key attractions and well known destinations to consider.

New Zealand in one week trip itinerary, a whistle stop touring route

A whistle stop, one week New Zealand holiday. The top sights are the Southern Alps, Rotorua’s unique volcanic activity, Maori cultural activities and a chance to find a unique gift that reflects your trip down under.

learn more
Wooden pathway leading through boiling lake and surrounded by steam. Shot in Kuirau Park in Rotorua, New Zealand
@ChristchurchGondola

New Zealand in two weeks trip itinerary, in depth Aotearoa touring route

Breathtaking scenery, evocative landscapes 100% pure blasts of New Zealand. Adventure is New Zealand’s DNA, bungy jump, sky dive your choice, your holiday

learn more
Lake Taupo Sunset, New Zealand
Pohutu Geyser, Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, Rotorua. Landscape Format with Rainbow.
West Coast SH6 view before Murchison, New Zealand

For visitors who wish to explore New Zealand in detail there are a number of road trips and places to visit off the beaten track.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – PLANNING A ROAD TRIP TO NEW ZEALAND

Remember to check Regional Guides for specific road conditions and more information about driving in New Zealand check out New Zealand driving conditions.

WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO START A ROAD TRIP IN NEW ZEALAND?

Where is the best place to start my holiday in New Zealand. It is usually where the largest international airport is located. Auckland is a natural start for many road trips with its extensive international connections, it’s undoubtedly one of the great spots in New Zealand to explore the country and network of roads servicing the area.

In the South Island Christchurch, with its contemporary international airport is another hub to explore of the lower South Island however this can mean visitors miss the excitement of discovering the charms of Nelson and Marlborough provinces located in the top of the South Island.

Decisions about where to start have two major influences

  • How much time do you have?
  • What are your interests?
@Nelson Airport
@Nelson Airport
TIP

Slow down and investigate the region’s day trips for interesting ideas where to go off the beaten track for a highly personalised holiday of a lifetime.

Karangahake Gorge New Zealand
Karangahake Gorge

HOW MUCH MONEY WILL YOU NEED FOR A NEW ZEALAND ROAD TRIP?

Let’s get you started with some Holiday tips on saving money and cost on your planned budget in New Zealand as well check out Holiday budget preparation, six steps to plan your dream New Zealand holiday.

HOW TO CREATE AN ITINERARY – JOURNEY PLANNER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Creating an itnerary of what you are going to do every day is fun. The exhilaration of the holiday creates a happy buzz. Perhaps you are going to use one of the many BEST BITS pre-prepared itineraries or craft your own holiday trip. Here are some tips and ideas how to create an itinerary; your own journey planner reflecting your personal interests.

TIP

Leave space in everyday for last minute deals you spot while on holiday.

Where do you want to go and in which direction while on holiday in NZ?

The first question you ask yourself, when creating a NZ holiday is where do you want to go. Direction is important as you do not want to double up on routes as it wastes time and money.

Budget tip

Rental cars and public buses have regular routes which are cheaper to purchase. Check out if you are travelling agains the flow of tourist traffic. A call to a rental car company will answer this question.

Auckland buses, Auckland, New Zealand @akltransport
@akltransport
Road trip Washpen Falls route, Ashburton, Canterubury
Washpen Falls route, Ashburton, Canterubury

How much time do you have to travel as this influences what you can see and do while on holiday in New Zealand?  

The first measure for your journey planner is the proposed distance to travel. It is recommended you shorten the distance (sigh you really wanted to see those …) to ensure you only drive 150km average per day.  That’s plenty of time to get out of the car and see things.  Even better if you have more than one night, in at least two places to make a destination a hub where you simply move from point A over a period of two or more days.

Plan a road trip with a maximum travelling distance, for each day between 100km to 200km.  The exception being the last day when you had a plane to catch.

Are your key attractions or activities on your must do list?

Your holiday bucket list is easy to manage with a googlemymap pin location. Then you have a framework for your destinations within New Zealand. Create a googlemymap pin locations of must do attractions and estimate travelling times. This will become the structure for the trip route map from day one to the finish line when you depart for home.

Tourist attraction vintage locomotive on display at Steampunk Museum in Oamaru, New Zealand
Tourist attraction vintage locomotive on display at Steampunk Museum in Oamaru
TIP

If one fabulous must-do attraction is out of the way you will need to consider altering the time spent travelling or debate which attractions cannot be visited due to time constraints.

Does your budget include flights or travel to route origin and route destination places while on holiday in New Zealand?

It is very important to include time spend flying or driving into the day’s activities. And remember, entrance fees, averaged accommodation cost, food and beverage costs, insurance and rental vehicle cost, including fuel. This could influence your route.

