On this 21-day trip, you will travel through the heart of the country and visit some of the most iconic wonders New Zealand has to offer. The journey from Christchurch to Auckland is a popular road trip route for those travelling by campervan, and there are plenty of welcoming campgrounds and caravan parks along the way. Visiting the South Island would not be complete without a stop at Queenstown and the naturally spectacular area surrounding it, so we have included a visit there on this 21-day adventure.
Keep in mind that this is a significant distance to cover in 21 days. We would recommend doing it slower, but if you’re just looking to see as much as possible, this trip could be great for you!
Christchurch is New Zealand’s third largest city and boasts strong European heritage mixed with a contemporary arts culture.The colourful, chaotic, and funky city is an ideal place to begin your road trip adventure. Just 75 kilometres from the city, visit Akaroa and the Bays, the charming coastal settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. Discover the region’s French and British history, before relaxing in a café or dolphin spotting during a sea kayaking experience
Day 2Christchurch to Queenstown
The next leg of the journey is a lengthy drive, so after resting up well for the night, hit the road heading to Queenstown. No trip around the South Island would be complete without a visit to this world-famous town. Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand, where you can get a generous dose of any adrenaline filled activity. Skydive bungee jump, jet boat, or white water raft amidst the towns stunning lakes and mountainous backdrop
Day 5Queenstown to Milford Sound to Queenstown
Base yourself in Queenstown for a couple of nights as it is a centrally located hub to visit some of New Zealand’s most spectacular natural scenery. A journey to Milford Sound on the South Island’s west coast is a must-do when visiting New Zealand. The destination is the icon of the South Island, the grand Mitre Peak being a photographer’s dream. Discover the natural wonders of the rugged fiords, ink black waters, and cascading waterfalls for an experience you will never forget
Day 7Queenstown to Wanaka to Mt Cook
An hour’s drive north of Queenstown lies Wanaka, a resort town set at the base of the stunning Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. A perfect base for epic outdoor adventures, Wanaka offers its proximity to Mt Aspiring National Park. Here you can hike or ski, in the winter you might choose to stay a few nights longer if hitting the slopes is up your alley. Next, head onwards to Mt Cook and its surrounding region. Mt Cook is New Zealand’s tallest mountain, standing at over 3000 meters high. Despite its grandness, beginner and experienced hikers will find a trek here that meets their ability. Alternatively, you can sit back and take in the stunning glacier surroundings in the welcoming Mt Cook village
Day 8Mt Cook to Franz Josef Glacier
Explore the World Heritage area of Franz Josef and take a guided tour of the magnificent glacier. Franz Josef Glacier is regarded as the gem of New Zealand’s west coast glaciers and one of the most remarkable sights in the world. There is also a great range of natural attractions in the surrounding region such as lakes, waterfalls, and rainforests
Day 10Franz Josef Glacier to Arthur’s Pass to Westport
Let your journey take you through Arthur’s Pass National Park, both an epic road trip and adventure destination. Explore the contrasting beech forests and dense rainforests as you pass over gorged rivers, and keep a look out for the Kea Alpine Parrot and other native birdlife. End the day in Westport, a traditional gold mining town become coal mining town, where you can go underground rafting, caving, or simply rest up for the night
Day 11Westport to Abel Tasman
At the top of the South Island, visit the region of Abel Tasman and stay the night in the splendid national park. Go for a swim at the beautiful beaches, explore the impressive rock formations and go wildlife spotting on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track
Day 13Abel Tasman to Wellington
On day eight, head to the Picton port where you can drive your car or campervan onto a ferry and cross to the North Island. The leisurely three and a half ferry ride between the two islands travels over Cook Straight and arrives directly at the city of Wellington
The capital of New Zealand, Wellington, was recently named by Lonely Planet as “the coolest little capital in the world”. Its vibrant creative culture and thriving food and bar scene give the city its energetic charm. With many great places to eat, shop and discover, a couple of days spent in Wellington will offer an enjoyable rest from your road trip
Day 16Wellington to Napier
Being surrounded by vineyards and situated on the coast, the city of Napier is an enjoyable city with plenty of activities to enjoy. Swim at a pleasant beach, take a guided bike tour around the city, and go for a leisurely walk through many walking tracks. Napier was devastated by earthquakes in 1931, but was rebuilt in beautiful Art Deco and Spanish architecture which is well preserved until this day. Let the cities history and beauty charm you
Day 17Napier to Taupo
On day 11, head two hours north west to Taupo, the town sitting at the edge of Australasia’s largest lake. Spectacular Lake Taupo was created nearly 2000 years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption and today the is used for an abundance of outdoor activities. Water-ski, kayak, and swim in the lakes warm, geothermal water currents, before discovering the Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay
Day 19Taupo to Rotorua
Discover the geothermal valleys of the Pacific Ring of Fire on the short drive from Taupo to Rotorua. Stop off at Waikite Hot Pools, the Volcano Centre, Huka Falls and Honey Centre before arriving in Rotorua to spend the night. The has a town relaxed country atmosphere and is best known for its captivating Maori culture, natural hot springs, and bubbling mud pools
Day 20Rotorua to Whitianga
Head north from Rotorua heading to the coastal town of Whitianga. On this drive, you can stop at the famous Hobbiton Movie Set featured in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies. Whether you are an avid fan of the movies and books, or you have never seen them, everyone will enjoy a visit to the interesting and entertaining movie set. There is not much else to do in the area surrounding Hobbiton, so continue onwards to the coastal area of Whitianga and Mercury Bay and enjoy the sun, sand, and sea. Visit the picturesque Cathedral Cove, and discover the naturally hot waters in the golden sand at Hot Water Beach
Day 21Whitianga to Auckland
On the final day of your journey, there is a final two and a half hours drive to arrive at Auckland. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, situated between two enormous harbours and at the doorstep of incredible natural wonders. The destination has all the traits of a world class urban centre and an outdoor wonderland. With great restaurants, shops, amazing beaches, and walking tracks, there is not much more you could want from a world class city!
With so many sights to see and things to do, the road trip from Christchurch to Auckland is a bucket list trip for any explorer. So what are you waiting for? Book your campervan and hit the road for one of the most epic road trip adventures in the world!
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