If you are debating about travelling New Zealand in a campervan or your mind is made up and you’re looking for advice, this is the guide you need. Travelling New Zealand by campervan is the best way to explore this beautiful country and this guide will share exactly how to do it.
Coming from the other side of the world we had so many questions and felt overwhelmed planning our road trip – is it best to buy a van or rent a van? How long do you need to travel both islands? And most importantly, how much does it cost to travel New Zealand by campervan?
Well, thankfully we survived the sat nav fall outs to discover the hidden gems and top tips and we’re sharing them all with you. From how to find cheap campervan hire to the best free campsites, this New Zealand campervan guide will save you time, money and stress on the road!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT NEW ZEALAND?
When deciding the best time to visit New Zealand, the first thing you should note is that it is in the Southern Hemisphere. This means seasons are the opposite to what we’re used to in the North and home in Scotland (which is no seasons, just one day of Summer and rain all round.)
The second thing to note, is that the weather differs on each island – the South is more turbulent and unpredictable with the North generally more mild. That being said, we experienced a complete wash out in the North, with us unable to visit Cape Reinga as the road was literally washed away.
Although many blogs will have an opinion on the best time to visit New Zealand, it is entirely up to you. Being Scottish, rain doesn’t bother us so sunshine isn’t essential. We’d rather have a cheaper trip with a little drizzle, than a more expensive trip with crowded campsites but recognise this isn’t the case for everyone.
Summer in NZ is December – February
This is PEAK season for both tourists and locals as it’s school holidays too. Although crowded campsites are a disadvantage alongside higher costs, it is an ideal time to go campervanning in New Zealand if you want the best weather.
Winter in NZ is June – August
Winter can get VERY cold in New Zealand with many roads and hikes cut off from tourists due to snow and heavy rainfall. This weather can severely impact your trip especially if you have a strict itinerary. It does however mean campsites are super quiet so you won’t struggle for space and its the best time of year for discounts and deals on campervan hire in New Zealand. Not to mention if you are into skiing or snowboarding this is the ideal time of year for you.
We travelled New Zealand by campervan in March
For us, we’d recommend this being the best time to visit New Zealand – the price was slightly cheaper as it was in shoulder season, we never struggled to find a free campsite as there was always space and the weather was incredible.
We were able to hike the Tongariro crossing in sunshine but experience Milford sound after heavy rainfall when the waterfalls were at their best. Our only slight issue was Cape Reinga which was at the very end of our trip as the road was washed away and due to being in a rental van we were unable to drive on the beach which was the only way to then visit the very north without the main road.
IS IT BEST TO BUY OR RENT A CAMPERVAN IN NEW ZEALAND?
The first step of travelling New Zealand by campervan is selecting the van itself and most importantly, to rent or to buy. There are definite pros and cons to each, which we will discuss based on not only our opinions but the opinions of friends who have also travelled New Zealand in a campervan. Here’s our best advice:
Buying a Campervan in New Zealand: Advantages
- It’s yours: This may sound obvious but it means you have complete freedom to make it your home on wheels. Although you can add cushions and fairy lights to a rental van, we’ve seen some epic van conversions that feel like mini hotels. With your own van you can make it feel really like your own home on wheels.
- No Road restrictions: With a rental, you are restricted to sealed roads only. We all know that the best campsites, waterfalls, hikes and hidden gems are often at the end of the bumpiest roads. This means if you want to get off the beaten track, you will have the complete freedom in your own van without the worry of losing a deposit or expensive fines from rental companies if you get stuck.
- It’s less touristy: Although this didn’t affect us personally, we have heard horror stories of people’s vans being targeting by angry locals and the obvious way to spot a tourist is by a van that screams “I AM RENTED” adorned with in your face logos. Particularly in the very south of the South Island, we read of campsite reviews where rental vans were easy targets for stones, scratches and break-ins. With your own van, it blends in to the crowd.
- Its cheaper: If you have plans on travelling New Zealand by campervan for longer than a month or two then it will prove cheaper to buy your own. If you time your buying right, you can grab a bargain as many travellers need to get rid of their vans before they leave.
