A Guide to Airports in New Zealand

General Views Of Auckland Airport
Phil Walter / Getty Images

New Zealand has several international airports, but some are more useful for travelers coming from very far away, while others see more short-haul international flights. Auckland and Christchurch, on the North and South Islands respectively, are the two most useful international airports for travelers coming from North America or Europe. If you're coming from Australia or a smattering of small Pacific Island nations, you'll have a few more options. Here's what you need to know about New Zealand airports.

Auckland Airport

  • Location: Mangere, South Auckland
  • Best If: You're flying internationally from North America or Asia
  • Avoid If: You plan to spend most of your time in the South Island
  • Distance to the Central City: 16 miles, taking around 30 minutes (longer during peak traffic times).

Auckland Airport is New Zealand's biggest and busiest airport (which makes sense, as Auckland is New Zealand's biggest city). A large number of international airlines fly here, including New Zealand's own Air New Zealand, as well as American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and many more. Some international airlines run codeshare services to reach Auckland, so even if you book a ticket with an airline in your local country, you may actually travel on a different airline.

There are two terminals at Auckland Airport: international and domestic. They're connected by shuttle buses and a walkway (which takes about 10 minutes to cross). There are good dining options in both terminals before and after security, but particularly the international terminal has a better selection of restaurants.

From Auckland Airport you can pick up a rental car, or get into the central city by taxi or bus. Buses are the most economical way, costing between NZ$17 and NZ$24 per adult.

Christchurch Airport

  • Location: Harewood, Christchurch
  • Best If: You plan to travel around the South Island
  • Avoid If: You plan to focus on the North Island
  • Distance to the Central City: 7.5 miles

Christchurch Airport is New Zealand's second-busiest airport (although it was actually the country's first international airport). When looking up flights to New Zealand from North America or Europe, you're likely to find the most options to Auckland, and then Christchurch. As Christchurch is located about halfway down the east coast of the South Island, flying here is very convenient if your New Zealand travel plans focus on the South Island. It's also possible to get a flight into Christchurch and out of Auckland (or vice versa) if you want to travel through both islands.

Christchurch Airport isn't far from the central city. You can pick up a rental car, take a taxi, or get a shuttle bus straight to your accommodation.

Wellington International Airport

  • Location: Rongotai, Wellington
  • Best If: You're flying from/to the east coast of Australia
  • Avoid If: You dislike turbulent landings
  • Distance to the Central City: 3.5 miles

Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island, is New Zealand's capital city, but it's only the third largest (after Auckland and Christchurch). Most flights to and from Wellington Airport are domestic, although there are also daily flights to and from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane in Australia, and several weekly flights to various Pacific Islands (where New Zealanders like to vacation in the winter).

Wellington is a notoriously windy city, due to its particular geography. Flights arriving in and departing from Wellington are similarly turbulent. Your pilot will normally make an announcement about this, and there's little to be worried about. But, if you're a nervous flier, you may not enjoy flying into Wellington very much.

The airport is close to the central city, and you can take a taxi or shuttle bus from outside the terminal.

Dunedin International Airport

  • Location: Momona, Dunedin
  • Best If: You're heading to the southern South Island
  • Avoid If: You dislike neo-gothic university towns
  • Distance to the Central City: 13.5 miles

International in name, Dunedin Airport isn't always international in practice, although there are currently flights to Brisbane, Australia. Dunedin Airport is New Zealand's sixth-busiest airport. It is primarily a domestic airport, and is convenient for accessing the south of the South Island. It's especially convenient if you're short on time in the South Island, because the drive between Christchurch and Dunedin takes around 6 hours, but the flight is just an hour.

Dunedin Airport is west of central Dunedin, surrounded by hills and farmland. You may wonder where the city is when you arrive. It's about a 20-minute drive by taxi or shuttle bus (and Dunedin doesn't really experience rush hour traffic).

Queenstown Airport

  • Location: Frankton, Queenstown
  • Best If: You're heading to the mountains of the southern South Island
  • Avoid If: You dislike mountains
  • Distance to the Central City: 5 miles

Little Queenstown, in the south-west of the South Island, only has a permanent population of around 16,000 inhabitants, making it much smaller than most of New Zealand regional centers. But, due to its gorgeous setting on Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains, it's one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The small Queenstown Airport also punches above its weight, with direct flights from Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Melbourne in Australia, as well as a few New Zealand cities.

Unless you're traveling around the South Island on a long road trip, flying to Queenstown from other parts of the country saves a lot of time. And, it'll save you from driving on mountainous roads and over some hazardous passes.

Queenstown Airport is just a few miles east of the city, in the Queenstown suburb of Frankton. You can rent a car from there for your onward travels, or get into the city by taxi or shuttle bus.