Make it the best New Zealand road trip with Scott's tips

Moeraki builders road trip Scott

Posted on 07/11/2016 by Scott

Hey it's Scott's New Zealand road trip tips

Hey, check out my New Zealand road trip tips

Hey, I’m Scott. After spending 5 months in Melbourne, I did 2 months of travel around Australia and New Zealand, of which 36 days were spent exploring New Zealand (September 2016).

For me, a campervan was the best option to see the best sights in New Zealand. In the 5 weeks, I planned to drive all over both the South and North Island. Where possible I wanted to stay in free campsites or relatively cheap ones.

I was pretty successful in sticking to this plan, with a few interesting campground experiences. Below you'll find the places I recommend visiting when going for a road trip in New Zealand. I've rated these from 1 star (mweh) to 5 stars (must see).

South Island highlights

Most people I spoke to describe the South as the most impressive. I would have to agree to a certain level. I spent equal time on both islands but should have spent more on the South. However, the weather was not on my side on the North Island.

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In the itinerary below, you can find all the most memorable things to do and see in a particular area.

From Christchurch to Dunedin

(all attractions and sights are rated on a scale of 1 (mweh) to 5 stars (must-see))

  • 4*: View the destruction from the earthquake damage and the regeneration process.
  • 3*: Re:Start Mall which is made up of containers, with a range of shops and cafes.
  • 4*: The botanical gardens are also worth a visit and a good picnic spot.
  • 3*: RAF Museum which was free and had some interesting displays.
  • 4*: Christchurch Gondola for stunning views.
  • 4*: Take the scenic route via Lyttelton onto the Banks Peninsula.
  • 3*: Oamaru for a break from driving to admire the historic building by the dock.
  • 5*: Moeraki and the boulders on the beach, slightly North of Dunedin. On a sunny day this is a great photo spot with the huge round boulders.
Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

From Dunedin to Queenstown

  • 4*: Lunch in Dunedin and explore the historic buildings and museums.
  • 5*: Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only ‘castle’. Beautifully restored home and well worth a visit even just for the views from the turret.
  • 2*: See the penguins and albatross if you time it right on Otago Peninsula (I did not).
  • 5*: Lake Te Anau (Gateway to Milford Sounds).

Queenstown to Greymouth

(all attractions and sights are rated on a scale of 1 (mweh) to 5 stars (must-see))

  • 5*: Walk up to the top Gondola station (or cheat) for amazing views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatpu.
  • 3*: The luge
  • 4*: Arrowtown (Chinese settlement) ~ great walks from here and little shops to explore.
  • 5*: Lake Wanaka.
  • 5*: Lake Wanaka Skydive.
  • 4*: Mt Cook National Park.
  • 5*: Hooker Valley walk (icebergs in lake at end).
  • 5*: Fox Glacier.
  • 4*: Franz Josef Glacier.
  • 3*: Hokitika Gorge.

From Greymouth to Blenheim

  • 5*: Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.
  • 5*: Ghost Road (access from Seddonville).
  • 5*: Buller Gorge Suspension Bridge.
  • 5*: Waiuta abandoned village.
  • 5*: Drive over Lewis Pass (stop at St James Walkway car park).
  • 3*: Hanmer Springs (Five Stags for Lunch).
  • 4*: Coastal Drive to Blenheim.
  • 5*: Ohau Waterfall walk (baby seals).

From Blenheim to Wellington

(all attractions and sights are rated on a scale of 1 (mweh) to 5 stars (must-see))

  • 3*: Nelson (centre of NZ monument walk).
  • 5*: World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars.
  • 4*: Abel Tasman National Park.
  • 3*: Collingwood.
  • 5*: Marlborough Sounds.
  • 5*: Picton (Victoria Domain walk).
  • 4*: Interislander ferry.

North Island road trip

Unfortunately, the weather was not on my side on the North Island. The typical phrase of “it’s like Wales” does come to mind when driving around the rolling green hills. Despite the weather, I still managed a number of scenic drives and walks.

From Wellington to New Plymouth

  • 3*: Wellington Te Papa Museum.
  • 3*: Southward Car Museum.
  • 2*: Stratford
  • 3*: Mt Taranaki.

From New Plymouth to Taupo

  • 5*: Forgotten Highway.
  • 5*: Mt. Damper Falls.
  • 4*: Ohura Falls.
  • 4*: Lake Taupo.
  • 3*: Mt Ruapehu.
  • 4*: Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
  • 5*: Ohakune Old Coach Road and Hapuawhenua Viaduct (more info).
  • 4*: Horopito Vintage Car Yard.
Ohakune Old Coach Road

Ohakune Old Coach Road

From Taupo to Gisborne

(all attractions and sights are rated on a scale of 1 (mweh) to 5 stars (must-see))

  • 3*: Napier.
  • 3*: Te Mata lookout.
  • 3*: Rere Falls.

From Gisbourne to Rotorua

  • 3*: Tolaga Bay Wharf (longest in NZ)
  • 4*: East Cape Lighthouse (most easterly point in NZ).

From Rotorua to Hamilton

  • Lake Rotorua
  • Government Gardens
  • Redwood forests
  • Mt Maunganui climb
  • Waitomo glow worm caves

From Hamilton to Auckland

  • Hamilton Gardens
  • Wairere Falls
  • Coromandel Peninsula
  • Cathedral Cove

Auckland, Bay of Islands and Northland

  • Auckland Zoo
  • Auckland War Memorial Museum
  • Waitakere black sand beach
  • Muriwai Gannet Colony
  • Whangarei
  • Kerikeri Stone Store
  • Waipoua Forest and the Kauri Giants

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