Buying a Campervan in New Zealand: Disadvantages
- Selling it again: The main reason we did not buy a campervan in New Zealand is because we only had 5 weeks to visit both islands. It would be incredibly difficult to find, buy, road trip then sell a van within this time. The supply and demand of campervans in New Zealand majorly depends on the time of year – if it’s the end of the warmer seasons backpackers are settling into work not to mention being skint after a Summer of exploring so you may need to discount heavily to get rid of it. If you’re selling at the start of the season (Spring/early Summer) this is when there is a higher demand so finding a buyer may be easier.
- Breakdown Fees: If you break down in a rental van, you simply phone up the helpline and voila a mechanic appears and you’ll be back on the road in no time (or you’re given a replacement vehicle.) If your own van breaks down, depending on your insurance you will have to find a way to take it to the mechanic and you could then be weeks off the road and thousands in mechanic fees. We didn’t fancy that headache, so again this fuelled our reasons to rent.
Renting a Campervan in New Zealand: Advantages
- Timing: If you only have a short time to go campervanning in New Zealand you won’t want to spend most of it trying to sell your van or sitting in a garage waiting on repairs. With a rental, you’ll make the most of your time.
- They come equipped: Even with cheap campervan hire in New Zealand you van will likely come equipped with items such as plates, utensils and bedding. This not only saves time but it will save you money too. Our van even came equipped with useful extras such as matches, tea and coffee, camping chairs and washing up liquid.
- Enjoy the discounts: Most campervan rental companies have deals with campsites to encourage their customers to stay there. For example, with our campervan rental in New Zealand we received a discount of 10% in certain campsite if we showed the Travellers Autobarn keyring.
- Help is always on hand: If your first taste of van life is touring New Zealand by campervan you may not feel brave enough to buy your own. Instead, having the rental helpline on hand as well as 24/7 roadside assistance is a good safety blanket for when things go wrong, or generally for advice. We had issues on morning one of our South Island road trip with our hob not igniting and it was so reassuring to phone the rental helpline (at 8am on a Sunday!) and have someone talk us through how to fix it.
- Cost: If we were to travel around by bus or car and then stay in hostels or hotels it would have been far more expensive. By renting a campervan in New Zealand it was both our transport and our bed for the night – many nights of which were spent in free campsites so it worked out cheaper!
Renting a Campervan in New Zealand: Disadvantages
- Beware of the Small Print: Campervan hire in New Zealand may seem like a good deal but beware of the small print. Many insist on a large deposit or security bond which will impact your adventure fund. Not forgetting the horror stories of dodgy rental companies who have kept the bonds or deposits for unfair reasons, so make sure you opt for a reputable company (don’t worry, we can help with that!)
- Restricted Access: As mentioned above, you are restricted to sealed roads only when campervanning in New Zealand in a rental. This means some campsites or remote beaches etc are out of bounds.
- They Look like Rental Vans: Yes, the most millennial excuse ever but with your own van you can change the appearance both inside and out. Your holiday snaps may be tainted by a van emblazoned with logos and vibrant colour – not to mention it screams, I’m a tourist.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST VAN FOR CAMPERVANNING IN NEW ZEALAND
Based on the pros and cons above, you may have decided to rent (like we did) or buy a campervan in New Zealand. Regardless of the option you choose, you need to ask yourself the following questions to make sure the van you opt for is suitable for your dream road trip.
1. Will you be free camping in New Zealand?
If yes, your campervan must be a self-contained vehicle. This means your campervan has a toilet and water in it (even a portable toilet passes) otherwise you may face fines for free camping in New Zealand without the correct van. This also means “campercars” are usually out of the question. Although they are cheapest to hire, their seats just fold down into a bed and all cooking/washing up must be done outside the van so space is limited and they won’t be self-contained certified. The laws are SUPER strict (and rightly so) so please be a responsible traveller and only go free camping in New Zealand if your van is self-contained, unless there are toilets on site.
