There is no better way to explore New Zealand than by road trip in a campervan. There are numerous advantages to doing so. Along with lowering your carbon footprint and travel costs, travelling in a campervan allows you to get up close and personal with nature in ways that a traditional vehicle does not allow. Campervans are ideal for backpacking in places like Australia, which has beautiful coastal camping areas where you can sleep in the midst of stunning natural scenery. This is even more true for New Zealand, which is as beautiful as, if not more than, Australia and also has an incredible freedom camping program.
Freedom camping is exactly what it sounds like: free camping as long as no waste is left behind. To access these freedom camping sites, which are scattered across the country, you must have a self-contained campervan. However, if you’re backpacking New Zealand and your camper isn’t fully self-contained, there are several sites you can visit on the North and South Islands.
So, now that you’ve decided that a road trip through New Zealand in a campervan is something you should do, where should you begin? The North Island will provide you with unforgettable experiences, while the South Island is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
In this post, we’ll show you how to plan the perfect two-week New Zealand campervan road trip around the North and South Islands.
- North Island 2 Week Itinerary
- South Island 2 Week Itinerary
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Day 1: Auckland
Auckland will serve as your starting point for your North Island road trip, but there is so much to see and do here that you will want to spend some time exploring the city. The SkyBus, which is cheaper than taxis and even cheaper when purchased online, is the best way to get around the city. There is quite a bit to see and do in Auckland, so plan on staying for at least a day.
Some of the notable things to do in Auckland are:
- The observation deck of the Sky Tower
- Experiencing the Waterfront
- Explore the charming streets of Auckland’s downtown.
- Go to Albert Park.
Day 2: Waiheke Island
The first stop on your road trip won’t actually require a car. Head to Waiheke Island which is only a 40-minute ferry ride from Auckland. While prices on the island are a bit more expensive, spending a day here can be a lot of fun. You can rent bikes and scooters to explore the island on your own or book tours that include round-trip ferry tickets to and from the island, olive tasting, winery tours, food, and sightseeing.
Some of the notable things to do in Waiheke Island are:
- Wine tasting
- Visit Oneroa Beach
- Kayak on the Coast
- Zipline Over the Vineyards
Day 3-4: Piha
After spending the day at Waiheke Island, you’ll head back to Auckland, rent a car, and set off on your North Island road trip. Just a 45-minute drive from Auckland, Piha is a seaside village located west of Auckland that has so many different beach and nature personalities that it is impossible to overlook.
Some of the notable things to do in Piha are:
- Visit Piha Beach, which is well-known for its black sand and reputable surfing spots.
- Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is a great place to go for scenic walks while in Piha.
- Kitekite Falls is a spectacular three-tiered waterfall that you can hike up to and swim in.
- After you’ve had your fill of the scenic natural beauty of Piha, New Zealand, visit the Museum of Transport and Technology for an interactive and educational experience.
Day 5: Waitomo
You’ll drive from Piha to Waitomo, which is about a three-hour drive away and has some spectacular natural wonders for you to enjoy.
Some of the notable things to do in Waitomo are:
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves is one of New Zealand’s best natural attractions. For more than a century, this cave has been the most popular and well-known tourist attraction in the world due to the glowworm’s starry night illusions within the cave.
- Ruakuri Cave is one of the Waitomo area’s longest caves. It’s also famous for the glow worm experience.
- Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park provides an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with New Zealand’s native bird, the kiwi.
Day 6-7: Taranaki
Taranaki is the next stop on your North Island road trip and it’s a little more than 200 kilometers away from Waitomo.
Some of the notable things to do in Taranaki are:
- Visit Mount Taranaki, one of New Zealand’s most perfectly formed mountains, which formed around 120,000 years ago and last erupted in 1775. This park provides a variety of hiking opportunities, ranging from 15-minute hikes to a three-day hike.
- Pukekura Park, located near the heart of New Plymouth, has a variety of gardens and other entertainment facilities.
- Take a walk or ride your bike across Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, which is a popular landmark due to its unusual shape.
Day 8-9: Wellington
From Taranaki you’ll drive 4 ½ hours to New Zealand’s capital city.
