Discovering New Zealand via road trip could be one of the best experiences you will have to date. New Zealand’s Maori culture, nature and people add to your experience and can give you a whole new look to travel. Only located a 5-minute drive from Auckland airport, Travellers Autobarn has got you covered for your roadtrippin’ needs. We have made it easy for you and taken some of the highlights of your Auckland to Christchurch road trip itinerary and put them together, so all you need to do is collect your campervan and get driving!

Auckland to Christchurch Distance

The journey from Auckland to Christchurch spans approximately 1,465 kilometres, a considerable distance that encapsulates the diverse beauty of New Zealand. By road, this translates into roughly 24 hours and 30 minutes of continuous driving. This significant journey offers travellers an immersive experience into the heart of the country, making it much more than just a point-to-point drive. It’s a voyage through the stunning landscapes and vibrant cities that define New Zealand.

Quick stats

1465km trip distance

21 day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Day 1: Auckland

Person in campervan taking a photo of Auckland cityscape

Kick off your epic 21-day road trip in Auckland, New Zealand’s capital city, where style and seaside serenity go hand in hand. With a bustling shopping scene, you can indulge in high-end designer boutiques or explore local craft markets. Don’t forget to tantalise your taste buds with fantastic international and local cuisine. And when it’s time to unwind? Head to the beautiful beaches of Mission Bay, Kohimarama, or Takapuna for some well-deserved sunbathing, swimming, and relaxation. Welcome to Auckland – the perfect blend of urban excitement and coastal chill.

Sightseeing #1: Sky Tower

Looking for an unbeatable view of Auckland? The Sky Tower is your answer. As the tallest building in New Zealand, it offers a stunning 360° panorama of the city. But don’t just stand there gawking – there’s plenty more to do atop this iconic landmark.

Sightseeing #2: Auckland Zoo

Step into the wild at Auckland Zoo, a renowned wildlife research and conservation centre. With the largest collection of native and exotic animals in New Zealand, this zoo promises a thrilling day out. From species-spotting to understanding conservation efforts, there’s something for every animal lover here. Open daily, it’s a must-visit when in Auckland.

Day 2-3: Auckland to Waiheke Island

Travel time: 2 hours
Palm Beach view, Waiheke Island - New Zealand

Just off Auckland, Waiheke Island is a ferry ride away, campervan and all. With white sandy beaches perfect for swimming or picnicking and an array of activities from ziplining to snorkelling, it’s an adventurer’s paradise! But the adventure doesn’t stop there – the island is also a haven for food and wine lovers.

Sightseeing #1: Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant

For an experience that’s as sumptuous as it is scenic, visit Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant. Overlooking Rangitoto and the Hauraki Gulf, this spot offers everything from relaxed fine dining to casual bistro meals. Savour expertly paired wines, tour the organic gardens and vines, and soak in 360-degree views. With its unique charm, Mudbrick will transport you to another world.

Sightseeing #2: Oneroa Beach

Embrace the idyllic charm of Oneroa Beach, a delightful mix of golden sands and crystal-clear waters. Explore beachfront cafes, arts and crafts shops, or take a leisurely stroll collecting shells. Enjoy the sights of Oyster Catchers and the convenience of nearby amenities. This picturesque spot, with its gentle slopes and pristine waters of the South Pacific Ocean, is a little slice of paradise on Waiheke Island.

Day 4-5: Waiheke Island to Hamilton

Travel time: 3 hours
Gardens in New Zealand

After spending your time on the beautiful Waiheke Island, it’s time to switch gears and head to Hamilton. This city, nestled on the banks of the mighty Waikato River, boasts a rich history, a vibrant arts scene, and a unique urban feel. Stroll through the award-winning Hamilton Gardens, indulge in gourmet eateries, or marvel at colourful street art. Don’t forget to explore the scenic riverside walks and cycleways. And when night falls? Hamilton’s central precinct comes alive, ready for you to wine, dine, and dance away.

Sightseeing #1: Hamilton Gardens

Experience the unique horticultural wonderland of Hamilton Gardens. It’s not your typical botanic garden; rather, it’s a 58-hectare journey through different civilisations and their relationship with plants. Don’t miss Te Parapara, New Zealand’s first traditional Maori garden, and join the lively Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival in February for an unforgettable cultural treat.

Sightseeing #2: Tiffany Falls Conservation Area

Nature lovers, prepare to be awed by Tiffany Falls Conservation Area. An easy, family-friendly hike leads you to a stunning 21-metre cascade waterfall, roaring in spring and beautifully frozen in winter. The surrounding forest, filled with diverse species and towering trees, is a testament to nature’s splendour. For the adventurous, the area even offers ice-climbing opportunities.

