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What you need to know about: State Highway 1, New Zealand

Every developed nation in the world has its major infrastructure arteries, pumping commerce and tourism throughout the body (or in this case country). New Zealand’s major road is not just a great way for Kiwis to get from north to south – or vice versa – but also for budding road trippers with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

Here is our quick guide to your State Highway (SH) 1 road trip.

Where does SH1 start and finish?

If you want to enjoy the ultimate NZ experience from the comfort of a car, SH1 is the best, most efficient choice. You see, this fantastic road is one of the highest quality in the entire country, with some of the easiest driving conditions.

If your New Zealand road trip takes you down SH1, you’re in for a treat.If your New Zealand road trip takes you down SH1, you’re in for a treat.

Where it begins and ends simply depends on where you start. At the tippy top of the North Island (Rental car pick Auckland Airport) , this road starts at renowned Cape Reinga. It then proceeds south through the heart of the island, winding its way for just over 1,000 kilometres to Wellington.

Ace Rental Car pick locations for SH1 are Auckland Airport, Auckland CityWellingtonPictonChristchurch

Like we said, you’ll need a bit of time to fully enjoy it.

After you hop across a ferry to Picton in the South Island, SH1 picks up again and hugs the east coast, passing through Christchurch, down towards the very bottom of the country: Bluff.

A huge number of famous Kiwi sights are located along this excellent driving route, making it ideal for travellers hoping to see the entire country in one go. We’ve picked out some favourites to whet your appetite.

Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga represents the end of the North Island, offering up spectacular views of two different oceans. It’s also where Maori spirits supposedly travelled after death, to leap off our world and begin their journey into the next. You can find an 800-year-old pohutukawa tree here, in addition to the famous 90 Mile Beach.


Imagine this: Once upon a time – around 186AD – a series of volcanic eruptions blew the lid off where Lake Taupo now sits in an explosion so violent and large, it’s thought even the skies above the Roman Empire were darkened by the cloud. Nowadays, it is a peaceful lake with loads of great adventure and thermal attractions nearby, not to mention some excellent cafes to try during your road trip.

The ferry

Take a moment to breathe, relax and enjoy someone else driving as you park your car onboard a ferry to enjoy the trip from Wellington to Picton. With a company such as Interislander, you will be taken on a picturesque 92-kilometre journey away from Wellington Harbour, across Cook Strait and through the breathtaking Marlborough Sounds. Interislander bookings

The journey is so spectacular, it sparked Wine Spectator to claim that it’s, “one of the most spectacular ferry rides in the world.” And that’s wine critics talking, so you know they’re right!


Love whales? Of course you do, they’re majestic creatures and we all love spotting them. Luckily for you, Kaikoura is right along SH1, and is one of the country’s most famous whale watching hot spots. Take the time to jump in a boat with Whale Watch Kaikoura, or dare a little higher and fly over the water with Wings Over Whales or Kaikoura Helicopters. Sperm whales are the most common, though different times of year do bring in other species.


When you reach the end of your journey, you’ll find yourself in the charming township of Bluff: ‘Pearl of the South’. This town has a fascinating maritime history, dating back to being one of the country’s first ports around the 1860s. On your trip here, be sure you stop by the local Bluff Maritime Museum for a spot of insight into the region, or try out some of the many local walks. If you time your visit for the end of May, you’ll even catch the famous Bluff Oyster and Food Festival, as the local oystering industry is a must-try.

Ace Rental Cars Picton Location

Get Directions to our Ace location and start your trip
Freephone: 0800 502 277 Email: [email protected]
Office Hours: Open 7 days a week, 9am to 6pm (closed Christmas Day)

Ace Rental Cars Auckland Location

Get Directions to our Ace location and start your trip
Freephone: 0800 502 277 Email: [email protected]
Office Hours: Open 7 days a week, 6am to 9:45pm (closed Christmas Day)

Ace Rental Cars Wellington Location

Get Directions to our Ace location and start your trip
Freephone: 0800 502 277 Email: [email protected]
Office Hours: Open 7 days a week, 7am to 7pm (closed Christmas Day)

Rent The Experience

The Grid Escaping Experience is the perfect experience to use for this road trip

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