The New Zealand Travelling & Driving Times You NEED to Know 🗺️© NZPocketGuide.com
The New Zealand Travelling & Driving Times You NEED to Know 🗺️

The New Zealand Travelling & Driving Times You NEED to Know

© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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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 50 Best Things to Do on the North Island and 50 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).

The New Zealand Travelling & Driving Times You NEED to Know 🗺️© Tourism New Zealand

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 mi, 3 hrs 35 mins
Gisborne – 480 km, 298 mi, 6 hrs 30 mins
Waitomo – 200 km, 124 mi, 3 hrs 10 mins
Rotorua – 233 km, 145 mi, 3 hrs 35 mins
Napier – 422 km, 262 mi, 5 hrs 05 mins
Tongariro National Park – 326 km, 203 mi, 4 hrs
Wellington – 658 km, 409 mi, 9 hrs 15 mins

Rotorua to:

Paihia – 475 km, 295 mi, 7 hrs 50 mins
Auckland Central – 233 km, 145 mi, 3 hrs 35 mins
Gisborne – 274 km, 170 mi, 3 hrs 45 mins
Waitomo – 166 km, 103 mi, 1 hr 55 mins
Napier – 224 km, 139 mi, 3 hrs 20 mins
Tongariro National Park – 141 km, 88 mi, 1 hr 45 mins
Wellington – 460 km, 286 mi, 6 hrs 30 mins

Napier to:

Paihia – 661 km, 411 mi, 9 hrs 50 mins
Auckland Central – 422 km, 262 mi, 6 hrs 35 mins
Gisborne – 214 km, 133 mi, 3 hrs
Waitomo – 306 km, 190 mi, 5 hrs
Rotorua – 224 km, 139 mi, 3 hrs 50 mins
Tongariro National Park – 194 km, 121 mi, 2 hrs 30 mins
Wellington – 323 km, 201 mi, 4 hrs 50 mins

Wellington to:

Paihia – 898 km, 558 mi, 13 hrs 30 mins
Auckland Central – 658 km, 409 mi, 9 hrs 15 mins
Gisborne – 532 km, 330 mi, 7 hrs
Rotorua – 460 km, 286 mi, 6 hrs 30 mins
Waitomo – 274 km, 294 mi, 7 hrs 10 mins
Tongariro National Park – 287 km, 178 mi, 3 hrs 35 mins

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.

The New Zealand Travelling & Driving Times You NEED to Know 🗺️© Tourism New Zealand

South Island Driving Times

What are the driving times in New Zealand between the South Island’s popular cities?

Picton to:

Christchurch – 336 km, 209 mi, 5 hrs
Franz Josef – 522 km, 324 mi, 6 hrs 40 mins
Mt Cook – 666 km, 414 mi, 9 hrs 45 mins
Queenstown – 822 km, 511 mi, 13 hrs 20 mins
Milford Sound – 1109 km, 608 mi, 18 hrs 25 mins
Invercargill – 895 km, 556 mi, 11 hrs 50 mins

Christchurch to:

Picton – 336 km, 209 mi, 5 hrs
Franz Josef – 383 km, 387 mi, 5 hrs
Mt Cook – 331 km, 206 mi, 4 hrs 55 mins
Queenstown – 486 km, 302 mi, 7 hrs 15 mins
Milford Sound – 772 km, 480 mi, 10 hrs 40 mins
Invercargill – 566 km, 352 mi, 7 hrs 20 mins

Franz Josef to:

Picton – 522 km, 324 mi, 6 hrs 40 mins
Christchurch – 383 km, 387 mi, 5 hrs
Mt Cook – 480 km, 298 mi, 5 hrs 55 mins
Queenstown – 350 km, 217 mi, 4 hrs 40 mins
Milford Sound – 625 km, 388 mi, 8 hrs 15 mins
Invercargill – 525 km, 326 mi, 7 hrs

Queenstown to:

Picton – 822 km, 511 mi, 13 hrs 20 mins
Christchurch – 486 km, 302 mi, 7 hrs 15 mins
Mt Cook – 262 km, 163 mi, 3 hrs 50 mins
Franz Josef – 350 km, 217 mi, 4 hrs 40 mins
Milford Sound – 219 km, 181 mi, 5 hrs 05 mins
Invercargill – 187 km, 116 mi, 2 hrs 24 mins

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.

The New Zealand Travelling & Driving Times You NEED to Know 🗺️© Backyard Roadies

Travel Times Too Long? Take the Hassle Out of Driving with Backyard Roadies!

We know, there’s a lot of ground to cover in New Zealand. An easy way to leave out the hassle of driving, and give yourself more time to enjoy the scenery, is to take a guided tour of New Zealand.

Meet Backyard Roadies who formed out of the pandemic showing locals their awesome New Zealand “backyard”. They’re keen to show international travellers the highlights too on their variety of New Zealand tours ranging from 10 to 21 days! To add to the “Kiwi” vibe, Backyard Roadies is not only 100% New Zealand-owned and operated, but they go the extra mile to make their guests feel like locals, spending more time at each destination than most other tours. With small groups and a mix of male and female guides, Backyard Roadies offers fun, safe and great-value tours for all.

Learn more about their tours and become part of the Backyard Roadies family over at backyardroadies.com.

The New Zealand Travelling & Driving Times You NEED to Know 🗺️© Unsplash

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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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):

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:

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?

Sources:

The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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