Embrace adventure! Drive thru New Zealand!

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Referred to as the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand defines long.  Stretching over 1298 miles from north to south (about the distance from New York City to Miami and only 194 miles wide at its widest point), no wonder the locals like to call a trip around the country the great Kiwi road trip.   There’s a reason.  The only way to get to most destinations around the country requires a car.  Some might call this a particularly exciting adventure because, yes, the Kiwis as the locals are called, drive on the left side of the road.

Driving thru the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

You could do a tour that visits the major sights of the country, but when you self-drive, you have freedom to go where you want, when and for how long. You can stop at the many quaint New Zealand towns to go shopping, see tourist attractions, enjoy traditional food and buy souvenirs as you please. Stopping to buy local products like fruits, vegetables, wine, cheese, and honey will be a highlight of your trip. You will meet local farmers and gather delicious flavors to enjoy during the leisurely days of your trip that follow.

You drive on the left in New Zealand.

The scenery is spectacular in the land of the long white cloud with rolling hills, vast mountain ranges, wide-open fields, and stunning lakes. You can also expect to see breathtaking fjords, pristine beaches, unique geothermal activity, and lots of sheep. Any time you want to stop for a photo, you can.

Driving on the left side – it’s not as scary as it sounds. After a few days of driving carefully on the left side, your mind will adapt and you will relax and be just fine. Start your road trip with short legs so you can gradually build up your confidence.

Phone apps can help you navigate your way around. For directions, you can use Google maps as you would at home. Weather apps are great, so you can see if bad weather is looming and plan your travel days accordingly to avoid driving in inclement weather.

Road conditions in New Zealand are good. Highways are similar to our state roads, not interstate highways; those are found only around Auckland and Christchurch. Roads are signposted well and there are many passing lanes or areas to pull over to allow traffic to pass. There are gravel and narrow roads in some rural areas.  On coastal roads, you can expect winds that require additional caution.  That is why it’s important to map out a travel plan in advance, so you are only driving in areas where and when you will feel comfortable.

On your great Kiwi road trip, you can explore areas like Cape Kidnappers that aren’t included on tours.

Reflective signs and road markings guide the way during evenings and at night. The maximum speed in any area is 100 km/hour (about 62 mph) and you need to slow down on approach to towns and school areas which is always signposted. Perhaps one of the trickiest things for NZ visitors (apart from driving on the left) is the roundabouts that many towns have on the outskirts and town centers.

Often you and maybe one other car will be on or entering a roundabout in New Zealand.

Before you rent your vehicle to travel to New Zealand, you’ll normally be shown a road safety video or given a road rule guide. You can also find them online to study before your arrival. Insurance is included and compulsory, as is showing the driver’s license issued in your country or international driving permit.

During your journey thru rural areas, you might come across some nature crossing the roads. It could be a farmer moving a herd of cows or a wild rabbit on the move. You might also see law enforcement along the way.

Police patrol the roads and there are numerous hidden speed cameras.   if caught speeding, your ticket will await when you return your vehicle or could arrive by mail many months after you return home.

The towns in NZ are quite close together. Even though many are small communities, you don’t need to go too far before finding a place to seek directions, fuel up or take a break to stretch your legs. It’s not difficult to find a public bathroom and restaurants and cafes have bathrooms for use by customers.

First-time driving on the left can be nerve-wracking initially.  But driving in New Zealand is quite easy because there just isn’t much traffic on the roads, except during peak times in the major cities. Even then, it’s quiet compared to many other metropolitan cities in the world. In some rural areas, you may drive for 10-20 min or more before you see another car.

You’ll be a confident driver after a day or two on the road. It is easy to find your way around and locals are very friendly and helpful should you need assistance.

Spend time in New Zealand.  Enjoy all the gorgeous scenery of both the North and the South Island.  Get to know the Kiwis.  It all becomes so easy and relaxing by car after a day or two. Drop us a line if you would like more information on travel in New Zealand and/or questions about driving the quiet Kiwi roads.  Oh, and if I can do it, you can.

With a car, you can see Lake Wakatipu on the South Island from so many gorgeous vantage points.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEmbrace adventure! Drive thru New Zealand!

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