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The 6 best New Zealand road trips you should take

Looking for an adventure? Fly to New Zealand, where space is aplenty, but natural beauty, activities and adrenaline are all close by. The best way to explore this gorgeous terrain is by road, where you can stop and have a picnic whenever you want to enjoy the great outdoors and stunning scenery of this country. Here are Skycanner's top 6 road trip picks that we recommend cruising along in a campervan – the whole family will love the home-on-wheels comfort this vehicle affords!

All you need to know about car rental in New Zealand

If you’re staying in one of the major cities like Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington where there are public transport systems, you could get away with not having a car on your holiday. But if you want to explore outside the main cities and off-the-beaten-path gems, getting a car rental in New Zealand could be the way to go.

Driving will give you full control over your travel plans and you can move as slowly or quickly as you please. Not to mention, you’ll have full freedom to roam the remotest parts of New Zealand where untouched nature and wild beauty awaits.

How much is car rental in New Zealand?

Wondering how much it is to rent a car in New Zealand? Here are the average prices for car rental in New Zealand. Prices are shown in SGD. Be sure to compare rates between different service providers to decide on which car rental in New Zealand is best for you.

EconomyCompactIntermediate
Prices of car rental in Auckland$52$41$56
Prices of car rental in Christchurch$43$45$54
Prices of car rental in Queenstown$64$58$56
Prices of car rental in Wellington$47$49$74

Also remember to include additional costs such as petrol, insurance, and additional add-ons when you’re doing your trip planning and budgeting. Here are some average prices:

  • Full tank of petrol for a normal car (unleaded): $1.80 per litre / $65 full tank
  • Daily car insurance: Range from $0 per day for high excess option to $33 per day for no excess option
  • GPS hire: $4.70 to $9.40 per day

Where to rent a car in New Zealand?

Wondering where to rent a car in New Zealand? You can compare prices and book a car online before your trip and collect it from various locations. Here are a few major brands we work with for car rental in New Zealand: Alamo, Sixt, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Europcar.

Note that the minimum age for New Zealand car rentals is 21 years. Additionally, the driver must have held their license for a minimum of 1 year. Rental car drivers under the age of 25 years could incur a young driver surcharge fee on top of the daily car rental rate. Singapore driver’s license holders are not required to apply for an international driver’s license for New Zealand.

Tip: If you have a foreign driver’s license, make sure you get an official English translation of your driver’s license.

The 6 best New Zealand road trips

  1. Top of South Island
  2. Southern Scenic Route (South Island)
  3. Forgotten World Highway (North Island)
  4. South Island Glacier Trip (South Island)
  5. Manawatu Scenic Route (North Island)
  6. Hawkes Bay to Wellington Wine Trail (North Island)

1. Top of the South Island

Mix in a little bit of a city break to your South Island road trip by starting off at Christchurch, a city that has become increasingly cool with funky bars and modern restaurants opening up shop. Grab a car rental in Christchurch and venture along the stunning coastline to Kaikoura, famous for its dolphin and whale watching. Head onto Malborough, best known for its wine of course. It would be rude not to enjoy a Sauvignon Blanc in its home region! Next up is the artistic community of Nelson, a charming seaside town with beautiful beaches and rows of galleries. Salty sea lovers will love the water sports activities at the Abel Tasman National Park – be sure to visit around spring time when the water has warmed up a notch.

RouteChristchurch to Nelson via Kaikoura
Closest AirportChristchurch
Highlights
Whale Watching, Abel Tasman National Park, Wine Tasting
Distance
423 km
Stay
Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses
Duration4 days

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2. Southern Scenic Route (South Island)

For a truly unforgettable road trip, head to the lower part of the South Island to see the beauty of New Zealand at its best. Rent a car in Dunedin and be on your way to Queenstown. The terrain can be rough and rugged, but it’s worth it for the scenic vistas, not to mention the delicious seafood. Make a stop at Invercargill for their famous Bluff Oysters and blue cod. Take in the stunning sites on the Milford track, and finish your journey close by at happening mountain resort of Queenstown, where adrenaline junkies can try bungy jumping and white water rafting.

