There are a number of different ways to get around and explore New Zealand. Here are the best travel options, taking into account time frame, budget, and the places you want to see.
If you are driving in New Zealand you will find an excellent network of well maintained and sealed roads. Depending on the terrain, though, some of them can be quite narrow and winding, especially in the North Island. Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, and Christchurch have motorway systems that make it relatively easy to get in and out of the cities; even rush hour is not too bad compared to many other places in the world.
The driving speed limit is generally 50 km/hr (30 miles per hour) in urban areas, with an upper limit of 100 km/hr (70 miles per hour) on open roads and motorways. And remember to stick to the left; as in Australia or the UK, the driving is on the left-hand side of the road.
A feature of some remote roads (especially around Northland and the Coromandel Peninsula) is the 'one-way' bridges. These only have a single lane - if a car is approaching you from the opposite direction look out to see which of you has the 'Give Way' sign; the other must cross first.
New Zealand Automobile Association and Visitor Information Centers are excellent places to visit for driving maps and other driving advice.
There are many car rental companies based at the airports and major centers around New Zealand. It is a very good idea to book ahead online to get the best rates.
There are more than 100,000 motorhomes (known locally as campervans) touring the roads of New Zealand each year, making it a very popular way to see the country. There is a huge variety of sizes and configurations to choose from, depending on your needs and budget.
For overnight parking, there are basically two options. Firstly you can book a campground or holiday park. These offer sites for campervans and of course cooking and washing facilities.
If you have a vehicle which is 'self-contained' (legally certified as having its own water and waste containment) there are many places where you can 'freedom camp'. This literally means parking wherever takes your fancy, although of course within the bounds of common sense.
Daily bus services link most of New Zealand's top destinations and this is a very popular transport option amongst tourists. Aside from the comfort and convenience of not having to drive yourself, one of the great advantages of bus travel is the commentary usually provided by the driver; you will find out more about the places you pass through than you would on your own - and you'll almost certainly pick up a funny local story or joke or two as well.
An organized coach tour is another low-stress and informative transport option in New Zealand. You can select regional or national tours of various lengths to suit your time frame. Usually, accommodation is included and there can be various meal and sightseeing activity options.
Train travel is not one of the best ways to get around New Zealand, as the rail network is rather limited. For tourists, there are a few memorable train journeys; the best is the route between Auckland and Wellington and the TranzAlpine which crosses the Southern Alps between Christchurch and Greymouth in the South Island.
Air New Zealand and JetStar are the two national carriers which operate flights between the main centers and many smaller destinations. Competition keeps prices very reasonable and it is often possible to pick up bargain fares. The best way to get these is to book online as far ahead as you can.
There are also smaller operators to such specialist destinations as Great Barrier Island and Stewart Island.
This is a great way to see New Zealand! The long straight roads and spectacular scenery are a motorcyclist's dream. There are a number of companies specializing in offering bikes for hire.
For the hardy adventurer, bicycling might be an attractive option for traveling around New Zealand. Be warned; there are lots of steep hills and narrow roads (especially in the North Island) which can make cycling hazardous. Nevertheless, many people do travel this way and you will find several operators around the country where you can rent a bike or join a tour.