Some of the notable things to do in Wellington are:
The Museum of New Zealand, also known as Te Papa Tongarewa, is New Zealand’s national museum and a must-see while in Wellington.
Ride the Wellington Cable Car to get a quick tour of some of the city’s most notable landmarks.
If you like Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, you should go to The Weta Cave. You’ll be able to see replica props from the film on which the Weta team worked, as well as an exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary.
Day 10: Tongariro National Park
From Wellington you’ll drive 330 kilometres to Tongariro National Park, the oldest national park in the country. Tongariro National Park has a variety of adventures and lodging options, allowing you to enjoy the iconic mountain tours, river rafting, and other activities without rushing through them in a single day.
Some of the notable things to do in Tongariro National Park are:
- Mountain Air is a scenic flight operation that will take you around Tongariro and Ngauruhoe in 15 minutes with the most beautiful views of the mountains’ “Sacred Peaks.”
- My Kiwi Adventure is a must-do tour for the many adventures trekking through Tongariro National Park.
Day 11-12: Rotorua
Your next stop will be Rotorua, which is famous for its geothermal activity and Maori culture and is about a two-hour drive from Tongariro National Park.
Some of the notable things to do in Tongariro National Park are:
- There are well-defined trails here where you can enjoy and take in the beauty of Wai-O-geothermal Tapu’s activity.
- Te Puia offers a day trip to see the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, as well as a viewing area for kiwi birds (New Zealand’s national bird). You will also be able to see the masters carving and weaving of Maori’s traditional arts.
- After all of your wild adventures, visit the Polynesian Spa for ultimate relaxation.
Day 13-14: Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula, the final stop on your North Island adventure, is a vast region with incredible natural beauty. It’ll take you a little bit more than 3 hours to get here from Rotorua.
Some of the notable things to do in Coromandel Peninsula are:
- Driving Creek is a one-stop shop for tourists, offering railway tours, zipline tours, pottery classes, and conservation tours.
- Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve is an excellent snorkelling location due to its diverse aquatic inhabitants.
- Karangahake Gorge has a scenic Hauraki Rail Trail that takes you through old gold mining tunnels and bridges with rich history.
- Owharoa Falls is a short walk that leads to the most beautiful waterfall nature has to offer.
- The Pinnacle provides a more advanced hiking trail that requires you to climb ladders and stairs to the top of the steep mountain.
Day 1-2: Christchurch
Starting your South Island road trip in Christchurch makes the most sense because it is the most cost-effective city to fly into. Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s largest and busiest cities. It is a vacationer’s paradise, brimming with architecture, scenic natural surroundings, art, and adventure. We recommend spending two days here to see as many attractions as possible.
Some of the notable things to do in Christchurch are:
- Explore The Christchurch Botanic Garden which has been one of the main attractions of the city since 1863. Spread across 21 hectares of land, it is home to ten gardens consisting of rare and exotic plant species from all over the world and over 250 different kinds of roses.
- Go Skydiving!
- Visit The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial
- Head over to Te Ahu Patiki/Mount Herbert
Day 3: Lake Tekapo
The first stop on your South Island road trip is Lake Tekapo. You will have to drive roughly 226 kilometres to get here.
Some of the notable things to do in Lake Tekapo are:
- The Church of the Good Shepherd is one of the main attractions in the area around Lake Tekapo. This small and quiet church was built to honour The Mackenzie Country’s pioneers. From here, the view of the Southern Alps and the lake is breathtaking.
- If you want to spend the night here, you can go stargazing. Lake Tekapo, which is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, has been designated as the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve.
- Lake Tekapo is also an excellent location for photographing lupins.
Day 4-5: Mount Cook
Drive 70 minutes from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki, where you can spend the day picnicking in front of the bright turquoise water. The drive from Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook Village is spectacular, with breathtaking scenery. Mount Cook National Park is a World Heritage Site, and you’ll have a great time exploring the glaciers, rivers, breathtaking mountain views, and hiking opportunities; it’s a must-see.
