North Island Winter Road Trip Plan

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Read about 'North Island Winter Road Trip Plan' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

The North Island of New Zealand may be further away from the freezing Antarctic, but it still gets its fair share of winter weather. Though the far north stays reasonably temperate all year round, the central plateau is high enough that it can get incredibly deep snows, and the Desert Road that cuts along the main part of the island can sometimes be closed. However there are still plenty of driving options available in all weather, and if you stick to the coastline in particular you’ll find your way mainly stays clear.

The best place to start is in Auckland, as this is the location of New Zealand’s largest international airport. Right beside it you’ll find the depot of USAVE, where you can pick up your choice of rental vehicles to begin your journey with. Auckland doesn’t get snow at any time of year, so it’s a good place to get adjusted to the cooler climate if you’ve come from the Northern Hemisphere. If it’s cold weather you’re looking to escape, a quick trip up to Northland could be just what you need, as it stays remarkably mild even in the midwinter months. Otherwise it’s Southwards to the main plateau.

There are two main paths around the North Island – the east and the west. Heading immediately east of Auckland will bring you to Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty region, which is also famous for balmy weather even in the colder seasons. It may be a little cool for swimming, but there are plenty of scenic walks including over the Mount (Mt Maunganui). Continue eastwards to reach the Hawke’s Bay wine region, which produces some world famous wines. Though these won’t be in production over the winter, you can still enjoy the harvests and products already made, and the rolling hills make for a great rental car tour route. You’ll also find the small towns of Napier and Hastings, sister cities with great local flavour. In winter Napier in particular looks like a scene from a noir novel with its perfectly preserved Art Deco buildings against the grey sky. Keep on down the east coast and you’ll arrive at the capital city of Wellington, which is where you can either end your journey or start a new one, heading across Cook Strait to the South Island.

The other way you can head is more or less straight down the central west. One thing to be cautious of is how much snow can build up here during winter, and renting snow chains may be a wise idea, especially if you plan to head up to the slopes. Just south of Auckland lies the city of Hamilton, a farming town with picturesque open fields all around. Though they may be a bit sodden in winter, if you travel late enough you may see a lamb or two. Continue south through the plateau, where Rotorua provides not only excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities but also a hot spring resort in which to relax after a hard day’s fun.

The North Island offers great wintertime travel opportunities, and whether you prefer snow or just the winter atmosphere there’s something for everyone. A sturdy four wheel drive rental car is a good bet to ensure you never get stuck, and always remember to drive carefully. Talk to the USAVE team if you’re unsure or need any tips.

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