2. Are you old enough to drive in New Zealand?
Depending on the country where you passed your test will depend if your license is eligible to go campervanning in New Zealand. Many companies will not insure drivers who are under 25 especially for rentals. Some may not insure you even in your own van without an International Driving Permit (IDP). If you are younger, this can often incur higher bonds or excess if you do need to claim on insurance – both for buying and renting.
3. How long have you been driving?
Even though Darren has been driving for 10+ years, the roads in New Zealand are incredibly unique – tight turns, steep hills and ever changing weather conditions means experience is essential. Particularly on routes such as Te Anau to Milford Sound where there is no phone signal the entire way and the road is renowned for closures due to weather, so it is difficult to call for help.
If you are a new driver, lack confidence or you’re used to a wee Fiat 500 you may not want to opt for a 6 berth motorhome when travelling New Zealand by campervan. It will be terrifying to not only drive, but park! Not to mention you will need to drive on the “wrong side” for some as well as having to navigate cities and wildlife behind the wheel, so choose your campervan in New Zealand wisely.
4. How many people are joining your New Zealand campervan trip?
If you’re a group of friends all chipping in on a van whether renting or buying does make it cheaper on the one hand. On the other, more people means less space.
Although we were two people we opted for a 3 person campervan in New Zealand because Daz is 6ft 4 so needed the height and Loz the wannabe chef needed the extra space for cooking up a
mess storm. If you have plans to literally only use your van for sleeping in, then a smaller van may be more cost efficient. For us, we spent a lot of time in the evenings in our van as well as cooking all our meals so welcomed more space.
You can watch the video below for a full van tour – cribs style! We loved our Kuga campervan in New Zealand so much, we hired the exact same van again when camping in Australia so although the video below is from our Aussie van, it’s the exact same vehicle.
HOW TO FIND CHEAP CAMPERVAN HIRE IN NEW ZEALAND
Step One: The Time of Year
If searching for cheap campervan hire in New Zealand, do not expect to find good deals from December – February. This is peak season and companies hike up the price. Play around with dates as even a week or two can make a huge difference to your rental fee. Although the weather is not as good during the Winter months and roads may be prone to closures due to rain, we feel New Zealand is stunning regardless of the weather so if budget is the only thing putting you off campervanning in New Zealand opt for the off-season for the best deals!
Step Two: Compare
You are likely aware of comparison sites for hotels and accommodation but did you know for campervan hire in New Zealand there are comparison sites too? We really recommend using Motorhome Republic as you can filter by size, budget and dates to then narrow down the competition. This saved us so much time when planning our trip as it avoided us going through each site individually and getting overwhelmed or forgetting valuable info – you can easily compare in one place.
Step Three: Haggle
From the hundreds of companies that do campervan hire in New Zealand, we narrowed it down to two companies thanks to the comparison site which were very similar in price. However, there were pros and cons to both such as, one offered free camp chairs & table the other offered free ferry transfer. We then emailed the two companies with each other’s quotes and used instant chat to tell them they’d made the final of Loz & Daz’s Campervan Search.
Our honesty paid off. It instantly started a bidding war with one company even sending us cute puppy memes to try and persuade us to choose them over the second option. There is always wiggle room with companies for discounts, the odd cheeky freebie and of course puppy memes always help sweeten the deal when on a mission for cheap campervan hire in New Zealand.
Step Four: Booking The Best Deal
Finally our search for cheap campervan hire in New Zealand was over and our champions were Traveller’s Autobarn. However, being Scottish we love a bargain (and so many people miss this step out) so for a further discount BEFORE making your final booking we recommend taking your quote to a third party company such as STA who claim to “beat any quote” or Rat Pack Travel who offer promo codes and discounts on top of your chosen hire.
We took the quote we’d received from Traveller’s Autobarn to STA and they went above and beyond to ensure we booked with them. Not only did they throw in our ferry ticket for free which was meant to be NZ$200.00+ but also our camping equipment such as table & chairs where other companies were charging extra.
Although this may seem like a lengthy process, it is definitely worth it if you want to find cheap campervan hire in New Zealand – follow these steps and you’ll save vital pennies for the
wine adventure fund.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TRAVEL NEW ZEALAND BY CAMPERVAN?
