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12 of the Best Road Trips to Take in New Zealand

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New Zealand is home to beautiful beaches, rolling countryside, and incredible bush walks. From the ‘Winterless North’ to the snow-capped south, there is no better way to explore it all than to hire a motorhome and do a road trip!

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With a Maui motorhome, you can plan an RV road trip to see and do whatever interests you. Check out New Zealand’s incredible food and wine regions. Tick off your bucket list of amazing walks and trails. Discover some of New Zealand’s heritage locations. There’s a road trip to suit every interest and budget!

One of the best things about an RV road trip is that you can explore New Zealand at your own pace. Plan stops at all those places you’ve always wanted to see. Discover the ‘road less travelled’ by going off the beaten path. Take your time and enjoy the flexibility and freedom that only a camper road trip in New Zealand can offer.

With so many fantastic road trips in both the North and South Islands, it can be hard to know where to start! Don’t worry, we’ve done the hard yards for you and have put together this blog of 12 of the best places to go in New Zealand on an RV road trip, including:

  1. Christchurch to Queenstown
  2. Christchurch to Nelson
  3. Thermal Explorer Highway
  4. Christchurch to Auckland
  5. Pacific Coast Highway
  6. Wild West Coast
  7. Dunedin to Te Anau
  8. Picton to Queenstown
  9. Nelson, Abel Tasman & Wellington
  10. Rotorua to Taupo
  11. Auckland to Auckland
  12. Auckland to the Far North

Let’s jump right in.

1. Christchurch to Queenstown

Highlights along the way:

  • Lake Tekapo
  • Aoraki/Mt Cook
  • Wanaka
  • Arrowtown
  • Queenstown

Travel time: 6 days

Distance: 716 km

Best time of year to visit: October – March

Maui branch location: Pick up your campervan at Maui Christchurch, drop it off at Maui Queenstown

Who this road trip is best suited for: Stargazers, hikers, and those looking to experience the best of New Zealand’s stunning scenery!

Showcasing some of the best things to do in the South Island, the classic New Zealand road trip from Christchurch to Queenstown is popular all year round. Take in picture-postcard views of the snow-capped Southern Alps, idyllic countryside scenery, braided rivers, and deep blue lakes. Make a stop in Lake Tekapo and enjoy stargazing from the soothing warmth of the hot pools. Hike the Rob Roy Glacier Track, visit the charming gold-mining town of Arrowtown, and take a lake cruise in Queenstown.

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2. Christchurch to Nelson

Highlights along the way:

  • Marlborough
  • Kaikoura
  • Blenheim
  • Nelson Lakes
  • Golden Bay
  • Abel Tasman

Travel time: 7 days

Distance: 922 km

Best time of year to visit: Any time of the year

Who this road trip is best suited for: Nature and wildlife enthusiasts, wine lovers, cyclists, and anyone looking to relax and take in incredible scenery!

Maui branch location: Pick up and drop off your campervan at Maui Christchurch

Keen on sampling some of New Zealand’s best wines, going whale watching, and seeing some of the South Island’s most popular destinations? The road trip from Christchurch to Nelson is the one for you! Your scenic road trip starts in Christchurch before heading north to Kaikoura, New Zealand’s top whale watching spot. From here, it’s a short drive to the winemaking mecca of Marlborough. While you’re there, plan a cycling tour, kayak the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, and enjoy some of New Zealand’s finest food and wine.

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3. Thermal Explorer Highway

Highlights along the way:

  • Hawke’s Bay
  • Lake Taupo
  • Ruapehu
  • Rotorua
  • Waitomo

Travel time: 7 days

Distance: 872 km

Best time of year to visit: October – March

Who this road trip is best suited for: Adventure seekers, hikers, foodies, and nature lovers.

Maui branch location: Pick up and drop off your campervan at Maui Auckland.

From bubbling mud pools and underground caves to mountains and volcanoes, the Thermal Explorer Highway is packed with natural wonders. This awesome New Zealand road trip takes you from Auckland to the food and wine region of Hawke’s Bay. Take in the views from Te Mata Peak and check out Napier’s Art Deco before heading to Lake Taupo and on to Ruapehu, and Rotorua. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to natural geothermal wonders in each! You’ll also stop at Waitomo where you can cruise along an underground river surrounded by glow worms!

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4. Christchurch to Auckland

Highlights along the way:

  • Sunrise in Picton
  • Natural hot pools in Rotorua
  • Cathedral Cove
  • Hobbiton Movie Set

Travel time: 6 days

Distance: 2045 km

Best time of year to visit: All year round

Who this road trip is best suited for: Those who want to see as much of New Zealand as possible over a six-day road trip!

