A Campervan Trek in New Zealand

The United States is pretty much the road-trip capital of the world, right? Not so fast! While our veiny maze of American intersections, highways, freeways and farm country roads is a giant novel, New Zealand is a poem. It’s a land of a few simple, beautiful roads where the more you stare the deeper you’ll find yourself in imagination, with the journey greater than the destination. Stop for a second and you’ll stop for longer than you expected. During our 12-day stay on the stunning and pristine islands we decided to explore as much as we could before letting the road take us where it wanted…

Camper Van at Mt Ngauruhoe

On the first day of our trip we landed in Auckland where, after grabbing breakfast, we explored a bookstore and ate fish-n-chips. After picking up our Maui campervan we set out for the Waitomo Caves, all the while learning to drive on the opposite side of the road. This cave-tubing adventure took us deep into caverns with waterfalls, inner tubes, and thousands of glowing Arachnocampa (glowworms!) hanging from the ceiling in the shape of the Milky Way Galaxy. Unfortunately, photos are not permitted inside the caves (it’s preferred you pay attention to not drowning or cracking your head open on a cave wall instead of, say, taking hilarious photos of yourself in wetsuits and white rain boots!). After this adventure we continued our drive toward Matamata and camped in an empty parking lot – beside the cows – watching the sunset reflect off waterfalls.

Hills in Matamata New Zealand

On the third day of our adventure we purchased tickets to Hobbiton, the fully restored movie set of The Shire. Hobbiton is complete with Hobbit holes, a working garden, and drinks at The Green Dragon Pub, all within a privately owned sheep farm. It’s a place we would live in a heartbeat!

Lake Home in Hobbiton
Hobbiton Home

After thoroughly exploring the set we drove to Rotorua for the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland where colorful, geothermal activity bubbles from the ground at temperatures above boiling. We then moved on to Tongariro National Park in hopes of hiking the Tongariro Crossing, one of the best-rated day hikes in the world (and the site of Mt. Doom).

Waiotapu Thermal Spring
Devils Home at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
Mt Ngauruhoe

Over the next few days we hiked the Northern Tongariro Circuit, made time for Yummy Mummy’s Cheesecake, almost ran out of gas, camped on a beautiful spot right on the ocean with a ridiculous sunset, stopped in Rivendell (Kaitoke Regional Park) to swim the icy cold waters, and hopped a ferry across the Tasman Sea channel to Picton. We then camped near Abel Tasman National Park on an empty beach full of beautiful seashells.

Stars at Abel Tasman National Park

We awoke near the park and spent the day kayaking the green blue water, paddling through caves, and relaxing on open beaches. Afterward we drove south and camped near the Nelson Lakes area before spending the following day driving the western coastline.

Kayaking at Abel Tasman National Park
Blue Waters of Abel Tasman National Park
Nelson Lakes

Our next stop took us to Paparoa National Park to see the Pancake Rocks and do a jungle hike. We camped along a glacier river, hoping for a heli-hike on the Franz Josef Glacier the next morning. Sadly, when fog and rain cancelled all hope of a helicopter outing, we cut our losses and hit the road for Queenstown where we took a break, camped at a real holiday park, took real showers, and had one of the most delicious dinners of lamb shanks, ever. We then caught a showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the big screen!

Paparoa National Park Cliffs
New Zealand Pancake Rocks
View Above Paparoa National Park
Route to Queenstown

Just outside the Milford Sound we came to a valley lush with lupine and alpine views. A gorgeous, early-morning boat tour of the sound brought us picturesque views of surrounding mountains and even provided a few dolphin sightings! We followed the tour with a day hike along the Routeburn Track to Key Summit. We spent our evening on the eastern coast near Dunedin, seeing both the Tasman Sea and the Pacific in one day.

Morning at Milford Sound
Mildford Sound Landscape
Exploring Milford Sound by Boat

Our last few days in country involved a nice, leisurely drive through Dunedin and other quiet coastal towns with seal and penguin sanctuaries. We made our way to Mt. Cook National Park along the beautifully blue Lake Pukaki where clear skies, billowy clouds and a perfect view of the highest peak in New Zealand welcomed us for a morning walk to a glacier lake. We concluded our trip with a drive by the even bluer Lake Tekapo, through flat farmland, and on to Christchurch for our flight back to the US.

Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo Viewpoint
Mt Cook National Park View
Mt Cook National Park Landscape

The Details

Maui Camper Van Rentals
011 800 200 80 801



  1. Jillian Avatar

    What company did you go through to get your camper van? Thanks so much!

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