Detailed information about driving in New Zealand, road laws, road safety, driving licenses, cycling on the road and motorbikes. Find travel times and distances between major locations in New Zealand and much more.

Driving in New Zealand

Self-driving holidays are one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy New Zealand's landscape. Many of our roads are scenic and traffic is low when compared to international standards.

It is important not to underestimate driving times. Although distances may seem short, our roads often include hilly or winding terrain, which slow down your journey.

If you're used to driving in the city, you should take care when driving on the open country roads.

New Zealand Driving Routes

Find a driving route for your New Zealand holiday here: your best-fit driving route is only a few clicks away. So sit back in the driver's seat and navigate your way to a holiday that exactly fits your interests, then print a hard copy to guide you while you're on the road... (more)

New Zealand Road Rules

NEW @ At 5am on Sunday March 25 2012: Two of New Zealand’s give way rules are changing to make our roads safer.

We highly recommend that you visit www.giveway.govt.nz in order to familiarize yourself with New Zealand's give way rules. The new rules are clearly explained in a simple manner and there is a quick quiz that you can attempt in order to see if you have understood the giveway rules.

Listed below are some of the major New Zealand road rules to remember when driving in New Zealand:

New Zealand map
  • In New Zealand, all motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road.
  • All road distances are measured in kilometres.
  • When entering a roundabout, give way (yield) to traffic crossing or approaching from your right.
  • When the traffic light is red, you must stop. There is no left turn rule as in North America.
  • The speed limit on the open road is 100 kilometres per hour (approx. 60 miles per hour). In urban areas the speed limit is 50 kilometres per hour.
  • Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times, in both front and rear seats.
  • Drivers must not use a hand held or hand operated mobile phone.
  • Make sure that you have plenty of sleep before a long drive. Take regular breaks--one every two hours and when you feel sleepy.
  • Do not drink alcohol before driving in New Zealand--drinking and driving laws are strictly enforced.

Cycling and Motorbikes

Road rules for riding a bicycle or motorbike on New Zealand roads include:

  • Helmets for riders of cycles and motorbikes must be worn at all times
  • Rear and front lights on cycles are required at night
  • Motorbikes should drive with a headlight on at all times
  • Cycling is not permitted on motorways

Check out the New Zealand Land Transport Safety Authority Web site for details on the New Zealand Road Code, as well as cycle safety and other general motoring information. 'Driving Safely in the Scenic South' has particular information about driving conditions in this area.

International Driving Licences and Permits

You can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months if you have either a current driver's licence from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Recent law changes mean all drivers, including visitors from other countries, must carry their licence or permit at all times when driving. You will only be able to drive the same types of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country. The common legal age to rent a car in New Zealand is 21 years.

Make sure your driver's licence is current. If your licence is not in English, you should bring an English translation with you, or obtain an IDP. Contact your local automobile club for further details about obtaining a translation or an IDP.

Driving Times and Distances

The following charts give you an approximate indication of distances between main centres in the North Island and South Island. Alternatively click to the link below for a graphical view (drag your mouse between two cities or towns and it will display the distance and driving time).

Use our interactive New Zealand Driving and Distance Calculator to get directions, distances and approximate travel times.

North Island Driving Distance Chart - New Zealand

South Island Driving Distance Chart - New Zealand

Use our interactive New Zealand Driving and Distance Calculator to get directions, distances and approximate travel times.

                 
NORTH ISLAND Miles Km's Time   SOUTH ISLAND Miles Km's Time
 
Auckland to:         Christchurch to:      
Napier
Paihia
Rotorua
Waitomo
Wellington
262
149
145
124
409
422
240
233
200
658
06:35
04:15
03:35
03:10
09:15
  Milford Sound
Mount Cook
Nelson
Picton
Queenstown
480
206
263
209
302
772
331
423
336
486
10:40
04:55
06:15
05:00
07:15
                 
Napier to:         Nelson to:
     
Auckland
Paihia
Rotorua
Waitomo
Wellington
262
411
139
190
201
422
661
224
306
323
06:35
09:50
03:50
05:05
04:50
  Christchurch
Milford Sound
Mount Cook
Picton
Queenstown
263
712
469
68
431
423
1146
775
109
693
06:15
18:35
10:30
02:10
12:45
                 
Rotorua to:
        Mount Cook to:
     
Auckland
Napier
Paihia
Waitomo
Wellington
145
139
295
103
286
233
224
475
166
460
03:35
03:50
07:50
02:45
06:30
  Christchurch
Milford Sound
Nelson
Picton
Queenstown
206
342
469
414
163
331
550
755
666
262
04:55
08:55
10:30
09:45
03:50
                 
Waitomo to:
        Picton to:
     
Auckland
Napier
Paihia
Rotorua
Wellington
124
190
273
103
294
200
306
439
166
473
03:10
05:05
07:25
02:45
07:10
  Christchurch
Milford Sound
Mount Cook
Nelson
Queenstown
209
689
414
68
511
336
1109
666
109
822
05:00
18:25
09:45
02:10
13:20
                 
Wellington to:
        Queenstown to:
     
Auckland
Napier
Paihia
Rotorua
Waitomo
409
201
558
286
294
658
323
898
460
473
09:15
04:50
13:30
06:30
07:10
  Christchurch
Milford Sound
Mount Cook
Nelson
Picton
302
181
163
431
511
486
291
262
693
822
07:15
05:05
03:50
12:45
13:20

View more key facts and information about New Zealand.

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