What is the best way to travel around New Zealand?

Unless you’re visiting a single destination, deciding how you will travel around New Zealand is as important as figuring out where you want to go. Due to the country’s large expanses of rolling countryside and magnificent national parks, travelling by car is the preferred choice of locals and tourists alike.

But there are several other options available if you don’t want to self-drive or if you want to do so with your accommodation supplied.

In this article, discover the various ways you can get from A to B while exploring the North and South Islands. If you’re not hiring a campervan, you can easily find accommodation in New Zealand via this weblink. In addition to city center apartments and suburban homes, it lists quirky cottages in the middle of nowhere. Finding unique places to stay in New Zealand might even influence where you decide to travel and how you want to get there.

Hire car

With its spectacular scenery, New Zealand is a great place to explore from behind the wheel, giving you the freedom to go where you want, when you want. Many of the country’s natural wonders aren’t accessible by public transport, so hiring a vehicle is the most convenient way of getting there.

Driving around New Zealand is relatively easy, with well-maintained roads and a lack of traffic once you get outside of the big cities. If you’re coming from Europe or North America, it’s worth keeping in mind that New Zealanders drive on the left-hand side of the road, so make sure you feel comfortable doing so.

A driver’s license from your home country is all that you’ll need. That is unless you’re under 25, in which case your rental car company will require you to take out additional insurance. Before hiring a car, check whether you are allowed to take the vehicle on gravel or dirt roads and (if you’re visiting in winter) if tyre chains will be needed to access snowy, mountainous areas.


One of the most popular ways to explore New Zealand is by hiring a campervan, which not only gives you the freedom to access remote destinations but to overnight there as well. The country’s national parks are well set up for campervans, with most charging a small fee per night. This means that travelling by campervan can be a more affordable option compared to renting a car and paying for accommodation.

If you’re staying in more established campervan parks, the overnight costs will increase significantly, so work out a budget before you commit to the idea. “Freedom camping” is possible in some locations, but always check local signage as you may be fined for overnighting in places where it is forbidden.

Campervan hire costs vary dramatically depending on the size of the vehicle and its facilities, with those equipped with toilets and showers much more expensive than small vans with simple beds and portable stoves.


While New Zealand doesn’t have an extensive rail network, the routes that it does have are incredibly scenic. Train travel in the country is more about enjoying the magnificent views rather than being a super convenient way of getting around. That being said, incorporating a train journey or two into your trip is sure to be memorable while also getting you from A to B.

On the North Island, you can travel from Auckland to Wellington aboard the Northern Explorer, which takes in the spellbinding landscapes of Tongariro National Park. On the South Island, you can journey from the ferry port of Picton to the historic city of Christchurch on the Coastal Pacific or discover the rugged West Coast on the Tranzalpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth.


If you don’t want to self-drive, buses are the main form of public transport in New Zealand and connect almost all of the country’s cities and towns. They are a relatively affordable option (particularly if you’re travelling outside of the peak season) and most are equipped with toilets and Wi-Fi.

InterCity is New Zealand’s main bus operator, with connections to more than 600 communities across the North and South Islands. The InterCity FlexiPass is an hours-based option that allows you to hop-on and hop-off wherever you like, as well as use the Interislander ferry that connects the two islands.

Most of New Zealand’s major cities, such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch also have their own bus services for getting around.


If you’re short on time, then flying between destinations is a great option and made easy thanks to New Zealand’s extensive domestic flight network. While Air New Zealand is the national carrier and serves around two dozen different destinations, there are also internal flights available with low-cost carrier Jetstar. While flights will save you time, they may not necessarily save you money when you factor in the costs of getting to and from the airport.

David Tompkins
Author: David Tompkins