You could literally spend anywhere from a month to a year driving around New Zealand and still not manage to see everything. We spent once spent 6 months travelling around NZ in Isaacs Grandma’s car and we still didn’t see everything! But I guess that’s the true beauty of travelling; there’s ALWAYS something new to see, no matter how long you spend in one place.
Luckily, New Zealand’s geography lends itself to a multitude of different road trips. Whether you’re keen to travel the islands separately, begin your drive in Auckland or Wellington, or drive around the whole country, it’s all achievable.
Exactly how long it takes to drive around New Zealand depends mainly on three factors; activities, personal time restraints, and of course your budget.
Are you a hiking enthusiast, keen city breaker or adrenaline junky?
Choosing where to go in New Zealand, very much depends on how you prefer to spend your time; in the great outdoors, exploring a city’s restaurant and bar scene or jumping out of the sky.
Whilst planning your trip to New Zealand, take time to consider the type of activities you want to do there. This will give you a better idea of how long to spend in certain cities and whether there are some places you should simply miss during your New Zealand road trip.
New Zealand is a mecca for hiking enthusiasts, with infinite opportunities to go on day hikes in both the north and south islands. If you are driving around the South Island, consider spending a few days at Mount Cook, the country’s highest mountain and home to some of the best hiking in New Zealand.
The North Island is home to the Tongariro National Park, frequented by hikers for years, but made famous by its appearance as Mount Doom in Lord Of The Rings. If you have time, and a good level of fitness, we would highly recommend embarking on the three-day hike here, to get lost in the park’s diverse and rewarding landscapes.
For any adrenaline seekers planning a road trip around New Zealand, consider basing yourself in Queenstown, the adventure capital. Possibilities here are endless; Bungy jump the oldest bungee jump in the world, go grade five white water rafting in the Shotover River or try luging at the top of the Ben Lomond Mountain.
Find out what else you can get up to in Queenstown:
Alternatively, for those wishing for a city-based getaway with some leisurely walks dotted in between, why not consider a road trip in the North Island. Home to New Zealand’s capital city, the commercial capital, Auckland, and the natural spa town, Rotorua, there is plenty of wining, dining and relaxing to do here.
Money Matters – what’s your budget in New Zealand?
Having a general idea of how much money you want to spend will not only help you budget throughout your trip but it will also help you figure out how long you can afford to stay in New Zealand.
Like any country, travelling around New Zealand can be as cheap or expensive as you wish to make it. As a general rule of thumb, it is possible to spend as little as 60NZD (around 40USD or 32GBP) a day if you rent a campervan (not including the cost of the campervan) and cook your meals.
Increase your budget to 300NZD a day and you can expect a relatively carefree travelling experience; staying in private rooms, dining out and indulging in a few of the more expensive activities.
Although not as cheap as travelling the countries of South East Asia, there are plenty of ways to make this a more budget-friendly trip.
Accommodation will always be a huge chunk of your budget. Being popular destination amongst backpackers, there are plenty of budget accommodation choices in most cities around New Zealand. A bed in a dorm room will normally set you back anything from 60 – 65 NZD.
An all-round better value option is to rent a campervan. Not only will this give you the freedom to see the best places in New Zealand, but, if you stay in the ‘free camping’ designated spots, you’ll save tonnes on accommodation costs!
Check out our guide to accommodation here for a complete breakdown of the costs for each standard of accommodation!
Time Constraints – How much time can you get off work?
The beauty of New Zealand lies in its versatility.
Spending two weeks in New Zealand will comfortably fit in the popular attractions of both islands. Explore the sprawling metropolis of Auckland, the natural sulphur springs of Rotorua, the windy streets of Wellington, the creative city of Christchurch and the backpackers favourite, Queenstown.
Alternatively, if you have limited time, ten days in the South Island will reward travellers with a deeper look at New Zealand unique geological landscapes.
In the perfect world, the ideal New Zealand itinerary would be over a month-long. This will give you the chance to get off the beaten track and explore some lesser-trodden paths. Take a detour to the discover Kaikoura, a haven for dolphin and whale watching or venture to the northern-most point of New Zealand at Cape Reinga.
When choosing which places to visit in New Zealand, make sure to factor in driving distances. Compared to its neighbour, New Zealand is a relatively small country and driving distances seem reasonable on a map. However, when you start to factor in the dizzyingly winding roads, single-lane traffic and freely roaming sheep in the roads, it may just take a little longer than you thought.
Oh, and think about the photo stops, because you will want to stop to take a photo every single time you turn a corner.
Ultimately, it is worth spending as much time as you can physically afford, to explore this captivating country. With fewer time restraints comes less pressure, and with less pressure, comes less stress, meaning you can truly enjoy you road trip around New Zealand!
And of course you will require a hire car to do this – start your search today!