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 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.
2. Scenic Flight Over Mt Cook: Even the people who slog through the snow to get there don’t get such a view.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
14. Wellington’s Kelburn Cable Car: Catch the red cable car to the Botanical Gardens which have great sea views.
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!
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.
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.
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.19. Mt Taranaki: All year around this mountain is a spectacular site.
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.
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.
22. Auckland War Memorial Museum has the largest Maori and Polynesian section in the world. Try to see the daily Poi dance.
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.
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.
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.
How Pete’s Dragon sees New Zealand Pete’s Dragon in New Zealand.
If you are going to New Zealand to Ski or Snowboard. Rent a campervan. You can collect a sleeper car, a camper, a luxury motorhome from Auckland and drive south to Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu if you want to ski in the north island of New Zealand.
Check out the latest mountain conditions here.Mt Ruapehu Mountain conditions.
Skiing in the South Island of New Zealand.
Fly in directly to Queenstown and drive to the famous Cardrona ski slopes and park up on the mountain to access the main ski areas.
Check out the ski conditions here. Cardrona New Zealand ski conditions.
Fly into Christchurch and Mt Hutt is only an hour’s drive away. Access to the ski slopes is good by campervan or motorhome and you can park a long way up the mountain to get close to the ski-lifts and be skiing in a short time.
Book a luxury campervan, motorhome or sleeper car www.campervans.com
Rent a campervan or motorhome in New Zealand as your base for skiing New Zealand. All your gear can be stored in the big garage under the rear of the vehicle.
Hot showers on board. Cook hearty meals and get a good night’s sleep on the edge of the ski slopes. It doesn’t get better than that.
Best Holiday checklist for a Camper Van or Motorhome Road Trip.
Do you always forget something important when you go on holiday? We have a list that will make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Email me if I have missed something: firstname.lastname@example.org
Holiday Packing List:
- Driving Licence. This is so important when renting a campervan or car.
- Credit Card. An essential part of travelling You will not be able to rent a campervan or car without a credit card in your own name as driver. Also note that the credit amount on the card needs to be sufficient to cover the excess on the campervan rental or car hire insurance.
- Travel insurance take a copy with you and leave one at your home. Email it to yourself.
- Passport and/or identification card, visa(s) Make a note of your details and leave a copy at home. Email a copy to yourself.
- Travel Confirmation documents and vouchers including booking reference numbers for campervan hire, car hire, hotel bookings, trip bookings, excursions
- boarding pass
- train or bus ticket
- Oyster card or other travel card
- Address book. Back up on laptop/phone or memory stick
- Addresses of campervan rental depots, car hire depots, hotel addresses and all addresses of where you intend to be on your itinerary. Take a copy of your itinerary. Store it on the cloud or on drop box or Google docs etc.
- Directions to where you are collecting your campervan/car and how you are going to get there. Many companies offer transfers to their hotel or vehicle depot. It is important to know how to get to where you are going to collect your camper or car. The options include a shuttle from the airport/hotel/train station or public transport or taxi. Check out the costs before you leave home.
- Taxi Fare Calculator
- Cash (incl. foreign currency) check out currency cards
- Maps, guide books, GPS. Download the appropriate country update for your device.
- Enable international roaming on your phone. Check the rates that your phone supplier charges for the countries you are travelling to. It may be cheaper to buy a local sim card when you arrive at your destination.
- Event tickets
- Notebook, pen
- glasses and glasses case
- contact lens and contact lens solution
Set up a blog
Setting up a blog before you leave home on WordPress or Tumblr means that you can upload your trip details and photographs to the blog. The media library will store all your photographs securely and act as a back up in the event of loss or damage to sd cards etc.
Store your itinerary and contact details here so that only you can view them or share the link with a limited number of friends or family. Useful if you lose your phone, notebook or laptop.
When you Leave Home Checklist:
- Lock doors, windows, garage.
- Leave keys and itinerary with a friend.
- Stop routine deliveries – milk, newspapers, mail.
- Turn down thermostat.
- Arrange for pet and plant care.
- Pre-book taxi.
- Arrange for pets to be fed or housed.
- Pre-book airport parking.
