New Zealand Car Hire
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- Driving in New Zealand is fairly straight forward, remember that they drive on the left-hand side of the road like in the UK and the steering wheel is on the right hand side of the car.
- The sun in New Zealand is stronger than most other places, you might not notice it at first but if you aren’t wearing adequate sun cream in the summer months you’ll get sunburned pretty quickly.
- The weather can be temperamental, if you’re planning on touring the country in your hire car make sure you pack for all eventualities.
- As New Zealand’s indigenous people, the culture of the Māori is embedded throughout the fabric of the country. Recent years have seen a huge resurgence in Māori traditions so try to learn a little about their history before your visit if you can.
- New Zealand’s diverse terrain means roads are often narrow, hilly and windy with plenty of sharp corners. Outside of the main cities, there are very few motorways. Most roads in the countryside are single lane in each direction without barriers in between. You may also encounter gravel roads so make sure you’re confident handling a range of different driving conditions.
- If you are over 25 you won’t have many problems renting a New Zealand, but you’ll need to be able to present an English language licence to the rental company. If you’re license is in another language make sure you get a translated copy before you travel.
- Whilst you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to rental companies in New Zealand it’s worth remembering that some of the smaller companies will use older cars to keep their costs down. They also won’t be able to offer the same flexibility with pick up and drop offs if you are planning travelling round the country.
- Only hire the size of car you need. Whilst it might be tempting to go for a larger more luxurious car petrol costs will soon add up if you’re doing a lot of driving. It’s also easier to navigate some of the smaller country roads in a compact car.
- Book your rental car as far in advance as you can. If you are travelling over the high season (Dec-Feb) you’ll find that many agencies will run out of cars and costs will be much higher if you leave it until the last minute.
- It’s the law to pull over if there are more than four cars waiting to pass you. Speed limits on even the smallest of roads can be up to 100km/hr which you might find too fast if you aren’t used to winding mountain trails. Remember to be courteous and let people pass when you get a chance.
Guide to New Zealand
New Zealand really is the country that keeps on giving, no matter what you are looking for New Zealand will have it in spades. From mammoth national parks, dynamic Māori culture, and world-class surfing to skiing. You can spend time relaxing in award winning vineyards or fuel the adrenaline junkie in you the choices are endless.
Low in population, high in beautiful forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords
With just 4.8 million New Zealanders, spread across an area that’s bigger than the UK there is a lot of country to see. Filling in the gaps are some exceptional forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords that have made NZ one of the best hiking destinations on the planet. Spend a few hours wandering along the glorious coastlines or paddling a canoe down one of the many rivers. If mountain biking is more your style, then there are miles upon miles of easily accessible wilderness trails to explore. Everything here is geared towards getting you outside and doing something incredible.
New Zealand is split into to islands the North and the South. The north island, or Te Ika-a-Māui, is where you will find Auckland which is the biggest city in New Zealand and home to over one third of New Zealand’s population. Outside of the city limits you’ll find the natural phenomena that define New Zealand. Volcanoes, geysers and other geothermal wonders, clustered around Taupo and Rotorua will captivate you and Maori culture is preserved in historic sites, villages, and museums. As if that wasn’t enough for you there is also the ancient forests of Waipoua and Te Urewera and the coastal delights of Bay of Islands and the Coromandel.
For more road trips than you could imagine head to Te Waipounamu, the Southern Island. The Southern Alps stretch almost the island’s entire length and the breathtakingly scenic highways provide plenty of attractions in the form of national parks, reserves, and pleasant rural towns. Fiordland is a World Heritage-listed national park renowned for Milford and Doubtful Sounds along with the many beautiful walks that snake through it. On the Southern Island you’ll also find Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook where the clear night skies reveal the unspoiled beauty of the stars.
Things to do in New Zealand
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds will take you on a journey of discovery through Aotearoa, one of New Zealand’s most important historic site. Waitangi offers an authentic and interactive cultural experience. Discover the story of New Zealand’s history and the story of two peoples coming together as one under the Treaty of Waitangi at this award-winning national attraction. Opened in 2016 this unique attraction tells the story of how on 6 February 1840 the first 43 Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown. Eventually, over 500 chiefs would go on to sign it. Admission incorporates a guided tour and a spirited cultural performance, and entry to the Museum of Waitangi, the Whare Runeanga and the historic Treaty House. It provides an honest look at the early interactions between Māori and Europeans, the events leading up to the treaty's signing, the long list of treaty breaches by the Crown and the the wars and land confiscations that followed, Many of the treasures associated with Waitangi were previously scattered around New Zealand but now this museum is now an excellent home for a number of key items.
One of the things that most recently put New Zealand on the map was the filming of the Lord of The Rings movies. You can visit the film set on a full day tour of the Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton Set. The tour takes around 11 hours and departs from Auckland. You’ll be enthralled by thousands of glow-worms twinkling in the darkness in the Glowworm Grotto during an underground boat ride on the Waitomo River. You’ll also get the chance to pose for pictures in front of the “home” of Bilbo Baggins and have lunch in the infamous Green Dragon Inn.
