If you’re a lover of all things outdoors and nature, a campervan road trip in New Zealand’s South Island is the perfect holiday for you! And there’s no better way to explore the great outdoors of New Zealand than by hiring a campervan and hitting the open roads.

Although you could spend weeks here, a 10-day road trip in the South Island will be enough to have an incredible experience and visit the best of the island’s highlights. But with so much to see and do in this relatively small island, where should you plan to visit?

We’ve put together a 10-day Christchurch to Christchurch road trip itinerary will all our favourite destinations, starting and ending the journey in Christchurch. As a bonus, we’ve also included our favourite campgrounds in each location.

Christchurch to Queenstown to Christchurch Distance

With a total driving time of around 18 hours, you will be travelling a whopping 1394 km of pure scenic bliss. So, we suggest you prepare yourself mentally and get your camera ready!

Quick stats

1394km trip distance

10 day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Day 1: Christchurch


Let the trip begin in Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island. This vibrant city was largely decimated by the earthquakes that shook it a decade ago, but it has creatively rebuilt and beautifully recovered the city. A destination rich with museums, culture, and beautiful gardens, it’s worth checking out during your journey. After a day or two of exploring the city, jump in your car or campervan rental and hit the road!

Sightseeing #1: Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Picture this – a green oasis in the heart of the city, that’s Christchurch Botanic Gardens for you. This botanical wonderland, open since 1863, covers 21 hectares of pure greenery. From roses to cacti, orchids and even some carnivorous plants, it’s got it all. Remember, doors open at 7 am daily, and it’s free to enter. Oh, and do check out the gift shop for some unique keepsakes!

Sightseeing #2: Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Next up, buckle in for Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. It’s where you can meet and greet New Zealand’s Big 5 – Kiwi, Kea, Tuatara, Kaka, and Takahe. Feed wild eels, mingle with farm animals, and listen to the rustling kiwis. You’ll also gain insight into New Zealand’s history and conservation efforts. And the highlight? You get to pet the cute capybaras!

Day 2: Christchurch to Arthur's Pass

Travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Christchurch to Arthur's Pass

On day 2 of your adventure, make your way to the west coast of the South Island via West Coast Road. In almost 2 hours, you will reach Arthur’s Pass, the highest and most spectacular pass across the Southern Alps. It’s a piece of extreme engineering involving viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls redirected into chutes. Make a stop here as a place to stretch your legs, go for a walk or hike, and marvel at the surrounding landscapes.

Sightseeing #1: Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall

How about starting your day with a visit to the Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall? It’s just a stone’s throw away from Arthur’s Pass Village. You might be wondering about the name ‘Devil’s Punchbowl’ – there are a bunch of stories floating around. But here’s what you need to know – this place is going to blow you away! The trail might test your fitness a little, but it’s packed with beautiful sights and even includes a footbridge over the Bealey River. And the grand finale? A spectacular 131m high waterfall. So, tie up those walking shoes and get ready for an amazing experience!

Sightseeing #2: Arthur’s Pass National Park Visitor Centre

And don’t forget to swing by the National Park Visitor Centre. It’s right in the heart of Arthur’s Pass village. Think of this spot as your local guru for all things related to walks, track conditions, and bookings. The DOC rangers here are super friendly and knowledgeable, always on hand to help you make the most of your visit. There’s also plenty of parking and free toilets. It’s the perfect starting point for your Arthur’s Pass adventure.

Day 3: Arthur's Pass to Kokatahi

Travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Arthur's Pass to Kokatahi

Then, on the 3rd day, head another 1-hour 45-minute drive onwards and enjoy the spectacular natural masterpiece of Hokitika Gorge in Kokatahi. Take a walk over Hokitika Gorge and view the vivid turquoise waters surrounded by lush native bush – it’s a must-visit on your South Island trip.

Hokitika Gorge is a 30-minute detour from the highway, so we recommend you camp in the town of Hokitika for the night at Hokitika Holiday Park. It’s well located just off the highway and near the edge of the coast.

Sightseeing #1: Dorothy Falls

Ready for a nature fix? Just a 30-minute drive from Hokitika, you’ll find Dorothy Falls. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but hey, that’s part of the adventure! You can catch a glimpse of the waterfall right from the car park, but why not get closer? And in the summer, that plunge pool is just asking for a dip. So, grab your swimsuits and get ready for some epic shots of Dorothy Falls!