Luggage and belongings:
Take Soft baggage – to store easily if renting a campervan or motorhome.
Clothing for a summer holiday:
Take only what you will need for 5 days. You will be able to launder your clothes regularly and in the event that you have forgotten something or mis-calculated the expected temperature so you need to buy either warmer or cooler clothes. There are shops.
- Sweatshirt/cardigan/light jacket for cool evenings (can be worn to travel in)
- Scarf/overshirt – can be used for warmth in the evenings or as a cover-up after the beach
- Sun hat
- Day tops
- Flip flops/sandals
Clothing for a winter holiday:
Keeping warm and dry is high priority when taking a winter holiday.
Pack the following:
- Base layers both leggings and long sleeve tops
- Thick socks
- Gloves two pairs. Thin and thick and wear one inside the other.
- Water-proof jacket and trousers
- Walking boots
- Scarves and/or neck ruff
- Warm jumper
- Layers – thermals
- penknife with corkscrew/bottle opener.
- Food and drink
- music player (iPod or other mp3 player)
- small hand bag
- Plug adaptors/convertors
- Chargers for phone, laptop, camera, fit bit, radio, go-pro, e-reader.
- batteries for camera
- Solar chargers – useful for back-up.
- Spare batteries
- Re-usable Water Bottle
- Suntan lotion
- Toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste
- Small roll-on deodorant
- Make-up if necessary
- Small moisturiser with SPF
- Diarrhoea treatment
- Antiseptic cream
- Medicines and First Aid kit
- a copy of your prescriptions
- tampons and sanitary towels
- contact lenses and contacts case
Find out How Much It Costs to Rent a Campervan or Motorhome
Pitchup.com for campsites reviewed and trusted.
Pitchup has been established for over 10 years now making it easy to book campsites around the world. I first visited their stand in a Camping and Caravan Show in Birmingham and picked up a leaflet and wrote a blog post back then. They set up firstly to provide a listing of campsites in the UK but now they list campsites around the world. This is the remains of it here…
“Camping and caravanning offers a wide range of choice, from holiday parks with all-day entertainment to remote wildernesses where you can bring out your inner Bear Grylls. But for something really unique check out Pitchup.com’s camping 2.0 search facility, to find out where the cool kids are doing it this summer.”
Since then we have referred our campervan and motorhome rental customers travelling through the uk about this site along with other that have a good reputation for promoting quality camping sites that accommodate campervans and motorhomes. We have campervan and motorhome rental companies in most of these countries too.
Since they started they have expanded their service to offer campsites in many overseas countries. See the whole list Here. Campsites around the World with Pitchup
This includes the following UK Country Pages:
- The Netherlands,
- Bosnia and Herzegovina,
- Czech Republic,
There are a few African countries listed too:
So you have heard that you can free camp, boon-dock or wild camp in New Zealand. Yes and No.
- Yes, if you have a fully self contained campervan or motorhome.
- No, if you are in a sleeper car or hi-top, low-top campers that don’t have onboard facilities.
- This is because the impact on the local environment has been too great. Local people are finding debris that has been left behind after a camper has stayed the night and are quite rightly not happy about this.
So, if you do want to travel New Zealand like a Nomad check out our links below.
- These will point you in the right direction where you can legally and safely spend your days.
- We do say that if you are free camping you should only stay for one or two nights. Also, if there already someone camping close by, let them have space and don’t roll up right next to them.
I have had experience of finding a remote place to stay with nothing around for miles and wake up in the morning to find another camper van parked within feet!
So, find a vehicle that complies with the New Zealand standards for self-containment and head off on your travels.
- If you don’t have a self-contained camper then you can stay really cheaply at the Department of Conservation sites. DOC Sites for Cheap Camping in New Zealand.
Great websites for Camping in New Zealand. Includes advice on free camping for campervans and motorhomes.:
- Department of Conservation Campsites
- Holiday Parks
- Dump Stations
- Offical NZ Camping Map
- New Zealand’s Freedom Camping Act
- Litter Law New Zealand
- Freedom Camping in New Zealand
- Information Centres New Zealand
- nzmca travel directory list of sites.
- NCMCA Private Property overnight parking scheme.
- New Zealand Motorcaravan Association Membership website