Hidden Gems to Explore by Camper Van

Hidden Gems to Explore by Camper Van

Hidden Gems to Explore by Camper Van in New Zealand: Discover the Unseen Wonders

New Zealand is renowned for its iconic destinations like Milford Sound, Rotorua, and Queenstown. However, for those seeking adventure beyond the well-trodden paths, there are numerous hidden gems to explore. Traveling by camper van offers the perfect opportunity to discover these lesser-known attractions and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Here are some hidden treasures that promise unique experiences and unforgettable memories.

1. The Forgotten World Highway (State Highway 43)

- Location: North Island, between Taumarunui and Stratford

- Highlights: Scenic drives, historic sites, and remote landscapes.

- Details: This 150-kilometer route is New Zealand’s oldest heritage trail. It takes you through rugged countryside, over ancient bridges, and past historic sites like the Whangamomona Republic. The winding road offers spectacular views and a sense of isolation that makes it a perfect escape from the crowds.

A tunnel in the middle of a lush green forest.
The Forgotten World Highway

2. Rere Rockslide and Rere Falls

- Location: Near Gisborne, East Coast of the North Island

- Highlights: Natural water slide and picturesque waterfalls.

- Details: The Rere Rockslide is a 60-meter-long natural rock formation that creates a thrilling water slide. Just a short drive away is the serene Rere Falls, perfect for a refreshing swim. These spots are ideal for adventurous travelers looking for unique and fun experiences in a natural setting.

Two individuals water skiing in front of a cascading waterfall.
Rere Rockslide

3. Ōpoutere Beach

- Location: Coromandel Peninsula, North Island

- Highlights: Pristine beach, bird sanctuary, and tranquility.

- Details: A hidden gem even on the popular Coromandel Peninsula, Ōpoutere Beach offers white sands, clear waters, and a peaceful atmosphere. The beach is part of a protected area for nesting shorebirds, adding a touch of ecological significance. It’s perfect for those looking to relax away from the more crowded beaches.

A bird sitting on top of a railing with mountains in the background.

4. Kahurangi National Park

- Location: Northwest of the South Island

- Highlights: Untamed wilderness, diverse wildlife, and scenic trails.

- Details: As New Zealand's second-largest national park, Kahurangi is home to some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes, including the famous Heaphy Track. The park’s remote location means fewer visitors, allowing you to enjoy the pristine environment and abundant wildlife in peace.

A stream runs through a grassy field on a foggy day.
Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand

5. Blue Lake (Rotomairewhenua)

- Location: Nelson Lakes National Park, South Island

- Highlights: Crystal-clear waters and breathtaking scenery.

- Details: Known for having some of the clearest natural fresh water in the world, Blue Lake is a remote and stunning destination. Access requires a hike, but the effort is well worth it. The tranquil lake, surrounded by alpine scenery, offers a perfect spot for reflection and photography.

Clouds over the mountains in New Zealand.
Travers-Sabine, Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

6. Catlins Coast

- Location: Southeastern corner of the South Island

- Highlights: Rugged coastlines, waterfalls, and wildlife.

- Details: The Catlins offer a mix of lush rainforests, dramatic coastlines, and hidden waterfalls like Purakaunui Falls and McLean Falls. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy spotting sea lions, penguins, and the rare Hector’s dolphins. The remote and unspoiled nature of the Catlins makes it a true hidden gem.

A view of the ocean and beach from the top of a hill.
Catlins, Otago, New Zealand

7. Golden Bay and Wharariki Beach

- Location: Northwest tip of the South Island

- Highlights: Stunning beaches, rock formations, and secluded spots.

- Details: Golden Bay is known for its golden sands and tranquil waters. Wharariki Beach, accessible via a short hike, features impressive rock arches, sand dunes, and tidal pools teeming with marine life. The area’s natural beauty and relative seclusion make it a must-visit for those seeking serenity and dramatic landscapes.

A golden sand beach adorned with stunning rock formations.
Wharariki Beach, Puponga, New Zealand

8. Lake Waikaremoana

- Location: Te Urewera, North Island

- Highlights: Serene lake, hiking trails, and lush forests.

- Details: Lake Waikaremoana, located in the remote Te Urewera region, is surrounded by native forests and offers excellent hiking and fishing opportunities. The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk provides stunning views and a chance to immerse yourself in the area’s natural beauty.

Houses on a hillside surrounded by vibrant green trees.
Lake Waikaremoana, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

9. Moeraki Boulders

- Location: Otago Coast, South Island

- Highlights: Mysterious spherical boulders on the beach.

- Details: The Moeraki Boulders are large, spherical stones scattered along Koekohe Beach. These geological marvels are a fascinating sight, especially at sunrise or sunset when the lighting enhances their otherworldly appearance. The nearby village of Moeraki also offers quaint dining options and a chance to see yellow-eyed penguins.

Large, spherical stones scattered along the sea.
Moeraki, New Zealand

10. Waipoua Forest

- Location: Northland, North Island

- Highlights: Ancient kauri trees and rich Maori heritage.

- Details: Home to the legendary Tane Mahuta, the largest known kauri tree in existence, Waipoua Forest is a place of awe and wonder. The forest’s majestic trees and lush undergrowth create a serene and spiritual atmosphere. Guided night walks offer a unique experience to learn about the local flora and fauna, as well as Maori legends.

A large tree in the middle of a dense forest.
Tāne Mahuta State Highway 12, Waipoua Kauri Forest, New Zealand

Exploring these hidden gems by camper van allows you to experience New Zealand’s diverse landscapes and rich culture away from the crowds. Each destination offers something unique, whether it’s a thrilling natural water slide, a serene beach, or a mystical forest. So pack your sense of adventure and set off to discover the lesser-known wonders of New Zealand.