Adventure sports are the name of the game in New Zealand and more times than not you’ll be speeding around the islands to catch the next thrill, top the next peak and try the newest activity. Sometimes though, the best way to see a country is by driving through it. Campervans are always a popular choice in Australia for road trips, but they’re also a great way to see New Zealand in between your adventures. You’ll navigate the roads, and see the stunning landscapes first-hand and at your own pace. Here’s a sample itinerary for a campervan holiday on the north and south island, along with a few of the best places to rent a campervan on each island.
Rotorua sits directly on the Pacific Ring of Fire, meaning evidence of volcanic activity will be all over the place as you start your road trip through the North Island of New Zealand. While here, be sure to explore the geothermal areas and the Maori culture that is prevalent throughout the city. From Rotarua, head west toward the Waitomo Caves, where you’ll pass through farmlands, lakelands and forests. You won’t drive through any major towns, so be sure to stop at a grocery store before you get on the road from Rotarua—that way, you can stop to picnic and relax whenever you spot a pretty place to stop!
If you enjoy fishing, Lake Whakamaru is on this part of the trip, so you can try to cast your line and see what you pull up. The luckiest fishers may even hook a trout! Head to Pureora Forest Park for a day of wildlife spotting and relaxed walking trails waiting to be explored.
Once you hit the town of Te Kuiti, start heading north towards the Waitomo Caves. Once you arrive in this region, you’ll have the opportunity to head below the surface into a vast network of caves that are full of stalactites and stalagmites and plenty of glow-worms stuck to the caves’ ceilings. Most of the caves are open to the public, but others require specific caving equipment and should be left to professionals.
From there, head to National Park Village, where you’ll be able to explore the Tongariro National Park. Inside the park, you’ll be able to see all three volcanic peaks—and you won’t want to miss a sight like that. Tongariro National Park was New Zealand’s first national park, and was gifted to the New Zealand people by the Ngati Tuwaretoa tribe. Since then the park has made it onto UNESCO’s World Heritage Lists and is widely regarded as one of the best places in the world for a one-day walk.
The next stop on your road trip is Wanganui. There are two ways to get there: first, via the Pipipriki that will take you into Wanganui National Park and the second, via State Highway 4—a less scenic route, though equally as beautiful as the first option. Once you get to Wanganui, spend the day checking out the heritage area and river expeditions that are available all over the place.
Once you’ve satisfied your historical cravings in Wanganui, it’s time to head south to Wellington. Take your time getting there, stopping at antique shops, visiting bird estuaries to watch for endangered species, or stopping in a quick boutique or two. Wellington is an incredible city that is full of character and culture to enjoy. Take in the city centre on foot and snag tickets for a musical or theatrical performance—you won’t be disappointed.
Highlights: Hammer Springs, Icy Glaciers, Lake Wanaka
Time to Go: Year-round
Start your South Island adventure road trip by leaving Christchurch and heading north to Hanmer Springs—a boutique spa town set in the foothills of the Southern Alps. There are a number of outdoor activities to participate in here, though their natural spa pools often get a majority of the attention in Hanmer Springs. Try hiking through the forests, going mountain biking or even bungy jumping before soaking in the hot pools to unwind.
From Hanmer Springs, you’ll head into the foothills of the Southern Alps and on towards the West Coast. This part of New Zealand is chock full of geological wonders, rainforests and more. Head down the coast towards Hokitika and if you can, stop in Shantytown where you’ll get to see a perfect re-creation of a 1900’s pioneer town that came to exist as a result of the 1860’s gold rush.
Once you get to Hokitika, slow down a touch and take the time to visit and take in the historic buildings that have been restored is magnificent splendour. This city is the perfect place to bunk in for the night, as you’ll give yourself plenty of time to understand and experience New Zealand’s historic past with gold-mining.
Just a few hours down the coast from Hokitika is the Fox Glacier where you’ll encounter endless breathtaking beauty. You’re guaranteed to feel humbled just by standing next to the glaciers as you begin your trek across these enormities.
Next up is Wanaka, where you’ll be treated to a quaint alpine town waiting for you, nestled along a glacial lake. Try kayaking or sailing in the lake or any other number of outdoor activities you can choose from. From this point on, you’ll never stop seeing jaw-dropping beauty—from Wanaka to Queenstown, you’ll want your camera battery charged and ready for some truly incredible sights.
Finally, Queenstown is a place where you can spend the rest of your time and never get bored. Just as adventurous as the more outdoor-oriented cities, Queenstown is action-packed! No matter if your plans include hiking, bungy jumping, cruising on a boat, taking a scenic flight or just relaxing, make sure at least a few days of your New Zealand holiday are spent on this part of the South Island.
Since you’ll be spending a majority of your holiday on the road and moving around New Zealand, it’s important to make sure your rental vehicle is in tip-top shape before hitting the road. Most places will over a rental car insurance plan in case anything goes wrong, but make sure you understand exactly how much (or how little ) cover you’re actually receiving. The best thing to do is check your travel insurance policy to know exactly what’s already included in your policy, and adjust the cover to fit your needs and your budget. Head into the rental pick-up area understanding your travel insurance policy and how much cover is included. Then, hit the road without worries knowing you’ve got cover and help whenever and wherever you may need it during your New Zealand holiday explorations.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Edwin Lee.