Cannibal Bay, Catlins

Cannibal Bay, Catlins

Photo: David Wall

New Zealand Regions

Northland

The relaxed, sunny lifestyle of Northland comes from its sub-tropical climate and the myriad of islands, bays and beaches around the extensive coastline.

  • The Treaty of Waitangi, the document that founded bicultural New Zealand, was signed in the Bay of islands in 1840.
  • Northland is rich in Maori history, and 31% of the population is Maori.
  • With the Tasman Sea buffeting the west coast, and the South Pacific Ocean lapping the East Coast, activities in this region are often water-related. Chartering a skippered yacht to explore the bay of islands or Hauraki Gulf is a quick route to isolated beaches, bays and islands.
  • Snorkelling, surfing, big game fishing and dolphin-watching are experiences easily found along the region’s touring route – the Twin Coast Discovery Highway - providing plenty of activities to keep you amused on your campervan trip.
  • Waipoua forest, on the west coast, is New Zealand's largest kauri forest. A short walk into Waipoua forest takes visitors to some of the oldest and largest living kauri trees, including the famed Tane Mahuta 'Lord of the forest', and Te Matua Ngahere 'Father of the forest'. Tane Mahuta - at 51m high - is the tallest kauri tree and largest by volume in New Zealand.
  • The historic lighthouse standing on the northernmost tip of New Zealand, at Cape Reinga, is one of New Zealand's iconic sights. You may have to hire a separate car or 4WD to get here however as most rental companies will not allow hired motorhomes to travel on the unsealed road leading to Cape Reinga. It’s worth it if you do though!
  • Northland’s subtropical climate and proximity to the sea produces abundant citrus fruit and many kinds of fresh seafood. Hire a motorhome and follow the food and wine trail that showcases local vineyards.
  • There are no traffic lights or high rise buildings north of Whangarei.
  • 90 Mile Beach is actually only 55 miles or 88km long. Bus tours take you up the beach however you won’t be allowed to take your hired campervan along it yourself.

Auckland

Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city with a population of over 1.3 million people – is home to one third of New Zealanders. The city’s mix of urban sophistication and coastal setting has inspired a lifestyle that regularly ranks in the world’s top 10.

  • Nearly every major campervan hire company in New Zealand has a depot in Auckland, and most are located by the airport. This makes it a great place to start your campervan roadtrip.
  • If you are arriving from a long flight, it is strongly recommended you stay overnight in Auckland so you are not driving when jetlagged. There are a few camping ground options in and around Auckland city, where you can park up your campervan, or you may to prefer to take a hotel for one night before picking your campervan rental.
  • When driving your motorhome around Auckland, we suggest you avoid the peak hours of 7am-9am and 4.30pm to 6pm during weekdays. The main motorway heading north over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and the main motorway south virtually come to a standstill during these hours.
  • Perched on a narrow isthmus between Waitemata and Manukau harbours, Auckland - the “City of Sails” - offers diverse easily accessible activities and adventures. Within half-an-hour drive of downtown Auckland, visitors can relax on an island in the Hauraki Gulf, trek through native rainforest, sample wines at a local vineyard or walk along a wild, black sand surf beach.
  • Auckland is the largest Polynesian city in the world, and has New Zealand’s most multicultural population.
  • Manukau city in South Auckland has the world’s largest Polynesian population, celebrated annually at the month-long Pasifika Festival.
  • Auckland is the only city in the world that is built on an active volcano field.
  • Auckland, also known as the ‘City of Sails’, has more boats per head of population than any other city in the world.
  • Auckland is one of the few places outside the tropics where rainforests exist. The Waitakere ranges, with more than 16,000 hectares of native temperate rainforest, have 250km of walking and tramping tracks.

Central North Island

Of all the regions in New Zealand, the central North Island is the most diverse, with the volcanic plateau, ski fields, surf beaches, geothermal activity and wine regions.

