The Perfect 14-Day Roadtrip Around New Zealand
We have just finished a trip around New Zealand in a motorhome, which required a lot of planning. It ended up being a fantastic and unforgettable trip, with plenty of beautiful places to see along the way, as well as lots of opportunities to do activities along the way. We wanted to share our specific travel details with you guys as we think it makes for one of the best road trips you can do in New Zealand.
This road trip focuses largely on the South Island driving from Christchurch to Auckland in 14 days and seeing as many places along the way. It is a very tight schedule which requires a bit of driving each day. It can easily be extended into a 21-day trip or potentially skipping the North Island part and bringing the rental back to Christchurch. In that case you could explore more of the East Coast of the South Island as well. Keep in mind that our plan was adjusted along the way several times due to weather conditions and even following the same road, you may do various different activities we weren’t able to do.
DAY 1 - Christchurch to Lake Pukaki
We picked up the Motorhome from Wilderness Motorhomes in Christchurch and after a quick stop for some groceries we hit the road towards Lake Tekapo (3 hrs 30 min driving). We stopped at the Church of the Good Shepherd, this is probably the most famous church in New Zealand, being photographed by people from all around the world. From there you can walk around the lake and find some nice viewpoints. If you’re into Astrophotography, stay for the night as Lake Tekapo is famous for perfectly clear and starry nights. When we spent enough time at Lake Tekapo we moved on to Lake Pukaki (40 min drive). We decided to camp here for the night at the free campsite named “Pines Campsite”. We took a few more shots around sunset, with lovely reflection on the lake, and some nice views of Mount Cook already.
DAY 2 - Mount Cook & The Hooker Valley Track
After a quick breakfast at our camp spot, we decided to leave Lake Pukaki early and head towards Mount Cook (50 min drive) as we wanted to do the hooker valley track. We arrived around 11 am, because we already took some shots along the road. It is just so beautiful all around here. The hike itself takes about 3 hours for fit walkers, this included plenty of stops for photos. This place really is a must see for photographers, there’s plenty to see along the hike but the most special place is the glacial lake at the end named, you guessed it, Hooker Lake. The hike is relatively flat and easy, it’s one way in one way out so you will walk the same track back and forth. After the hike we drove to Ahuriri Bridge (1hr 30min drive) where we free camped for the night. We did take a few shots along the road looking back at Mount Cook, which stands out tall and beautiful.
DAY 3 - Long Drive to Milford Sound
Left Ahuriri Bridge at 10 am as it was very icy and misty everywhere and not safe to drive. From there we started the drive towards Queenstown, with the first stop being Lindis Pass Lookout (30 min drive). We then continued the drive and arrived around 2.00pm in Queenstown (3 hr drive) we did stop several times in between. In Queenstown we did some extra groceries, filled up the tank and had lunch. Then we headed towards Cascade Creek Campground along the Milford Highway. Arrived at 7pm (4 hr drive with some stops).
DAY 4 - Milford Sound Cruise
From the Cascade Creek Campground we drove towards Milford Sound (1 hr 30 min drive, had to wait 30 min due to works in the tunnel). We had a cruise at 11 am with Mitre Peak Cruises. Such a stunning area, we understand why people would call it the Eight World Wonder. We got back from the cruise around 1.30pm. After taking the scenery in one last time, we drove to mirror lakes (40 min drive) and had lunch there. It started raining so we only had a quick look at the lakes and then headed to Te Anau (1 hr drive). Wandered around town for a minute and decided to free camp in Lumsden for the night (1 hr drive).
DAY 5 - Glenorchy, Queenstown, and Arrowtown
From Lumsden we headed to Glenorchy (2 hr 30 min drive), which was an absolutely beautiful road to drive. Had a look at the Glenorchy wharf but it was very cloudy so we decided not to stay too long. After Glenorchy we drove to Arrowtown (2 hr drive). Passed through Queenstown and picked up a vegan burger at the famous Fergburger (Delicious!!). Made it to Arrowtown and had a little stroll through this beautiful picturesque town. From there we headed for a quick wine tasting and cheese platter at the Gibbston Valley winery (15 min drive). From there we went to Lowborn Harbour (40 min drive) for free camping.
DAY 6 - Wanaka and the West Coast
From Lowburn we went to Wanaka (40 min drive). Here we checked out #thatwanakatree (famous photo spot) and the town itself. We would've loved to do one of the great hikes here (Roy's or Ishtmus) but the weather was not allowing it. We decided to continue our journey and drive to the west coast already. Along the way we first checked out Lake Hawea (20 min drive) then drove from there to Paringa (2 hr 30 min drive) using the Haast Pass. This drive is beautiful with plenty of nice spots along the way so take your time. We stopped at a few lookouts over the lakes, then the blue pools, fantail falls, thunder creek falls and haast beach (lots of people skip this beach, but it's actually a beautiful wild beach with great surf) had a few nice sunset shots here before continuing to our free camp at the Salmon House Cafe, the ground was quite uneven and it would've been better to go to the DOC camp at Lake Paringa.
DAY 7 - Lake Matheson, Franz Josef, and Kakapotahi
From Paringa we drove to Lake Matheson (1 hr drive). The walk around the lake (1 hr) is gorgeous and if the conditions are right (mostly at dawn or dusk) you'll get a perfect reflection on the lake which is great for photography. After the walk we headed on towards Franz Jozef (45 min drive) and did the glacier walk (30 min), alternatively if the weather allows it you can also take a helicopter and do a glacier tour with glacier landing. Unfortunately in our case the weather did not permit it. After our time in Franz Josef we drove on to Kakapotahi for free camping (1 hr drive). This spot is great if you are self contained, it is very quiet and it’s almost right on the beach. We went for a stroll in the evening and saw a nice sunset and a seal resting on the beach.