Sightseeing #2: Lake Kaniere

Ever been to a lake that’s got it all? That’s Lake Kaniere for you. Just 45 minutes from Hokitika Gorge, it’s a stellar spot for water sports, picnics, camping, or walks. Relax by the serene lake, take a stroll to Dorothy Falls, or if you’re feeling adventurous, consider the loop walk around the lake. It’s not every day you stumble upon a place this versatile, so don’t miss out.

Day 4: Kokatahi to Franz Josef Glacier

Travel time: 2 hours
Franz Josef Glacier NZ

In the next leg of the journey, it’s time to head down the rugged west coast of the South Island. Take the very popular route – and one with many New Zealand highlights – State Highway 6 until you reach Franz Josef Glacier. Here, you can witness the dynamic glacial environment in a temperate condition.

Take a 1.5-hour round walk to view the outskirts of the glacier or experience the ultimate glacier adventure and make contact with the ice via taking a heli-hike or guided ice walk. The surrounding region has a range of natural attractions, including incredible rainforests, waterfalls, and lakes.

We recommend camping in the town of Franz Josef, easily accessible from the highway and just a stone’s throw away from the glacier itself. Orange Sheep Campervan Park is a great option with good amenities and an easy access location at a reasonable price.

Sightseeing #1: Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Westland Tai Poutini National Park is your ultimate playground if you’re into diverse landscapes and outdoor activities. It’s got glaciers, rainforests, and grasslands – all in one place! Kayaking, birdwatching, or walking to the base of a glacier, you name it! And when night falls, get ready for some top-notch star gazing.

Sightseeing #2: Robert’s Point Track

Fancy a hike with epic views? Give Robert’s Point Track a shot. Starting at the Glacier car park, this trail takes you past Peters Pool, where you can catch stunning reflections on a clear day. You’ll cross swing bridges (a bit of a thrill) and witness jaw-dropping views of the glacier river. The trail’s a bit uneven in places, but hey, that’s part of the fun!

Day 5: Franz Josef Glacier to Wanaka

Travel time: 4 hours
Roys peak Wanaka NZ

A further 4 hours south, make your next stop in the town that is equally as charming as it is breathtaking. No one visits Wanaka and doesn’t fall in love with it – whether for its gorgeous natural beauty of mountains, lakes, and forests, exceptional food and wine, or excellent outdoor activities. Wake up before sunrise and take on the famous Roys Peak track for that Insta-famous view over the surrounding mountains.

We recommend you spend two days here to get the most out of the gorgeous lakeside town. Check out Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park for a fully equipped and well-located campground.

Sightseeing #1: Puzzling World

Have you ever been to a place that’s fun, challenging and a total brain workout all at once? Prepare your mind to be boggled (literally!) at Puzzling World. This isn’t just an ordinary attraction. Here, you’ll find the world’s first ‘Mega Maze’, trippy Illusion Rooms, and a Puzzle Café for when you need a breather. The best part? It’s not just a kid thing – adults love it too! With all the rave reviews, you know it’s got to be interesting.

Sightseeing #2: #ThatWanakaTree

You’ve got to see this – #ThatWanakaTree. It’s not every day you find a tree that’s an icon of tourism. This isn’t just any tree – it stands alone in Lake Wanaka, making it one heck of a sight. It’s right there in the town of Wanaka, easy to get to, and the views are incredible. Trust me, this is more than just a tree – it’s a serene spot you won’t forget.

Day 6-7: Wanaka to Queenstown

Travel time: 1 hour
Queenstown NZ

Next, and arguably the best stop in the South Island, head another 1-1.5 hours south to Queenstown. It’s a dream destination that people flock from all over the world to visit, and it’s not hard to see why many will come for a short visit and extend their stay!

Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world, so if you like the idea of endless adrenaline-inducing activities, Queenstown will be your happy place! Think bungee jumping, skydiving, white water rafting, jet boating, and many more activities to get your heart racing. There’s also a great amount of fantastic food, wine tours, boat cruises, spa centres, and nightlife to enjoy here. And not to mention the stunning scenery that surrounds the town!