  • The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the region's two main self-drive touring routes, following the East Coast and featuring the beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty and Eastland, on the way to Hawke’s Bay, one of New Zealand’s key wine regions.
  • The Thermal Explorer is the other major scenic touring route, leading your campervan from Hawke’s Bay across the volcanic plateau, where New Zealand’s location in the “Pacific Rim of Fire” is evident. You can experience natural hot spring spas, geothermal parks full of geysers and boiling mud pools, as well as the site of New Zealand’s largest volcanic eruption in living memory, Mt Tarawera.
  • Rotorua is home to many Maori people and is one of the best places to learn about Maori culture.
  • Beneath the Waitomo area, the ground is a labyrinth of limestone passages and caves that can be explored on foot or by water – an activity known as black water rafting. Further south, the Tongariro Crossing, considered New Zealand’s best one-day walk, is another type of adventure that features moonscape craters, lava formations and emerald-blue lakes.
  • Lake Tarawera is a magical place renowned for rainbow trout fishing. Local fishing guides provide insights into local history and can even steam your catch in geothermally-heated sands while you enjoy a glass of wine.

Taranaki and River Regions

Taranaki – on the North Island’s rugged west coast and dominated by Mt Taranaki – has a contrasting landscape and easily-accessible outdoor activities ranging from viewing nationally and internationally significant gardens, to adventures that offer the chance to surf and snowboard in the same afternoon. It's a 4-5 hour drive by campervan from Auckland or Wellington, and is well worth spending a few days discovering once you arrive.

  • Mt Taranaki is ever-present in this region – a huge, dramatic volcanic cone with a snowy top. Mt Egmont encompasses the mountain and the land around it.
  • Hiking is the thing to do here. Rainforest covers the foothills of the mountain, but the landscape changes the higher you go, moving from tall rimu and kamahi trees to dense sub-alpine shrubs, then an alpine herb field with plants unique to the park.
  • Mt Taranaki is a spiritually important landmark for Māori, and historic Māori pa (fortified villages) dotted throughout Taranaki tell stories of the region’s culture and history.
  • The climate of this region makes it a paradise for extravagant flowing plants and many private gardens are open for tours.
  • Taranaki has some of New Zealand’s best surf, and the south to north-facing coastline means the surf’s usually up somewhere. Surf Highway 45, a scenic coastline road between New Plymouth and Hawera, travels to the top surf spots.
  • Taranaki is an historically significant region. The New Zealand land wars that opposed Māori and Pakeha started in the town of Waitara, while the passive non-violence movement resisting land confiscation and colonisation originated in the village of Parihaka.
  • Forgotten World Highway, New Zealand’s first heritage trail, travels ancient Māori trade routes through the region's pioneering past. This secluded route follows an evolving landscape, with stunning mountain backdrops, and historic sites. Whangamomona, the central township on the Forgotten World Highway, declared itself a republic in 1989.
  • The biggest town in Taranaki is New Plymouth. There are no campervan rental suppliers in New Plymouth, so if you wish to explore this region by campervan (and you don't own one), the nearest campervan hire depots will be in Auckland or Wellington.

Wairarapa and Wellington

New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, is a cultural hub. It’s home to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongawera, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and national treasures such as the original Treaty of Waitangi and Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace. But with steep hills and narrow streets, the central city is not the ideal place to drive around in a campervan - rather, head just north of the city to find all kinds of exciting options for your motorhome roadtrip.

  • Although not the largest city in New Zealand, Wellington is famed for its lively down town cafés, shopping, nightlife and entertainment venues.
  • The city is compact and interesting, set between a scenic harbour and bush-clad hills.
  • On the 'Nature Coast' north of Wellington, Kapiti island is an internationally-famed nature reserve where visitors can mingle with rare native birds.
  • Wellington is the centre of New Zealand’s film industry. Often referred to as 'Wellywood', Wellington is the home of film director Peter Jackson and his production facility, and was a location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong.
  • Martinborough, a short drive from Wellington, is a popular wine-growing area – specialties include pinot noir and riesling.
  • Wairarapa, in New Zealand's southern North Island, is a premium wine destination, renowned for Kiwi hospitality and a laid-back lifestyle. The region is a weekend favourite for fine food and wines, or nature trips to a national wildlife reserve, forest parks, and vast stretches of wild coast.
  • Nature and wildlife attractions include the Cape Palliser seal colony, rare native bird species at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, and many nature tracks.
  • A southern hemisphere version of Stonehenge opened near Carterton in 2005. The stone circle - a full-scale replica of the original Stonehenge - incorporates ancient Egyptian, Babylonian and Indus Valley astronomy, Polynesian navigation, and Celtic and Māori star lore.
  • British patriot and farmer John Martin designed Martinborough’s central streets in the shape of a Union Jack.
  • Putangirua Pinnacles - seen in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - are 1000-plus years old. The formation, sculpted by heavy rain erosion on soft rocks, loses 1cm per year.
  • Toast Martinborough, a wine and food festival that attracts more than 10,000 people each November, is the Wairarapa’s best known major event.

