Your free guide to the ultimate New Zealand road trip from Christchurch to Auckland
Posted on 05/01/2020 by Spaceships Crew
New Zealand is home to some of the most incredible landscapes on the planet. The North Island and the South Island both have so much to offer. Although a lot of travellers probably don't give the North Island the love and attention it deserves. This Christchurch to Auckland road trip itinerary will help you to enjoy the best of both worlds. And it'll change your mind about the North Island.
Christchurch: the ever-changing city
And the starting point of your ultimate New Zealand road trip. Enjoy the garden city for a few days first. There is a lot to see, especially because the city keeps changing due to the rebuilding process. New buildings, funky bars and heaps of other things keep popping up. It's a pleasure to spend a few days in Christchurch.
Or go straight to the Spaceships depot and hit the road. It's totally up to you. We can understand you're eager to start the ultimate road trip from Christchurch to Auckland. Here's the route you should follow to experience heaps and see it all.
Swim with Hector's Dolphins near Akaroa
Situated on the shores of the Banks Penninsula, 85 kilometres from your starting point Christchurch, the quaint village of Akaroa has streets lined with cafes, art galleries, and craft shops.
The views of the bays and harbour are breathtaking, and you can get up close and personal with the marine life on a sea-kayaking safari. Explore the Pohatu Marine Reserve by kayak to observe dolphins, colonies of seals, and little penguins in their natural habitats.
Akaroa is also home to rare Hector's dolphins. These charismatic creatures are known for their distinct black markings, rounded dorsal fins, and small size. Grab a wetsuit and snorkel, and go swimming with the dolphins for an unforgettable experience. More info about swimming with dolphins and other things to do in Akaroa.
Get a bird's eye view of Kaikoura
The Seaward Kaikoura Range meets the Pacific Ocean to create a stunning backdrop for hiking, whale watching, and encountering native wildlife.
Spend the day on or above the water whale watching and you'll see Giant Sperm Whales, New Zealand Fur Seals, and playful pods of Dusky Dolphins.
For a truly unique experience, board a helicopter and enjoy a birds-eye view of migrating whale pods.
Once you're back on dry land, dine on fresh-caught crayfish and visit the Fyffe House, the oldest building in Kaikoura, to learn about the region's whaling history.
Feel your stress melt away at Hanmer Springs
Hanmer Springs is a must-see destination on any Christchurch to Auckland road trip. Brave the white water rapids of the Waiau River in a jet boat, bungee jump off of the historic Ferry Bridge, or ride a quad through the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Canterbury region.
After a day of adventure, relax in the world-famous Thermal Pools in Hamner Springs. Imagine breathing in the brisk alpine air, and listening to the sound of cascading waterfalls, while you soak in the mineral-rich waters of the thermal pools. It's as amazing as it sounds.
Have a tipple in Greymouth
The Pancake Rocks are more than just a bunch of rocks shaped like pancakes; they are also a natural wonder 30 million years in the making. As the limestone rock was slowly eroded by seawater, a series of verticle blowholes formed. It takes less than 45 minutes to walk the trail, and there are plenty of amazing photo opportunities along the way. The Pancake Rocks are most impressive at high tide, so plan accordingly.
Want to enjoy a proper Kiwi beer? Greymouth is home to Monteith's Brewing Company, New Zealand's favourite brewery. Take the brewery tour that starts in the aptly named Beertopia Room, or skips the tour and sip Monteith's Crushed Apple Cider by a crackling fire at Monteith's tapas-style restaurant.
Embrace your inner thrill-seeker in Nelson
If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, you are going to love Abel Tasman National Park. Skydive, hang glide or go canyoning to see the most remote parts of this picturesque national park. If freefalling out of a plane at 200 km/h isn't your cup of tea, explore the golden sand beaches and mature forests of the Abel Tasman Coast Track on foot.
Hop on the scenic ferry From Picton to Wellington
The Cook Strait Ferry is more than just a mode of transportation; it's also a great opportunity to take in the scenery. Be on the lookout for whales and other marine life.
Are you travelling in one of our campervans? No worries, campervans can travel safely & cheaply via Bluebridge's Cook Strait Ferry. Cheap as a Spaceships campervan classifies as they smallest vehicle (<5.5 in length). And you can add a pre-paid open-dated ferry ticket to your booking, See for more info about the ferry crossing.
Pub hop through Wellington
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and it is often referred to as "the coolest little capital in the world" or "Windy Wellington". Learn about the art, culture, and history of New Zealand at the interactive Te Papa Museum (it's free to enter, but a donation is appreciated).
Wellington is also the craft beer capital of New Zealand. Head out on an impromptu pub crawl and visit some of the Kiwis' favourite spots for a tipple. Visit the Garage Project brewery or taproom... Or go for craft beer pubs like Hashigo Zake, Hop Garden or The Malt House.
Ascend an active volcano in New Plymouth
Egmont National Park is home to Mount Taranaki (also known as Mount Egmont), an active stratovolcano. Hike through the varied landscapes surrounding Mount Taranaki to see waterfalls, rainforests, and swamps.
Mt. Taranaki is worth a visit year-round: great for hiking in summer and perfect for skiing in winter.
The Forgotten World Highway to Taupo
Enjoy the surreal views from the Forgotten World Highway. Hit the road early so you'll have ample time to stop for pictures along the way.
Hike, fish, and mountain bike along the shores of Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is actually the caldera of a volcano, and the geothermal activity in the area results in some amazing sights.
Enjoy the art and wine of Napier
The coastal city of Napier is known for its art deco landmarks and world-renowned wineries. Love art deco? Then make sure to visit Napier during the famous Art Deco Festival.
Catch some waves in Gisborne
Gisborne boasts miles of uncrowded beaches that are perfect for catching waves. Expert surfers love The Island and Wainui Beach. Beginners should head over to Waikanae or Sponge Bay. See for more info about Gisborne.
Rotorua and the Geothermal Highway
Rotorua is a hotbed (pun intended) for geothermal activity. Bubbling mud pools, a geyser that erupts 30 meters into the air, and neon-coloured lakes are just some of the attractions that draw people from around the world to Rotorua.
After a day of exploring, learn about the Maori culture and visit a living Maori village.
Enjoy the sun and surf in Tauranga
Mount Maunganui and Papamoa Beach are regularly ranked as some of the best beaches in the world. Swim, surf, and sunbathe at these lifeguard-patrolled beaches.
Have a soak in Coromandel
Spend the last day of your journey relaxing, in your own natural hot pool, at Hot Water Beach. Accessible at low tide, two fissures release water as hot as 64C (147F). Spades for hire are available from nearby stores.
Whether you are a native Kiwi or just visiting for a short while, a Christchurch to Auckland road trip is something everyone should experience at least once.
Last stop on the ultimate road trip: Auckland
Or if you would like to continue the ultimate road trip from Christchurch to Auckland, then don't stop at Auckland but keep driving to Bay of Islands, Northland, Cape Reinga etc. A trip that is covered in our North of Auckland in 5 days post.
If it is the end of your road trip, the Spaceships Auckland depot is close to the city and the airport. Drop off your vehicle and have a great time in Auckland, the city where the show never stops.
Christchurch to Auckland route map
Download the route map or sent it straight to your phone, so you'll know exactly where to go on this ultimate road trip from Christchurch to Auckland.
Latest blog posts in New Zealand road trip inspiration
How to make it a cheap and fun visa run to New Zealand (from Australia)
Call it a visa run or a short holiday, the outcome is the same: having a great time in New Zealand (for a few days or...
How to get close to the action at the Rally of New Zealand
It’s back. The WRC Rally of New Zealand is back. It’s been 8 years since the last time this amazing rally event took place in New...
10 awesome things to do in Auckland: the fun never stops here
Auckland is the largest, and one of the most vibrant cities in New Zealand, and with a third of the population of New Zealand living here,...
The best country in the world for an awesome road trip is... New Zealand
Have you ever wondered which is the best country in the world for road trips? There are a million different ways to rank countries including affordability,...