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Posted on 06/03/2024 11:00 AM

The best New Zealand road trips keep you on beautiful roads en route to beautiful places, and campervans give you the freedom you need to experience the full beauty this country has to offer!

With so much to see and do, creating an itinerary that hits all the right notes can be daunting. Check out our guide below for destinations, scenic drives, and itinerary ideas to get you started.


The Top Road Trip Destinations in New Zealand

New Zealand is loaded with incredible scenic and thrilling destinations, but some are more commercialised and accessible for campervans than others. District and regional councils throughout New Zealand have different freedom camping bylaws. Some may not allow freedom camping within a kilometre of towns, while others limit campervans to just a few designated areas. These restrictions have made some areas, such as Queenstown, more difficult to enjoy via campervan.

Bookmark a council directory to keep track of freedom camping regulations during your road trip.

Most of New Zealand is highly accessible by campervan, however, and freedom camping protections allow you to journey off the beaten path and experience incredible natural wonders. Here are a few stops to work into your campervan trip.


  • Abel Tasman – A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Abel Tasman Park is littered with hiking and biking trails and offers beautiful beaches and waters for scenic kayaking.
  • Cape Reinga – Steeped in cultural significance, New Zealand’s northernmost shores offer stunning beaches and sand dunes. If you catch the low tide, a 15-minute drive along 90 Mile Beach is one of the most satisfying things you can do behind the wheel of your campervan.
  • Mount Cook – The South Island staple Mount Cook is a wonder on its own but is even more striking when viewed along the horizon over the milky-blue waters of two of New Zealand’s most gorgeous lakes: Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. Both boast freedom camping parks right along the water.
  • Mount Taranaki – Few New Zealand vistas are more striking than Mount Taranaki, looming majestically over the Taranaki plans. Overnight campervan parking in Egmont National Park offers unforgettable moonlit mountain views.
  • West Coast Glaciers – The Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers can be found in New Zealand’s least-populated region and along some of the most gorgeous seaside highways anywhere in the world.


Arthur's Pass in South Island New Zealand


The Most Beautiful Highways in New Zealand

Driving a campervan can be a bit stressful on New Zealand’s main traffic arteries, but the good news is anyone hunting the country’s most beautiful views will probably be well clear of State Highway 1. If you want to take in breathtaking countryside with the wind in your hair, here are a few of New Zealand’s most scenic drives:


  • Arthur’s Pass – This mountain pass from Christchurch to Greymouth offers breathtaking views of mountains and sprawling river flats, as well as access to several walking tracks and waterfalls.
  • The Catlins – In the far South between Dunedin and Invercargill, the Catlins route offers a unique array of vistas, from lighthouse-studded coastal views to fossilised forests.
  • Forgotten World Highway – This 150km stretch of highway, from the mighty Waikato in Taumarunui to Stratford in the Taranaki Region, spans from vast expanses of rugged farmland through Tangarakau Gorge and even past the independent republic of Whangamomona!
  • Lindis Pass – The South Island’s primary inland highway, Lindis Pass, connects Wanaka to the scenic hotbed of Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. This can be a particularly stunning drive when dusted with snow in the winter months.
  • Queenstown to Glenorchy and the Road to Paradise – This scenic drive is a must for diehard fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It begins in Wanaka, taking you along the banks of Lake Wakatipu on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road and then along the Glenorchy-Paradise Road. You’ll travel past over a dozen Lord of the Rings filming locations, from the Anduin River to the Edge of Lothlorien.
  • Twin Coast Discovery Highway – Starting and ending in Auckland, where you may well have rented your campervan fresh off the plane, the Twin Coast Discover Highway loops through the Waipoua kauri forest, the dramatic Bay of Islands, and even Tutukaka, where you can peel off for a snorkel or scuba dive at the famous Poor Knights islands.
  • West Coast Scenic Drive – This drive, from West Coast stopover Haast all the way up to the Tasman region, delivers hours of awe-inspiring coastal views and runs through New Zealand’s “glacier country”, where you can look back in time through geological history.


Three Scenic Itineraries for Your New Zealand Campervan Road Trip

A campervan road trip in New Zealand will turn up hidden treasures down nearly every road, but check out these itineraries for inspiration to hit the highlights.

South Island Campervan Road Trip Itinerary

1. The South Island Loop

This scenic loop incorporates Lindis Pass, the Queenstown-Glenorchy and Glenorchy-Paradise Roads, Haast Pass, the West Coast Scenic Drive, and Arthur’s Pass for the Greatest Hits of breathtaking South Island drives and destinations. Beginning and ending in Christchurch, where affordable flights and campervan rentals abound, you can start the loop in either direction. With ever-changing scenery and a wealth of freedom camping options, this is the perfect itinerary to experience the best that the South Island has to offer.

Download the South Island Loop Itinerary


North Island Campervan Road Trip Itinerary

2. The North Island Loop

This figure-eight loop begins with your campervan hire in Auckland and takes you as far north as the sun-kissed Bay of Islands, then south through the lush green hills of the Waikato to the impressive Mount Taranaki, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and the coastal hotspot Mount Maunganui. Experience the wonders of the Twin Coast Discover Highway through Northland and the Forgotten World Highway connecting Taranki to Tongariro. This trip will alternate between beautiful beaches, rolling green hills, and stark mountain landscapes.

Download the North Island Loop Itinerary

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip Itinerary

3. The End-to-End Excursion

For the most adventurous (and thorough) campervanners, this journey takes you from New Zealand’s northernmost to southernmost points. Working your way up from Auckland to start at Cape Reinga, this southward journey will take you within a stone’s throw of countless classic Kiwi locales and campsites. Budget for a ferry ticket to put your campervan on the Interislander to Picton, then weave back and forth over the South Island mainland as you experience mountains, lakes, rocky coastlines, lush forests, and dramatic sounds before capping your journey in Queenstown.

Download the End-to-End Excursion Itinerary


How to Plan a New Zealand Road Trip with a Campervan

Your great Kiwi campervan road trip starts with the perfect campervan hire. New Zealand Motorhomes provides helpful information to connect you with great deals on reliable, cosy campervans throughout New Zealand. Start your search today!

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