How to Get to New Zealand: Tips for Hikers

By New Zealand Trails

7 minute read

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Planning a trip to New Zealand and looking for the best way to get here? Here's everything you need to know about how to get to New Zealand from the USA, Australia, UK, Canada and Europe alongside a few handy tips for hikers from the team here at New Zealand Trails.

You’re most likely familiar with the age-old adage that ‘good things come in small packages'. We feel this phrase rings particularly true when talking about New Zealand. Our country may be small, but it sure is something special, with stunning landscapes, world-class hiking trails, a moderate climate, great food and wine and a really friendly bunch of locals too. Part of the allure of New Zealand is our isolation; we're tucked away in our own corner of the South Pacific. We are far from the madding crowd indeed but getting here is easier than you might think.

New Zealand - closer than you think!

For a lot of people, New Zealand has the feeling of being on the other end of the world, about as far away as you can get from anywhere, but it’s actually a lot easier to get here than you may think! We’re just one flight away from many places around the world (and we’re not just talking about Australia and the other islands dotted throughout the Pacific!).

If you're thinking of making the trip, relax in the knowledge that many before you have made it and are so glad they did! One thing a lot of our guests feel, even after they've returned home, is that their New Zealand trip really was a ‘trip of a lifetime’.

North America New Zealand flight map

Getting to New Zealand from the USA and Canada - one sleep and you're here!

Air New Zealand operates direct flights to New Zealand from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Vancouver – with all of these hubs offering easy one-stop connections from many other parts of North America including Florida, Colorado, the South and the East Coast. The flight time from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Auckland is around 13 hours; it's a non-stop flight leaving in the evening which means it's dinner, a movie, one night's sleep and you wake up to your first sunrise in New Zealand. It’s around 14 hours from Houston and Vancouver, meaning you can squeeze in an extra two episodes of Flight of the Conchords.

As of November 2018, the airline has also begun a direct flight to New Zealand from Chicago, which has made it a breeze to fly here from even more North American destinations, especially from the East Coast and the Midwest. The route has even been included in the Lonely Planet’s ‘Where to fly in 2019? The 10 most exciting new flight routes’. With a flight time of around 16 hours to New Zealand, the Auckland-Chicago direct service will be Air New Zealand's longest, giving flyers time to binge watch Kiwi film classics such as Whale Rider.

All flights into New Zealand from North America arrive into Auckland, our largest city and main international gateway airport. From here, there are lots of flights to over 20 domestic destinations on both the North and South Islands, including Christchurch, Queenstown, Rotorua and Wellington. Keep in mind that New Zealand is pretty small, so our domestic flights don't take long. For example, it's only 1 hour 20 minutes from Auckland to Christchurch.

There is a vast choice of other great airlines that fly to New Zealand from North America including United, American, Hawaiian and Qantas.

Frequently asked questions:

1. What's the time difference between North America and New Zealand?

It depends where you are. On the West Coast, there is just three or four hours difference, depending on the time of year. Time wise, New Zealand is behind North America, but one day ahead date wise, so if it's 2pm on Monday in LA, it’s 11am on Tuesday in New Zealand during the NZ summer. The further east you go, the time difference increases, for example, if you're on the East Coast the time difference will be six or seven hours. When you travel to New Zealand from North America, it will take a little while to adjust to the time difference, but it's not as tough as acclimatising to European times can be!

2. What about the dateline, how can I get back before I leave?

As we're on the other side of the dateline, it can be a bit confusing when you look at your flight times. If you leave on a Friday night from North America, you'll arrive into New Zealand on Sunday morning, losing that middle day! But don't worry, you'll get it back. If you leave New Zealand on a Saturday evening you'll get back into North America on Saturday afternoon, the same day on the calendar! Confused? Don't worry, when you join one of our trips we'll make sure you know what's going on.

Flight map UK and Europe to New Zealand

Getting to New Zealand from the UK & Europe - following in the footsteps of Tasman & Cook

If you’re heading our way from the UK or Europe your trip may be a touch longer than one sleep; after all, you're following in the footsteps of the early European explorers who set off to discover the 'Great Southern Land'. The good news is you can add in an exotic stopover on the way and experience a whole new destination to boot. Flights to New Zealand from the UK and Europe go through either Asia or North America – with both options taking around the same amount of time. There’s a huge range of choice for your stopover and we reckon it’s a great excuse for discovering a new city!

