May 2017: Car-free travel in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the world’s greatest road-tripping countries, with quiet highways and beautiful landscapes ensuring that the journeys really are as enjoyable as the destinations.

One of Auckland's several ferry options.
However, driving in New Zealand has its challenges, including weather extremes and narrow, winding roads that often take longer to drive than anticipated.
If your clients would prefer someone else to take over the wheel so they can relax and enjoy the view, there are a range of transport options that make a car-free trip to New Zealand a great alternative to a self-drive holiday.

By air

Air New Zealand serves more than 25 major domestic cities and towns, while smaller regional airlines (such as Soundsair) service other destinations. Book your clients’ flights well in advance for the best airfares.  

By bus and coach 

Bus travel and coach transport is ideal if your clients prefer to make their way around New Zealand without the hassle of self-driving.
Daily scheduled passenger services are available throughout the country, such as Intercity – which offers both standard and “Gold” options. You can also buy travel passes, which allow your clients to be more flexible with their itineraries. Kiwi Experience and Stray also offer hop-on, hop-off options – great for backpackers looking to make friends along the way.
If your clients are travelling with a group, charter coach companies have the flexibility to adapt to their itinerary. The drivers are also guides, so they’ll have the added benefit of a commentary if they want one. Search for a company in our product listings here

By sea

Passenger ferries will get your clients from one island to the other – not just from the North to the South Island but to the many other smaller islands off the coast of New Zealand, such as those around Auckland Harbour and Stewart Island in the ‘Deep South’. Interislander and Bluebridge service the Wellington – Picton route across the Cook Strait, which takes approximately three and a half hours.

Travelling as a foot passenger is a low-cost and easy way to travel on ferries in New Zealand. 

By train

Train travel in New Zealand is all about the journey – perfect for those looking to enjoy the spectacular scenery the country has to offer without having to keep their eyes on the road.
Trains traverse through remote national parks, across spectacular volcanic landscapes, over braided river valleys and alpine passes and along rugged coastlines with mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
Given that New Zealand’s rail network isn’t vast, trains in New Zealand are maximised for the visitor experience – comfortable and equipped with expansive windows and viewing platforms from which to enjoy the passing scenery. 
Kiwirail operates three of New Zealand’s most scenic rail journeys in New Zealand, the Northern Explorer, the TranzAlpine and the Coastal Pacific (which is currently not running due to extensive damage by the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake).
Northern Explorer
The Northern Explorer runs between Auckland and Wellington, stopping at Palmerston North, Ohakune, National Park and Hamilton.
The journey through Tongariro National Park, with its three spectacular volcanic mountains – Tongariro, Ngāuruhoe and Ruapehu – is a highlight, a place of extremes, where snow-blanketed fields, ancient lava flows and dense beech forests can be seen side by side.
The TranzAlpine
In the South Island, the TranzAlpine scenic train journeys between Christchurch and Greymouth, crossing from one coast of New Zealand to the other. Starting in the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, the railway traverses the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River.
The train then climbs into the majestic Southern Alps to Arthurs Pass National Park, before descending through lush beech rainforest to the West Coast town of Greymouth – a great base for visits to Punakaiki and the glaciers.

An outdoor viewing carriage will get your clients close to the fresh alpine air and spectacular scenery.

Find out more

For further inspiration for car-free itineraries that include a scenic rail journey, check out the itineraries section on (select ‘car-free’ from the drop-down box).

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