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South Island Family Campervan Road Trip

07 October 2021

South Island Family Campervan Road Trip

We took our family to the South Island this summer to visit some of our favourite regions of our beautiful country. We started in Queenstown for a few nights before hiring our Maui/Britz Campervan for a 10 day self-guided tour that took us up the West Coast via Franz Joseph to Abel Tasman and Nelson, then onto Blenheim, Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs before finishing in Christchurch.  


Skyline Luge – A thrilling ride for the whole family or group of friends. Take time to enjoy the views from the top of gondola and stay for a drink or meal at the bar and restaurant. 

Ziptrek Eco Tours – A fun zipline through the forest canopy on Skyline Gondola Hill with spectacular Queenstown scenery all around. Choose from 2 to 6 ziplines with packages suitable for all ages and abilities. 

KJet Jetboat – 60 minutes of wild ride with 360 degree spins and top speeds in the 820 Horsepower jetboats on the Kawarau and Shotover Rivers. 

Shotover Canyon Swing – Set amongst the dramatic scenery of the Shotover Canyon 15 minutes from Queenstown. This giant rope swing will provide the ultimate thrill. 

Gibbston Valley - During your time in Queenstown, experience wine and/or cheese tasting at Gibbston Valley with a day trip (tours available with transport included). The wine cave tour is informative and fun, it takes you inside the wine cave for the tasting. 

Queenstown Hill Walk – A 60-90 minute return walk, very steep but amazing views from the top. 


Wanaka Rodeo – 2nd Jan 2021 – Didn’t plan to go here, but found the event fascinating because it’s a part of NZ life that I’ve never experienced. Locals dress up in cowboy gear to attend and partake in the event, they have an announcer and loud music with a fun atmosphere. Some amazing (and crazy) horse and bull riding skills demonstrated with a variety of events. 

Mt Iron Walk – Another steep walk, but only 45-60 minutes return and beautiful views of Wanaka. 

Drive past Lake Hawea and stop for photos. 


Wanaka to Franz Joseph

Blue Pools Track – 30 minute return easy walk to see the beautiful pools. Great photo stop. 

Fantail Falls – 5 minute return walk, again lovely photo spot. 

Gates of Haast – Stopped just past the bridge for a quick photo – very dramatic gorge. 

Thunder Creek Falls – 10 minute return walk to see 28 metre waterwall. Quick photo stop. 

Haast – Hardly anything open so we will drove down road to Haast Beach to have lunch in our campervan and check out the beach scattered with huge chunks of driftwood. After Haast drive over the longest single lane bridge in NZ – 760 metres long. 

Lake Matheson – at Fox Glacier (Glacier road now closed) – in fine weather worth a stop for the 60 minute walk around the lake to take the iconic reflection photos: best early morning or late evening. We walked the lake but was wet and cloudy so reflections just of surrounding trees. 

Franz Joseph – a good town to stay a night. A good local pub and couple of cafes. We stayed at the Top 10 Holiday Park – great facilities and beautiful views of the mountains. 


Franz Joseph

Glacier Hot Springs – we went there for an evening soak, three different temperature pools.

Franz Josef Glacier – We did the guided tour and had a lovely clear day with great views of the glacier. The tour takes you off track and also onto the river bed with some interesting information and learning of local fauna. Bucket list experience is the helicopter flight that takes you onto the glacier itself and into the ice caves. 

Franz Joseph to Carters Beach

Ross – we stayed at the Top 10 Holiday Park which is right on the beach. It was a beautiful clear night so we set up a table/chairs on the sand and ate dinner, watched the sunset and lit a bonfire to toast mashmallows. The kids loved it. The Park is relatively new and the facilities are modern in converted ship containers. 