Despite all the help online, from Youtube videos, friends and guides there is one vital element that many people do not discuss about campervanning in New Zealand – COST!
We have broken down every penny we spent during our 5 week road trip of both islands. We will be honest, you could definitely do this cheaper if you missed out the major tourist attractions and rented off peak but as a guide, we spent:
This was in peak season for 5 weeks and included a $0.00 excess for insurance (35 nights)
This was for both islands and we drove 6619km (4112 miles)
This could have been much cheaper but as it was peak season and our first time in a campervan we opted for paid sites around 70% of the time and free for the remaining. This could technically be £0 if you are free camping in New Zealand.
This included some big adventures such as Hobbiton, Waitomo caves, Milford Sound, a wine tour in Queenstown + more!
TOTAL (2 PEOPLE): £6,744.22 – Approx. NZ$12,720.00
Budget Tips for Campervanning in New Zealand
- We created our route of both islands, calculated the total distance, then worked out how many km to the litre of petrol we would get. This gave us an approximate figure for fuel prior to our New Zealand road trip.
- Bear in mind other expenses such as insurance, ferry transfers, toll roads and break downs.
- If you are short on time and budget, look into campervan relocation. For as little as $1 a day you can relocate vehicles for hire companies!
- When shopping at most supermarkets in New Zealand, check your receipt as you receive discount off your fuel (around $0.06 per litre).
PLANNING THE PERFECT ITINERARY FOR NEW ZEALAND IN A CAMPERVAN
You’ve found the van of your dreams now you need to plan a road trip to match. Not gonna lie, this is the hardest (although the most fun) part – deciding where to go!
You may feel overwhelmed with ideas and we did too, so we have shared our highlights below but left enough room for you to get lost, meet people, head off the beaten track and find your own hidden gems. When campervanning in New Zealand always leave wiggle room – roads might close, you might join a convoy, you may love one island so much you never leave.
Before we get to the juicy details, there are a few points to consider when planning a route for New Zealand in a campervan:
Where to start your New Zealand campervan trip
Deciding where to begin your New Zealand campervan trip will depend on two things – where your flight gets into and where to pick up your van. For us, it was cheapest to fly into Christchurch and this also worked perfect for our rental as Travellers Autobarn had a garage near the airport.
How long do you need for a New Zealand road trip?
FOREVER. If you think I am joking, the minute you sit behind that wheel or sleep under the New Zealand stars you will never want to give up van life in New Zealand. Sadly, we only had 5 weeks which initially sounded more than enough time, but in hindsight we would have loved more time, especially as we squeezed in both islands.
We asked friends who had lived in New Zealand for help and they explained 3 weeks in the South and two in the North will allow us to see the highlights of both but would leave limited time to go off the beaten track. If its your first New Zealand campervan trip 5/6 weeks is perfect to see the main attractions and towns but if we were returning we would plan atleast 2 months in order to enjoy more time in each place rather than a new campsite every night.
Where to end your New Zealand campervan trip
As a tip, when searching for cheap campervan hire in New Zealand it is often more expensive to drop your rental off in a different city than you picked it up. However, this does mean you are limited to how far you can travel as you will need to loop back to your starting point. We ended our road trip in Auckland in the North as this was the cheapest place to fly out from – it also meant we were able to make the most of our time on both islands.
Why not take our handy Campervan cookbook with you?
- Recipes with ideas for breakfast, lunch & dinner
- Digital E-book so you can download instantly
- Use offline on your phone, tablet, laptop or print off
- Recipe ideas without the need for bulky cookbooks or Wi-Fi
NEW ZEALAND SOUTH ISLAND ITINERARY: 3 WEEKS
We have created a detailed South Island itinerary with a day by day guide of things to do and where to camp each night.
However, if you prefer to find your own way around we totally understand but will let you in on a few highlights that you cannot miss from your South Island road trip.
