New Zealand is unique in countless ways. I’m fairly certain there isn’t a single country on earth with more diversity in landscape, untouched nature, and outdoor activities within a comparatively small space. It’s almost like being on a ride in Disneyland that crosses five different “continents” in ten minutes. In other words, the best place to do a road trip!
From the green rolling hills around Auckland, to the hot springs in Rotorua, to adrenaline-fueled adventures in Queenstown, to the steep, barren mountains of Milford Sound… there is a lot to see and do in The land of the long white cloud.
Traveling by car is the only way to travel New Zealand properly. If you’re doing it by bus, you’re doing it wrong. There are countless spots along the way to anywhere in New Zealand that deserve a moment to stop and take it all in. This notion was confirmed with every cramped bus that I saw barreling down the highway by with people’s faces up against the window trying to get a quick glimpse of the magnificent, mind-blowing landscapes.
A rental car is more expensive than a bus ticket, but everything here is expensive, so save some more money before going so you can have your own wheels. New Zealand is not the place to go if you’re on a budget in the first place. I always use the average price of a beer in a bar to gauge how expensive a place is. You’ll be paying around NZ$12-15 for one glass here, and you won’t even be getting a pint for that.
It deserves repeating: New Zealand is a really expensive country to travel through. It is also one of the best countries to travel through. It has some of the most spectacular landscapes this world has to offer while being a very nice, safe, first-world country inhabited by nice people. New Zealand is a lovely place in every way, except for maybe the weather. It does gets rainy and chilly, but that’s ultimately easy to deal with.
The rental car we had was a Toyota Rav4, second generation model with four doors, two-wheel drive. Rented at Juicy car rental.
Short review of the car
Not very comfortable on the highway due to stiff suspension, high amount of road noise, and slightly awkward driving position. I’ve never really understood the point of small SUVs in general, as they have all the disadvantages of an SUV (sloppy handling, high point of gravity, high amount of drag) without the main advantages (having a lot of space & the feeling you’re driving a tank). Like pretty much all Japanese cars, the interior was boring but functional.
The way the trunk was setup allowed for an easy way to have an impromptu picknick, and even though it had almost 250K KM (155K Miles) underneath its belt, everything still felt tight and almost like new. Toyota really knows how to build a rock-solid vehicle.
As on every long road trip, the car became the red line through the adventure, and I couldn’t help but love it after a while.
The trip started in Auckland and ended in Queenstown on the South Island.
New Zealand’s North Island
Crank’s cafe in Hunterville, a good place for a breather on the way down to Wellington.
The little Rav4 with “Mount Doom” in the background.
New Zealand’s South Island
Highway 79 to Lake Tekapo
The road to Twizel
Highway 94 to Milford Sound
Highway 6 to Queenstown
The little Rav4 taking a breather
New Zealand offered one of the best road-tripping experiences of my life. If you decide to come here, do yourself a favor and rent a car. It’s not like you’ll visit this country every week.
Be sure to check out the other photo essays from New Zealand, as this is just the road-trip part of all the photos.