New Zealand mountains and lakes
Lake Wakatipu is New Zealands third biggest lake and shaped like a cartoon lightening bolt. At 327m deep it’s floor is actually beneath sea level. Māori tradition says the lake's shape is the burnt outline of the evil giant Matau sleeping with his knees drawn up. Local lad Matakauri set fire to the bed of bracken on which the giant slept in order to rescue his beloved Manata who was kidnapped by the giant. The fat from Matau's body created a fire so intense that it burnt a hole deep into the ground. The water is here is pure that scientists say that you would be better drinking the water here than bottled water, it is however incredibly cold. Whilst going for a swim might seem tempting whilst stood on the crystal clear waters edge even in summer the water doesn’t get above 11 degrees.
The Oamaru Penguin Colony is home to around 250 blue penguins who wade into shore every evening. The best time to see them is over the summer months (Dec-Feb) from 5.30pm onwards. You can see them at other times of year but they are far fewer in number. To fully understand the conservation efforts in effect here take the daytime tour of the visitor centre. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to peer into the underground world of nesting penguins in residence. Packages that combine night viewing and the daytime tour are available. The use of cameras is prohibited, and visitors are asked not to try and climb over the rocks to view the penguins as this is damaging to their habitat.
Mount Cook is home to the darkest skies in the world so stargazing is a must on your trip to New Zealand. Dark Sky Project Tours run from the Mount John Observatory. Much of New Zealand has no light pollution making seeing constellations and shooting stars in glittering dark skies a treat for the whole family. Mount Cook is also the tallest mountain in New Zealand measuring at 3724m high, its a popular and testing climb up you are up for a challenge.
Hot Water Beachon the on the Coromandel Peninsula of the North Island is justifiably famous. For two hours either side of the tide going out you can access your very own outdoor spa. Just bring along your bucket and spade, dig a hole in the sand and watch it fill up with hot water which oozes up from under the surface. It also boasts some great surf, delicious café’s and exclusive art galleries. If you want to make a day of it on the peninsula then just five minutes away you’ll find the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve.
Marine and coastal life
Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve or Cathedral Cove is was gazetted back in 1992 and became New Zealand’s 6th marine reserve. The reserve spans over 9km and has a hugely varied marine and coastal life. Hard rock reefs and soft sandy bottoms house communities of plants, crustaceans, molluscs and fish. Delicate corals, brittle starfish and shoals of colourful fish make this a diving hotspot on the North Island.
Where to eat in New Zealand?
New Zealand is a culinary dream from top to bottom. Whether you’re looking for a vineyard bistro or a fine dining restaurant you’ll be spoiled for choice. The New Zealand food scene offers a one-off blend of flavours from the indigenous Maori culture, European settlers and the more recent Asian immigrants. As a result, his small country has an exciting food scene packed with taste.
Kazuya is a perfect example of the food fusion NZ is famous for. This is one of the most popular restaurants in Auckland and thought to be one of the first Japanese/European fusion restaurants in Auckland. Renowned for their hospitality and service the menu doesn’t let things slide, delicacies such as snapper, octopus, trevally and duck captivate everyone that step through the doors.
One Tree Grill consistently ranks as one of the top restaurants in New Zealand. An upmarket suburban bistro where fine wine and outstanding food meet. The menu is traditional NZ flavours characterised by uncomplicated flavours and fresh ingredients carefully sourced by their top chefs. As if that wasn’t enough their extensive wine cellar houses some of the best wine the island can produce and there is one to compliment every dish on the menu.
You can’t visit New Zealand without trying Mangonui Fish Shop. Cantilevered out over the water in the tiny Northland town of Mangonui this little gem is so much more than you’d ever expect. It’s been serving only the freshest fish for over 70 years and the locals go out of their way to eat here. The menu depends on the season, but you’ll usually find favourites like snapper, hoki, mussels, sea urchin and crayfish. What makes this place even more delicious is that it’s affordable for those on a more modest travel budget.
At the opposite end of the scale you’ll find Sid at the French Café. The claim to be one of the best dining experiences of your life and the price tag certainly matches that, but if you’re looking for something that little bit special then you certainly won’t be disappointed. Each dish is a work of art, from the amuse-bouches that are served between each course to main acts. The four- or seven-course tasting menus are a great option if you want to try a sample of Sid's best.
New Zealand produces some of the best wine in the world so it’s no surprise that some of the best restaurants to be found would be set in their vineyards. Mudbrickmakes a fantastic first impression with it’s well-manicured gardens and elegant mud brick buildings. It’s diverse, seafood-rich menu takes taste buds on a wonderful journey and perfect wine matches are a given. If you’d rather something a little lighter their cheese platters give diners a chance to relish the country’s best boutique producers.
For a no-frills seasonal delight then Riverstone Kitchen should be your number one choice. Their shared feasting menu, showcasing ingredients sourced from their own private garden as well as from local growers, is among Riverstone Kitchen’s most popular offerings. Foodies are drawn from all over New Zealand for their classy creations and modern classics. Their food is so popular they have even produced several cookbooks featuring their most popular dishes. Booking here is highly recommended to avoid disappointment.
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