The Important Driving and Travelling Times in New Zealand
New Zealand is the ultimate road-tripping country! Although it’s a small country, New Zealand is packed with things to see and do which can only be a good thing considering the driving times in New Zealand can be pretty long. Varied landscapes, from flat highways to mountain roads, make New Zealand travelling times all over the place. With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of New Zealand driving times you need to know!
As you’ll see from the driving times below, the main hubs and attractions in New Zealand are a long drive away from each other. It’s recommended that you break up the drive or even days by stopping off at the many smaller towns and attractions along the way. For inspiration on where to visit, see the 51 Best Things to Do on the North Island and 51 Best Things to Do on the South Island.
Note that New Zealand driving distances are measured in kilometres (km). We have also included the distance in miles for all you UK and US travellers.
How Long Does it Take to Drive Around New Zealand?
Driving around New Zealand can take anywhere between 30 hours, if driving from top to bottom and taking the ferry between the North and South Island, to 65 hours if doing a thorough road trip of both islands with the ferry included.
How Long Does it Take to Drive the North Island of New Zealand?
Following a popular route including Cape Reinga, Auckland, Waitomo, Rotorua, Taupo and Wellington, it takes approximately 16 hours to drive the North Island non-stop.
How Long Does it Take to Drive the South Island of New Zealand?
Following a popular route from Picton to Westport, Franz Josef, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Mt Cook, Christchurch, Kaikoura and back to Picton, it takes approximately 30 hours to drive around the South Island non-stop.
How Long Does it Take to Drive from the Bottom of New Zealand to the Top?
It takes approximately 30 hours to drive from the bottom of New Zealand to the top or 30 hours to travel the length of New Zealand. This includes the car ferry you would need to take between Wellington and Picton, which lasts almost four hours plus check-in time.
Can You Drive Between the North Island and South Island?
No, you cannot “drive” between the North Island and South Island but you can take your vehicle on the car ferry between Wellington and Picton, also known as the Cook Strait ferry. Find out more about the ferry, costs and how it works in The Ferry Between the North Island and South Island.
Can You Drive Across New Zealand in a Day?
Yes, you can drive across the width of New Zealand in a day but not the length. It takes, for example, 5h30mins to drive across the widest part of New Zealand, which is between New Plymouth and Napier. Compared to driving across the narrowest part of New Zealand, between Otahuhu and Auckland Central, it only takes 30 minutes (with traffic).
North Island Driving Times
What are the driving times in New Zealand between the North Island’s popular cities?
Auckland Central to:
Paihia – 240 km, 149 miles, 3h35min
Gisborne – 480 km, 298 miles, 6h30min
Waitomo – 200 km, 124 miles, 3h10min
Rotorua – 233 km, 145 miles, 3h35min
Napier – 422 km, 262 miles, 5h05min
Tongariro National Park – 326 km, 203 miles, 4h
Wellington – 658 km, 409 miles, 9h15min
Paihia – 475 km, 295 miles, 7h50min
Auckland Central – 233 km, 145 miles, 3h35min
Gisborne – 274 km, 170 miles, 3h45min
Waitomo – 166 km, 103 miles, 1h55min
Napier – 224 km, 139 miles, 3h20min
Tongariro National Park – 141 km, 88 miles, 1h45min
Wellington – 460 km, 286 miles, 6h30min
Paihia – 661 km, 411 miles, 9h50min
Auckland Central – 422 km, 262 miles, 6h35min
Gisborne – 214 km, 133 miles, 3h
Waitomo – 306 km, 190 miles, 5h
Rotorua – 224 km, 139 miles, 3h50min
Tongariro National Park – 194 km, 121 miles, 2h30min
Wellington – 323 km, 201 miles, 4h50min
Paihia – 898 km, 558 miles, 13h30min
Auckland Central – 658 km, 409 miles, 9h15min
Gisborne – 532 km, 330 miles, 7h
Rotorua – 460 km, 286 miles, 6h30min
Waitomo – 274 km, 294 miles, 7h10min
Tongariro National Park – 287 km, 178 miles, 3h35min
What are the most scenic routes between the North Island’s major destinations? Check out The North Island Scenic Routes. And for tips for relaxing on a road trip, head to 10 Ways to Handle the Long Drives in New Zealand.