Popular options include Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, L.A, San Francisco and Vancouver. One thing that is worth noting is that Singapore is the only place (other than Australia) from which you can fly directly into the South Island. All other flights arrive into Auckland, perfect for those on our Sweet North trip! There are easy connections through to the South Island from Auckland, our largest international airport.

Travel tip for hikers - allow a couple of days to get over jet lag:

If you're travelling from the UK or Europe for some hiking, like a lot of people on our World Heritage Walking Tour, we always recommend a couple of free days when you arrive to allow you to adjust to the time difference before you head off on your adventures. Regardless of how many long-haul flights you've been on before, it will probably take some time for your body to get used to New Zealand time.

Australia to South Island New Zealand flight map

Getting to New Zealand from Australia - crossing 'the ditch'

Now for our 'Aussie' cousins; you have heaps of options to get to New Zealand, with multiple flights on offer from different airlines every day from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne – and Air New Zealand also flies direct from Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Perth. Flight times from the East Coast of Australia to either Auckland or Christchurch are from three to 3.5 hours, add two to three more hours for flights from Adelaide and Perth. All up, a pretty easy day's travelling from home to a hiker's paradise like the South Island of New Zealand.

One great thing about flying from Australia is that you've got a bit more choice in destinations. Pretty much all northern hemisphere flights fly into Auckland (great for those on the Sweet North!), but if you're coming from the East Coast of Aus you can fly straight into Christchurch or Queenstown. If you’re planning on hiking in this part of the country then it’s well worth flying directly to either Christchurch (where the World Heritage begins) or Queenstown (where the Kiwi Classic, Pure South and Masterpiece begin). Aside from Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas, Emirates and Virgin also offer regular trans-Tasman flights.

Travel tips for hikers - make it easier on yourself by travelling light. Here are a few tips from us at Trails:

  • Wear your hiking boots on the plane to save space and weight in your luggage.
  • Take your quick-dry hiking pants in your carry-on luggage to change into on the flight. This kind of light fabric is perfect for wearing on board and you'll be much more comfortable in something like this than heavy pants or jeans.
  • We provide at least one hiking pole for each guest on all our trips. If you would prefer to have two then we recommend you bring your own as we can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to give you two.

Which is the best airline to fly to New Zealand on?

While there are many different airlines that fly to New Zealand, our favourite is Air New Zealand. There's just something about that Kiwi welcome which means that your New Zealand experience begins the moment you step on board. They do things a little bit differently too; case in point is their famous safety videos! Our favourite is the one with Bear Grylls on the Routeburn Track - we walk on that very spot on day six of our World Heritage Walking Tour and on day two of the Masterpiece, the Kiwi Classic and the Pure South.

You'll love the friendly crew and it will be a great chance to dip your toe into all things New Zealand - including some great food and wine and even some offbeat Kiwi comedy on the in-flight entertainment. We think everyone should watch Flight of the Conchords before they arrive in New Zealand! Or maybe you could get yourself a copy of our brochure to read on your way over to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Our main point is that it’s never been quicker or easier to come to New Zealand for your hiking trip of a lifetime. So what are you waiting for? If you want to see what other people made of our trips, check out their reviews here.

Updated 26/11/2018


Let’s talk – we’d love to hear what you think. Pop your details in below and have your say.

  • MmzHrrdb, USA September 2023


  • MmzHrrdb, USA September 2023


  • Kurt Wiesemes, USA November 2018

    Looking to travel to NZ in the next couple of years.

    Thank you.

    • MmzHrrdb, USA September 2023


    • MmzHrrdb, USA September 2023


    • New Zealand Trails, November 2018

      Hey Kurt, that's great news. We'd love to have you over in New Zealand! Hopefully see you soon!

  • James Stephen, USA November 2018

    I went to Western Australia about 30 years ago and participated in an Earth Watch project for 2 weeks. I went back home via New Zealand and spent 2 weeks on a whirlwind tour of both North and South Islands and was very impressed. I have always wanted to go back and spend more time in some of the areas that I was most impressed with. New Zealand is a spectacular place!

    • MmzHrrdb, USA September 2023


    • MmzHrrdb, USA September 2023


    • New Zealand Trails, November 2018

      Hi James, that sounds like an amazing trip that you had all those years ago! We do agree with you that New Zealand is a spectacular place! All the best and hopefully we'll see you down under in the next few years!

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