New Zealand is geographically a small country; roughly the same size as the United Kingdom.

Don’t let our small size fool you!

Many visitors are surprised to learn how long it can take to drive from one region to another.

Many of our roads, even the main State Highways, are single carriageway and traverse difficult terrain, causing traffic to move more slowly than in other countries.

Large motorhomes, trucks and poor quality backpacker vans which travel at slower speeds also cause significant delays all over New Zealand during the peak summer months.

This makes drive times much longer than you may expect by simply looking at a map of New Zealand.

It is much more important to review travel times, rather than travel distances in New Zealand.

It’s particularly important to consider this after a long-haul flight

Many visitors arrive in Auckland and Christchurch with an expectation that it will be safe to drive several hundred kilometres straight after a long-haul flight.

We strongly urge visitors not to do this – it is much safer, and more enjoyable, to spend a night or two in Auckland or Christchurch before you travel to other regions.

This is especially true if you are used to driving on the right side of the road – as you need to have full concentration to start driving on the left-hand side of the road in New Zealand.

There are plenty of great activities and sights to enjoy in both these cities – in fact, many visitors tell us they wish they had spent more time in Auckland and Christchurch, rather than trying to head to Queenstown or Rotorua straight away.

Take a look at our activity options for some further inspiration to stay!

Queenstown and Rotorua are too far to immediately drive to from Christchurch and Auckland on arrival after a long-haul flight

For more information about travel times and distances in New Zealand, take a look at

If you are planning a self-drive holiday, it is also good idea to travel with a smartphone in New Zealand in order to use real time information from Google Maps to help you plan each day’s journey.

Knowing what to expect during your journey can help relieve frustration caused by slow moving traffic or accidents that clog roads.