Travelling without a car in the South Island

Travelling without a car in the South Island

Travelling without a car in the South Island

The Good South recommends: Get in touch with the official i-site network prior to travel

Wanaka, Dunedin, Mt Cook, Queenstown, West Coast, South Coast…what’s the connection on your South island itinerary?  You can get to them all without driving yourself. The majority of South Island bucket list spots can all be explored using buses or shuttles. It’s an option an increasing number of travellers are taking. The South Island roads can be stressful if you aren’t used to New Zealand’s driving conditions. The roads are windy and often narrow.  Some people drive fast. Or badly. There are buses and trucks to contend with.  And for many, the traffic’s on the wrong side of the road!

What a number of travellers are discovering is that commercial shuttles and buses can not only be price competitive, they can also deliver you to all of those places the South Island is famous for, rested and relaxed.

Consider the advantages of a car-free travel experience:

  • Tour activities almost always provide transport from the town centre or from accommodation
  • The number of shuttles, scheduled bus services and backpacker transport routes ensure most destinations are catered for
  • You can relax on the road, read, chat, nap, take photos and research your next activities
  • You’re safer with a professional driver
  • No guessing petrol, insurance and additional rental costs.  You have a clear idea of travel expenses before you set off
Travelling without a car in the South island

The best spots are found on foot.


The Good South asked a few ‘none driving’ travellers on their South Island itineraries and we got some excellent pointers:

  1. Research rules! While it may be obvious, researching thoroughly where you are going can make a huge difference. A few minutes writing an email to a hostel or transport operator and checking forums and reviews can give you valuable information and a more thorough indication of their standards. Is it safe for women travelling alone?  How far away is the nearest shop and what do they stock? How regular are the shuttles? Is this hostel party central for the gap year brigade? Getting a personable, helpful response will let you know the operator takes their role seriously and they are more likely to be established. Most hostel owners are more than happy to point out their local attractions, giving you the opportunity to plan your trip more effectively.
  2. Use the official I-site network or Regional Tourism Offices. They tend to be more reliable than the smaller private outlets, use more established operators and can book transport and accommodation through all their other offices. They are also a comprehensive source of free information, bookings and transport, and are often sited next to where the transport shuttles pick up and drop off.
  3. Be flexible. Book flexible.Word of mouth once you arrive can help with last minute accommodation, travel and activity choices so ensure you’ve read the cancellation policies. The weather can change quickly in the South Island, so being able to stay longer in one place, or scoot off if it gets too miserable without extra cost can really add value to your visit.  The ‘hop-on hop-off’ backpacker shuttles are a great example of flexible travel.
  4. Ask a local. Most towns have their hidden gems.  A nice picnic spot, freshwater spring or a new cafe. Once people realise you’re not planning to camp illegally in the public gardens or do your laundry in the library bathrooms, you can get some very helpful local knowledge.