The ultimate guide to campervanning in New Zealand
Campervanning in New Zealand is on a lot of traveller's bucket list. Locals call New Zealand God’s own country, and a visit will show you why. The Kiwi countryside got plenty of press thanks to the Lord of the Rings films, and it is truly beautiful. Forests, rugged coastlines, dramatic mountain ranges with snow-capped peaks, New Zealand has it all.
New Zealand also has plenty of urban attractions in cities such as Wellington and Auckland, and there are all kinds activities to try out on the country’s north and south islands.
A popular way to see this amazing part of the world is by campervan. It gives you the freedom to go where you like when you like, and of course, you can travel at your own pace, as well as pulling over and camp in just about any spot you fancy (within reason, check out info about (freedom) camping). But where should you go, what should do and what do you need to know to go campervanning in New Zealand? Here’s the ultimate guide for your epic Kiwi road trip.
Where to go and what to do there
There's so much to do and see in New Zealand. To see it all you'll have to stay for a super long time. Even we haven't seen it all and keep discovering new things. Here are some must-see places in New Zealand and stuff you can do there.
Although it is not the capital Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand. It’s a good spot for food, drink and nightlife. The show never stops in Auckland. There are numerous activities you can have a go at in Auckland too, such as:
- Bungee jump at one of the world’s first jumps – AJ Hackett invented bungee jumping and the jump in Auckland – from a bridge into the harbour – is one of the first ever set up.
- Scuba dive the Hauraki Reef – You can scuba dive, boat, sail and fish at the Hauraki Reef, where there is a fantastic array of sea life.
- Ascend the Sky Tower – This tower is 1000 feet tall and the highest in the southern hemisphere. At the top, you can enjoy panoramic views over the entire city.
- Visit the Waitakere Ranges – This is a great trip to make in a campervan, as Waitakere Ranges offers beaches, greenery and gorgeous waterfalls.
- Check out the North shore – This is the main beach area in Auckland, so a top spot to bask in the sun and enjoy the buzzing nightlife.
- Enjoy a free open air movie, yummy street food or shop at the vintage markets at Silo Park.
More things to do and see in or around Auckland or when you're ready to go campervanning in New Zealand to explore the rest of the country: our suggested itineraries. Or keep reading for more road trip inspiration.
Bay of Islands
The Bay of Islands is a well-frequented tourist region on the North Island and well worth a visit in your motorhome. The best things to do and see here are as follows…
- Go horse riding – If you’re a fan of horse riding this is the place to do it. You can ride through the surf as it laps onto the golden sands for an experience to remember.
- Bask on the beach – The Bay of Islands has some of the most amazing coastline and weather in the world, so take some time to lie back and relax in the sun.
- Go dolphin watching – Boat tours take you out to see dolphins leaping from the ocean, and for an extra charge you can swim with them.
- Visit Rainbow Falls – A three-mile hike will take you from Kerikeri to the impressive Rainbow Falls, so-called because often you can see a rainbow formed at the pool below the falls.
The Garden City, as it is known, has been likened to a Victorian English town, thanks to its sculpted parks and gardens. If you cruise up to Christchurch you can do any of the following…
- Check out a festival – Christchurch is a festival centre, with something going on just about every month.
- Visit Cathedral Square – The city’s central square is home to markets, fairs and locals and tourists alike milling around. The cathedral itself is currently closed due to damage sustained in an earthquake.
- Go on the gondola – Explore Christchurch in a Venetian fashion on the gondola rides which cruise through the suburbs giving you a unique view of what’s going on.
- Discover Canterbury Museum – This is a great place to find out about Kiwi history, with exhibitions of Maori and natural history artefacts, as well as an Antarctic exploration display.
Want more? Check out: 7 Fab Things to Do on a Budget in Christchurch
Franz Josef is a town and glacier with the same name, which was first explored in the 19th century and which draws lots of travellers still today. If you pull up at Franz Josef in your campervan, here is what you can get up to.
- Try heli-hiking – Get dropped in remote parts of the glacier to experience hiking that is not available to those who start at the bottom.
- Go white water rafting on the Whataroa and Perth Rivers – This is a great day out in the summer, on which you can tackle the rapids and watch the verdant forest float by.
- Bathe in the glacier hot pools – There are several outdoor thermals pools that you can dip in, which is a real luxury after a day’s hard hiking.
Nelson is known as the sunniest place in New Zealand, so it is understandably popular. This is great news anyone planning to go campervanning in New Zealand, but what can you do once you arrive?
- Go to Abel Tasman National Park – Full of fern trees, hidden coves, beaches and azure blue waters, Abel Tasman Park is an ideal day out in Nelson. You can stay at The Barn a great camping ground with a variety of accommodation right at the start of the Abel Tasman Track.
- Visit the Miyazu Japanese Garden – Nelson is twinned with Miyazu in Japan, hence this gorgeous, serene space which is ideal for contemplation.
- Enjoy a wine tour – There are over 20 wineries near Nelson, so why not park up and tour them, trying the best local wines.
Queenstown is on the South Island and is a stunning city, surrounded by mountains with a vast lake. It has lots for travellers to do as well, such as:
- Take in the sights on a helicopter – The best way to see what Queenstown has to offer is on a helicopter tour, on which you can see The Remarkables Mountains, the rainforest and alpine lakes.
- Ski or snowboard – In winter Queenstown is a popular spot for skiing and snowboarding (the Kiwi winter is from June to August; more info about winter in New Zealand).
- Ride on the Shotover Jet – This is an ultra fast speedboat which takes you around the local lakes at high speed -a great activity for adrenaline junkies.
There are of course lots more places that are well worth visiting in New Zealand, such as Rotorua, Taupo, Waitomo and Wellington. See our suggested itineraries for more road trip inspiration. Your best bet is to hit the road and see where it takes you.
Hit the road: go campervanning in New Zealand
You should now have plenty of information to be able to plan an epic campervanning road trip in New Zealand. It is a beautiful country full of natural attractions and vibrant towns and cities, so start planning your Kiwi campervan road trip now.