South Island New Zealand Itinerary

A New Zealand’s South Island Trip by Campervan

New Zealand’s South Island offers unparalleled natural beauty and unique cultural and outdoor experiences that bring peace to the heart. It is a heaven of superb locations, with breathtaking scenery and charming views that create long-lasting trip memories. This guide provides the essential information you must have while exploring the South Island of New Zealand on a campervan trip.

New Zealand Campervan Trip
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A Campervan Trip of New Zealand’s South Island

Must-Visit Places In New Zealand’s South Island

Look at all the top spots on your bucket list when travelling around the South Island. If you take the ferry from the North Island to the South Island, this is the perfect itinerary trip for a campervan adventure.

The Marlborough Region

Start exploring the Marlborough Sounds, known for its stunning coastal landscapes and water activities. The region is also famous for its valleys of vines, wineries, and premium wines, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc. You can plan a few days in the Marlborough area.

The Marlborough Region in New Zealand
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The Marlborough Sounds

Nelson

Nelson is an ideal destination for campervan travellers over 50. With its scenic landscapes, vibrant arts scene, and wineries, Nelson offers a relaxed atmosphere for exploration and cultural experiences tailored to the preferences of mature tourists.

Christchurch

If you fly into the South Island, starting from Christchurch is best. This must-see town blends seaside fascination with a beautiful beach promenade, lush gardens, a nature wildlife reserve, historical buildings, and museums. There are several campervan sites where you can book your stay. From there, you can start your campervan explorations of the South Island.

Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

Mount Cook is located 330 km south of Christchurch, a serene campervan destination for travellers. Surrounded by awe-inspiring alpine landscapes, it offers a tranquil retreat with scenic drives and stargazing opportunities. Make sure you go walking to the Tasman River Viewpoint and the Hooker Valley Track. Other must-visit areas are Lake Tekapo and Peter’s Lookout near Lake Pukaki.

Mount Cook New Zealand
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Mount Cook National Park – New Zealand

Te Anau

The gateway to the Fiordland National Park, in the southern part of the South Island, is Te Anau, a charming town on the shores of Lake Te Anau. It’s an excellent base for exploring the surrounding natural wonders.

Queenstown

Known as the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown, in the southwest region, offers breathtaking scenery and a range of activities, from scenic cruises on Lake Wakatipu to exploring nearby wineries. The town has a charming atmosphere, with excellent dining options and shopping.

Queenstown South Island New Zealand
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A beautiful view of Queenstown, New Zealand

Tips for Planning Your New Zealand’s South Island Trip

A well-prepared traveller is always safe on a campervan trip. We have prepared this guide for you to follow through so you can steer clear of any issues later.

The Campervan

You will love to experience New Zealand by campervan. Choose the campervan rental that offers all the amenities and features that cater to your needs well. Choosing a local trusted campervan rental company and deciding on the type of travel insurance beforehand will help you enjoy a hassle-free trip experience.

Packing

Do pack light as much as possible. But ensure that you carry clothes for all kinds of weather conditions. You may ditch the unnecessary stuff that will only clutter your campervan. The best thing you can do is pack everything in travel cubes that will help you use your space efficiently. You can also use them as sleeping pillows. Remember emergency supplies, a first-aid kit, and a flashlight. They are helpful during the nighttime.

Safety

Read all the road rules and safety regulations to avoid fines later. You can enjoy your trip easily if you adhere to all the safety guidelines, respect local laws, and drive slowly. With this, it is essential to steer clear of all wildlife caution signs and respect them.

Driving at night

New Zealand has relatively narrow roads, and it is pretty dangerous to drive during the night. Also, pay attention to bad weather signs and check the weather forecasts for the nearest safety points.

Food

Carry food and groceries whenever you get a chance. Don’t carry too many perishable items that will get spoiled easily. Also, refrain from feeding the wildlife as they may get sick from human food.

Directions

Keep your GPS on when you hit the road. Also, keep a physical map in case there is some network issue. If you must search in the dark, keep a torch ready for the night. Remember to update someone on the phone about your whereabouts and keep your phone charged at all times.

Staying Overnight

Do all your research and bookings beforehand to have a convenient overnight stay. In the case of a campervan, you need to research all the campsites and hotels to stay in before dark. Don’t leave finding a camping spot or hotel as a last-minute task. This will keep you stressed, and you may miss decent accommodation.

Charge Your Devices

Charge all your cameras, phones, and other equipment all the time. Since most camp spaces may not have charging spots, you can rely on coffee shops and hotels to get charging spots. Remember to carry a power bank that will be your best bud when charging your devices on the road.

Road Trip Itinerary

Craft a well-prepared and thorough road trip itinerary.  Plan at least 10-14 days to ensure plenty of time to enjoy the natural beauty and experience the mesmerising environment to the fullest.

Lake Tekapo South Island New Zealand
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Colourful Lake Tekapo in New Zealand’s South Island

Driving Tips For New Zealand

  1. Roads in New Zealand can be narrow, so drive carefully and follow all the traffic rules.
  2. There are speed cameras, so drive safely to avoid any tickets.
  3. Download Google Offline Maps or use the MapsMe App for proper navigation and exploration.
  4. Use the Gaspy App to find the cheapest fuel options to refuel your campervan.
  5. Check the official Waka Kotahi website for New Zealand’s road conditions and updates.

Best Time To Explore New Zealand

The best time to explore the region depends on your personal preference. If you don’t mind large crowds and love pleasant weather, then the summer months are the best options. You can enjoy several outdoor activities, but remember that it is peak season so that you will be sharing roads with several travellers. If you don’t like crowds and want to avoid the chilling wintertime, the shoulder season is your best bet on a campervan. Both spring, from Sept to Nov, and fall, from March to May, offer a serene experience where you can spend quality time in New Zealand while travelling on a campervan.

If you love snow, you can opt for the winter season, from June to August. However, the temperature during the winter season in the south island can be pretty cold. So, make sure that you pack proper layers.

South Island’s Top Adventures

The South Island of New Zealand stretches from Picton to Invercargill at the bottom, with nearly 900 km and a coastline of +5 thousand; make sure you create a well-thought-out trip itinerary that matches all top adventures and places from your bucket list.

New Zealand South Island Campervan Trip
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A New Zealand’s South Island Trip by Campervan

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