Car rental Auckland
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Why rent a car in Auckland?
Auckland is a massive, sprawling city that is modeled after Los Angeles in many ways and its dependency on cars as the primary mode of transportation. Many sights lie outside of the center of the city. Additionally, most tourists visit Auckland and New Zealand for its nature. By far the best way to experience the mountains, volcanoes, and stunning coastline is to have a rental car.
Top ways to enter Auckland
Most visitors from abroad will enter New Zealand through the international terminal Auckland Airport. The airport also has a domestic terminal. The largest rental car providers have desks in the terminal. The desks are located on the ground level next to the arrivals area in the international terminal and on the ground floor of the parking building across from the domestic terminal.
The Northern Explorer train starts in Wellington and ends at Strand Station near the Central Business District in Auckland. The train passes through every type of natural environment in the country, including coastal areas, mountains, and farmland. Strand Station is located near all of the downtown offices of rental companies.
Auckland is a popular city for embarking and disembarking of cruise ships that travel around New Zealand, Australia, and Polynesia. Ships dock in the harbor at Queens Wharf. While rental offices are not available at the port, they can be found nearby in the area of the Central Business District.
Useful city facts
Aukland is New Zealand’s largest city, almost a third of New Zealand’s population inhabit it. The city has the largest population of Polynesians in the world. It also has significant populations of Asians and other Pacific Islanders, which particularly became the case after the removal of immigration restrictions based on race.
First settled by Maori tribes hundreds of years ago, Auckland saw the first European settlers after 1800. From 1842 to 1865, Aukland was the capital of what was then the Colony of New Zealand. Even before it became the capital, it was understood that Wellington would serve the function better given its proximity to the South Island. During the early 20th century, the city would develop based on trams and rail lines. However, it would later follow the expansion and development of Los Angeles with its reliance on cars. Today, Auckland is a massive, sprawling city with many suburbs.
Auckland experiences an oceanic climate. This means that there is not a truly bad time of the year to visit, though for swimming summer is better. During summer, highs are usually around 23°C (73°F) and the water temperature of the sea is around 21°C (70°F). During winter the average high is around 14°C (57°C). Summers generally see high humidity and though it tends to rain often in winter, travelers can expect not to see any snow. The city occasionally experiences smog on winter days. Auckland also has the lowest risk of earthquakes in the country, having experienced its last significant one in 1840.
Top destinations and activities
- Auckland Museum - More formally known as the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the museum is the most important museum in the country. Visitors shouldn’t be fooled by its formal name, it is not just a war museum. It seeks to tell the story of New Zealand and its people. Visitors can find collections concerning the history of the Māori people, New Zealand in World War One, and the natural history of the country.
- Auckland Art Gallery - The premier art museum in the country, the art gallery hosts both national and international pieces. The museum consists of two buildings, one old and one modern. The modern building is worth visiting in its own right for its architectural design. Entrance to the gallery is free for residents of New Zealand. Other art galleries, hosting modern art, can also be found in the city.
- Sky Tower - The iconic tower in the center of the city, the Sky Tower offers visitors the chance to enjoy panoramic views of the city and its surroundings from two different heights, the main observation level at 186 meters and the Sky Deck at 220 meters. A 360-degree rotating restaurant and cafe are also located in the tower. The adrenaline loving can bungee jump off the tower (don’t a control cable makes sure you don’t crash into the tower) or walk on the around the top of the tower.
- Volcanoes - Auckland sits on the Auckland Volcanic Field and as such more than 50 volcanoes are located in and around the city (don’t worry, though, none are expected to erupt). The cones of some of the volcanoes make for both good hikes and great views from the top. Mount Eden and One Tree Hill are examples of these, both providing amazing views of the city.
- Beaches - Auckland is one of the few cities in the world having harbors on two seas or oceans. This gives the cities an almost endless coastline. While more pristine beaches lie outside of the city, in it one can find beaches that aren’t to scoff at too. The Mission Bay and Davenport beaches offer views of the city and the bay in addition to nice sand. Further to the north, Takapuna Beach is a prime location for families. See the day trip section below for those beaches lying outside the city.
- Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life- Sea Life is another popular destination for families. The aquarium has habitats for penguins, sharks, turtles and more. Visitors move along conveyor belts under the curved sea exhibitions. It also offers opportunities to experience a penguin colony close-up and to snorkel in a cage with sharks and sting-rays.
- Eden Park - New Zealand’s largest sports stadium hosts cricket and rugby matches. The stadium is the home ground of the Auckland Blues rugby union team. New Zealand’s infamous All Blacks also play at the grounds regularly. In summer the Auckland Aces play cricket in the stadium.
Traffic and parking tips
Driving is on the left-hand side of the road in New Zealand. It doesn’t seem like it would ever be forgotten, but there have been many cases of tourists driving on the wrong side of the road.
As with any large city, traffic congestion is a problem, particularly given the spread out nature of the city (being modeled on Los Angeles). On the Harbor Bridge of the Northern Motorway center lanes are reversed depending on which direction the congestion is greater.
While driving is permitted on two of Auckland’s beaches, it's not permitted with your rental vehicle. It is also prohibited in most cases to travel on unsealed roads, offroad, and above the snow line.