Maui branch location: Pick up your campervan at Maui Christchurch and drop it off at Maui Auckland.

The incredible RV road trip from Christchurch to Auckland takes you across New Zealand’s Cook Strait, from one amazing island to the other! Start your journey by exploring Christchurch city before heading north where you can plan stops at Kaikoura and Marlborough. At the top of the South Island, you’ll take your RV onboard the ferry in Picton and enjoy the scenic cruise across to Wellington. There’s plenty to see and do on the road trip north including a stop at Te Waihou’s Blue Spring, a soak at Hot Water Beach in Coromandel, and a visit to Hobbiton. Enjoy the sights and experiences in the Far North before your final stop in Auckland.

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5. Pacific Coast Highway

Highlights along the way:

  • Cathedral Cove
  • Hot Water Beach
  • East Cape
  • Tairawhiti Museum
  • Hawke's Bay

Travel time: 5 days

Distance: 1220 km

Best time of year to visit: October – March

Who this road trip is best suited for: Food and wine enthusiasts

Maui branch location: Pick up and drop off your campervan at Maui Auckland.

The popular Pacific Coast Highway road trip takes you along the spectacular east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Starting in Auckland, the highway is well sign-posted and will take you through Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, and Hawke’s Bay. Foodies and wine enthusiasts will be well catered to with some of the world’s best seafood, delicious cuisine, fresh produce, and award-winning wines to be enjoyed along the way.

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6. Wild West Coast

Highlights along the way:

  • Fox Glacier
  • Pancake rocks
  • Mount Aspiring National Park
  • Hokitika Gorge
  • Oparara arches

Travel time: 7 days

Distance: 1437 km

Best time of year to visit: Anytime

Who this road trip is best suited for: Hikers, trampers, and those looking to enjoy some of New Zealand’s more rugged scenery.

Maui branch location: Pick up and drop off your campervan at Maui Queenstown.

New Zealand’s Wild West Coast road trip takes in some of the country’s most rugged and beautiful landscapes. Starting and ending in Queenstown, you’ll visit the spectacular Mount Aspiring National Park, see Fox Glacier, and stop in the gold-mining town of Hokitika. From there, you’ll travel on to Greymouth and Westport where the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks are waiting to be photographed – definitely one for your Instagram! There are plenty of great campgrounds to park up your campervan, and some fantastic eateries to enjoy delicious meals too.

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7. Dunedin to Te Anau

Highlights along the way:

  • Dunedin
  • Catlins Coast
  • Lake Manapouri
  • Milford Sound

Travel time: 3 days

Distance: 662 km

Best time of year to visit: June – July / Jan – March

Who this road trip is best suited for: Those looking to see some of New Zealand’s best places to visit over a long weekend.

Maui branch location: Pick up and drop off your campervan at Maui Queenstown.

The Southern Scenic Route is perfect for a long weekend. Taking just three days (or more if you like), it packs in plenty! Discover the impressive architecture and wonderful wildlife of Dunedin. This South Island city has something for everyone! From Dunedin, head down through the charming seaside fishing villages and coastal settlements on your way to Invercargill where you can enjoy the local speciality – Bluff oysters. From here, it’s on to Te Anau where you can explore the Fiordland National Park, a Milford Sound Cruise, and so much more.

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8. Picton to Queenstown

Highlights along the way:

  • Forrest Wines
  • Christchurch
  • Central Otago
  • Carrick Wines

Travel time: 7 days

Distance: 901 km

Best time of year to visit: October – March

Who this road trip is best suited for: Wine and food enthusiasts

Maui branch location: Pick up your campervan from Maui’s Auckland or Christchurch branch and drop it off at Maui Queenstown.

If you appreciate good wines and fine food, the South Island Winery Tour road trip is the one for you. You’ll start your tour in the quaint coastal town of Picton before heading south to Blenheim and Kaikoura. Enjoy some of the region’s great wines, go on a whale watching tour, or take in the scenery on one of the many excellent walks and hikes. Carry on to Christchurch and Central Otago – New Zealand’s most inland winery region. You’ll also pass through the ‘fruit bowl’ of Cromwell before finishing up in beautiful Queenstown.

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9. Nelson, Abel Tasman & Wellington

Highlights along the way:

  • Nelson Lakes
  • Golden Bay
  • Abel Tasman
  • Wellington
  • LOTR locations

Travel time: 7 days

Distance: 765 km

Best time of year to visit: November – March

Who this road trip is best suited for: Beachgoers, LOTR fans, and those keen on exploring some of New Zealand’s culture and heritage.