South Island Driving Times
What are the driving times in New Zealand between the South Island’s popular cities?
Christchurch – 336 km, 209 miles, 5h
Franz Josef – 522 km, 324 miles, 6h40min
Mt Cook – 666 km, 414 miles, 9h45min
Queenstown – 822 km, 511 miles, 13h20min
Milford Sound – 1109 km, 608 miles, 18h25min
Invercargill – 895 km, 556 miles, 11h50min
Picton – 336 km, 209 miles, 5h
Franz Josef – 383 km, 387 miles, 5h
Mt Cook – 331 km, 206 miles, 4h55min
Queenstown – 486 km, 302 miles, 7h15min
Milford Sound – 772 km, 480 miles, 10h40min
Invercargill – 566 km, 352 miles, 7h20min
Franz Josef to:
Picton – 522 km, 324 miles, 6h40min
Christchurch – 383 km, 387 miles, 5h
Mt Cook – 480 km, 298 miles, 5h55min
Queenstown – 350 km, 217 miles, 4h40min
Milford Sound – 625 km, 388 miles, 8h15min
Invercargill – 525 km, 326 miles, 7h
Picton – 822 km, 511 miles, 13h20min
Christchurch – 486 km, 302 miles, 7h15min
Mt Cook – 262 km, 163 miles, 3h50min
Franz Josef – 350 km, 217 miles, 4h40min
Milford Sound – 219 km, 181 miles, 5h05min
Invercargill – 187 km, 116 miles, 2h24min
Don’t forget to check out The South Island Scenic Routes for more scenic roads to take between the South Island’s hotspots. And for tips for relaxing on a road trip, head to 10 Ways to Handle the Long Drives in New Zealand.
3 Things You Need to Know About the New Zealand Driving Times
There are a few things that are worth noting about the driving and travelling times in New Zealand…
- Check and double-check your GPS route!
Some GPS apps and systems will propose the fastest route to your destination but not necessarily the best route. For instance, a narrow and winding logging road might be the fastest route to your destination in kilometres, but the road might not be ideal for your rental car or campervan. Check with a paper map or on the satellite view of your GPS that you will actually be following a main road.
- Allow extra time.
The New Zealand roads are winding and are sometimes gravel roads, which means you’ll be driving slower. Always add a bit of contingency time to your estimated travel times.
- Use the rest stops!
Along New Zealand roads, rest stops on the side of the highways are clearly signposted with a picnic table icon. These are safe places to pull over, stretch your legs and have a break from the long drive.
For more driving tips and road safety in New Zealand, check out 15 Driving Safety Tips for New Zealand.
Check Out Our New Zealand Itineraries with Travel Times
Now that you know the New Zealand driving times, do you need some road trip ideas? Check out the following itineraries for the best road trip routes (plus, they include the travel times between each destination):
- North Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary
- South Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary
- South Island Campervan Itinerary: 10 Days
- North Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- South Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- New Zealand in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- New Zealand in Three Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary
- New Zealand in a Month: Road Trip Itinerary
Alternatively, have a browse of our Trip Ideas category for itineraries categorised by travel style, including budget, luxury, honeymoon/couples, families, foodies and more.
More About Driving and Travelling Times in New Zealand
That’s it for our guide to the travelling and driving times in New Zealand. For more driving tips, check out our other awesome guides:
- Driving in New Zealand: Everything You NEED to Know
- Travel By Car: How to Plan a Road Trip in New Zealand
- How to Plan a Campervan Trip in New Zealand
Finally, if you’d like to know the flight times to New Zealand, be sure to check out What are the Flight Times to New Zealand?