South Island Highlights
- Lake Pukaki Campsite (our favourite free campsite on the South Island)
- The incredible drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound + camping at Milford Sound Lodge
- The Steampunk town of Oamaru
- Arthur’s Pass – if travelling New Zealand by campervan you cannot miss it.
- Tasman Glacier National Park – both the drive & short hike itself, worth the detour.
NEW ZEALAND NORTH ISLAND ITINERARY: 2 WEEKS
We had less time on the North Island as it was slightly smaller however, with the epic volcanic scenery, stunning beaches and warmer weather we would have loved longer than two weeks. Our detailed North Island itinerary shares a day by day guide of the best things to do and the most time efficient route.
North Island Highlights
- Wellington – it was such a vibrant, fun little city with so many free things to do.
- Wai-O-Taupo Thermal Wonderland – an unforgettable day trip, like walking through a different planet
- Hiking Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the most challenging yet rewarding hike we’ve done so far
- Waking up in our campervan on our birthdays, then treating ourselves to glamping at Takou River lodge.
FREE CAMPING NEW ZEALAND VS PAID SITES
Although renting or puchasing a van can be quite pricey, one of the best ways to save money when travelling New Zealand in a campervan is by opting for free camp sites. Free camping in New Zealand is an amazing experience, not only because you save money but these sites often offer the best views, stargazing spots and space.
“So why pay for any campsites?” we hear you ask, well there are definite pros and cons to both – which, as you may guess so far we like to be honest in our guides to give you the full picture, so here’s our overview:
1. Power & Poops
If you are in a campervan you will need to charge your battery, empty waste water and top up with fresh water every 3 days or so. This is not always possible when free camping in New Zealand and you will be required to book a site and pay for power.
Free campsites in New Zealand request you are a self-contained vehicle, defined by “a self-contained vehicle must retain all waste within the confines of the vehicle and leave no trace of its visit to a site” which essentially means you have a toilet and water on board.
Free camping in New Zealand with a car is far more difficult as you won’t be self-contained so are limited to which free sites you can stay at and fines will incur if you break these rules.
2. Toilets & Showers
Some of the free sites in our North & South Island camping grounds guide do have showers and flush toilets but many do not. Most free campervan sites in New Zealand offer drop toilets which do exactly as it sounds.
Your “business” literally drops into a pit. They can smell horrific and at times are full of flies, which can make a trek to the toilet in the dark even more frightening but it’s all part of the New Zealand in a campervan fun!
3. Beating the Competition
Free camping in New Zealand is incredibly competitive. As mentioned, these spots often have the best views and obviously don’t cost a penny so lots of people want to camp there. This means, if you have a busy day ahead booking a paid for site is usually a better option as you’re guaranteed a space regardless of what time you arrive.
When we used free campervan sites in New Zealand it was usually on days where we were finished site seeing by around 4 or 5pm so we could secure a spot early.
It’s worthwhile noting, to PLEASE be a responsible traveller and read the campsite rules. Many free campervan sites in New Zealand have limited spaces of say, 10 vans yet more and more people would arrive later at night. This is destroying the landscape as they’re parking outwith designated spaces, not to mentioning threatening the closure of the free campsites if it continues.
Thankfully, the DOC and New Zealand authorities are cracking down on thoughtless campers, so a heads up to any readers who are tempted to break the rules.
4. Keep it Clean
Not just where you stop to sleep, but during any point campervanning in New Zealand you should take only photos and leave only footprints. When idiots urinate outside, leave litter and park out with designated areas it not only causes havoc to the eco-systems in these areas but will result in more and more free campsites in New Zealand being closed.
Only park where permitted and leave the site exactly (or better!) than you found it as unlike paid sites there won’t be someone tidying up after you and likely no bins or toilets.
THE BEST CAMPERVAN SITES IN NEW ZEALAND
When travelling New Zealand in a campervan, the hardest part is choosing where to sleep each night. With the lack of Wi-Fi and endless options, we felt a little overwhelmed choosing campsites however, we’ve put together a few very helpful guides. We created these guides as they are the sort we wished we could find prior to campervanning in New Zealand and hope they will help you guys with your epic adventure too!
