This is a guest post, written by the guys at TransferCar – mainly because I like their company (free car hire in NZ!).
Taking on the ‘top to bottom’ drive through New Zealand isn’t something that anyone should take lightly. It is a grueling and demanding drive that will challenge you mentally and physically – especially if you are with friends who have annoying habits. However, as you might expect from one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, the rewards far outweigh any obstacles you might encounter.
From Cape Reinga to Bluff, this is what you need to see as you travel across New Zealand.
Heading from your starting point to Auckland will take a good five or six hours, but will expose you to much of the untouched beauty that the North Island has to offer. Once you have reached Rangaunu Harbour, you have the choice of heading through hilly terrain and beautiful forests, or sticking to the coast route that will take you around the north-eastern corner of the island. Both routes will bring you out north of Kawakawa, a small town that represents the halfway point of the trip to Auckland, as well as the start of more built up areas and signs of 21st Century civilisation.
Once you reach the city, we recommend checking out Auckland Zoo and Mount Wellington if you have the time to fit both in. Although tickets can be hard to come by, a Rugby game at Eden Park is also an experience to savour, so check out the local schedule and see if there are any games taking place while you’re around.
A three-hour drive south of Auckland will take you down to the popular tourist city of Rotorua. This destination is famous for its thermal pools and mud springs, and both should form the central focus of your short stay here.
The region has 17 lakes, with most open for water-skiing, swimming, fishing, and other water-based sports and activities. Those looking for a whole body mud bath may be disappointed, however, as it is generally recommended tourists only put their feet into the warm, bubbling springs. Nearby, ‘The Buried Village’ is also worth a visit, displaying the excavated ruins of a village destroyed by a volcanic eruption 125 years ago.
The Cook Strait, dividing the North and South islands, is one of the most powerful, unpredictable, and dangerous stretches of water in the world, and as such the ferry trip between North and South Island can take longer than you might think.
Be prepared to brave choppy waters, especially if the weather isn’t too good, and you’re probably best remaining below deck at all times.
Once the ferry has arrived in Picton, South Island, the fun of the journey can begin to pick up once more.
The Marlborough region, is one of the most prolific wine producing regions in the world. There are dozens of vineyards in the area, which comprises over 65% of land used for this purpose in the whole of the country.
Many notable wine critics believe that this region produces the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc wines, owing to the unique climate of hot days and cool nights that allow the grape ripening process to be longer than in other locations.
Still, with all these opportunities for wine tasting on your doorstep, the science probably isn’t going to be of too much interest to you! Travel across this region enjoying the vineyards, and also make time to take in the Marlborough Sounds – you will first see these as the ferry docks – and Mount Richmond forest park.
The South Island from top to bottom will take you around 12 hours on a good day, so we’d recommend a stop-off in Christchurch or another Forest Park as you head down to the foot of the country.
It is also worth planning where you want to go when you reach Southland, as there is much more to the area than Bluff itself. Te Anau, on the west of the island is a great base camp for exploring Fiordland, which has received UNESCO World Heritage status for its jaw-dropping scenery including fiords and the presence of some stunning wildlife, as well as the surrounding sounds and lakes.
Leaving Te Anau, the choice of a drive through beautiful countryside or down to pick up coastal roads is again yours, with the city of Invercargill an amazing place to visit before finally heading into Bluff.
As much as you may be tempted to stay in Invercargill, you can’t say you have completed the trip until you head the short distance south of the city to Bluff itself, which is an inspirational place in its own right, affording stunning views out into the ocean as well as back across the South Island.
Every minute of your road trip will present you with another photo opportunity, which means lots of jealous friends at home. The term ‘once in a lifetime’ is often overused and clichéd, but is the perfect description for this journey.
This article is written by Transfercar, a car rental Australia service, providing travellers free transport for major cities in Australia.