Enjoy the Beautiful Scenery on Your New Zealand Vacation

New Zealand is a great destination for a campervan holiday. New Zealand is known for its stunning scenery. There are wildly contrasting scenes – from volcanic mountains to idyllic beaches, from glaciers to mountain lakes, from lush rain forest to rolling pastures- and you can get from one to the other relatively easily by road in a short space of time. If you’re driving, you get to experience the changing landscape as you move from one spectacular area to another. The spectacular scenery is not only at the destinations but it’s along the way as well!

So, if you’re planning a New Zealand vacation, then seriously consider renting a campervan / motorhome / RV to create your own roadtrip adventure.

Choosing a Campervan

There are numerous campervan rental companies in New Zealand offering a range of vehicles. Almost all rental campervans in New Zealand can be driven on a normal car license. There are both automatic and manual vehicles. The roads in New Zealand can be narrow and winding (especially in some of the beautiful mountains) so if you are not used to a manual transmission, I would advise that you look for an automatic vehicle.

When deciding on size, firstly you need to accommodate all your traveling companions. If you are a couple and want to have a permanent bed, rather than making one up every night from the lounge area, you might want to consider a 4 berth campervan. Just remember, though, that larger vehicles will be less easy to drive and manoeuver.

New Zealand has many areas where you can free camp (or freedom camp, as it is also known) – however, to do so you need a self-contained campervan, so one with an on-board shower and toilet. Please acquaint yourself with the New Zealand environmental code if you plan to free camp.

If you plan to mainly use campsites, then a vehicle that does not have an on-board shower and toilet is a good option and several companies have well-equipped vehicles that are not much bigger than a car, so are very easy to drive.

Planning Your Itinerary

There are beautiful places to visit all over New Zealand. If you only have one week, then I would advise you to pick a few places on one island.

For example, if you are in the North Island for a week, try this itinerary:

  • Day 1. Pick up vehicle in Auckland – explore the city. Visit the SkyTower or the museum where you can get great views as well as you sit in the domain having a picnic
  • Day 2. Travel to Coromandel Peninsula -plan to spend a night at one of the beautiful harbour towns such as Whitianga or Whangamata
  • Day 3. Explore Coromandel’s great beaches and visit one of the many art galleries hosting local artists. If you want, drive to Tauranga and spend time exploring Mount Maunganui
  • Day 4. Drive to Rotorua. Take a drive up to the Blue and Green Lakes, Lake Tarawera and the Buried Terraces or visit one of the other many tourist attractions in this geothermal “hotspot”. If you haven’t experienced a Maori performance, make a point of doing so here
  • Day 5. Travel to Napier via Taupo. Stop at the Huka Falls in Taupo and then stop and have a picnic on the shores of Lake Taupo where on a clear day you will be able to see the peaks of Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngarahoe on the volcanic plateau,
  • Day 6. Explore the art deco buildings in Napier before heading off to Wellington (if you have arranged drop-off there) or back to Auckland. If heading back to Auckland, you might want to spend this evening in Taupo or Hamilton
  • Day 7. Explore the city (Wellington) before dropping your campervan back. In Wellington visit Te Papa, the national museum or take the cable car for spectacular views of the city and harbour. If you are returning your vehicle to Auckland, try and fit in a visit to Takapuna beach on the North Shore today

For a one week itinerary in the South Island that gives you a great look at beautiful scenery, try this:

  • Day 1. Pick up vehicle in Christchurch – explore the city. Take a ride on the gondola, or have a trip around the city on a tram. The Antarctic Centre is also worth a visit
  • Day 2. Head over the Lewis Pass to Westport. Travel through vineyards, then mountain passes to the wild west coast
  • Day 3. Travel down the coast to Greymouth. This is one of the most spectacular coastal drives in New Zealand. Stop at Punakaiki to view the world-famous Pancake Rocks
  • Day 4. Drive south via Hokitika and Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers over spectacular Haast Pass to Wanaka – this will take a day if you take time to stop and admire the scenery more closely on the way, so have somewhere in Wanaka booked to stay before you leave
  • Day 5. Travel to Queenstown, the “adrenaline capital of the world” for adventure. If you prefer more leisurely activities, take a detour via Arrowtown and Lake Hawea or just browse the tourist shops in Queenstown
  • Day 6. Drive north again, planning to stop at Lake Tekapo. If you have time, you may be able to take a drive up to Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. Once night falls walk from Lake Tekapo up to the Mount John Observatory to get an amazing view of the stars
  • Day 7. Drive to Christchurch and return your vehicle

If you have two weeks, then you can visit both north and south islands crossing Cook’s Strait via a 3 hour ferry crossing between Wellington and Picton (about a 4 hour drive north of Christchurch).

Where to Stay

New Zealand has beautiful camping grounds and campsites. There are also many places where free camping is allowed. The following are options for you for your New Zealand holiday:

  • Serviced Campsites, such as Top 10, Kiwi Holiday Parks and Family Parks – you can get a discount with Top 10 if you plan using their campsites throughout your vacation
  • Regional Council parks and campsites, particularly Auckland Regional Parks and Waitaki Lakes – facilities are often more basic than serviced campsites, but some of the locations are spectacular
  • Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites – these are very basic sites, which is fine if you have a self-contained campervan, but often they are in the most beautiful locations, so worth a visit
  • Native Parks – you can join for a small fee. Members are given a number of locations where they can camp, including vineyards and sheep stations
  • Free camping – you must have a self-contained vehicle to free camp. Not all areas allow free camping so you must follow the signs. However, you can get up close and personal with some amazing scenery while free camping in New Zealand. Make sure you are aware of the Environmental Code

A campervan holiday is a great way to capture the stunningly beautiful scenery that New Zealand has on offer and is world-famous for. It is a cost-effective way of seeing as many sights as you can in a short space of time, while still enjoying a relaxing vacation.

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