We have rounded up the best campervan sites in New Zealand (both paid for and free ) based on facilities, affordability, location and Wi-Fi. They all also accept tents if you’re looking for other camping options during your trip. We even created a cheeky little cheat sheet that has every campsite we stayed when travelling New Zealand by campervan in one handy place – it’s completely free to download, save and use!
Our Favourite Campsites from New Zealand In A Campervan
- This is a round up of the best campsites on the South Island including costs, facilities & tips.
- This is a round of of the best campsites on the North Island including costs, facilities & tips.
- Download our FREE New Zealand Campsite Cheat Sheet featuring all 27 campsites and in route order.
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WHAT ARE DOC CAMPSITES IN NEW ZEALAND?
When campervanning in New Zealand, DOC campsites are essentially a happy medium – they’re not entirely free but they are super cheap. They stand for Department Of Conservation and as they are managed by the government specially for tourists.
There are over 200 DOC campsites throughout the country, which ideal for those travelling New Zealand by campervan but on a budget. Generally, they have better facilities than free camping sites but are not as luxurious as the chain camping grounds.
With DOC campsites you can expect flush toilets, tap water ( not always drinkable) kitchen facilities (usually outdoor), rubbish collection and road access for all types of vehicles (hooray for rentals!). They sometimes have handy extras such as laundry facilities, showers, BBQs, firepits and picnic tables.
The best part is the price, generally they cost NZ$6-20.00 and have the best views nearby nature reserves, peaceful lakes, forest walks and the best star gazing spots. DOC camping site prices vary depending on the location and facilities available.
THE BEST RECIPES FOR VAN LIFE
Alongside free campsites, another way to majorly save money when campervanning in New Zealand is cooking in your van instead of dining out.
Cooking in a campervan can be challenging for numerous reasons: you are limited on space, gas, time and budget! Luckily for you we have SO MANY campervan recipes to suit all budgets and tastes including one pot camping meals and vegetarian camping meals.
We even put together a guide on the best food to take camping to avoid waste, spillages and cooking catastrophes so it will be happy tummies all round.
We also recommend watching our cooking in a campervan videos on YouTube, to be honest we’re not going to put Jamie Oliver out of a job however, they give you a great insight into what cooking in a campervan is like in terms of space, recipe ideas and how to use leftovers.
Our final suggestion would be to read our cooking in a campervan top tips. We learned SO MUCH from campervanning in New Zealand such as storage ideas, cleaning hacks, no-cook recipes etc which we have rounded up to help you out too.
WHAT TO PACK FOR CAMPERVANNING IN NEW ZEALAND
Although some vans will come equipped, these are the items that saved us money, time and stress when road tripping New Zealand in a campervan. Although there were still a few disasters, travelling as a couple isn’t always straight forward (especially when you feed Daz a 5 bean chilli then have to sleep next to him in a van) these were the essentials that helped keep us alive/stop us from killing each other.
Download our Free Road Trip Packing List
You can download our free road trip packing list and tick off the items as you travel. This interactive PDF works on both mobile and desktop so you’ll never leave home without a road trip essential again! Check out our other free downloadable tools we have such as a budget tracker on our resources page.
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1. Head Torch
Nothing tests a relationship than holding the torch for the other as you brave a pee in your first dark drop toilet or ideal for more romantic stuff like midnight stargazing strolls.
LED USB rechargeable head torch.
2. Portable Speaker
Tunes make everything better including your cooking skills.
Why not purchase an eco-friendly bamboo Bluetooth speaker from Amazon now?
3. Coffee Grinder / Nanopresso
Save money (and the planet) by avoiding buying barista coffee and make your own instead from the comfort of your wee van!
Wacaco nanopresso portable espresso maker bundled with protective case.
4. Fairy Lights
You may have fell out every 20 minutes over the sat nav but fairy lights make everything look cute (including each other after 3 days without showers)
Warm white battery powered fairy lights
5. Camping Chairs
If your campervan rental in New Zealand does not include these, get some! Essential for Al Fresco dining, days down the beach and stargazing!
Extra large padded folding outdoor camping chair with bag.