Nelson and Marlborough

Across the Cook Strait is the Marlborough region – one of New Zealand’s largest wine-growing regions. While sauvignon blanc is considered to be its specialty, the methode traditionelle and chardonnays are also well-known. Marlborough’s 100-plus vineyards produce more than half New Zealand’s wine. This beautiful region has numerous camping options that are friendly to the motorhome holidaymaker.

  • If you started your motorhome holiday in Auckland or Wellington, it's well worth taking your campervan across the Cook Strait on the Interisland Ferry, to discover New Zealand's stunning South Island, starting with the Marlborough region. Alternatively if you picked up your campervan rental in Christchurch, be sure to head north to this beautiful northern part of the South Island. There are also a handful of campervan companies that offer campervan hire in Picton.
  • A key attraction is the Marlborough Sounds, featuring spectacular scenery where bush and mountains rise straight from the sea.The Sounds can be explored by boat or on foot – the 67 kilometre Queen Charlotte track passes through coastal forest, around coves and inlets and along ridges.
  • Picton, a little port at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, provides access for the inter-island ferries that link the North and South islands, and a launching point for walking and water-based holidays in the Marlborough Sounds. There are several Camping and Holiday Parks in and around Picton, including Picton Top 10 Holiday Park, Picton Campervan Park and Smiths Farm Holiday Park.
  • The Nelson region is also well worth a visit and boasts numerous Camping and Holiday Park options. It is known for its year-round sunshine, golden beaches, boutique wineries, national parks, micro breweries, and a large creative community of working artists.
  • From Nelson it’s easy to access any of three national parks – Abel Tasman National Park, the Nelson lakes National park and Kahurangi, New Zealand’s second-largest national park.
  • Year-round sunshine, and a diverse natural landscape of extensive coastline and huge stands of untouched native forests make Marlborough an outdoor adventure destination.
  • Blenheim (pop: 30,000) is Marlborough’s largest town. Often boasting the highest sunshine hours of any New Zealand town, Blenheim is a popular holiday destination and a good base for exploring Marlborough attractions.
  • Marlborough produces 80 percent of New Zealand’s aquaculture exports - king salmon, pacific oysters, paua (abalone), kingfish, and koura (crayfish).

West Coast and Canterbury

The West Coast is the narrow strip of land between the South Island’s Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. It is memorable for its backdrop of mountain peaks, the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, limestone landscapes, lakes and rivers, lush rainforest and a magnificent, wild coastline.

  • The West Coast contains the largest area of protected land of any region in New Zealand and provides access to five of New Zealand’s 14 national parks.
  • The southern west coast is part of the larger South West New Zealand area designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its recognition as a ‘special place’ in the world.
  • This diverse landscape also makes the West Coast an adventure destination for adrenalin thrills such as heli-hiking on glaciers, skydiving and rafting.
  • The Canterbury region includes a large central portion of the east coast of the South Island, centred around the city of Christchurch. Christchurch, New Zealand’s oldest city, is a centre of art, culture and beautiful gardens. Christchurch is a popular pickup point for rental campervans, with all major New Zealand campervan hire companies having rental depots there.

  • Canterbury’s landscape is dominated by New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki Mt Cook and the Southern Alps - a chain of mountains that’s bigger than its European namesake.

