Most rental car companies will allow you to drop off a car at one terminal, travel on the ferry and pick up another car at the other terminal at no extra cost. Self-drive holidays are a great way to travel around New Zealand as they offer independence, flexibility and opportunities to interact with the locals. If you want to have an extended holiday in New Zealand and you would prefer to have your own transport, it may be cheaper to buy a car or van and resell it just before leaving. If you use this method, travel across Cook Strait can be expensive. However, if you buy your car in Christchurch, tour the South island and then travel North to sell in Auckland, you can take advantage of the buyers market in Christchurch and the sellers market in Auckland and possibly even make a small profit.
In addition to the usual ways to look for a car newspapers, accommodation noticeboards, car markets etc. New Zealand's biggest on-line auction website Trademe have many listings. You can also try the backpackers car market where there are usually people selling their cars off cheaply.
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Car auctions can also be a suitable option if you are looking to buy a car. Turner's Auctions have regular auctions and are based in many cities. Look out for "Repo" auctions, where the cars being sold are as a result of repossession. Should any previous ownership problems have existed, these will have been resolved before auction commences. It is very important to notify the NZTA if you are selling since this limits your liability for any subsequent costs overdue licence fees, speed camera tickets, etc. Other obligations as a vehicle owner include paying the licence fees "rego" and having a current Warrant of Fitness WoF.
Third party insurance to cover your liability in an accident is not mandatory but is highly recommended. The Accident Compensation Corporation ACC automatically covers you for personal injuries in car accidents see Stay healthy below for more information. Both Auckland and Wellington have commuter rail services. Auckland's network is managed by Auckland Transport , and has four lines spreading from Britomart station in the city centre to Swanson in the west, Onehunga in the southwest, Papakura and Pukekohe in the south, and Manukau in the south-east; there is no rail to the North Shore or to eastern Auckland.
Wellington's network is managed by Metlink , and has four lines spreading north from Wellington station serving Wellington's northern suburbs, Porirua , the Kapiti Coast as far north as Waikanae , Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt. A fifth service, the Wairarapa Connection, travels several times daily to Masterton in the Wairarapa via Upper Hutt and the 8. Long distance passenger-rail services are slow and limited in New Zealand, and are largely used for tourism purposes rather than as actual practical travel options, with the bulk of New Zealand's rail traffic being used for freight transport.
Inter-city passenger services are operated by KiwiRail Scenic Journeys , with just a few popular tourist services that pass through spectacular scenery and have a running commentary, panoramic windows and an open-air viewing carriage.
The online booking site maximises overseas revenue by only showing the cheapest fares when it detects that you are accessing it from a New Zealand IP address. You may be able to get these cheaper fares if you wait until you arrive or book by phone. Seating on the Capital Connection is on a first-come-first-served basis and cannot be booked in advance. Most New Zealanders prefer to drive or fly long distances, as train fares are comparatively expensive. However, if time is not an issue, going through New Zealand by train is well worth the price-tag as you get breathtaking views you wouldn't get from a car and can wander around the train while someone else does all the driving - benefits no other mode of transportation offers.
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All long distance trains have a dining car and you can pre-order your food and have a look at the menu online. The journey lasts 3. However, the weather and seas in Cook Strait are frequently rough and unpredictable; sailings can be delayed or cancelled due to stormy weather, while others can quickly turn from a Mediterranean cruise into a spew-fest. Make sure you pack essentials for every possible weather situation in your carry-on luggage; you can't return to your car once the ferry has left port. The ferry terminal at Picton is close to the railway station, and the Coastal Pacific train connects with Interislander sailings.
It is essential to book vehicle crossings in advance.
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The busiest period is from late December to February. Foot passenger traffic is also heavy at this time, and it is advisable to book well in advance. Check with your rental car company whether you can take your vehicle on the Cook Strait ferry: some do not allow their vehicles on the ferries but will happily allow you to drop off a car at one ferry terminal and pick up another car at the other terminal at no extra cost. Harbour ferries, for commuters, operate in Auckland and Wellington.
A number of communities are served by boat, rather than road, while charter boats are available for expeditions in several places. There are regular sightseeing cruises in several tourist destinations, particularly in the Southern Lakes and Fiordland area. You can bring your own bike or hire one in some of the larger cities.
By law, you must wear a helmet while riding, otherwise you may be issued an on-the-spot penalty. When hiring a bike you should be supplied with a helmet. Remember to ride on the left. You cannot ride on motorways in New Zealand - be aware that the Auckland Harbour Bridge between downtown Auckland and the North Shore is a motorway and there is no separate cycle path yet , so you'll have to take a ferry or cycle around the harbour.
Cycling in New Zealand can be fun, but be aware that because of the geography and small number of people cycling between towns there are very few cycle lanes and limited shoulder space on roads. Beware of buses and trucks on main highways as many drivers will not give you sufficient overtaking clearance; proportionately, five times as many cyclists are injured and killed on New Zealand roads as in the Netherlands or Singapore!
