Getting To, And Around, New Zealand

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New Zealand gives many travellers the impression that it’s remote, and as far away as it’s possible to go. In reality it’s only three hours from the east coast of Australia, and getting around isn’t difficult once you’re there. A small country divided into two islands, key areas to visit are well connected by air and by road, and there are plenty of choices for how to move between destinations. 

Flying to and Around New Zealand 

New Zealand has international airports in Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown, Christchurch, Dunedin and Rotorua, and they’re serviced by airlines including Air China, Emirates, LAN, Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, and the country’s national carrier, Air New Zealand. The east coast of Australia is only a three hour flight across the Tasman, with multiple daily direct flights from Sydney, Brisbane the Sunshine Coast, and the Gold Coast, as well as Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. The major carriers are Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar. Getting around New Zealand by plane is also easy, with domestic airports at many locations making almost every part of the country accessible. Air New Zealand is the primary local carrier, with while Air Chathams provides scheduled flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to the Chatham Islands, and Stewart Island Flights services Stewart Island from Invercargill on the South Island. 

Renting a Car 

Renting a car allows for greater flexibility when getting around, and the distances to drive between many places largely aren’t that great compared to Australia, and you can get away from the usual tourist traps. There’s also a wide range of vehicles available, with the quality of roads generally high, and traffic light outside of main cities. Most of the big car rental companies are represented including Avis, Budget and Thrifty, as well as locally owned companies. Generally, the longer you rent a car for, the cheaper the daily rate, but if you need one-way hire between locations, choose one of the larger companies as the smaller ones may only allow for return trips. You can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months if you have a current driver's licence from your home country, but to rent a car you need to be 21 or older, and some companies may ask drivers under age 25 to pay a young driver surcharge, and restrict them to certain types of vehicles. 

New Zealand By Bus 

Travelling by bus and coach is a consideration if you’re on a budget, and or your prefer to sit back while someone else does all the work. Fortunately, New Zealand has a good public transport system, connecting cities to popular tourist destinations. Coach companies include InterCity Coachlines, which services the entire country, while Kiwi Experience is aimed largely at backpackers with drivers doubling up as tour guides. If you’re planning to visit multiple places, ‘hop on, hop off’ passes are available offering unlimited travel for a fixed price. 

Renting A Campervan 

A campervan also offers flexibility on a driving holiday while providing a home on the road. All the major companies are represented including Britz, Maui Motorhomes, KEA Campers, and Apollo. There are hundreds of holiday parks across New Zealand offering powered sites and facilities, and there’s free overnight camping at local homes through special networks. Campervans are available at New Zealand's main cities and tourist centres. Some companies offer flexible pick up and drop off options, and one-way trips, and daily and weekly rental rates vary according to the time of year. For travel during peak times book in advance. Other costs to consider include insurance and the refundable bond, which you get back at the end of your holiday, and as with renting a car, minimum age to rent a campervan is 21 or older. When comparing prices, make sure you check what is included in the rate such as free unlimited kilometres, and if you need to pay for added extras such as outdoor tables. Also check if the vehicle comes with linens including sheets and towels. 

Ferries and Water Taxis 

There are opportunities for travel by water almost everywhere in New Zealand, and the country’s ferries and water taxis can either get you from one destination to another, or take you on a pleasure cruise. The most famous ferry route is across the Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton. It’s a 92 kilometre, three-hour journey which not only transports you and your vehicle, but also shows off the natural beauty of the Marlborough Sounds; sightings of dolphins, whales and fur seals are very common. Water taxis can be a handy service for getting to the start of a hiking track or reaching a destination that isn’t accessible by ferry.  


New Zealand’s trains cater largely to tourists and sightseeing, and are undeniably scenic journeys through remote national parks, across volcanic landscapes, alpine passes and its rugged coastline. KiwiRail Scenic Journeys operates three routes. The Northern Explorer links Wellington and Auckland through the volcanic heart of the North Island, with highlights including Tongariro National Park and the famous Raurimu Spiral, while the Coastal Pacific travels between Christchurch and Picton on the South Island, hugging the coastline, and with highlights including the eco-tourism hub of Kaikoura. The TranzAlpine is arguably the most famous route, however, linking Christchurch with Greymouth, across breathtaking Southern Alps. 

Motorcycle and Bicycle Hire 

Another way to traverse New Zealand’s famously scenic roads is on two wheels. With top quality and well maintained roads, exploring by motorbike or bicycle allows for flexibility with your itinerary, and the option to venture off the beaten track at your own pace. Motorcycle rental companies have a range of popular rides on offer including Harley Davidsons. One-way hire may be available, depending on the company you choose, and you can ride for up to 12 months if you have a current motorcycle licence from your home country. Travelling by bicycle is another a great way to get around New Zealand, especially if you love the great outdoors, getting close to nature, and being active in the process. Bike rental is available from cycle shops and bike hire operators in major cities and tourist destinations.

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Ben Hall