In this post, I provide the details of our month long journey touring New Zealand in a self-contained campervan. If we could change one thing about our trip, we would have freedom camped more often, but we wouldn’t have changed our route. To save money, you really only need to stay in a powered site once every three nights. This ensures you’ll have the ability to dump then fill up your tanks, and have a warm shower.
In the first section of this post, you will find details of our route, and in the second section you will find a breakdown of our lodging locations and expenses.
In the end, we drove a total of 3357 miles, of which 60% was on the South Island. I highly recommend allocating more time on the South Island than on the North. Several others we encountered seemed to also agree that a 3:2 South Island to North Island split was ideal.
Month-long New Zealand Campervan Route
To begin our month-long New Zealand campervan adventure, we flew in to Christchurch Airport, which I recommend whether you’re doing the South Island alone, or both Islands. We spent three weeks in the South Island and two weeks in the North Island (33 days total). Give yourself more time in the South Island than in the North, and don’t start your trip in Auckland, particularly if you’re on a budget, because it will likely be the most expensive area you will encounter!
The first third of our trip began in Christchurch, after which we made our way down to Doubtful and Milford Sound by means of Arthur’s Past and Mount Sunday (Edoras), and Mount Cook (The Lonely Mountain). All are must-see spots. The only campsite I recommend booking a few days in advance is Milford Sound. There is only one in the area, and it fills up quickly! All of our lodging information (location and price) is at the bottom of this post.
The second third of our trip went from Milford Sound to the Cook Strait Ferry in Picton. You may also want to book your ferry in advance if you’re travelling during peak season. We loved driving along the coast, and the Punakaiki Beach Camp. Watch out for the sand-flies on this part of the trip. They are vicious and if you have a solar powered roof vent in your camper they may even come in at night! I recommend buying tape to seal the fan during the evening.
Lastly, we toured the North Island. Our highlights were the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (an intense, but incredibly rewarding, 19.4 km hike along Mount Doom, the Emerald Lakes and volcanic craters), Hobbiton, and Cape Reinga (the northernmost point of the North Island where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean). Don’t miss the spots if you can help it! We returned our campervan in Auckland, which we also enjoyed touring.
New Zealand Campervan Lodging Breakdown
The table below shows where we stayed each night in our van, and how much each location cost.
Locations shaded in green represent powered sites (all happened to be private sites). Locations shaded in yellow are DOC sites, with the exception of Utea Park at 90 Mile Beach, which we loved. The DOC sites listed below didn’t have power, but had at least a toilet, some even had cold showers and cooking facilities. Lastly, locations shaded in red signify freedom camping (no power or facilities).
We highly recommend all of the yellow sites, MIlford Sound Lodge, Jackson’s Retreat Alpine Holiday Park, and Punakaiki Beach Camp!
Here’s a picture of our van pulled up to the beach at Bruce Bay. We spent a night freedom camping less than a block from here.