You should also be prepared for the large distances between towns and cities and the generally windy weather. While some areas of New Zealand are flat, most tourists cycling in New Zealand will find that they need to be able to cope with long periods of cycling up hills, especially in the Coromandel.
Be prepared for any weather and for all seasons in one day.
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You can choose to get a bike on arrival in New Zealand, or use a self-guided or guided cycle tour operator. Christchurch had the largest number of guided and self-guided tour operators and there are a number of bike rental companies based there also. A network of cycle trails is being built around New Zealand, using a combination of off-road cycleways and low-traffic roads. There are some safe and beautiful routes already constructed: NZ Cycle Trail. Hitchhiking around New Zealand is quite good everywhere. It's illegal to hitchhike on the few motorways except on the on-ramps and illegal for motorists to stop there to pick you up.
Try to get out of the middle of town, especially where public transport operates. Wear your pack and look like you're touring the country rather than just being a local looking for a lift, but above all else pick a place that's safe for vehicles to stop and don't forget to smile. You have as much chance of being picked up by another tourist as a local, particularly in tourist areas. Rideshare and carpooling is increasing in New Zealand as fuel prices rise and people recognise the social and environmental benefit of sharing vehicles and travelling with others. While some systems are quite informal, others have trust systems which give greater security when choosing a ride.
It can be said that in New Zealand it's the countryside that's magnificent, and perhaps no more so than the Southern Alps of the South Island. In the Mackenzie Country , the snow-capped jagged peaks rising above turquoise lakes have provided the inspiration for many a postcard. The lakes and mountains continue south, becoming a stunning backdrop for the towns of Wanaka , Queenstown and Glenorchy. Another region where mountain meets water with striking effect is Fiordland National Park where steep, densely forested mountains rise from the sea.
The most accessible, and perhaps one of the most beautiful, spots is Milford Sound.
The road in is spectacular and the view even more so when you arrive. Glaciers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an island in the South Pacific, but New Zealand has several. These glaciers are unique in how close they get to sea level and are sustained by the enormous amount of precipitation that falls on New Zealand's west coast.
New Zealand's sceneries have featured famously in the Lord of the Rings film series , and many natural and artificial settings on the island can be visited. New Zealand is a geological hotspot and has many dormant and active volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. The best place to start is Rotorua , where the smell of sulphur lets you know you're close to the action. The surrounding countryside has many parks with geysers and hot springs, and Mount Tarawera, the site of one of New Zealand's more famous eruptions, lies a short drive away.
South of Rotorua is the town of Taupo , on the shores of the country's largest lake, which was formed in a massive volcanic explosion 26, years ago, and expanded by an equally massive explosion years ago it reputedly turned skies over China and Rome red. All three mountains are still active Tongariro last erupted in and Ruapehu has a crater lake that can be viewed with a bit of hiking.
Ngauruhoe is famous for filling in as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Northeast of Rotorua is Whakatane , with tours to White Island , a volcanic island not far off the coast. The island is truly a different world with its smoke plume, green crater lake and the pohutukawa trees clinging to a fragile existence on the volcanic rock.
Dormant and extinct volcanoes help define the landscape in many other regions, including Taranaki and three of the largest cities Auckland , Christchurch and Dunedin. North of Taupo and at Kawerau , New Zealand's geothermal resources are put to use generating electricity, supplying around Hot springs are sprinkled across the country, and are often popular bathing spots. Because New Zealand is so remote from the rest of the world, and has been for millions of years, its plants and animals are unique and distinctive.
New Zealand's wildlife evolved in isolation, in absence of land mammals apart from three species of bat , and the roles of mammals were taken by reptiles, giant insects, and flightless birds most notably the giant extinct moa, whose 3 m tall skeletons can be seen in museums.
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New Zealand's forests are mostly cool-temperate rain forest, resembling tropical jungle with vines, tree ferns, and a thick understorey. The most impressive native trees is the kauri , one of the largest tree species in the world. Heavily logged in the 19th and early 20th century, few of these giants are left a result of over-logging , but a visit to the Waipoua Forest in Northland will afford a glimpse. New Zealand has a large number of ferns for a temperate country, including the silver fern , the national "flower". The beaches of the South Island, particularly The Catlins and the Otago Peninsula , are good places to see marine animals such as penguins, seals and sea lions in their natural habitat.
The Otago Peninsula is also noted for its albatross colony. Unfortunately, over-hunting from the time humans first arrived, has meant many of New Zealand's unique animals are now endangered and can only really be seen in captivity or in mammal-free nature reserves.
This includes the kiwi , the country's national bird; this flightless nocturnal chicken-sized bird is unique in having nostrils at the tip of its beak and laying the largest egg in the world relative to its body size. One non-native pest is the brush-tailed possum, which was imported from Australia for its silky fur, which is used to make warm, lightweight knitted goods.
Access is free, but may be restricted in some parks during some parts of the year due to weather e. It's best to check with local tourist information centres for up to date information before venturing into the wilderness, even for a day hike.