6. Portable Charger
Essential for campervanning in New Zealand, as you won’t have electricity often. This is the best one we have ever used as you charge it once, then it lasts around 1 week – 7 full charges of a mobile phone. It can also be used to charge Go Pro & camera batteries!
Anker PowerCore 20100mAh portable charger.
7. Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
During your New Zealand road trip you will struggle for Wi-Fi which can be essential for booking activities, campsites and finding directions. We recommend this one because it can be used in almost any country and is open to all operators SIM cards, so grab a local data SIM and connect your devices.
E5577Cs-321 4G LTE mobile WiFi hotspot.
8. Insect Spray
Both repellent against sandflies and mossies but you might want to invest in ant spray too, to kill any crawlies that get into your van (our campervan hire came with).
100% deet mosquito, tick and insect repellent.
TOP TIPS FOR NEW ZEALAND IN A CAMPERVAN
1. Van life is a community: if you have too much of something / not enough fridge space etc, share it with your neighbours. Karma will reward you!
2. Arrive early: If you’re using free campervan campsites in New Zealand, arrive early to secure a spot (ideally before sunset)
3. KEEP TO THE LEFT: Especially if this is not your usual side but also because the majestic scenery of New Zealand is incredibly distracting, keep your eyes on the road.
4. Join Kiwi Club: Our campervan rental in New Zealand gave us a Kiwi Club keyring which gave us 10% off all Kiwi campsites and money off local attractions.
5. Do not take a suitcase: It will be impossible to store a suitcase in your campervan (unless you’ve hired a beasting 6 berth motorhome) Instead we use packing cubes inside our Osprey backpacks, these fitted perfectly under the seats! (Take a peek at our van tour for an idea of how much storage space we had)
6. Star places on Google Maps: This is one of our favourite apps for backpackers, especially for the stars feature as you can download the maps to use offline which is ideal when Wi-Fi & signal will be scarce. The stars will help plan your route (or also mark the favourite places you’ve been to look back on) saving you time and stress!
7. Leave enough time: That being said, Google maps may tell you a driving time but always consider the weather, road conditions (gravel is common on New Zealand roads) as well as the never ending photo/petrol/toilet stops. The most common thing to slow you down when campervanning in New Zealand is the huge motorhomes – they go slower than tractors uphill so getting stuck behind one of these bad boys will add considerable time to your journey.
8. Download Campermate: Another favourite app to ensure your New Zealand in a campervan trip goes as smooth as possible!
9. Park in the direction of travel: Daz almost got a parking fine in Wellington but then actually got a fine in Australia for not parking in the direction of travel (on the left). It is illegal in both New Zealand and Australia to park facing oncoming traffic.
10. Pull over: As campervanning in New Zealand is so popular, you can understand the locals frustration at being stuck behind motorhomes and vans regularly on their way to work etc. For this reason there are several places to pull over for slow moving vehicle to let those faster moving vehicles past you. Don’t forget to beep as a thank you, all part of the van life etiquette that keeps locals welcoming us back.
Hopefully you have the most epic time travelling New Zealand in a campervan. As mentioned, we loved it so much we then rented the exact same van and went camping in Australia too. To date, our time campervanning in New Zealand has been our favourite adventure, with so much to see and do we loved every minute. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions or if we’ve missed out any tips – we hope you enjoy van life as much as we do!
This Post Has 35 Comments
Great post with lots of useful information! Straight off the bat, your first tip helped as I didn’t realise that you needed to hire a self-contained vehicle if you wish to stay at free campsites!
Such an informative post and btw I am SO JEALOUS!! We did Australia in Traveller’s Autobarn Camper and loved every minute of it, but sadly budget didn’t allow for us to do NZ as well, though it’s probably our one regret! Just another excuse to go back though I suppose!!
What a comprehensive guide to seeing New Zealand in a campervan! I love to see both famous, as well as off the beaten path attractions (I’d never miss a chance to see a national park either)! Great tips also!
WOW, this list is beyond amazing. it has everything you need at all. I had NO idea about the free campsites that is such helpful information. I dont have any plans to go to New Zealand right now but after reading through this, I need to get there pronto! Thank you for creating and sharing this!
