Travelling around New Zealand by car or train gives ample opportunity to enjoy its beautiful scenery, but if you have to get from A to B quickly, flying might be your best option. We have more on the key destinations and their airports in New Zealand airports, South and North islands.
New Zealand's long distance train network provides a scenic and relaxing way to get around the North or South islands if you don't want to drive. For more information about the Northern Explorer service on the North Island, the Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine services on the South Island, along with other train journeys and ferry connections between the two islands, see our page on New Zealand train travel.
Buses and coaches go where New Zealand's limited train network can't, travelling the country's highways, backroads and winding mountain passes to
connect most towns, cities and national parks.
Main operators include the country-wide service InterCity and their luxury sightseeing fleetNewmans Coach Lines, as well as budget operators Naked Bus and ManaBus (North Island only). Many services
have free Wi-Fi, reclining seats, toilets and sale fares as cheap as $1. Naked Bus even has flatbeds for overnight journeys with onesies available
If you're planning on doing a lot of bus travel, consider a TravelPass or FlexiPass from InterCity or a Naked Passport
from Naked Bus.
Other than flying, the only way to travel between the north and south islands is by ferry. Multiple services a day carry passengers and vehicles across
the picturesque Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton, with a journey time of about three hours. Interislander (interislander.co.nz) and Bluebridge (bluebridge.co.nz) are
the two main operators. There's more information about these ferries on our page on train travel.
A passenger ferry runs several times a day between Bluff (near
Invercargill on the southern tip of the South Island) and Stewart Island, with a journey time of one hour.
is a great resource for working out how to get from A to B by any means of transport, anywhere in the world.
Getting around towns and cities is easily done on public transport, by taxi or on foot.
and cabchooze are the main taxi-ordering apps, although the international service Uber has recently entered the market in Auckland and Wellington.
Public transport trip-planners by city:
Hiring your own set of wheels is a great way to see New Zealand on your own schedule, particularly since many of the country's best parts are well off
the beaten track and may not be accessible by public transport.
You'll find the usual international car hire companies in New Zealand, including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Thrifty and Jucy, as well as NZ
companies such as Ezi and GO Rentals. On Stewart Island and Waiheke Island, local companies are the only option.
If you're planning to travel between the north and south islands, check first with the car hire company. Many don't allow their vehicles to be taken on
the inter-island ferry, so you'll need to drop off your car at one port and pick up another car once you've made the crossing.
Most car hire companies don't allow their vehicles to be taken on unsealed roads, so consider a 4WD rental if you're planning on going off-road.
Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road.
There's no need to get an international driving permit, you can drive on your Australian licence or any other licence printed in English.
Mobile phones can only be used hands-free.
Seat belts must be worn at all times in the front and back seats.
Children under seven must be properly restrained in an approved car seat or booster seat. Check the rules here.
The blood alcohol limit for drivers aged over 20 is .05%. For drivers aged under 20 the limit is zero. (Tip: Most car hire companies won't lease
vehicles to drivers aged under 21.)
Many roads are narrow, winding or unsealed and can be particularly treacherous in wet or icy weather. Drive carefully, and do your research first on
the roads you'll be using. Some (such as the road to Milford Sound) are notoriously hair-raising, so if you aren't a confident driver, consider
Driving times may be longer than you expect due to road conditions. Use this calculator to estimate times and distances.
Accommodation and tours
options in New Zealand vary from five star wilderness lodges to cheap and crowded backpacker hostels. The rates are similar to here in Australia, if
not a little cheaper, depending on the location and the exchange rate.
Campers and caravaners can stay at holiday parks with power, water and other facilities, or at the basic Department of Conservation campsites in more than 200 locations around the country. New Zealand is also known for its 'free camping', but it's a misconception that you can legally camp anywhere you like. There are designated free camping spots around the country - check rankers.co.nz for a map, or find out more at camping.org.nz.
Accommodation bookings can be made through the usual sites such as expedia.com, wotif.com and lastminute.com, or through the hotel's own website where you
may find a cheaper deal (see our tips on booking accommodation). Check tripadvisor for customer reviews
before you book. If you're looking for a homestay or holiday house rental, airbnb.com is widely used in New
Tours and self-drive holidayscan be booked through a travel agent or online (try discovernewzealand.com, relaxingjourneys.co.nz or the well-known contiki.com or intrepidtravel.com). Search for recommended tours on tripadvisor.com or viator.com. For the easiest option of all, particularly for skiing holidays, consider a package deal from a travel agent such as Flight Centre, which includes flights, transport, accommodation and sometimes even meals.
Consider waiting until you're in New Zealand to book day trips. If your schedule is flexible, you may want to check the weather forecast a few days in
advance before booking outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking or sightseeing flights.
Look for the Qualmark symbol when booking accommodation or tours. Qualmark is New Zealand tourism's quality assurance organisation. Businesses must meet stringent quality standards and environmental criteria to earn Qualmark certification.