07 Mar 2009 by Olga Brighton
Find out the most important information about driving in New Zealand. There are some unsealed or gravel roads, but these are well maintained and all roads are well signposted. Your travel insurance does not cover you if you drive your Maui vehicle on Ninety Mile Beach (Northland), roads north of Colville (Coromandel), Skippers Road (Queenstown), or Ball Hutt Road (Mt Cook). Only on remote roads may drivers expect to find open stream crossings. Gently test the brakes immediately after water crossings to dry them.
Take extra care on gravel verges, especially on corners. On gravel roads, drive slowly and keep your tyres in the tracks where possible. Follow the two-second rule: ensure you are at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front. In wet weather or on icy roads, maintain even more distance. In extreme conditions, some roads may be closed. Do not attempt to drive on them - an alternative route is usually offered. If not, just wait. When driving to ski fields, you may require chains. If you notice traffic building up behind you, pull over or stop to let it pass. Ringing bells and flashing red lights at railway crossings signal a train is coming.
An inter-island ferry service operates across Cook Strait between the North and South Islands. There is a small charge for vehicles on the Opua to Russell ferry in the Bay of Islands and the Kohukohu to Rawene ferry on the Hokianga.
Tranz Rail, the main ferry operator connecting the North and South Islands, operates three ferries: The Arahura ('Pathway to Dawn'), the Aratere ('Quick Path') and the Lynx. The Lynx, a catamaran the size of a jumbo jet, is fast, reducing the normal three-hour crossing to one hour and 45 minutes. It only operates during the summer months (December to April). All three carry vehicles and passengers.
During winter, crossings can be rough and during summer it is advisable to book well in advance. You can pick up your tickets at Maui depots in Auckland and Christchurch. Prices vary according to vehicle size and passengers cost extra. A wide range of discounted fares is available, depending on when you're going and how long you'll be away. Special deals are only available within New Zealand.