RouteDunedin to Queenstown
Closest AirportDunedin
Highlights
Queenstown, Catlin’s wildlife, Milford Sound
Distance
802 km
Stay
Hotel St Moritz, Queenstown
Duration4 days

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3. Forgotten World Highway (North Island)

The name is a bit of a giveaway, but if you want a remote and slightly off the beaten path road trip experience, why not try the Forgotten World Highway? This route is best experienced in autumn when the colours of the leaves are a beautiful bright orange colour. Rent a car in Auckland or Wellington and begin your journey on New Zealand’s oldest heritage trail. The highway is built on an old 19th-century colonial bridle path, and adding to the theme of history, stop by at the Whangamomona Hotel to experience hospitality from times gone by. For a scenic spot, head to Mount Damper Falls which at 74 metres, is one of the highest waterfalls in the North Island. End your trip at Stratford, named after William Shakespeare’s birthplace and don’t miss their daily Romeo and Juliet performances.

RouteTaumarunui to Stratford
Closest AirportAuckland or Wellington
Highlights
Historic Whangamomona, Tahora Saddle, Mount Damper Falls
Distance
227 km
Stay
Dawson Falls Mountain Lodge
Duration3 days

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4. South Island Glacier Trip (South Island)

At well over 1,000km, this is the longest road trip out of the lot, but it could also be your most rewarding. Incorporating some of the South Island’s most beautiful spots, discover ancient glaciers, magical mountains and turquoise lakes on your journey. We love this trip during springtime after the cold winter’s chill has subsided. Start off in the adventure capital of Queenstown and venture north to Franz Josef Glacier. Arrange a helicopter to whip you up to the top to explore its icy caves. Other must-see stops are the old gold mining town of Hokitika and The Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, the highest peak in Australasia.

RouteQueenstown to Queenstown via Fox Glacier
Closest AirportQueenstown
Highlights
Franz Josef Glacier, Hokitika, Aoraki Mount Cook
Distance
1,257 km
Stay
Mahitahi Lodge
Duration
5 days

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5. Manawatu Scenic Route (North Island)

Get a car rental in Wellington and start your journey in the small town of Mangaweka, an old fashion sort of place that time has forgotten. If you’re the type of person that loves to swim, stop off at Ruahine Dress Circle reserve, a beauty spot with natural waterfalls and swimming holes, which is at its most lovely in spring when the flowers are in full bloom. For history buffs, make sure you visit Ruapuna Park & Museum on your next stop. Look forward as well to driving through the scenic Pohangina Valley, against the stunning backdrop of the Ruahine Ranges. Finally, at the end of your trip, arrive at the charming town of Ashhurst, and mingle with the locals over a meal.

RouteMangaweka to Ashhurst
Closest AirportWellington
Highlights
Ancient native bush, Gardens & heritage, Crystal-clear rivers
Distance
76.9 km
StayBolton Hotel
Duration2 days

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6. Hawkes Bay to Wellington Wine Trail (North Island)

If you’re a lover of fine wine, then your best plan is to recruit a teetotal road trip buddy to take the wheel while you sample what’s on offer on the Wellington Wine Trail. Luckily the wineries are close enough together so you can visit a few in one day. Make sure you allow enough time to visit Martinborough, which has become the foodie capital of the North Island, being home to 25 boutique vineyards with a selection of fantastic restaurants. Napier needs to be marked on the map for design enthusiasts – this city is an example of the purest form of Art Deco architecture in the world. The final stop is New Zealand’s capital city Wellington, where you can soak up the history and culture of the country.

RouteNapier to Wellington
Closest AirportWellington
Highlights
New Zealand’s capital city, Art deco architecture, Cycling the Wine Trails
Distance
322 km
Stay
Martinborough Holiday Park
Duration
3 days

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For more tips on visiting New Zealand, go to www.newzealand.com

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Originally published on 16 December 2015 and updated in February 2019. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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