Day 6-7: Hamilton to Rotorua

Travel time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Campervan parked next to thermal pools in Rotorua, New Zealand

After you’ve visited Hamilton, its time to head across the country to Rotorua. Here, you will be able to firsthand experience the many geothermal wonders, including multiple geysers, thermal wonderlands, volcanic valleys and Hells Gate. Prepare yourself, as the geysers can work up quite a smell, especially after it’s been raining! For the more adventurous travellers, Rotorua also offers a lot of adrenaline-rich activities such as the slingshot, skyline luge, bungy jumping or zip-lining through the forest canopy. A must-stop before you leave is Epiphany café, where you can grab a Franut before you leave – if you haven’t heard of this, google it! Think cool drink meets doughnut in various flavours. Talk about mouth-watering!

Sightseeing #1: Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest

Escape to the lush and tranquil ‘Redwoods’, a mere five-minute drive from downtown Rotorua. Traverse over 160km of purpose-built trails, whether on foot, horseback, or mountain bike. This 55,000-hectare forest, peppered with towering Californian Redwoods and exotic trees, is a paradise for nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike. Lauded as one of the world’s top mountain biking destinations, it offers panoramic views of Rotorua’s lakes and geothermal marvels.

Sightseeing #2: Polynesian Spa

Immerse yourself in a world of relaxation at the Polynesian Spa, a globally recognised wellness haven. Nestled on the shores of Lake Rotorua, this spa offers a unique geothermal bathing experience, tapping into acidic and alkaline natural mineral springs. Unwind with indulgent therapies, from hydrotherapy pools to heated recliners. A visit to the Polynesian Spa is not just a treat but a journey to rejuvenation.

Day 8-9: Rotorua to Taupō

Travel time: 1 hour
Rotoaira and Taupo lakes, Tongariro national park, North island of New Zealand

Another short journey south, and you will be in Taupo. Well known for its great lake, Taupo is the place everyone flocks to during the summer months to enjoy the sun and water sports. Stop into Huka Falls on your way through, where thunderous falls squeeze through a ravine of hard volcanic rock. The mind-blowing baby blue colour of the falls will take your breath away as you view them from the footbridge above. 5 minutes up the road, you can stop in and collect natural honey or visit the maze world. Once you’re in Taupo, on a clear day, you are able to see across the lake to the mountains on the other side.

Sightseeing #1: Huka Falls

Immerse yourself in the untamed energy of nature at Huka Falls. Witness over 220,000 litres of water thundering over an 11-metre-high cliff every second, creating a breathtaking spectacle akin to a gigantic fire hose on full blast. Traverse the footbridge for a close-up view of this natural wonder, or embark on a jet boat ride to feel the refreshing spray on your skin. For a serene experience, embark on the tranquil Spa Park to Huka Falls trail, a one-hour hike brimming with scenic beauty and the escalating sounds of the falls.

Sightseeing #2: Craters of the Moon

Step into a lunar landscape right here on Earth. The Craters of the Moon geothermal valley offers an otherworldly experience with clouds of steam and bubbling mud cauldrons. Triggered by a nearby geothermal power station in the 1950s, this site lets you witness the seething heat of the Earth’s interior. Navigate safely via wooden boardwalks, but be ready for sudden steam clouds that might fog up your sunglasses!

Day 10-11: Taupo to Tongariro

Travel time: 1 hour
View with a couple of hikers at beautiful Emerald lakes on Tongariro Crossing track, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Now, on days 10-11, prepare to be awestruck by Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s oldest national park. This natural wonderland, famous for its Alpine Crossing and Lord of the Rings film locations, offers a plethora of walking tracks. Whether you’re up for a short stroll or a multi-day hike, the breathtaking views won’t disappoint. Don’t miss the Taranaki Falls, an all-ages-friendly spot perfect for a picnic lunch. Or take a day hike to the Tama Lakes, where the stunning vistas of lakes and lava fields await.

Sightseeing #1: Taranaki Falls

Embark on a journey through time on the Taranaki Falls Walk. This easy 6km loop, set amidst Tongariro National Park’s volcanic landscape, offers you forests, shrublands, and panoramic mountain views. The highlight of this trek is the Taranaki Falls, which majestically tumble 20 metres into a pool encircled by boulders. Traverse ancient lava flows and eroded gullies, telling tales of eruptions from 15,000 years ago. It’s a geological wonderland packed into a short walk!

Sightseeing #2: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Experience New Zealand’s ultimate day walk – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Traverse lava flows, active craters, steam vents, and emerald lakes in this unforgettable volcanic journey. Start at Mangatepopo Valley, climb to Red Crater’s sulphuric peak, and descend past the stunning Emerald Lakes. The track ends with a refreshing descent through tussock slopes to a cool green forest. It’s a challenging trek, but the magnificent views make it worth every step.

