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Three amazing road trip itineraries in New Zealand

New Zealand Arthurs Pass Beautiful View

North Island, South Island - or both?

With its gorgeous landscapes, snow-capped peaks and unspoiled lakes, New Zealand is the perfect place for adventure seekers and road-trip enthusiasts. When it comes to New Zealand, the question that we're often asked is about which travel route is the absolute best. The truth is, we have more than one great option - but it all depends on how much time you have on your hands, and how far you want to drive.

In this blog, we'll compare our favourite road trips through New Zealand - one for the North Island, one for the South Island, and one that combines both into a true ''best of'' itinerary. Buckle up as we explore three unforgettable routes that will leave you spellbound.

Road Trip – NZ North Island (2000 1300) BG

North Island Road Trip

  • Recommended trip duration: around 3 weeks
  • Kilometres on the road: about 2,700km

Let's start off in the north of New Zealand, with this amazing road trip adventure through the North Island. In around 3 weeks you'll get to explore all the cool spots (and trust us, there are many!) in New Zealand's North Island.


Start and end your road trip adventure in Auckland with time to check out the city before heading off in your campervan. This road trip route has a lot of cool stops, as you'll drive from Auckland to Paihia and Kaitaia in the north, where you'll find loads of sandy beaches, pretty cliffs, and great dive spots. Not to mention the Maori culture, that has strong roots here, especially in Kaitaia.

From the upper north of the North Island, drive down to Wellington via some of New Zealand's absolute highlights, including the Waitomo Caves and Tongariro National Park, with its stunning volcanic landscapes and piercing blue crater lakes.

Once you make it to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, there are a bunch of touristy things on the agenda (like the free Te Papa Tongarewa museum and the cable car leading up the hill overlooking the city), as well as some great restaurants - like you'd expect of a proper capital.

After Wellington it's time to explore the east coast of the North Island, passing the art-deco town of Napier and Gisborne, which is great for surfing. The next few stops on your route are just as exciting, with Hobbiton's green hills and cottages (yes - the ones from The Lord of the Rings) and Rotorua, where the geothermal activity creates an otherworldly landscape filled with steamy lakes and geysers. You can really see the massive diversity New Zealand can offer you here!

Then it's time to head back to Auckland where you can drop off your campervan and head back home or continue on to another adventure. 

Check out our North Island Road Trip itinerary in New Zealand

Road Trip – NZ South Island (2000 1300) BG

South Island Road Trip

  • Recommended trip duration: 3-4 weeks
  • Kilometres on the road: about 2,700km


A road trip around the South Island of New Zealand is a breathtaking experience - think mountain ranges, golden beaches, glaciers, rainforests, fjords, extreme sports and whale-watching. Enjoy the ultimate South Island experience on this unbelievably scenic road trip!


Start your South Island adventure in Christchurch, known for its beautiful gardens and vibrant art scene. Explore the Botanic Gardens, walk along the Avon River, and visit the Quake City Museum to learn about the city’s resilience after the devastating earthquake in 2011.

Leaving the city behind and heading north, stop at least Kaikoura for whale-watching and the Marlborough Wine Region to sample some of New Zealand's famous grape juice. The next stop is Abel Tasman National Park where golden beaches meet lush forests. Here you can hike the Abel Tasman Coast Track, kayak in crystal-clear waters, and spot seals and dolphins along the coast.

Making your way south again, you'll come across the Franz Josef Glacier - a stunning icy wonder. Take a guided glacier hike, soak in the hot pools after a long day, and marvel at the icy blue masses staring you in the face. Via Wanaka you'll end up in Milford Sound, which is one of the most mesmerising places on earth. The fjord here is not only surrounded by snowy mountains (part of the year), but also has rainforests, waterfalls, dolphins and penguin colonies. It's hard to top Milford Sound, but your next stop is exciting, as it's the adventure capital of New Zealand, and maybe even the world! You can bungee jump off the Kawarau Bridge, practice watersports on Lake Wakatipu, and try paragliding here.

Via Invercargill, catch a ferry to Stewart Island, a remote gem. The reason to go all this way is the Rakiura National Park. Here you'll find fantastic hiking trails, many different birds, and a chance to see the elusive kiwi bird (though we have to admit, this is pretty ffin' hard).

Continue north along the east coast of the South Island via Dunedin - known for its Scottish heritage and student life. Visit the Otago Peninsula for albatross colonies, penguins, and stunning coastal views. (We can see why the Scots liked it here!).

For your last stop, head inland to Lake Tekapo, which is so blue it almost hurts your eyes. By day, it's incredibly picturesque, while by night we recommend stargazing at the Dark Sky Reserve. It's a peaceful end to your New Zealand journey, but it will leave you wanting more. 

Road Trip – NZ North + South Island (2000 1300) BG

North & South Island Road Trip

  • Recommended trip duration: minimum 3 weeks, but we recommend a longer stay!
  • Kilometres on the road: about 3,700

This epic road trip is basically a greatest hits cocktail of the two itineraries above. We'll guide you through the best of what New Zealand's two main islands have to offer in three weeks or (preferably) more. We've included some of the major stops on this route, but if you have more than three weeks, there's plenty more to see along the way - or you can simply choose to linger a little longer in each place.

Start the adventure in Christchurch and end in Auckland. If you do the road trip in this order, you won't be charged the one-way fee for your campervan rental. But there will be a fee if you do the itinerary in reverse, as most people start in Auckland and end in Christchurch, meaning more rental cars have to be taken back to Auckland.

A few of the stops on our recommended route are actually unique to this itinerary, though you could of course also add them to the respective North or South Island road trips above. For example, we love the Poor Knights Islands, a stunning group of islands named one of the top 10 dive sites in the world by no other than Jacques Cousteau. Here you can try cave-diving and spot plenty of underwater mammals like whales and dolphins.

On the South Island one of the major highlights is Arthurs Pass National Park, great for hiking but especially interesting for the climbers among us. Its landscapes are both lush and rocky at the same time, making it one of the best places in the Southern New Zealand Alps for keen rock climbers. 

As you've seen above, you could easily spend three weeks exploring just one of the islands alone, but we've tried to compile a ''best of'' road trip route covering both islands in around three weeks. If you have more time, great! Then you get to experience even more.

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