Maui branch location: Pick up your campervan at Maui's Auckland branch and travel south to Wellington, then drop your campervan off at Maui's Christchurch branch, or vice versa.

With one beautiful beach after another, this Middle Country road trip is ideal for summer-loving road trippers. From Nelson Lakes at the top of the South Island, to Wellington’s Lyall Beach at the bottom of the North, there’s a beach for every surfer, sunbather, and swimmer! There are plenty of other great activities on this road trip too, including kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park, exploring art galleries and museums, and checking out some of the Lord of the Rings locations.

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10. Rotorua to Taupo

Highlights along the way:

  • Rotorua
  • Buried Village
  • White water rafting
  • Fishing on Lake Rotoiti
  • Lake Taupo

Travel time: 4 days

Distance: 82 km

Best time of year to visit: Any time of year

Who this road trip is best suited for: Anyone who wants to learn more about New Zealand’s culture without having to drive too far.

Maui branch location: Pick up and drop off your campervan at Maui’s Auckland branch.

Keen to learn more about the unique history and culture of New Zealand without travelling too far? The Cultural Central North Island road trip is a must-do! Over four amazing days, and without too much driving, you’ll discover the best of Rotorua and Taupo. Take a day trip through the Te Wairoa Buried Village, soak in a hot pool, and see Maori arts and crafts at Te Puia. You can also take in a cultural concert and meal at the Wairakei Terraces in Taupo.

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11. Auckland to Auckland

Highlights along the way:

  • The Bay of Islands
  • Poor Knights
  • 90 Mile Beach
  • Historic Waitangi
  • Waipoua Forest

Travel time: 8 days

Distance: 755 km

Best time of year to visit: Any time of year

Who this road trip is best suited for: Families looking for fun in the sun with plenty of relaxing outdoor activities to enjoy together.

Maui branch location: Pick up and drop off your campervan at Maui’s Auckland branch.

The Far North has some of New Zealand’s best places to visit, and the best way to see them all is on the Northern Lights road trip from Auckland. Explore historic townships, visit cafes and galleries, and swim or surf at the many fantastic beaches along the way. Those keen on diving can head to the world-renowned Poor Knights Reserve. If you prefer fun on top of the water, enjoy a cruise in the Bay of Islands. You can even go sand dune surfing or horse riding in Hokianga.

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12. Auckland to the Far North

Highlights along the way:

  • Whangarei
  • Paihia
  • Kerikeri
  • Cape Reinga

Travel time: 5 days

Distance: 751 km

Best time of year to visit: October – March

Who this road trip is best suited for: Anyone looking for a relaxed, scenic road trip over summer.

Maui branch location: Pick up and drop off your campervan at Maui’s Auckland branch.

Another of New Zealand’s great Northland road trips, the Twin Coast Discovery journey is packed with adventure and incredible scenery. Plan your trip for summer to see the vibrant red blossoms of the pohutukawa trees that line the coast. Stop for a bite to eat at one of the many relaxed seaside towns, plan a cruise, or grab a souvenir from one of the boutique shops or local markets.

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The benefits of road tripping in a motorhome

Spend less on accommodation

Skip pricey hotels and enjoy an affordable, flexible holiday in your motorhome. Parking in campgrounds is a much cheaper alternative and won’t break the bank. This might leave you with extra room in your budget for fun activities, helping you get the most out of your road trip experience.

Make friends as you travel

Travelling by campervan or motorhome is a great way to meet friendly travellers and like-minded holidaymakers. Share your favourite highlights, enjoy a camp-side meal together, and get some ideas on what to see next.

Bring all your creature comforts

With plenty of storage, a campervan rental is just like a home-away-from-home. Bring your favourite pillow, pack in your boogie board, and take your own food. Maui has campers for all types of travellers – from compact 2-person motorhomes to 6-berth motorhomes with room for friends, family, and plenty of gear.

Have the freedom to explore

An RV road trip gives you the option to take the path less travelled. You are the captain of your own adventure, so you make the rules! Who knows, you might find some hidden gems that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Ready for the best New Zealand road trip ever?

Whether you’ve always wanted to see the snow, the LOTR locations, the north or the south… the perfect road trip is waiting! And there really is no better way to do it than to hire a motorhome. See all of New Zealand’s best places to visit in the comfort and freedom of a campervan.

At Maui, we have a wide range of motorhomes and campervans available for hire that are perfect for your next New Zealand road trip.

Ready to hit the road? Book your Maui campervan today and get ready for the road trip of a lifetime!