New Zealand Road Trip Tips


Are you planning a visit to New Zealand?


Would you like to drive madly around the top half of North Island and cram in as many bucket list adventures as humanly possible in just 1 week?


Are you looking for some Top Tips from a person barely old enough to rent the car she used on said bucket-list-cramming road trip?




Well, that is amazingly specific. The following tips are for you then:


TOP TIP #1: 

If you are coming from somewhere that is not the UK, Australia, or another such confused country, remember that cars drive on the left-hand side of the road here in New Zealand. Strangely, remembering to drive on the opposite side of the road than you’re accustomed to may prove to be a lot less tricky than remembering that your turn signal lever is also on the opposite side of the steering wheel. If this is the case, just know that you will spend the entirety of your trip flipping the windshield wipers on when you want to turn and flipping the turn signal on when you need the windshield wipers (and then panic-pushing every button in the car as you search for the wipers while driving blind through a heavy rainstorm).




As you drive the most treacherous cliff roads of your life through Coromandel, try not to think about the fact that the lives of your friends in the seats next to you rest in your ability to not drive into the side of the curvy mountain with no guardrails or into the very large semi-trucks barreling towards you on the side of the road that you’re used to driving on. If your road trip squad is European like mine, it helps to quietly curse the excellent European public transit system for being the reason that half of your crew can’t drive and it is up to you to not kill everyone and/or total the car (this also helps distract you from thinking about the fact that you all decided not to buy the full coverage insurance on the car because everyone was feeling a lot more confident in your driving abilities back at the rental agency than they are now).



In Auckland, the cheap Airbnb you thought was a great find may actually be a boarding school for English language learners. If this is the case, feel free to creep around the eerily silent and empty property (looking for clues as to where you are in the also eerily silent and empty classrooms and offices and giving looks of solidarity to the other backpackers also creeping around and wondering if they are at the start of a horror film) and then leave the next day without ever meeting your Airbnb host or fully figuring out what this unlocked house is that you just spent the night in.


Auckland Sky Tower views



If you decide to hit up Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, do a bit of research beforehand so you are aware that “hot water beach” does not mean “hot water ocean” and that you will have to dig big ole’ craters in the sand to reach the underground hot springs. This will be helpful knowledge because it will encourage you to buy a shovel from one of the many stands on your way to the beach instead of:


Walking past every one of the stands as you wonder why people in New Zealand are so into shovels


Realizing your mistake only when you reach the mass of people lying in self-dug spa pools at the beach


Attempting very inefficiently to dig your own pools with your hands


Finally, having to barter your digging services in exchange for the use of other (wiser) peoples’ shovels.


Worth it.


Notice all the informed people who knew to bring shovels



Tim Tams.


Along with the rest of your squad, buy all the flavors of Tim Tams that you can find in this magical country and use the sugar rush to fuel your next stretch of driving. Tell yourself that your subsequent sugar crash can always be balanced out with too many cups of coffee and attempt to beat down your guilt over the terrible health choices you are making by bringing to mind the several times that you ate only bananas for a meal because no one could be bothered to spend money in a restaurant.



If you’re looking for a place to get that killer New Zealand bungee jump in, I would recommend heading to Taupo. I would also recommend saying yes if a Taupo tourism film crew asks if they can record you and your roommate’s tandem jump for a promotional video they are creating for the area. That way, a clip of you and said roommate velcroed together, screaming “I regret it” and laughing like maniacs while you fall from 155 feet over the Waikato River will forever exist on a VisitTaupo tourism website somewhere in cyber space.


Notice the camera crew, notice the mutual grip-of-death. Also, I definitely did not use my phone to take a snap of this off of a computer screen instead of paying for it. I’m sorry Taupo Bungee, you were very expensive and I needed the money for Tim Tams & bananas.



If you’re feeling fit, absolutely spend a day hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (but like really assess how much damage the Tim Tams have done to your fitness level because there’s no real way to call it quits once you’re halfway through the hike and miles away from civilization in either direction). During your hike, I would highly recommend sliding dangerously down steep slopes and attempting to pull yourself uphill on cables with one hand because you’re trying really hard to take cool GoPro videos.




Head to Matamata to see Hobbiton– the set of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit – where you can tour an entire tiny town of hobbit houses in the rolling New Zealand countryside and drink real cider at a fake pub in the middle of a fake movie world. I don’t care that you think The Lord of the Rings is nerdy and that you don’t even like The Hobbit – no one is too cool to not like what I have just described, come on.


If you are not freakishly a foot taller than all of your friends like I am, may I suggest finding some short people to go with you on your Hobbiton tour. This way, when you take pictures in front of Bilbo Baggins’ house, you will look a lot like Gandalf posing with actual hobbit residents.


Next time, I will go all out and bring a Gandalf hat and stick



Realize that, even driving miles and miles every day for a week, you will see just a tiny tiny bit of New Zealand and will probably go home already planning your next road trip around Kiwi country.



Personally, I can’t wait to get back to New Zealand, explore the South Island, and hopefully get to the bottom of a few important questions I have like WHY IS THE GRASS HERE SO GREEN???


Does the NZ government hire workers to paint every blade of grass in the country neon green every night? Are these workers hobbits and Hobbiton was actually their home before they were pushed off their land and forced to work in secret for the NZ government’s Grass Painting Division?


I truly do not know.