How to Get Around New Zealand Without Driving

Scared to drive on the left? There are tons of ways to hop around the north and south island without spending a minute behind the wheel.

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Photo By: Deanne Revel

©Air New Zealand

Photo By: Deanne Revel

Photo By: Atsushi Ishiguro

Photo By: Deanne Revel

Photo By: Deanne Revel

Photo By: Deanne Revel

Photo By: Carrington Tours and Limousines

Photo By: Deanne Revel

Photo By: Deanne Revel

See the Sights Without the Stress

New Zealand makes it incredibly easy for tourists to drive. No international driver’s license? That’s fine! Never driven on the left side before? You’re good! But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I was recently invited by Tourism New Zealand to check out wildlife on both islands and I opted out of driving myself for two reasons: I’ve never driven on the left and I didn’t want to add extra stress to my trip. Plus, it wouldn’t have been half as cool if I drove. There are so many unique ways to get around the north and south island. If, like me, you’re scared to drive on the left, here’s how to travel in style, from float planes to old trains to vintage limos.

Island Hop With Air New Zealand

I made my 10-day New Zealand trip really count and squeezed in time on both islands and in multiple cities by taking short flights with Air New Zealand. The kiwi airline is known for its high-production and hilarious safety videos, but I was most impressed with the service. Free isn’t something you usually experience on short, domestic flights but on Air New Zealand attendants come around with a bowl of “lollys,” which is kiwi slang for candy, to make the descent a little sweeter.

Take the Scenic Taieri Gorge Railway

There’s a magical, romantic aspect about train travel that you just can’t get with a rental car. If you’re on the south island and want to go from Dunedin to Middlemarch, the Scenic Taieri Gorge Railway is a must. Sure, it takes longer than driving, but the view is worth it. The steep bridges, narrow gorge and dark mountain tunnels are thrilling and the wildflower speckled hills are stunning. Give yourself a little time before the ride to explore the historic and beautifully-tiled train station in Dunedin.

Ride to the Airport in a Vintage Jaguar

Instead of a cab, how about rolling up to the airport in a Jaguar? The south island’s Classic Jaguar Limousines Ltd. features a fleet of classic and modern Jaguars and the price isn’t that much more than a regular cab fare. Besides airport transfers, the company offers a range of tours throughout the lower south island such as the Catlins and Otago Peninsula.

E-bike Through Orc Country

While the beaches of New Zealand get a lot of hype, the backcountry is just as gorgeous. For incredible landscapes, including rocky hills featured in The Lord of the Rings, check out the Otago Central Rail Trail outside of Middlemarch. This nature reserve can only be accessed by foot, horse or bike. Rent an E-bike from Cycle Surgery to cruise the rail trail with ease. The special pedal-assist power does all the work, allowing you to take in the sights without breaking a sweat.

Go Off-Roading

Mount Tarawera is famous for its 1886 eruption and today the crater is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the north island. As it's on Māori land, the only way to hike the mountain is with Kaitiaki Adventures. For an adrenaline rush, book an off-road, four-wheel drive ride to the trailhead.

Take a Float Plane

After your hike around Mount Tarawera, you could drive back into town. Or you could fly with Volcanic Air. These float planes take off on the water and soar high above Rotorua’s Lake District landing you back in the downtown district along the city’s lakefront park. If you love photography, you’ll love the aerial views of Mount Tarawera and the city’s boiling, geothermal waters.

Hire a Kiwi

Instead of stumbling around with GPS and maps, hire a local to show you New Zealand. On the north island, family-owned Carrington Tours and Transfers specializes in private tours to popular attractions such as Hobbiton and Waitomo Glowworm Caves but they also include stops to Maori cultural sites as well as adorable and iconic sheep farms. The owners, 12th generation kiwis John and Fiona Carrington, are so passionate about New Zealand and can customize tours based on a group’s bucket list and interests.

Tour Dunedin’s Street Art

The south island town of Dunedin is an Instagram playground. The city’s mural program has created a vibrant downtown with funky art everywhere you turn. You can pick up a free street art trail map at the visitor’s center, but for the best experience, you need to walk the city with Victoria Gilliand AKA Street Kiwi. Gilliand’s two-hour walking tour covers Dunedin’s giant murals and hidden graffiti. She’s incredibly passionate about street art and you’ll learn so much about the different styles of graffiti, from stenciling to yarn bombing.

Walk Through Maori History

The New York Times named the city of Rotorua one of the "52 Places to Go in 2018" and it’s easy to see why. The downtown district has a lakefront park, there’s a fantastic farmer’s market and the aptly named Eat Street features tons of great lunch and dinner spots. While the city is easy to walk by yourself, book a tour with Kia Ora Guided Walks to get the full context and history of the region. The private walking tours with a local Maori guide include Rotorua’s gardens, the historic St. Faith’s Church, and colorful buildings, statues and steam vents in the Ohinemutu Māori Village.

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