New Zealand's Best (Short) Winter Road Trips
May 24, 2018
New Zealand is considered by many to be the world's best self-drive destination.Read More
Image: Lake Pukaki, Canterbury. Credit: Miles-Holden
There are many reasons to visit New Zealand. Too many to mention, actually.
It's a wonderful destination overflowing with astonishing experiences, jaw-dropping landscapes, great people and a world class food and wine scene. Just a few hours from Australia's east coast, and with dozens of daily flights, it's been an easy, exciting getaway for generations.
But in a move that won't affect the majority of Australian visitors, the New Zealand government has introduced new visa requirements that come into effect on 01 October 2019.
You can dive into all the detail HERE and, of course, you can consult your favourite ATAS-accredited travel agent for the absolute latest up-to-date information, but here's a summary of the changes as we understand them.
Image: Dusky Sound. Credit: Rob-Suisted
From 1 October 2019, some visitors and tourists must have an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) before they leave for New Zealand.
You can, however, travel to New Zealand without first applying for a visa if you are:
• From a visa waiver country
• A cruise ship passenger
• An Australian citizen
Australian permanent residents (non-citizens), however, will need to apply for an NZeTA.
Nothing too complicated there, right?
CLICK HERE for up-to-date entry information from New Zealand Immigration, or consult your ATAS-accredited travel agent for advice you can trust.
Image: Shotover Jet, Queenstown. Credit: Tourism New Zealand
So, what else do you need to know if you’re planning a visit to New Zealand. We checked in with a couple of ATAS-accredited travel agents for of their top tips for trips across The Ditch. Try saying that with a Kiwi accent.
Jo Arraj from ATAS accredited JA Travel Solutions & The Cruise Warehouse (NSW-based travel agency) spent a few weeks on a self-drive holiday around New Zealand's North Island, exploring the Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua and Taupo.
Image: Huka Falls, Lake Taupo. Credit: Paul-Abbitt
"It was our first trip to this area, and the route we drove was absolutely stunning", says Jo who loved exploring the narrow, winding roads of the Coromandel Peninsula.
"The views are breath-taking views at every twist and turn with the water's edge right beside the road, this route is probably not suited to larger motorhomes", advises Jo.
That journey brought Jo to the famed Hot Water Beach where—a couple of hours each side of low tide—visitors can experience hot water bubbling up through the sand.
Image: Hot Water Beach. Credit: Jo Arraj
Jo's itinerary also brought her to Rotorua where she found fun to be had at Skyline Rotorua—the North Island's sister to the Skyline operation in Queenstown. Skyline combines a gondola ride with a range of exciting downhill activities like luge tracks, mountain biking, zip-lining, giant swings as well as more passive pursuits like star gazing and good food and wine.
Image: Jo Arraj at Skyline Rotorua. Credit: Jo Arraj
"Skyline Rotorua is definite must when visiting the Rotorua area", says Jo. But what about Jo's favourite place in all of New Zealand? "I just love the small coastal village of Kaikoura on the South Island", she says.
Image: Kaikoura Peninsula and mountains. Image: Bare Kiwi
"It's nestled right beside the sea at the base of a snow-capped mountain. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway starts in Kaikoura town centre and continues to Point Kean car park where you'll find a colony of New Zealand fur seals sunning themselves on the beach just metres away.
Image: New Zealand fur seals, Kaikoura. Image: Bare Kiwi
"This is one place I will never tire of. It also has the best fish and chips I've had anywhere. Driving to Kaikoura is easy: Simply head south for two-hours from Picton after disembarking from the Interisland Ferry and follow the extraordinary coast road. Alternatively, it's a two-and-a-half-hour drive north from Christchurch along the east coast", says Jo.
"Wellington is a brilliant little city", says Emma.
Image: Kelburn, Wellington. Credit: Julian Apse
"It's a great destination with a thriving food and wine scene, craft beers, fabulous food festivals, museums and only a short train ride from the wine village of Martinborough, at the heart of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail", adds Emma.
Oozing colonial charm, Martinborough is home to more than 20 mostly family-owned wineries that produce some of New Zealand's best pinot noir. Pleasingly, most are within easy cycling and walking distance of the Martinborough village square.
A regular on lists of the 'most liveable cities' lists and indexes, Emma also recommends Wellington as a great place to see in the New Year.
• No matter what time of year you visit, always pack a jumper. "Even if the weather is warm, it's sure to be windy somewhere like in a glow-worm cave, jetboating or cruising Milford Sound", she says.
• If you're self-driving, rent an SUV or 4WD. "Not only will they be comfortable, they're higher on the road so you'll have a better view of absolutely everything outside. And in New Zealand, you don't want to miss a thing", adds Emma.
Being a relatively compact country with remarkable landscapes across its length and breadth, it's little wonder that self-driving is exceedingly popular. It's also easy. As Jo Arraj points out, "Driving in NZ is exactly the same as driving in Australia—the same side of the car and road, for example, and you can drive with an Australian license. Driving distances are manageable, and there's little traffic outside urban areas."
Jo points out, however, that:
• Petrol prices are much higher than in Australia, hovering around the $2 per litre mark in July 2019.
• Parking can be tricky in some of the tourist towns. Take a second to read the parking signs as some areas like Rotorua do have pay parking that is sometime discreetly signposted.
• If you're driving on or near the snow, or even if there's the possibility of snow, always make sure your rental car has snow chains.
• Be aware of what your car hire rate actually covers. Things like flat tyres and roadside service are all chargeable if your hire contract doesn’t include them.
Be sure to consult your favourite ATAS-accredited travel agent for the very best, all-inclusive car rental rates when you're planning your net trip across The Ditch.
ATAS accreditation—experience you can trust.
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