New Zealand

Travel around New Zealand in a campervan

Paul Rowsthorn, Airguides

05 February 2020

So, you’ve finally made the decision to do a New Zealand holiday? Honestly, that means the hardest part is out of the way! While New Zealand remains a bucket list location, it is not the most convenient place to get to. Floating down in its own little (round) corner of the Earth it is a decent flight, or two, for most people. This is also what makes it such a special location. Trust us when we say, the warm welcome from the Kiwi’s when you land and the incredible sights make your journey more than worth it.

No doubt your next question is: “Shall I travel around in a campervan?”. Perhaps you’re worried about driving in another country, you heard people talk about the New Zealand “freedom camping” (but how does it work?!) or you’re not sure where to park.

A self drive tour in a campervan doesn’t come without its challenges, but it is by far the best way to experience New Zealand! After all, the reason you picked New Zealand is probably, in some part, because of the spectacular landscapes? The benefit of having your own home on the road is that it gives you the freedom to set up camp in the most mind-blowing locations you can imagine.

Arthur’s Pass – South Island.

Photograph by Airguides

First of all, let’s chat about freedom camping. Freedom campsites are government-controlled and have limited facilities. They also happen to be the most incredible when it comes to views. Without going too much into the shitty (pun intended) details, certain rules apply if you wish to freedom camp. Freedom camping is only allowed for vehicles that have been certified as self contained. More details can be found on the Department of Conservation/Te Papa Atawhai (DOC) website.

“I climb behind the steering wheel… I drive off immediately without once looking back; it’s a long journey, but it leads to freedom.” – Corinne Hofmann

Next thing to cover is, when is the best time to go? This is a tough one because many factors can play a role. Things like work or school holidays can impact your decision. The best thing to keep in mind is that each season has its own unique benefits.

In general, if you’re planning on going to the South Island, it’s probably best to avoid the middle of winter (June-August). Unless you want a snow holiday of course! In that case, be aware that winter means different road conditions and large campervans might not be allowed on mountain roads due to icy conditions.

Our pick for the South Island would be to visit during the shoulder seasons: Fall (March-May) or Spring (September-November). This way, you can take advantage of the seasonal rates (campervans can be 50% cheaper in off-seasons) and the weather is still nice. There is also the benefit of less crowds, which means you might have the most spectacular locations all to yourself! Popular destinations like Abel Tasman National Park and Queenstown can become quite busy during summer.

South Island – New Zealand

Photograph by Airguides

Now, how to decide on the best route to take? Well, cough… cough… (shameless plug). Lucky for you, we’ve partnered with some of the best photographers and filmmakers in New Zealand to create bookable itineraries. These local storytellers spent years finding the most incredible, secret locations all over New Zealand and they are passionate about sharing them with you.

Airguides takes care of your campervan hire (all our options are fully self contained), activity bookings and you get access to a guide created by one of our storytellers to help you find your way in New Zealand. Crave some luxury during your trip? We also partner with incredible local accommodation companies like Valley Views Glamping (because everyone needs a little luxury on a road trip!).

The last, but not least, point to cover is to care for yourself and New Zealand. Before you come and visit this special place, we hope you take the time to read about the Tiaki Promise. Everything that makes New Zealand such an incredible holiday destination is also what makes it fragile. The warm spirit of the Kiwi’s, plus the environment that welcomes you.

While driving around, always give yourself plenty of time! If you’re planning to hike and go into nature, always be mindful of your environment. Be respectful to the locals, always take your rubbish with you and follow any government signs.

We hope this helps answer some of your questions. In short, we definitely think the best way to experience New Zealand is in a campervan and have the freedom of your own home while on the road. Driving around and discovering Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) will be one of the most rewarding holidays of your life!

Any questions or concerns about a New Zealand road trip? The Airguides team would be more than happy to help: