50 Top Sites to Visit on a Motorhome Road Trip Around New Zealand.

50 Fantastic Places to Visit On Your Campervan Holiday to New Zealand.

If you think that you will see the highlights of New Zealand in under a month, then think again.  These are just the main sites that travellers try to fit in on their visit to New Zealand.

Although New Zealand is not a vast country it does have an extreme variety of geological features from glaciers and fjiords to volcanoes and thermal areas and everything in between.

There are so many things to see and do in New Zealand in your campervan that it’s impossible to list them all. Of course, there are the main ones, such as Rotorua, or visiting “Middle Earth”, but don’t forget that New Zealand has so much more to offer. You will not miss the breathtaking beaches,   lakes,  mountains and  farmland. Here are our Top 50 sites you must not miss!

Kayak the Sounds.

Milford Sound kayaking.

Milford Sound a Top Site in New Zealand. Definitely don’t miss visiting here.1. Boat Trip Down Milford Sound: Amazing, even in the rain when the waterfalls pour off the hills that edge the Sound. The scale of the landscape is phenomenal.

Mt Cook view.

Mt Cook New Zealand’s Highest point.  Cycle paths are extensive throughout the country.

2. Scenic Flight Over Mt Cook:  Even the people who slog through the snow to get there don’t get such a view.

Dolphins in Kaikoura New Zealand

Swim with dolphins in Kaikoura New Zealand.

3. Kaikoura: The Dolphin Encounter lets you swim with or watch the delightfully exuberant dusky dolphin. Don’t be surprised to see whales off this beautiful coastline either.

Sunrise at East Cape, New Zealand.

The first place in the world to see the sunrise.

Be the first in the world to see the sun come up.

4. The East Cape Road: Journey back in time as you travel this remote highway in your motorhome and see wild horses, stunning coastline, Maori culture and empty beaches. It’s also the first place in the world to see the sun.

Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand.

Skippers Canyon road. Not for the feint hearted.

You’ll have to let someone else drive you along this spectacular road!

5. Skippers Canyon: Relive the pioneer days as you travel to an old gold-mining area via a treacherous road, and bring yourself back to reality with a bungy jump! Rental vehicles aren’t allowed on this track, so leave the campervan behind and do a 4WD safari.

Fjiordland, New Zealand.

Visit fjiordland in New Zealand.

6. Fiordland: Even better on a wet day (not hard, as it’s the rainiest place in New Zealand) – a living set of Lord of the Rings. Some would say it’s the ultimate must-see.

Pancake Rocks, New Zealand.

Pancake Rocks, New Zealand’s South Island on the West Coast.

These rocks are stunning. Make it a place to stop for lunch and just explore.

7. Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki: These thirty-million-year-old limestone formations on the South Island’s west coast are huge and look like sky-high stacks of grey pancakes.

Queen-Charlotte-Sounds in the north of the South Island.

Queen-Charlotte-Sounds in the north of the South Island.

8. Queen Charlotte Sound: Take your campervan on a scenic loop from Picton to the little fishing village of Havelock to admire the bush-clad sounds and indulge in green-lipped mussels.

Franz Josef Glacier. West coast of the South Island, New Zealand.

Franz Josef Glacier. West coast of the South Island, New Zealand.

Ever walked on a glacier or through one?

9. Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers: One of the few places on earth you’ll see glaciers this close to the ocean, creeping down from the Southern Alps.

Hamilton-Gardens-TeParapara

Hamilton-Gardens-TeParapara, middle of the North Island, New Zealand.

10. Hamilton Gardens: Stretched along the banks of the Waikato River, this  143-acre reserve contains an English herb garden, an Italian Renaissance garden, a Japanese contemplation garden and scented gardens.

blue-lake-new-zealand

Blue Lake, New Zealand.

11. Blue and Green Lakes, Rotorua: From the redwood forest on the edge of town, past the Blue and Green Lakes to the Buried Village and Lake Tarawera, definitely worth a three day stop.

Tamaki_Drive

Tamaki_Drive

This is the commute that some Aucklander’s take every day. Jealous?

12. Auckland’s Waterfront: Drive from downtown along the curving seaside Tamaki Drive to Mission Bay for a fabulous view of the North Shore, Rangitoto and Browns Island plus a peek at Auckland’s cafe culture. A good place to park up the campervan and get the bus back into town. Visit Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater world too.

Hicks-Bay-New-Zealand

Hicks-Bay-New-Zealand

13. Hicks Bay: Stop at the high point above Hicks Bay before you descend into Te Araroa to see New Zealand’s largest Pohutukawa tree and the East Cape Lighthouse.

Wellington, Kelburn Cable Car

Wellington, Kelburn Cable Car

14. Wellington’s Kelburn Cable Car: Catch the  red cable car to the Botanical Gardens which have great sea views.

Sky Tower, Auckland.

Sky Tower, Auckland. The Tallest Building in the Southern Hemisphere.

15. Sky Tower, Auckland: The best city view not only in New Zealand, but in the whole Southern Hemisphere. Enjoy 360 degree views of Auckland and walk over glass floors to test your courage. Dare you to do the jump!

Hundertwasser Toilets, Kawakawa

Hundertwasser Toilets, Kawakawa

16. Hundertwasser Toilets, Kawakawa: Hold on until Kawakawa to have your most memorable public toilet experience ever! Designed by ecologist, architect and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, they feature quirky copper handwork, sculptures, mosaics and tufts of grass on the roof.

Cape Reinga, at the very top of the North Island.

Cape Reinga, at the very top of the North Island.

17. Cape Reinga: The windswept northernmost tip of New Zealand, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. It’s marked by a lighthouse and a pohutukawa tree that holds great Maori spiritual significance.

Moeraki Boulders on the east coast of the South Island.

Moeraki Boulders on the east coast of the South Island.

18. Moeraki Boulders, Otago: Hundreds of huge spherical stones, some up to four metres wide, are strewn along the beach for a truly magical sight. Their formation was much like that of an oyster pearl, only on a much larger scale! It is an easy stop to make. Park up, make tea and explore. Great photo-stop.

Mt Taranaki. West coast of the North island.

Mt Taranaki. West coast of the North island.

19. Mt Taranaki: All year around this mountain is a spectacular site.

Mount Maunganui, east coast of the North Island.

Mount Maunganui, east coast of the North Island.

20. Mt Maunganui: A favourite holiday spot for Kiwis thanks to its golden bay and busy beach culture in summer. Trek 45 minutes to the summit of “The Mount” for a great view of the Bay of Plenty.

Albatross Dunedin

Albatross Dunedin

21. Dunedin: A must is to visit the albatross colony. A rare opportunity to get up close to these amazing birds. A university city with strong Scottish heritage, it’s also New Zealand’s oldest city. The museum is worth a visit.

Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Auckland War Memorial Museum.

22. Auckland War Memorial Museum has the largest Maori and Polynesian section in the world. Try to see the daily Poi dance.

Eastwoodhill Arboretum

Eastwoodhill Arboretum on the east coast of the North Island.

23. Eastwoodhill Arboretum: Situated near Gisborne and said to be one of the most magical places in the country, this is one man’s life’s work and contains over 3,500 species. The colours are particularly amazing in autumn.

Nugget Point, South Island

Nugget Point, South Island

24. Nugget Point: You may not have seen another human for hours by the time you get there. From the wild, windswept Catlins promontory you’ll see seals, penguins and seabirds galore.

Rangitoto Island, Auckland

Rangitoto Island, Auckland

Visit a Dormant Volcano in Auckland.

25. Rangitoto Island that can be seen from the Auckland shores. Created by a volcanic eruption around 600 years ago, this dormant volcano is accessible by ferry from Auckland and offers a walk through forested wilderness to the cone’s tip to view the city from a new angle. Park your campervan up for the day and enjoy some time off the road.

26. Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua: The NZ Tourism Awards Supreme Winner in 1998, this recreation of an ancient Maori village shows Maori life pre-European settlers. Learn about the culture and eat from a traditional hangi (dug-out ground oven).

Treat yourself to a day of fun at Puzzling World in Wanaka.

27. Puzzling World, Wanaka: After experiencing the huge maze, the Illusion Rooms, the Forced Perspective Room and the Tilted House, you may never view the world the same again! A family attraction with a difference.

Geothermal activity in Taupo:

28. Craters of the Moon, Taupo: Named for its other-worldly atmosphere, this 30-minute walk through a geothermal park gives you amazing views of bubbling craters, mud pools and steam vents from well-formed pathways and elevated viewing platforms.

29. Horse riding at Pakiri Beach: A fabulous nature experience. Ride through native bush, over rolling farmland and down to Pakiri Beach with views out to the islands. Check your campervan hire company’s terms and conditions as some roads around Pakiri are unsealed.

There’s gold in them thar hills and…Arrowtown.

30. Arrowtown: After checking out the arts and crafts and local wineries in this quaint town, take a walk to view fantastic views, historic places, or relics from the gold rush of the 1860s. Pan for gold.

31. Marlborough Sounds: A stretch of deep coves and remote bays surrounded by native forest, this is a lush wilderness full of rare birds, dolphins, penguins and seals, as well as an array of pursuits such as fishing, diving, kayaking and hiking.

32. White Island: New Zealand’s only active marine volcano is accessible by boat off the coast of Whakatane. You’ll see steaming tunnels and sheer cliff faces, a crystal blue crater lake covered in white mist, and the eerie ruins of an old factory.

33. Auckland’s West Coast: Just a short drive from the city lies a native rainforest and rugged wild coastline flanked by the Waitakere Ranges, formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. These also created the distinctive black sand at these famed beaches such as Piha, Muriwai, Karekare and Bethell’s.

34. Abel Tasman National Park: Located at the top of the South Island, this park features golden sandy beaches, rocky granite outcrops and the world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track. If you don’t make it to the track, hiring kayaks at Motueka will make for a very memorable experience.

35. The Putangirua Pinnacles: This trek can be done in a day, but it is recommended to stay overnight in the hut. Climb to the peak and see 360 degree views of the Coromandel Peninsula, the Hauraki Gulf, the Bay of Plenty and the Hauraki Plains.

36. Stewart Island: New Zealand’s third-largest Island is accessible from Bluff over Foveaux Strait. It’s a tramper’s paradise, a stunning ecological sanctuary and extremely peaceful. You’ve got a good chance of spotting a kiwi in the bush here.

37. Queenstown: Mountains and lakes provide the backdrop to New Zealand’s adventure capital. Go white water rafting, bungy jumping, skydiving, jet boating or “zorbing”, where you’re rolled down a grassy hill in an inflatable clear plastic ball. Skiing and snowboarding capital in the winter months.

38. Napier: A huge earthquake in 1931 and the subsequent rebuilding made it one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world. Sip delicious Hawke’s Bay wines amongst the architecture, and check out the huge Art Deco weekend if you’re there in February.

39. Te Papa: One of the largest national museums in the world, this giant  structure on Wellington’s waterfront is said to be five years ahead of its time. A magical interpretation of New Zealand’s bicultural heritage, you could spend all day here.

40. Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens: Christchurch is known as “The Garden City”, so this place has a lot to live up to – and does. Weeping cherries, daffodils, bluebells and huge oaks capture Christchurch’s distinctly English flavour.

41. The Milford Road: Called one of the best drives in the world, it offers primeval rainforest, mirror-like lakes, waterfalls, colourful moss and lichens and snowy sheer mountain faces, as well as the slightly daunting historic Homer Tunnel.

42. Waiheke Island: 35 minute’s ferry away from Auckland, Waiheke boasts a sub-tropical climate, 100kms of biscuit-coloured beaches, award-winning wineries, galleries and museums and a strong sense of island community. Although there is a car ferry, you will not be able to take your rental campervan across to Waiheke – and you won’t have to as there are buses, taxis and car rentals.

43. Tongariro National Park: New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage area, a status which recognises the park’s important Maori cultural and spiritual associations.

44. Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola: The steepest lift in the Southern Hemisphere, this cableway will take you to Bob’s peak for some clean crisp mountain air and unsurpassed views of The Remarkables and Lake Whatipu. Don’t forget to bob-sleigh!

45. Lake Taupo: New Zealand’s (and the Southern Hemisphere’s) largest lake, it offers swimming, wakeboarding, waterskiing, boating and more, next to a laid-back little town. You can also snow ski, mountain bike, hike and trout fish in the area.

46. Auckland: Sometimes seen as just a landing port, Auckland is worth staying in for a few days to experience fantastic specialty shopping, exciting nightlife and attractions such as the Harbour Bridge Climb and Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World. Just keep your campervan roadtrip outside rush hour traffic on the motorway!

47. Te Puke: The self-proclaimed “world kiwifruit capital”, this is evident by a giant kiwifruit sculpture.

Bay of Islands:

48. Paihia: The gateway to the balmy Bay of Islands and close to the scene of some of New Zealand’s most poignant history. A great base to jump on a boat and explore the 144 islands and see some amazing marine life.

49. Waitomo Caves: Take a journey underground  discover an underground labyrinth of limestone caves.  Take a cave eco-tour to see thousands of glow worms, or go black water rafting – not for the feint-hearted!

A must to stop and visit …

50. Cathedral Cove: Accessible from the northern end of Hahei beach or a track from the carpark, the beautiful sandy beach of Catherdral Cove is separated from Gemstone Bay and Stingray Bay by a stunning natural rock arch. Kayak the cove.

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About Mary Galbraith

I have worked with campervan and motorhome companies for nearly 20 years hiring out vehicles on their behalf and run two sites www.campervans.com and www.budgetcampervans.com.

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