The city center has multiple parking zones. Parking in metered spots is unlimited when it comes to time, though it is more expensive for longer stays. Parking can be paid either by a phone app or with the car’s license plate number at a machine. The parking meter machines accept coins and credit cars. The city center also has various car parks, some managed by the city. Some hotels in the Central Business District may charge for parking, others, particularly outside of the center do not.
All of the toll roads in New Zealand are in the northern part of the North Island. They all serve as short bypasses of congested areas. The tolls are therefore quite low. The toll roads use a license plate capturing system with no physical booths. Payment can be made either by having a setup account, by paying online before or within five days of using a toll road, or with cash in some BP and Caltex petrol stations (though a small fee will be added).
Many rental companies offer some system, with a fee, to pass on toll payments to you without you having to do anything. Of course, it may be better just to pay the toll yourself and save on paying that fee. The toll roads can all be avoided quite easily by avoiding the bypass roads and transiting through the towns (in addition to being able to see more).
Ideas for a day-trip
- Rangitoto Island - Travelers can take a 20-minute ferry ride to reach Rangitoto Island, a nature reserve in the Gulf. The island is a volcano that has only been out of the sea for six hundred years. A trail leads from the ferry port to the summit with about an hour needed for the ascent. There is also a causeway leading to the older island of Motutapu. Vehicles are not allowed on the island and there is no overnight accommodation. Be sure to make it to the last ferry before its departure time.
- Waiheke Island - A 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke is a popular destination for foreign visitors and local residents, alike. The island has many sandy beaches that are relatively uncrowded. It is also known for its wineries, many of which can be visited for tastings. While there is a vehicle ferry, your supplier is unlikely to allow you to take your rental vehicle onboard. If you would like to drive around the island, rental cars are available near the port in Matiatia.
- Hobbiton- The movie set used for the Hobbit village in all Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit film series can be found near Matamata, just a two-hour drive south of Auckland. The set is open for visitors, but only via guided tours. The set is immaculately kept up and tours of it include the possibility for eating or drinking in the Green Inn. Given their popularity, advance booking of tours is highly suggested.
- Caves and Caverns - Centered around city of Hamilton and the Waikato region is an area with many caves and caverns that can be visited. Of particular note are the Waitomo Caves known for its glowworms. Guided tours through three levels are available. The nearby Ruakuri Cave has waterfalls and special formations of limestones.
- More Beaches - Though the beaches in the city itself can be quite nice, an abundance of pristine, uncrowded beaches are located near Auckland. These range from white-sand beaches with calm waters to rocky outcrops with world-class surfing conditions. For example, Pakiri Beach, only 14km from the city, is as good of a beach as can be found anywhere. Additionally, Piha Beach, the most famous surf beach in the country, is only 40km west of the city.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular class of rental car in New Zealand is the compact, of which the Nissan Tiida is an example. Given the proclivity for road trips that New Zealand gives travelers, full-size cars are the next most popular. The Toyota RAV4 SUV is the most popular full-size rental. Finally, the economy car, perfect for a couple’s road trip, is also popular. The Fiat Punto is a good example of this class of car.
While it may be possible in summer, depending on your rental supplier, to take your rental vehicle on a ferry between the North and South Islands, it would be more budget-friendly to book another rental car for the South Island which could be picked up in Picton.
- Wellington - It takes around 8 hours to drive from Auckland to the country's capital, though only the time-constrained should even think of making the drive straight and miss the many sites and experience in between. With a picturesque harbor, history, fine dining, and a craft beer tradition, Wellington is not to be missed when traveling to New Zealand. The city also serves as the departing point of ferries to the South Island of the country with its incredible nature and mountains.
- Tongariro National Park - This national park includes not just the volcano from whence it takes its name, but also two others, Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu. These volcanoes are of great significance to the local Maori people. As such, they were granted to the Crown to form a nature reserve in order to prevent them from being sold to the Europeans. Though not the namesake nor the highest one, Mt. Ngauruhoe is in some respects the most infamous of the three having served as the location for some of the shots in the Lord of the Rings trilogy standing in for Mt. Doom. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing pass between Mounts Tongariro and Ngauruhoe with the option to continue to the summit of either.
- Whanganui National Park - The park takes its name from the Whanganui River which it is centered upon. It is located about halfway between Auckland and Wellington in the center of the North Island. The park is both rich in history and nature. From family-friendly activities to extreme adventure, the park has something to offer any traveler. The highlight is certainly the Whanganui Journey, paddling down the Whanganui River.
- Egmont National Park - Centered upon Mount Egmont, or Mount Taranaki in Maori, a 2,518 meter dormant volcano, the national park also includes the surrounding forest. This forest is a lush rainforest due to the massive amounts of rain the area receives. From short walks to the Around the Mountain Circuit, there are lots of hiking trails for all fitness levels.
- Bay of Islands - A pleasant three-hour drive north of Auckland brings visitors to the Bay of Islands. In total, there are 144 islands. In the bay lies what is perhaps the most Instagram-worthy place, the ‘Hole in the Rock’ on Piercy Island. Visitors can take a boat tour to get to the island and on the way, weather permitting sail through the hole made by the sea.
- Rotorua - On the shores of the lake of the same name, Rotorua is a major tourist destination. Visitors flock to the town from both within the country and abroad because of the surrounding area’s geothermal activity. This included seeing geysers, dipping in bubbling pools of mud, and thermal hot springs. 17 nearby lakes also provide numerous activities such as fishing, swimming, and boating.
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