We had zero plans either, until we saw photos from friends and now that we’ve been it has been our favourite country (so far)
Love this comprehensive guide. A few years ago we did the campervan – not self contained – trip around Christchurch for a week. It was such a hassle to try find camping spots. Wish I had read this.
Also our hire company didn’t send us puppy memes. I’m not going back to them again!
More travel companies should jump on the puppy meme bandwagon – it would definitely help sweeten alot of deals ha 😉
I had no idea about so many of these things but this has been on my bucket list for ages. Thanks for all your help!!!
No worries – I hope you have the most incredible time!!
This sounds like a fun and unique way to see New Zealand. Although I don’t know if I’d be up to driving there. People drive on the left side, right?
Yeah haha that was one of our top tips as it confuses ALOT of people 😉
The views in New Zealand are so stunning! I wish my husband and I can also do a road trip in the country. This is a very helpful and comprehensive article for those who are planning to do a road trip in NZ. Great guide!
I hope you make it one day!!
Great tips on a New Zealand road trip! it is such a beautiful country with lots to see. Tongariro is incredible, I loved the hike I did there, though I didn’t do the full crossing, it’s on my lists of reasons to go back to New Zealand. I do love road trips, but have nether thought of taking a portable speaker along, I have no idea why!
Tongariro was definitely our highlight! I don’t know how I’d manage without our portable speaker!!
Driving around New Zealand in a camper van is on our bucket list so we’ve saved this post for later. There’s lots of really interesting tips….especially not eating too much bean chili or similar gas-producing foods!
hahaha definitely a top tip for sleeping in confined spaces 😉
What a unique idea! I would think I’d need to live in New Zealand if I were to do a road trip there. The views alone would definitely be worth it!
After our road trip we wanted to live there too!
Wow, you guys are brave for going on such a long road trip! Thanks for sharing your detailed tips and helpful information, I have always wondered about the driver’s license issue in other countries.
It sounds long but it went past way too quickly – we loved every minute and would do it again in a heartbeat!
We absolutely loved New Zealand! It’s so beautiful! We saw many camper vans and it seemed like every other vehicle was a Jucy camper van. You’ve written such a comprehensive article, I’ll pin it for reference if we go again.
We found ALOT fo jucy vans too but as we say, when it came to finding the best one Travellers Autobarn came up tops – would definitely recommend them 😉
Such a detailed and impressive guide. Even for going during the high season, It seems like you got a reasonable deal. Toilets and showers are a huge concern for me, and as you said, some will be better than others. Looks like a great time and a way to really see the culture.
Definitely feel we explored more of the local landscape and learned more about the culture this way than we would’ve touring hostels…fingers crossed you get to go one day!
Love the detail in this article – the toilet/shower situation, food and the detailed costs. Have not been to New Zealand yet, and I’m intrigued by the idea of taking a campervan through. Saving this article for later
What a great post! Love the photos and ho detailed it is:) Really need to make plans for a van trip to NZ!
New Zealand is so beautiful, I’ve done it via road trip but never particularly in a camper van. That totally sounds like an ideal way to explore this country — no time wasted checking in and out, just on the road! Love it!!
Thank you so much for sharing this. This is the most helpful guide I’ve read. So much I didn’t know and will have to save this post to use as reference once I get to NZ ✌
We wrote the sort of post we wanted to read before our NZ trip, so I’m glad it’s helping others too 🙂 You will have the best time…our favourite country (so far)
The steampunk town is Oamaru, not Timaru
Oops – forever muddling those two up as they sound so similar! Tweaked now. Luckily we got it right in the South Island itinerary post 😉
Oh this took me back to my camping trip around New Zealand. Blown away with how detailed it is. Amazing 🙂
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Thank you very much for sharing about New Zealand in a campervan here… I really hope I can work on your tips and it works for me too, I am happy to come across your article. Great post I must admit, keep sharing more…Great to find Aotearoasurf which has same kind of wonderful tips, if possible then visit.