Day 12-13: Tongariro to Whanganui

Travel time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve in Coromandel Peninsula North Island, New Zealand.

Driving down from Tongariro to Whanganui on days 12-13, you’ll discover a city brimming with heritage and scenic beauty. Nestled by the Tasman Sea, Whanganui is known for its rich history, magnificent Opera House, and the Sarjeant Art Gallery. Don’t miss out on a memorable river cruise or the unique Durie Hill elevator experience. The city’s regional museum, home to Lindauer portraits and Maori treasures, is another must-see. Whanganui truly offers an unforgettable journey back in time.

Sightseeing #1: Whanganui Regional Musuem

Step into the heart of Whanganui’s culture at the Whanganui Regional Museum. Home to a renowned Taonga Maori Collection, it offers an intimate glimpse into the lives and values of Whanganui’s indigenous people. Explore the natural world and the town’s vibrant history through captivating exhibitions. Don’t forget to visit the museum shop for unique local souvenirs. Open daily, free entry, priceless experience!

Sightseeing #2: Rotokawau/Virginia Lake Reserve

Delight in the serene beauty of Rotokawau, Whanganui’s favourite lake. Nestled amidst lush greenery, it offers tranquil walking tracks, captivating sculptures, and abundant birdlife. Enjoy a leisurely picnic, marvel at the shifting scenery, or embark on the woodland walk around the lake. Don’t miss the enchanting Higginbottom Fountain, a mesmerising spectacle, especially when lit at night.

Day 14-15: Whanganui to Wellington

Travel time: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Wellington NZ cable car

Travelling South again for just under 2 1/2 hours will take you to Wellington City, the city at the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand. Unless you are in a hurry, why not stop in at a few of the smaller towns along the way? Road-tripping is all about the journey rather than the destination, after all! Stop in Taihape, New Zealand’s gumboot capital, where you can grab a photo. Head through Foxton and check out how different the beaches on the west coast are when compared to the east. We strongly recommend just before you head into Wellington, put into google maps Red Rocks – Pariwhero. This will take you to a spot where you can see the seals as they are lying around on the rocks and playing in the water. The best part is there is no fee! Hundreds of New Zealand fur seals come onto the rocks to play and lounge around. You mustn’t get too close to them and ensure you respect the area by not leaving any rubbish behind.

Sightseeing #1: Wellington Harbour

Discover Wellington, the “little city with a big heart,” nestled between emerald hills and a sparkling harbour. Immerse yourself in its vibrant mix of culture, history, nature, and cuisine. Explore hidden laneways adorned with street art, or delve into Aotearoa New Zealand’s tales at world-class museums. Ride the iconic Cable Car for breathtaking views, and wander along golden-sand beaches or rugged coastlines. Wellington Harbour is your gateway to an unforgettable Kiwi adventure.

Sightseeing #2: Wellington Botanical Garden

Escape to a verdant oasis at the Wellington Botanical Garden, where ancient forests meet vibrant flower beds. Just minutes from the city, find tranquillity among centuries-old exotic trees, colourful floral displays, and charming gardens. Don’t miss the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, the mesmerising Sun Dial of Human Involvement, or the historic Bolton Street Memorial Park. And as dusk falls, watch the garden come alive with the soft glow of worms. It’s nature’s theatre at its best!

Day 16-17: Wellington to Picton

Travel time: 4 hours
Scenic view of Picton, South Island, New Zealand

Famous for a vibrant, creative culture fuelled by great food, wine, craft beer and, of course, coffee! You will need to catch the ferry from the North Island to the South Island. Head on either the Interisland or Bluebridge and make your way further South. Watch as the scenery changes when you travel through Marlborough Sound. It’s like something out of a movie. The ferry across the Cook Strait will drop you off in Picton, the little scenic town at the top of the South Island. Why not spend a day or two in Picton? Built around a sheltered harbour, you can head onto the water kayaking or grab some food from one of the many seafront cafes.

Sightseeing #1: Tirohanga Track

Ascend the Tirohanga Track, a steep but rewarding trail in Picton. With every step, you’ll rise above the regenerating native forest and eventually reach a hilltop lookout boasting panoramic views of Picton and Waikawa. Perfect for a day’s outing, this track is also part of a larger network leading up to Essons Valley’s water-supplying dams.

Sightseeing #2: Kaipupu Sanctuary

Just a swift boat ride from Picton lies Kaipupu Sanctuary, a haven for New Zealand’s unique birdlife. Wander along the 2.7km circular track, nestled amid bush-clad hills, and let the chorus of tui, bellbird, and kereru serenade you. Marvel at stunning views across the Marlborough Sounds, spot little blue penguins or witness fur seals in winter. A visit to Kaipupu feels like stepping into another world, yet it’s just minutes away.

