Top Camper Van Routes in New Zealand: Exploring the Best of the North and South Islands

Top Camper Van Routes in New Zealand: Exploring the Best of the North and South Islands

New Zealand is a camper van paradise, offering an array of stunning landscapes, vibrant cities, and serene countryside. Whether you’re navigating the volcanic landscapes of the North Island or the rugged coastlines of the South Island, traveling by camper van provides the ultimate freedom to explore at your own pace.

Here are some of the top camper van routes in New Zealand that promise unforgettable experiences.

The North Island Loop

1. Auckland to Bay of Islands

Start your journey in Auckland, the “City of Sails,” and head north to the Bay of Islands. This route is perfect for those who love beautiful beaches and rich history.


Paihia: A charming town offering access to the 144 islands in the Bay of Islands.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds: Learn about New Zealand’s history and the treaty between the British Crown and the Maori chiefs.

Aerial view of boats anchored in the bay of New Zealand.
Paihia, New Zealand

2. Bay of Islands to Rotorua

From the Bay of Islands, travel south to Rotorua, the heart of Maori culture and geothermal activity.


Waipoua Forest: Home to some of the largest Kauri trees in the world.

Rotorua’s Geothermal Parks: Explore geysers, hot springs, and mud pools at Wai-O-Tapu and Te Puia.

Ancient Kauri Tree Tane Mahuta in Puketi and Waipoua Forests in Northland, New Zealand.
Waipoua Forest, New Zealand

3. Rotorua to Taupo

Continue your journey to Taupo, located by the largest lake in New Zealand.


Huka Falls: Witness the power of the Waikato River as it plunges over the falls.

Tongariro National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage site ideal for hiking, including the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The rapids of the Waikato River in New Zealand.
Huka Falls, New Zealand

4. Taupo to Wellington

Drive south to the capital city, Wellington, known for its arts scene and vibrant culture.


Te Papa Museum: Discover New Zealand’s national museum.

Mount Victoria Lookout: Enjoy panoramic views of the city and harbor.

Panoramic views of the city and harbor.
Wellington, New Zealand

The South Island Adventure

1. Christchurch to Kaikoura

Start in Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island, and head north to Kaikoura.


Christchurch Botanic Gardens: Stroll through beautiful gardens and the tranquil Avon River.

Kaikoura: Known for its marine life, particularly whale watching and dolphin swimming.

A group of seals sitting on the rocks near the ocean.
Seals in Kaikōura

2. Kaikoura to Nelson

Travel up the coast to Nelson, a sunny city famous for its arts and crafts.


Marlborough Wine Region: Sample some of New Zealand’s best wines.

Abel Tasman National Park: Known for its golden beaches and clear waters, perfect for kayaking and hiking.   

A captivating island seen from a bird's-eye view.
Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

3. Nelson to Franz Josef Glacier

Head southwest through the scenic West Coast to Franz Josef Glacier.


Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks: Unique limestone formations and blowholes.

Franz Josef Glacier: Experience guided glacier hikes or scenic helicopter flights.

A mountain range is reflected in the water of a river.
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

4. Franz Josef Glacier to Queenstown

Continue south to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand.


Wanaka: A beautiful town on the lake with plenty of outdoor activities.

Queenstown: Try bungee jumping, skydiving, and jet boating, or simply enjoy the stunning scenery.

Aerial view of Queenstown, New Zealand.
Queenstown, New Zealand

Scenic Coastal Drives

1. The Coromandel Peninsula

Explore the Coromandel Peninsula’s beautiful beaches and lush forests.


Hot Water Beach: Dig your own hot pool in the sand.

Cathedral Cove: A picturesque spot accessible by a scenic walk or kayak.

Magnificent rack formation on a beautiful beach.
Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

2. The Southern Scenic Route

This route from Dunedin to Queenstown offers dramatic landscapes and wildlife.


Otago Peninsula: Home to albatross, sea lions, and penguins.

The Catlins: Explore waterfalls, rainforests, and rugged coastlines.

Aerial view of the coast and ocean from the air.
The Catlins, New Zealand

3. The Great Coast Road

Drive between Westport and Greymouth on one of the world’s most scenic coastal routes.


Punakaiki: Marvel at the Pancake Rocks and blowholes.

Hokitika Gorge: Admire the turquoise waters and lush surroundings.

The turquoise water of a river in the middle of a forest.
Hokitika Gorge, New Zealand


New Zealand’s diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage make it an ideal destination for a camper van holiday. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, these top routes offer something for everyone. Pack your bags, rev up your camper van, and set out on a journey to discover the wonders of New Zealand. Happy travels!