  • One of the highlights of the region is the Alpine Pacific Triangle, a touring route which links the alpine and thermal village of Hanmer Springs, the wine valley of Waipara, and Kaikoura.
  • Kaikoura, (which translated from Maori means “a place for eating crayfish”) is where the Southern Alps meet the coast. Fur seals, dusky and Hector’s dolphins can be seen from the land, and a few kilometres further out, giant sperm whales (the third largest whale in the world) can be seen year-round.
  • Canterbury has 10 main ski areas for skiers and snowboarders, all within easy distance from Christchurch. At the foot of the Southern Alps, Mt Hutt (2086m) is the largest, most developed ski field in the region, and claims New Zealand’s longest ski season.

Southland and Otago

From the lovely Scottish architecture of Dunedin to the wild beauty of the Catlins Coast, Otago and Southland are wonderful regions to discover by road. And as you journey by campervan through this region, you will enjoy the legendary southern hospitality that is famous with the locals. If you love oysters, you'll be taking the quickest route to Bluff, the home of the mighty Bluff Oyster.

  • From Bluff, visitors can catch a ferry to New Zealand’s third island, Stewart Island - a haven for native bird life and one of the only places in New Zealand where you can readily see kiwi in their natural habitat. Approximately 85% of Stewart Island comprises New Zealand’s newest national park - Rakiura National Park, which opened in 2002.
  • Invercargill, the largest city in Southland, is a laid-back country town with a Scottish heritage. A stop-off point on the Southern Scenic route, Invercargill offers legendary southern hospitality and a base to explore beautiful wild destinations like the Catlins coast and Curio Bay. Curio Bay has an 180-million-year-old petrified forest.
  • Southland region has many diverse hiking routes from short walks to multi-day treks.
  • New Zealand’s first university city, Dunedin, is memorable for its historical architecture. It is regarded to be one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Many Dunedin buildings date back to the gold rush. First Church, University of Otago’s clock tower, Larnach’s castle and Otago Boys High School were built in the late 1800s, and Dunedin railway station was completed in 1906.
  • Dunedin is the Celtic form of Edinburgh, and original city plans were based on Edinburgh. While many street names are the same as Edinburgh’s, town planners had to alter the plans to accommodate hills and swamps.
  • Dunedin is also renowned for its proximity to wildlife. Within a short drive from the city, visitors can see the hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin (the world’s rarest), the world’s only mainland breeding colony of the royal albatross and rare New Zealand sea lions.
  • This region is rich in gold mining history – try your luck with a gold pan!
  • Otago Peninsula - with an albatross colony at Taiaroa Head, and populations of rare yellow-eyed penguins and fur seals - is a hub for sustainability and nature-based activities.
  • Oamaru, where the main attractions are Victorian whitestone buildings and a blue penguin colony, continues Otago’s strong focus on eco-tourism and heritage.
  • The nearest city that has motorhome rental depots is Christchurch, which is roughly a 5 hour drive from Dunedin.

The Southern Lakes Region

Queenstown and its surrounds are famous for adventure, luxury living, snow sports and breathtaking scenery. There are relaxing activities such as golf, wine tasting in the many boutique wineries, and exploring the historical goldmining townships of Central Otago. Allow plenty of time for your motorhome roadtrip in this famous part of the world.

  • As one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand, Fiordland is another part of the World Heritage Site of South West New Zealand and is often called the sightseeing and walking capital of the world.
  • Famous walking tracks in the area include the Routeburn, the Milford, the Greenstone, the Hollyford, the Kepler and the Rees-Dart.
  • Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and overlooked by the Remarkables Range, Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most popular holiday destinations, featuring action such as skiing and snowboarding, jetboating, bungy jumping and white water rafting.
  • Queenstown and its surrounds also offer more relaxing activities such as golf, wine tasting in the many boutique wineries, and exploring the historical goldmining townships of Central Otago. The region is also becoming famous for its restaurants, wineries, five-star resorts, and remote luxury lodges.
  • Gibbston Valley - the world’s southernmost wine growing region - is famed for award-winning pinot noir wines, and also produces chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc varietals.
  • Queenstown is a celebrated winter destination with several ski areas, lively ski culture and winter festivals attracting large crowds to the vibrant resort town.

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