Some of the notable things to do in Mount Cook are:
- The Hooker Valley Track is a 3-hour return walk on a well-maintained trail that is accessible to people of all ages and abilities. On this walk, you can see landscapes, boardwalks, picturesque views of Mount Cook, and some suspension bridges.
- If you want to spend the night here and camp, there is also a campground called White Horse Hill Campground.
- You can hike up to Sealy Tarns and return in four hours to the lakes of Sealy Tarns, or you can hike up to Tasman Glacier’s viewpoint.
Day 5-6: Queenstown
Next you’ll head 260 kilometres from Mount Cook to Queenstown for a complete change of pace. Queenstown is known as New Zealand’s adventure capital because it is home to a variety of exciting activities such as jet boating, bungee jumping, white water rafting, skydiving, and a variety of indoor activities.
Some of the notable things to do in Queenstown are:
- Bungee jump or hike the Tiki Trail to the top.
- You can also go to the Shot Over River and do white water rafting or take a jet boat ride.
- Relax in the Onsen Hot Pools and enjoy the stunning views from the pool.
- Visit the lovely village of Arrowtown.
- Milford Sound is a popular day trip from Queenstown.
Day 7-8: Wanaka
Wanaka is about an hour’s drive away. Begin early in the morning so that you have the entire day to explore. There are a plethora of activities available to get your blood pumping for all you adventurers out there. In the summer, go canoeing, skydiving, jet-boating, and kayaking, and if you visit in the winter, don’t be disappointed because there are four very unique ski areas Cardrona, Treble Cone, Snow Farm, and Soho Basin all located within a 40-minute drive from the town centre for skiing and snowboarding.
Some of the notable things to do in Wanaka are:
- Roy’s Peak is a great place to go hiking. This is one of Wanaka’s most popular hikes, and the view from the top is well worth the effort.
- You can visit a variety of boutique retail stores, art galleries, and museums.
- There are also fantastic restaurants and cafes, vineyards, and boutique breweries to visit.
- Explore Lake Wanaka
- Wanaka Lavender Farm, which covers 20 acres of land with picturesque lavender fields and is only a few minutes from Wanaka, is a must-see.
Day 9-10: Franz Josef
To get to Franz Josef, you will have to drive 285 kilometres from Wanaka. We recommend staying at least two nights because there is so much to see and do.
Some of the notable things to do in Franz Josef are:
- Visit the Franz Josef Glacier Hot Pools, which have three Main Pools that wind their way through the rainforest and provide an incredible place to relax and rejuvenate in the midst of nature.
- You can take a helicopter ride over Franz Josef Glacier from here, which will provide you with a bird’s-eye view of the glacier.
- Glow Worms Nightwalk- If you want to see glow worms, go to The Terrace Walk, which is a dark forest covered path where you can see the beautiful glow worms here and there.
- Visit the West Coast Wildlife Centre to see the hatching and incubation of New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi!
Day 11: Westport
Drive from Franz Josef to Westport early in the morning, stopping at Hokitika Gorge along the way. The vivid turquoise water here will take your breath away. You can also go to Lake Matheson for some beautiful scenery. When you’re finished, return to Westport and spend the night.
Some of the notable things to do in Westport are:
- Visit art galleries.
- Walk around the Cape Foulwind Walkway for a spectacular view of a seal colony.
- Stargaze at North Beach, where people are known to build small bonfires at the end of North Beach Road and toast marshmallows while enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.
Day 12-13: Hanmer Springs
The final stop on your South Island journey is Hanmer Springs, a resort town famous for its Thermal Pools. It takes roughly 2h 45m to get from Westport to Hanmer Springs.
Some of the notable things to do in Hanmer Springs are:
- There are several outdoor pools at The Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa that cater to both children and adults, including Rainbow Pools, Aqua Therapy Pools, and Sulphur Pools.
- When you’re here, you can also go for some forest walks.
- Exploring the Alpine Adventure Holiday Park, which is spread across 22 acres of tree-lined land, can be a lot of fun as well.
Author Bio: This article was written by GAFFL. GAFFL connects solo travellers around the world with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travellers who are going there at the same time as you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.
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