Day 18: Picton to Nelson

Travel time: 2 hours
Aerial view of a Beautiful Bay with Sandy Beach near Nelson, New Zealand

Now it’s time to head across the country to Nelson, a coastal town that thrives with its creative community. There are numerous galleries and handicraft shops. The town centre is filled with life and a good place to relax. A cathedral from 1858 is close to the town, representing the town’s rich history. On a Sunday, you can visit the artisan market filled with food stalls. Make sure to stop at Tahuna Beach on your way through! It’s a hidden gem and a particularly beautiful spot.

Sightseeing #1: The Suter Art Gallery

Step into the historic Suter Art Gallery, a vibrant testament to Nelson’s rich artistic heritage. Located on the edge of downtown Nelson, this gallery offers an intriguing blend of contemporary art, educational spaces, and a 150-seat theatre. Wander through exhibits, catch a performance, or simply relax at the onsite café. Don’t leave without visiting the Suter Store, where you can find curated pieces from local artists.

Sightseeing #2: Queen’s Gardens

Take a leisurely stroll through Queen’s Gardens, a stunning example of classical Victorian landscaping. This historic park, dating back to Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1892, boasts a diverse collection of plants and notable trees. Learn about its fascinating history from informative panels scattered throughout. From its origins as a Maori food gathering spot to a bustling meat market, it now serves as a tranquil oasis for relaxation and enjoyment. Truly, a green heart in Nelson’s cityscape!

Day 19-20: Nelson to Hanmer Springs

Travel time: 3 hours and 45 minutes
Waiau river at Hanmer Springs town, NZ

Continuing further South, we are heading to our next stop, which is Hanmer Springs. This thermal wonderland can be just what you need on a cold day, or the icing on the cake as your road trip is coming to an end! Relax in one of the 15 open-air pools, or try out one of the 3 aqua therapy pools. As you sit in the pools, you are able to gaze out to the amazing landscape surrounding, and massive mountains will make you feel extra warm while kicking back in the pool. If you’re in need of a cool drink after the pools, across the road, you will find Monteith’s Brewery, a classic New Zealand beer!

Sightseeing #1: Hanmer Springs Animal Park

Hanmer Springs Animal Park is a tranquil haven where you can get up close and personal with an assortment of charming creatures. Nestled amidst panoramic mountain views, this park lets you hand-feed Tibetan yaks, emus, and Angora goats, among others. Add to this a vibrant café serving organic coffee and delectable food, and you’ve got the perfect family outing.

Sightseeing #2: Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools

Escape the mundane at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools, a rejuvenating oasis just 90 minutes north of Christchurch. Immerse yourself in calming thermal waters or indulge in body therapies for a truly relaxing experience. If you’re up for an adventure, explore the surrounding walking and cycling tracks. With boutique shopping, restaurants and comfortable accommodations nearby, this alpine village offers a delightful retreat for all tastes.

Day 21: Hanmer Springs to Christchurch

Travel time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
View over Christchurch, New Zealand

Your road trip is coming to an end as you make your way to your final stop in Christchurch, New Zealand’s garden city. Visit the botanical gardens or take a relaxing trip down the Avon Rover on a punt boat. You can ride on the historic tramway to see the various shopping and eatery precincts. Expect to see street art and innovative projects, a bustling hospitality scene and established green spaces. It is a basecamp for exploring the picturesque South Island; everything is within close reach, including the Southern Alps and glaciers.

Sightseeing #1: Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Step into the lush embrace of Christchurch Botanic Gardens, the green heart of Garden City. Cultivated over 150 years, this park is a verdant tapestry of over 10 different gardens, from fragrant roses to native species. Stroll across expansive lawns, explore the conservatory complex, or simply bask in the tranquillity by the Avon River. With free admission, a visitor centre and a gift shop, it’s a botanical haven waiting to be explored!

Sightseeing #2: Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

Experience New Zealand wildlife like never before at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Home to the country’s largest Kiwi viewing area, Willowbank guarantees an ‘up close and personal’ experience. Wander amidst native and introduced wildlife roaming freely in natural bush surroundings. Enhance your visit with a guided tour, enjoy a Maori Cultural Performance, and embrace the ethos of conservation.

Happy Exploring!

Person jumping next to campervan with view of New Zealand lake and mountains

If you’re not in a hurry to return home, spend a few days exploring Christchurch and its surroundings, and head over to the Glaciers to get a once-in-a-lifetime experience at some of the world’s oldest and most treasured things. Once you feel satisfied with your exploration, our campervan hire in Christchurch branch is located only a few minutes’ drive from the airport, drop off your campervan and begin your journey home!

For other amazing road trip ideas on the New Zealand North Island, please visit our North Island Road Trip section…

Kick start your North Island adventure with us, and check our deals on campervan hire in Auckland.

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