Planning a New Zealand self drive holiday

Planning a self drive holiday? This useful guide will give you some handy tips and tricks for getting the most out of your New Zealand holiday.

A self drive holiday is an excellent way of seeing New Zealand at your own pace without the stress of a structured group tour. The team here at Discover New Zealand have put together some answers to frequently asked questions asked by travellers.

What is the best time of year to visit New Zealand?

New Zealand does experience the 4 distinctive seasons. Officially these are:

Summer: December, January and February.
Autumn: March, April and May.
Winter: June, July and August.
Spring: September, October and November.

Seasonal availablilty of activities

Almost every kind of activity is available all year round in some form or another. The exception might be access to some of the multi day walking tracks such as the Milford Track and Routeburn Tracks. These close from mid April to late October for guided walks. Other popular trips to cease during the winter months are the Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound overnight cruises. Day cruises will still be available however.

Skiing is generally available from early to mid June until late September (conditions dependent of course). Some other businesses do close during winter months as the demand doesn't warrant being open. These might include cafes and restaurants in some of the destinations less visited during winter such as the West Coast of the South Island, Te Anau, Bay of Islands etc. Ski resort areas such as Queenstown and Wanaka however continue to fully operate right through the winter.

How much time will I need?

As a general guideline  from our experience of what visitors actually do the following is a good starting point.

  • 3-5 days will allow you to do a short circular trip from Auckland, Wellington Christchurch or Queenstown (the most popular starting/finishing points).
  • 5-10 days will mean you can take a tour with more time to explore and more 2 nights stops on one island.
  • 10-14 days will allow you to visit both the North and South Island starting on one and finishing on the other. Getting back to your start/departure point is simple and cost effective to fly.
  • 14-21 days allows for a more extensive trip with a good amount of 2 night stops and also allows time to include locations such as Milford Sound and Kaikoura or the Coromandel and Bay of Islands which might not be possible on shorter time frames.
  • Anything over 21 days means you can start to tailor an itinerary to suit your interests rather than letting the time frame dictate what is possible.

Where shall I stay?

Qualmark is the New Zealand standard for accommodation and activity providers. Be sure to keep an eye out for Bronze, Silver and Gold standard accommodation. Qualmark accommodation is specially chosen for their high standards, including friendly ambience, location, character and facilities. 

You can find accommodation options to suit every budget:

  • Unique & Boutique Accommodation: Upmarket properties with unique character and style.
  • Hotel: Clean, comfortable and value for money accommodation.
  • Motel: Convieniently located accommodation for the budget conscious traveller.
  • Self Catering Accommodation: Quality accommodation with cooking facilities.

Location is an important consideration when planning your accommodation, parking and fuel charges can rack up if you're not careful.

Driving distances

Some journeys can be deceptively long depending on the terrain, be sure to consult a distance calculator while planning your route to make sure you have enough time.

Booking your holiday

Having your tour planned and managed by a New Zealand travel specialist ensures you see the best the country has to offer. You can rely on our up to date knowledge, independent advice and a comprehensive selection of accommodation options, vehicle types and activities to make sure your tour is created to suit your interests, tastes and resources. A custom designed tour doesn't cost any more than an off the shelf itinerary and it means you get exactly what you want. Be sure to check out our website at Discover New Zealand or send us a message at info@discovernewzealand.com.

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