DAY 8 - Hokitika Gorge, Punakaiki and Tauranga Bay
Drove from Kakapotahi to Hokitika gorge (1 hr drive) and did the walk (1 hr) it rained a lot in the days before so when we arrived the water was more green/grayish rather than being icy milky blue. It was still a nice walk, but definitely not as impressive as with those milky blue waters. From there we headed for Punakaiki (2.5 hr drive). We took our time as this road is absolutely gorgeous and there's so many photo opportunities along the way. In Punakaiki we did the walk around the pancake rocks (30 min) and continued onwards towards Tauranga Bay for the seal colony and a sweet sunset. Ended up sleeping at the free camp at Westport beach (30 min drive). Which again was a great free campsite close to the beach.
DAY 9 - Nelson Lakes NP, Tataka & Golden Bay
After checking out the Sunrise at the beach we left Westport for the Nelson Lakes NP (2 hr 50 min drive). We had a look at Lake Rotoiti and had lunch there. Since we planned quite tightly we decided to leave again and drive to Takaka at Golden Bay (3 hr drive) for sunset and to get ready for the next day. Watched the Sunset from the Pohara boat ramp then free camped in the town of Takaka.
DAY 10 - Wharariki Beach, Cape Farewell, Abel Tasman & Cable Bay
Drove out early as we needed to leave the campsite before 7am. Went to Wharariki beach (1 hr drive) which was one of the most magnificent beaches we've seen (sunrise or sunset here would both be great, at least in winter time). It’s a very photogenic spot and while we were there we also checked out Cape Farewell. The cape was also nice for a walk in the paddock with cows and some beautiful views. From there we drove to Abel Tasman NP (1 hr 30 min drive) which we accessed from the Marahau side. Beautiful national park with great beaches. We didn't do the whole walk but you can take a water taxi to the other side and do the whole coastal walk, which is around 3.5 hours I believe. We just did 45 min in and then walked back the same way. From there we drove to Cable bay (1 hr 30 min drive) for sunset. It looks like an incredible spot also for the day, we just had a wonderful sunset there. We decided to push on as we had the ferry the next day and drove to Wairau Diversion Reserve (1 hr 30 min drive) which is very close to the Ferry port.
DAY 11 - Picton, Rest & Wash Day, Ferry to Wellington
After driving into Picton early, where we needed to take the ferry (30 min drive). We decided to make it a washing day. Did our washing in town and had a look around as we had to wait for the ferry to leave. From Picton we were going to Wellington, but since the ferry was delayeda bit we decided to not drive too much anymore. Free camped at Waimea Rd Beach Carpark in Waikanae beach (1 hr 30 min drive, extra 40 min delay due to lots of roadworks).
DAY 12 - Mt. Taranaki
From Waikanae Beach we drove to Taranaki (3 hr 30 min drive). Drove over Kent road for some photography, this is one of the famous spots to take photos of Mt. Taranaki from the road. We didn’t have the right conditions, but we hung around and waited for the clouds to clear a bit. With Mt. Taranaki being a Volcano and standing out so tall the weather conditions can change a lot in an hour, so if it’s not too bad, stick around and wait for the clouds to clear. You might just get lucky, like we did and get to see the whole mount in all its glory. This place ended up being one of our favourites in perhaps all of New Zealand. After taking some shots around there, we moved up the road to Mangamahoe Lake for more photography. We again had to wait a bit for the clouds to dissipate but we ended up with a stunning view of Mt. Taranaki for sunset. Absolutely a must do if you visit the north island. Apparently Self contained vehicles may camp in the lake park (read it on a blog post dating from 2017, if you want to do it you can always call the council and check with them) but it wasn't clear and not on rankers, so we pushed on to Lake Rotomanu (30 min drive) instead and camped there for the night.
DAY 13 - Taupo and Rotorua
Unfortunately the next morning Mt. Taranaki was completely covered. We had initially planned to go back there and do some more photography in the area but the weather had turned and it was all covered this time. So we left straight away for Taupo (4 hr drive). With the weather being quite bad all around the north island we only spent a short while here and continued to Rotorua (1 hr drive) for the rest of the afternoon. Then around sunset we left to free camp at Moana Roa Reserve (50 min drive)
DAY 14 - Raglan and Auckland
From the campsite we left to Raglan as we had such fond memories of that spot. It was raining and cloudy but we still enjoyed watching the surf, hanging around town, having a nice poke bowl and looking at some of the shops. Eventually we drove off to another free camp Te Kauwhata Domain which was about an hour from Auckland. As we were dropping off the motorhome the next day, we decided to head here a bit earlier so we could pack all our stuff and get the motorhome ready for drop off the next day.
DAY 15 - Drop off Motorhome
Woke up early and drove towards Auckland. We cleaned the Motorhome as well as we could, refilled the diesel and the gas bottle. Then we drove to the airport to drop off the motorhome which was a painful goodbye.
Disclaimer: we planned our trip quite tight and there were some long driving days which we personally didn’t mind. If you have more time, this itinerary can easily be extended by a few days. For this itinerary we were definitely on the tightest schedule and we wouldn’t recommend this if you had less days. We think the itinerary is perfect for a 17-21 days trip. This will give you some time to take it easy, wait out the weather if necessary, and do extra activities. We had to rush it a bit as we were limited in time and wanted to see as much as we could before returning to Europe.