@liveflyguy
@liveflyguy

Have you considered the weather as a factor influencing your dream holiday in New Zealand?

New Zealand holidays can experience changeable weather. Are you ready for the low season weather forecasts of cool temperatures and rain. The time of the year influences the cost of travel as well as your personal comfort zone.

Now you are ready to work out the details of your journey planner.

You have the following information:

  • Where you are going, places, attractions
  • Estimated time spent getting from point A to point B
  • Provisional expenditure budget

BOOKING YOUR NEW ZEALAND HOLIDAY – YOUR JOURNEY PLANNER TIMELINE

  • Check flights if required (you have to be able to get there). This step is CONNECTIONS, connecting between A – B – C
  • Book accommodation ; 2nd step remember you have already checked traveling distances between places (where you are going to stay) and it is on your personalised wish list google map
  • Use an app such as TripIt to collect accommodation information (plus getting there, flights)
  • Book tour activities
  • Use our itineraries to craft your own personalised tour, it’s that simple as we provide you with the BEST BITS
  1. Choose direction of travel, distance to be travelled in total and distance between major towns where you plan to stay.

TIP: Remember to check where rental car companies have offices as some of the best bargains do not have many actual location pickup points.

  1. Choose key attractions and guided tours, calculate time required to participate in each activity.
  2. Work out the number of nights required in places where you will book accommodation.
  3. Work out the route and record the number of nights in each place where you plan to stop.
  4. Use TripIt or another travel itinerary planner to store the data as you book accommodation and/or key activities. BEST BITS provides links to key attractions and places to stay. BEST BITS does not charge commission to the tour operator or accommodation provider. The savings belong to you and the provider.
Luxury Cottage Accommodation for Abel Tasman, New Zealand @Awatea Tasman Bay
Luxury Cottage Accommodation for Abel Tasman @Awatea Tasman Bay

FOR ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS CHECK OUT

TIP

Hotels remember to check their direct website as specials are usually not listed on third party providers. Check hotel websites for associated activities that can be simultaneously booked as well.

TIP

Booking.com AirBNB have activities associated with their websites. The choice is yours, what you feel most comfortable with.  Tripadvisor continues to provide reviews and recommendations about the quality of the accommodation.

Napier CBD, New Zealand. It's a popular tourist city with a unique 1930s Art Deco architecture, built after the city was razed in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake.
  1. Book activities, especially those that are instagram moments known or if you are travelling in peak season and do not want to miss out.  These do not need to be booked immediately as you might be denting the credit card. Viator.com (part of the TripAdvisor group) is a good source of information as it is the activity operator’s website. Check activity consolidators, such as TripAdvisor as you can easily view forward booking information to ascertain popularity.
  2. Purchase national park passes or multiple day passes, print paper copy and store copy on mobile.
  3. Do not book everything in advance as we are encouraging spur of the moment decision making as well. Freedom to choose is important.

Whew, you have a holiday booked, planned and ready to go.

NEXT STEPS

  1. Document travel times for each day, distances to be traveled, route maps to be downloaded.
  2. Route maps, purchase a paper copy, a real map.  To write on, to compare with google maps and use if connectivity is an issue.
  3. Emergency contacts list to be ticked off and filed with family and friends.
  4. Entertainment while on the road, download your favourite music.
  5. Check when sunrise and sunset occurs for those photo moments
  6. Perhaps consider a roadside assist plan with rental car company
  7. Get inspired,  it’s a road trip.
Caucasian man taking a selfie with smartphone in Split Apple Rock, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Lake Pukaki, road New Zealand
Lake Pukaki

ON THE ROAD IN NEW ZEALAND – BUDGET TIPS

  1. Avoid impulse buys in petrol stations,  I know the doughnuts look delicious however those muesli bars are much better for us.
  2. Check road conditions on google maps
  3. Carry cash for local markets where the vendor is not in a position to offer electronic transactions.
  4. Have you checked if there are tolls on your route, if not prepare to stop and pay, perhaps with cash (this applies especially in Australia).
  1. Remember to consult with your sunset time as perhaps you do not wish to drive at night.
  2. Take breaks and enjoy the journey.  It is not a race to the end.
  3. Enjoy the moments of windshield time with your travelling companions.
  4. Be spontaneous, stop where it is not planned. You are in charge of the itinerary.
  5. Chat to locals about the best way to get somewhere.
  6. Plan a maximum of 1 ½ hours continuous driving, get out, take a selfie and enjoy.
A neat place to stop for tourists travelling on the highway south at this village with vintage and retro signs and gas pumps, Three Creeks Art – Gift Shop, the hub of everything, Burkes Pass
Three Creeks Art – Gift Shop, the hub of everything, Burkes Pass

BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE

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