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Christchurch to Auckland Self Drive Road Trip

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Gearing up for a family holiday in New Zealand? Why not make the most of your trip with an 11-day adventure spanning some of the best parts of both the North and South Island? Kick off your trip in New Zealand's second-largest city, Christchurch, and end up in Auckland, one of New Zealand's busiest hubs. Or, do the whole thing in reverse - the choice is yours!

With plenty to see and do along the way, you'll travel across 1,600 kilometres of New Zealand roads - just think of all the scenery you’ll get to enjoy! Plus, you'll be in the best places to experience everything from hot pools to whale watching, wine tours to beautiful walks and a few more unexpected highlights along the way.

Pack your bags and get ready to go; we've worked out the best route to self-drive from Christchurch to Auckland in less than a fortnight. Let's check it out.

Travel

11 days


Route

Christchurch to Auckland

1490km


Best Time of the Year

All year round

Highlights

  • Kaikoura
  • Nelson Lakes National Park
  • Craggy Range
  • Mount Maunganui

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

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Day 1
Christchurch to Hanmer Springs

Distance 130km - Driving Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Pick up your Maui camper from the Christchurch branch and get cosy in your new home-away-from-home.

Before you take off on your trip, spend a bit of time taking in the sights of Christchurch. Visit the world-famous Botanic Gardens, try a spot of boutique shopping at The Tannery or just fuel up before your drive at Arbour Woodfire Pizza. If you need a caffeine hit, give the coffee at Ally & Sid a go before you hit the road.

Today you'll drive around 130 km and be behind the wheel for about 2 hours in order to reach Hanmer Springs. Once you've parked up for the night at the beautiful Hanmer Springs TOP 10, treat yourself to a relaxing thermal spa and melt into holiday mode, it's only a short 5-minute walk away!

If you've arrived in Hanmer with some time up your sleeve, consider tackling one of the walkways and stretching your legs after today's drive. It might make that thermal spa experience even better!

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Day 2
Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura

Distance 122km - Driving Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Pick one of three routes that will get you from Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura. Depending on your route, ranging between a 2-hour or 3-hour journey, you'll span around 200 km on today's drive.

Once you arrive in scenic Kaikoura, make a bee-line to Nins Bin and sample the local crayfish, you won't be disappointed. Crayfish not of interest to you? A classic Kiwi fish'n'chips on the beach could be just as satisfying!

Kaikoura is famous for its epic whale watching, and you won't want to miss the opportunity to spot one yourself. Book a spot on the whale watch boat and sit back while someone else takes care of the navigation!

While you're in a seaside town, make the most of some beachfront camping and spend the night parked up at the Peketa Beach Holiday Park. With a bit of good planning, you should be able to nab an excellent spot to watch the sunrise in the morning - you might not even have to leave your bed to see it if you're lucky.

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Day 3
Kaikoura to Blenheim

Distance 138km - Driving Time 1 hour 50 minutes

A short 90 minute, 130 km drive is in store for today. Unless, of course, you want to stop off for a spot of lavender sniffingseal spotting or go for a wander down a black-sand beach, all of which are on the way between Kaikoura and Blenheim.

Blenheim is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc wines, so wine-lovers have a great opportunity to go on a Marlborough wine tour and make the most of one of New Zealand's best wine regions. Don't forget to pick up a bottle or two to enjoy later in your trip - your camper comes with a fridge, perfect for keeping your wine chilled to perfection.

Outdoor enthusiasts might like to work up a thirst by hiking or biking up Wither Hills Farm Park or one of many other local walking trails.

However, you've chosen to spend your day, choose to spend the night at the Blenheim Top 10 Holiday Park.

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Day 4
Blenheim to Nelson

Distance 120km - Driving Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Drive about 120 km and two hours today to reach sunny Nelson - once the coveted 'Sunshine Capital' titleholder. (Despite recently losing its title, it's still very sunny, we promise!)

Take a slight detour and soak up some sunshine in the Nelson Lakes National Park, where you'll find walking tracks, swimming spots and biking trails. If you have time up your sleeve and wish to extend your trip, this might be the spot for it.

Otherwise, head to Nelson town and enjoy wandering the local art galleries.

Plan your trip well, and you'll be able to stop in at the Nelson Farmers markets, which happen every Wednesday 8 am -1:30 pm. You'll be able to stock up on plenty of fresh and tasty local produce for the next part of your journey.

Stay at Tahuna Beach Holiday Park, where you have beach access for swimming and lounging in the sand, plus an on-site cafe for breakfast in the morning.

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Day 5
Nelson to Picton

Distance 138km - Driving Time 1 hour 55 minutes

Back-track along State Highway 6 and make your way from Nelson to Picton. Today's drive is about 2 hours, but make sure you don't cut your travel time too fine, as you're taking the campervan on a ferry from here to the North Island.

If you get to scenic Picton in good time, wander the township and relax before travelling to Wellington. Hungry campers may want to stop at Gusto, a great lunch spot in the centre of town.

