The thrill of the open road, sights and scenes both majestic and breath-taking – a road trip across New Zealand in a campervan offers all this and more.
A road trip in a campervan is an excellent way to see New Zealand and enjoy all the natural beauty, hiking, swimming and drinking adventures the country has to offer. There is a plethora of options on routes and trips to take across both of the country’s islands, North Island and South Island. Take a look at the top road tripping routes that you should not miss as you tour around New Zealand in your campervan.
The best campervan destinations in North Island
North Island is smaller, but with a higher population than South Island and is also home to New Zealand’s most populous city, Auckland. This makes it a good starting point for your campervan adventure, with Auckland boasting some great spots to party and dine. You could also take the time to get onboard a ferry to Waiheke Island and spend the day soaking up the sun, surf and natural beauty. If you are starting in Auckland check out Wilderness for motorhome and campervan rental.
The loop between Auckland and the Bay of Islands, which offers around 140 subtropical islands to explore, should be at the top of your list, and you can look forward to a scenic drive and beautiful waterfalls. The Bay of Islands is also well-served by campsites.
For those who want more sea and surf, another great campervan drive is from Coromandel to Rotorua. Coromandel has some spectacular beaches with clear waters and splendid scenery, including Cathedral Cove and Te Hoho Rock.
Rotorua, also known by its nickname Sulphur City, is another must-visit spot in the North Island. The geothermal activity and hydrogen sulphide emissions make it smell sulphuric, but also means there are hot thermal baths to soak in. Rotorua is also home to Middle Earth of The Lord of the Rings movies fame – no one acquainted with the franchise, especially die-hard fans, should miss out on the chance to spend a day at Hobbiton, home to the movie sets.
Drive your campervan from Auckland to Cape Reinga, a journey that can be spread across two or three days. Sights include the oldest Kauri tree at Tane Mahuta and sand dunes at Te Paki, Waitangi Grounds.
One more not to be missed drive in North Island takes you across the Forgotten World Highway, which is a trip you will most definitely not forget. The country’s first heritage trail runs 155 kilometres from Stratford to Taumarunui and offers forest reserves to hike across, waterfalls, pioneer tunnels and an awe-inspiring view of volcanos from Strathmore Saddle.
The campervan trips that the South Island has to offer
Once you’ve had your fill of exploring the North Island in your campervan, head to the delights of South Island, which is home to some stunning lakes. One highly recommended trip is the drive from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook. Lake Tekapo is as picture perfect as it gets, and you will get to see the star-studded skies – indeed, it is considered to be the best spot in all of New Zealand for stargazing. Drive over in your campervan and settle down for a night or two. Once you are done at Tekapo, make the quick drive to Mount Cook National Park, where the snow-capped peaks of Mount Cook await your attention, as well as the icy Lake Pukaki.
Queenstown is South Island’s most famous spot and a great option for a campervan trip is to take the road from Queenstown to the town of Franz Josef, with stops at Kaikoura and Wanaka along the way. Aside from visiting the glacier lookout at Franz Josef Glacier, you will find rainforests, waterfalls and lakes to explore. A stop at Wanaka is a must, since this is where you will find Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest main road and the perfect vantage point from which to view some spectacularly scenic sights.
Don’t miss out on a stop at Fiordland National Park and Milford Sounds within, a veritable winter wonderland where seals and penguins frolic. Whether you want to laugh at the antics of these fun creatures on the beaches of Milford Sounds or enjoy some hiking and mountain climbing at Fiordland National Park – or even both – this is a must-do campervan trip. You can also check out hiddengems.nz for other options.
And finally, no trip to New Zealand would be complete without a visit to Arthur’s Pass. It’s recommended that you schedule your visit as you head to Christchurch. Make sure to stop at Hokitika Gorge, which has some of the bluest waters flowing, hike to Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, and visit the Otira Viaduct.