Your first stop is Auckland. After you land at Auckland Airport, pick up your campervan – your home on wheels for the next three weeks. Share in your adventure with a fellow backpacker or loved one and save a few bucks on your three-week long trip! Spend the day exploring Auckland’s city centre with sights like the Sky Tower or One Tree Hill.
Recover from your jet lag on one of the many beaches close to the city or drive to the Bay of Islands north of Auckland and enjoy beautiful, relaxing views.
Next, head to Matamata, two hours from Auckland, and check out nearby Hobbiton.
Visiting this film set is an absolute must for The Lord of the Rings fans. The Shire was designed in great detail and with incredible effort. Take a guided tour through the hilly landscape and get an insight into how both the set and films were made.
Although Hobbiton is very touristy and certainly not cheap, it’s still worth exploring as a stopover.
Drive on to Rotorua, a city located on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Here, a sulphurous volcanic smell lies in the air, wafting out of the numerous hot springs, thermal baths, and warm waterfalls. Be sure to “take the waters” or relax in a natural mud bath.
Visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and its geothermal attractions, including bubbling mud pools, fuming fissures, colourful craters, and the Lady Knox Geyser. Tripadvisor even named this fascinating volcanic area one of the “20 Most Surreal Places in the World.”
Tongariro National Park
On the way from Rotorua to Tūrangi it is worth stopping at Lake Taupo, the largest lake in the country.
Tūrangi is your base for exploring the Tongariro National Park. The heart of this volcanic wonderland is known for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a (challenging) walk, which takes you from the Mangatepopo Valley to the saddle between the Ngauruhoe and Tongariro mountains, where you’ll pass massive craters, lava fields, emerald mountain lakes, and active volcanoes. This one-day trek is the most beautiful hike in New Zealand and one of the most spectacular hiking routes in the world.
After a few days in the countryside, head for Wellington.
This capital city is considered New Zealand's cultural centre (in addition to Auckland) and offers numerous attractions like the Wellington Museum or City Gallery Wellington, the most popular art gallery in New Zealand.
Wellington’s Cable Car, Botanical Gardens, and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which provides insights into traditional Māori culture, are also worth exploring.
Abel Tasman National Park
From Wellington, the journey continues to Picton on New Zealand's South Island.
The three-hour crossing through the breathtaking Marlborough Sounds is one of the highlights of any trip to New Zealand. Once in Picton, the journey continues to Nelson.
The coastal town is the starting point for excursions to Nelson Lakes National Park or Kahurangi National Park. A special highlight of the South Island is the Abel Tasman National Park with its small bays, golden sandy beaches and granite cliffs.
Hike along the picturesque coasts with golden beaches and small bays, discover numerous animal species such as pygmy penguins or seals on a kayak tour and let yourself be fascinated by geological formations such as Split Apple Rock.
Franz Joseph and the Fox Glaciers
Continue along the west coast but make a stop at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks – the perfect place to stretch your legs. You can visit these curious limestone rocks, formed by the waves of the rough Tasman Sea, via a circular walking route offering several viewing platforms.
Head past the industrial town of Greymouth to the Franz Josef Glacier, amid the spectacular mountain landscape of the ice-capped Southern Alps. The lower end of the glacier is surrounded by lush rainforest, offering a breath-taking backdrop for guided ice walks, helicopter rides, and climbing tours. These activities may be a bit pricey, so save a few bucks by walking through the glacier valley yourself to visit the glacier terminus or “snout.”
Next, check out Fox Glacier, about 20 km further south, which you can also explore on guided tours, panoramic flights, or a hike to the snout.
Drive over the Haast Pass and enjoy spectacular scenery on your way to Queenstown.
There is nowhere else on earth where you can try out so many extreme sports as in Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of the world. At the picturesque Lake Wakatipu, go stand up paddling, rafting, water skiing, and sailing or check out an extreme jetboat tour like Hydroattack's Shark Ride. If the water isn’t your thing, there are numerous spots for bungee jumping or you can take a ride on Nevis Swing, the world’s largest. In winter, go skiing in The Remarkables ski resort.
If you’re not a fan of extreme sports, don’t worry – Queenstown has plenty to keep you entertained, from boat trips on Lake Wakatipu and the (very accessible) Queenstown Hill Time Walk, to a Skyline Stargazing tour and gondola lifts with magnificent views. If you’d rather stay in the city, there are plenty of chic bars, hip clubs, and great restaurants to choose from, including the iconic Fergburger restaurant offering high-end, inventive burgers. Queenstown has something do to for everyone!
If you’re coming from Queenstown, it’s a good idea to spend the night in the small town of Te Anau and drive through Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound the next day.
This is considered one of the most beautiful routes in the country, so give yourself enough time to stop at the numerous lookout points.
Milford Sound is the most famous fjord in Fiordland National Park and a highlight of any trip to New Zealand. Located in one of the rainiest regions on earth, it offers an impressive backdrop with thousands of waterfalls rushing down from steep cliffs into the sea.
The best way to explore the 15-km-long fjord is on a boat trip, which offers the best views of Mitre Peak and Lady Bowen Falls. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some seals amidst the rocky landscape.
Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki
Your journey continues, this time back to the interior of the country through the Southern Scenic Route, which takes you to Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo.
These sparkling, turquoise glacier lakes are surrounded by snow-capped mountains – surreal scenery that looks as if it was taken out of a picture book. Although the water is quite cold all year round, take a quick dip after your long drive and watch the sunset from the shore.
Close by you’ll find Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. Explore one of the many hiking routes, and trek through valleys, over suspension bridges, and onward to mountain lakes, like the beautiful Hooker Lake.
Your last stop is Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island.
In Christchurch, check out attractions like the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial, the International Antarctic Centre, and the Canterbury Museum.
Drop off your campervan at the airport and catch a flight back home via Auckland.