Should your holiday plans offer a few more days than required by this 11-day itinerary, Picton is a great base for exploring the Marlborough Sounds.

Regardless, when it's time to move on, and you've seen the sights, jump on the Interislander ferry to Wellington.

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Day 6
Wellington to Napier

Distance 305km - Driving Time 4 hours

Stop for a coffee once you're back on terra-firma, before your longest leg of the trip, a 5 hour, 325 km journey from Wellington to Napier. Choose to travel up the Kapiti coast or go over the Rimutaka Hill and travel up the Island via the Wairarapa. The trips take roughly the same amount of time. However, the hill can be a little intimidating to drive in a larger vehicle.

Once you're in the Art Deco capital, Napier, get out and explore the beautiful buildings in the city's centre.

If you need a good stretch or work up an appetite before visiting hotspot restaurant Mister D, go for a climb at Te Mata Peak and take in the views.

For a more relaxed afternoon, stop in for a wine or two at Craggy Range or one of the many cellar doors within spitting distance. The Hawkes Bay wineries offer another great chance to stock up your onboard fridge. If you manage to find yourself in Napier on a Saturday, visit the local farmer's markets and sample some more local goodies.

Treat yourself to a stay at the Hastings TOP 10 Holiday Park while you're in Hawkes Bay and enjoy a dip in the pool, or just relax with a book and a beer poolside. It's your holiday after all!

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Day 7
Napier to Taupo

Distance 158km - Driving Time 2 hours 5 minutes

Fill your camper up with fuel, then hit the Napier - Taupo road. You'll drive around 150 km inland in about 2 hours to land at one of the North Island's biggest attractions, Lake Taupo.

Go for a dip in the lake, or try out your golf skills by landing a hole-in-one onto a pontoon in the lake. You might win a prize!

Explore the surroundings by visiting the Huka Falls, walking one of the local tracks, or slipping into the geothermal waters at Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs.

Stay at Taupo Top 10 Holiday Park, and you'll be a short 20-minute walk from the centre of town. There you'll find plenty of opportunities to sit back, relax and leave the cooking to someone else for the night.

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Day 8
Taupo to Rotorua

Distance 81km - Driving Time 1 hour 10 minutes

A short drive today, just an hour on the road, and less than 100 km on your journey, you'll arrive in the famous Rotorua.

Rotorua provides another opportunity to relax in geothermal hot springs. Head to the Polynesian Spa for a relaxing experience, or immerse yourself in the outdoors at the Redwoods Tree walk.

The young or the young at heart might enjoy a trip up the gondola and a ride on the luge. Others may prefer to stay on solid ground and explore the famous (and pretty smelly) mud pools in the area.

Check in to the Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park and wander through the Geothermal reserve at Kuirau Park on your way to town or the Rotorua Lakefront.

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Day 9
Rotorua to Mount Maunganui

Distance 71km - Driving Time 1 hour 10 minutes

It's time to head back towards the beach today, with another short 1-hour drive from Rotorua to Mt Maunganui, about 70 km away.

Known affectionately by many as "The Mount", Mount Maunganui is a popular destination for those who like a bit of surf and sand, a spot of boutique shopping and somewhere with a view!

It wouldn't have Mount in its name if there weren't something to scale, right? Head up the Mauao/ Mount Maunganui Summit Walk and admire the views from above before relaxing by the sea with a coffee, ice cream or wine.

Stay at Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park, where you have another chance to wake up to a beachy sunrise view right from your bed.

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Day 10
Mount Maunganui to Hamilton

Distance 111km - Driving Time 1 hour 35 minutes

Today’s drive offers up options, with three routes available to take you from Mt Maunganui to Hamilton. Each route takes roughly two hours and covers around 120 km.

Once you arrive in Hamilton, make a bee-line for the world-famous Hamilton Botanic Gardens, where you can enjoy a stroll, a tour, or a bite at the Garden Cafe.

Otherwise, consider packing your lunch and enjoy a picnic by the Waikato River. Bring along a blanket and a book, and you'll have whiled away the afternoon in no time!

Rest your head at the Hamilton City Holiday Park, and you'll have the city centre on your doorstep. If, for any reason, a picnic or garden visit doesn't appeal, why not consider dropping into the Waikato Museum for a look around.

Finally, Hobbiton is just a short 45-minute drive away for Lord of the Rings fans.

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Day 11
Hamilton to Auckland

Distance 116km - Driving Time 1 hour 30 minutes

On your final day of travel, and with just a 90-minute drive, you'll have completed the last 120 km of your trip!

Don't call it a day just yet, though! There are plenty of nice things to see and do in Auckland before you drop your camper at the Auckland Maui Branch.

Visit La Cigale and sample all the delicious treats on offer; head to the Auckland Art Gallery and see what's on display or mosey around the suburb of Ponsonby and roam around the shops.

There is plenty to see and do in Auckland and beyond! If you have more time available, why not extend your trip and travel all the way north to Cape Reinga?

Explore more of the South and North Islands with Maui. Book Now.