Two days here is the minimum we recommend you stay – and as we said, there’s a good chance you will want to stay a lifetime! Check out Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park for a quiet and serene place to stay at night.

Sightseeing #1: Queenstown Gardens

Ever felt like escaping the city without really leaving? That’s exactly what you get at Queenstown Gardens. This place is a breath of fresh air, right next to the sparkling waters of Lake Wakatipu. It’s perfect for a chill walk or a laid-back picnic. And if you’re up for some fun, why not try your hand at disc golf? There’s even a bowling club, tennis club, and ice arena nearby.

Sightseeing #2: Coronet Peak

Ready for an adventure? Coronet Peak is where it’s at. This isn’t just a mountain; it’s a winter paradise for everyone. Whether you’ve never touched a pair of skis or you’re practically a pro, there’s something here for you. Ski lessons, night skiing – you name it, they’ve got it. And when you need a break from all the action, you can grab a bite or a drink at one of the cosy alpine cafes, restaurants, or bars.

Day 8-9: Queenstown to Mount Cook

Travel time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Road to Mount Cook NZ

Now it’s time to start making your way back to Christchurch – but there are still more amazing highlights along the way! Maybe we’re biased, but we think Mount Cook is one of the most photogenic landscapes in the entire world! When you witness the turquoise blue water of Lake Pukaki and the stunning mountain backdrop, you won’t find it hard to see why. The further down Mount Cook Road you travel, the better the perspective you get of the sheer size and beauty of this incredible mountain range. When you reach Mount Cook, there are several amazing hikes and walks to enjoy. We recommend Hooker Valley track for one that’s beautifully scenic and not too difficult.

Glentanner Holiday Park is the gateway to exploring the rugged mountain ranges of Mount Cook National Park. Spend a night here before the next leg of your trip.

Sightseeing #1: Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre

Ever been to a visitor centre that’s also a museum? That’s what you get at Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre. It’s your one-stop shop for all things Mt. Cook. The staff are friendly and the exhibits, well, they’re so interesting you’ll probably lose track of time. And let’s not forget about the maps and hiking info – everything you need to explore Mt. Cook is right here.

Sightseeing #2: Mueller Hut Route

Now, let’s talk about the Mueller Hut Route. This isn’t just a trail, it’s an experience. It’s hard, no doubt about that. But if you’ve got the stamina and the right gear, you’re in for a treat. The views are just… wow. Glaciers, ice cliffs, and New Zealand’s highest peaks – all in 360 degrees. It’s a popular spot for backpacking and camping, but remember, it’s only for those who can handle a challenge. If that’s you, then go for it!

Day 10: Mount Cook to Tekapo

Travel time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Lake Tekapo NZ

About 1 hour from Mount Cook in the Southern Alps, you will reach Tekapo. Picturesque by day and dazzling by nice, Tekapo offers one of New Zealand’s brightest, turquoise-coloured lakes and the best locations for stargazing. If you are visiting in spring, you can also feast your eyes on the blooming purple lupin fields, which contrast beautifully with the blue skies and shimmering lake.

As Tekapo is directly on the way from Mount Cook, it’s a great place to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch with a great view before heading another 3 hours to arrive back in Christchurch.

Sightseeing #1: Lake Tekapo

This one’s got a stunning turquoise hue, all thanks to tiny rock particles dancing in the water. And the view? You’ve got the Southern Alps as your backdrop. But the real magic happens when the sun goes down. As part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, the night sky here is just out of this world. Don’t forget to check out the Church of the Good Shepherd while you’re there. It’s iconic.

Sightseeing #2: University of Canterbury – Mt John Observatory

Ready for a cosmic adventure? Then, the Mt John Observatory is your spot. Sitting at a cool 1,029m, it’s like an open window to the universe. You get to see galaxies, planets, and star clusters up close through their powerful telescopes. And the view from the top? Just snow-capped mountains and the twinkling waters of Lake Tekapo. Yes, it’s a bit of a climb, but every step brings you closer to a view that’s simply unforgettable.

Have a few ideas in mind already?

Kick start your South Island adventure with us, and check our deals on campervan hire in Christchurch. Our Christchurch branch is conveniently located near the airport, making it easy to get on your way — north or south.

Looking for other amazing travel ideas on New Zealand’s South Island? Check out our South Island Road Trips, packed full of itineraries and tips.

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