Westcoast treetop walk in Hokitika – Opened in 2012 this massive steel structure was prefabricated in Australia in two months and brought to Hokitika in small parts where it was re-assembled amazingly in only six weeks. With over 13,500 bolts used to put the structure together, this engineering masterpiece was designed to move with the wind and to be as solid as a rimu tree. The Hokitika Tower has 107 steps to reach an impressive 47 metres to provide a spectacular view of the lakes, mountains and forest. 

Shantytown in Greymouth – This Heritage attraction has over 30 pioneer buildings in this recreated 19th century pioneer town that tells the story of the 1860s West Coast Gold rushes. A fun activity where you can step back in time with a steam train ride, try your hand at gold panning (and keep the gold), walk through the numerous buildings with a great collection of historic memorabilia. 

Monteith’s Craft Brewery – Visit for a meal or beer and cider tasting or join a 45 minute guided brewery experience. 

Punakaiki – Pancake Rocks and Blowholes is a fantastic. Go at high tide to see the blow holes in action. We had a calm day so didn’t see full effect at high tide but the “steam” holes were great. 

Cape Foulwind – Stop here for an easy walk to see the Seal Colony. We saw lots of pups with the family of seals. 

Carters Beach – we stayed at the Top 10 Holiday Park. Again great facilities. Across the road from the beach but worth a walk to see the rugged long west coast beach. 


Carters Beach to Kaiteriteri

Buller Swing Bridge – Worth a look, it’s 110 metres in length and 17 metres high above Buller River. A private owned bridge, costs $10 ($5 kids) to cross and includes a couple of walk options (from 20 to 60 minute options). We also paid $40 ($20 kids) to do the fun flying seat back over the river. 

Motueka – stopped here for food and petrol 

Kaiteriteri Reserve Camp - It’s massive and was fully booked for the summer. Bookings for the summer open each August, so waitlist with them prior to this. It had good facilities and across road from the beach. 

Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve and Beach – The beach is a lovely yellow sand and very scenic. We also walked up the hill to the reserve for the beautiful views and also over to the quiet Breaker Bay. 

Wilsons Abel Tasman National Park Day Trip – A scenic cruise from Kaiteriteri to Torrent Bay past Split Apple Rock, then get into Kayaks for a 2 hour kayak along the coast and past seal colony’s to Frenchman’s Bay where we stopped for lunch on this lovely private beach. 


Kaiteriteri to Kaikoura

Dunbar Estates – Motueka Valley – Lovely vineyard to visit on the drive from Kaiteriteri to Nelson. Stop in for a wine tasting at the cellar door and café. 

Nelson – The Wearable Arts Museum was closed due to covid, but could go to the Car museum. A lovely town to stop for lunch on way to Blenheim. 

Blenheim winery visits – we went to Alan Scott, Cloudy Bay and Yellands 

Seal Colony – all along the coast down to Kaikoura is scattered with Seals. Plenty of places signposted to stop and take photos. 

Kaikoura – we stayed at the Top 10 Holiday park. Has a swimming pool and central location to walk into town for the famous Coopers Catch fish n chips, or try the local crayfish. 

Whale Watch Kaikoura – We were lucky enough to see a massive pod of Dusky Dolphins (estimated 200-300) then we saw the magnificent Whale names Holey Moley at two separate times. It was truly breathtaking to see this 14 metre long creature. 


Hanmer Springs

Hanmer – we stayed at the Top 10 Holiday Park. Central location and even had marble tiled new bathrooms. Easy walk to town for the many eatery and pub options (and the pools). 

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools – A must do when visiting this beautiful Alpine town, fun slides and a range of hot springs to relax in. 

Hanmer Heritage Forest Tracks – Contains a variety of tracks for walking biking and horse riding. An easy Forest Amble is scattered with wooden sculptures. 

Other Activities in Hanmer include: Jet boating, White water rafting and even skiing nearby in the winter months. 


Campervan Travel Tips: 

  • Top 10 Holiday Parks – We stayed at a number of Top 10 Holiday Parks and enjoyed the high standard of these parks while travelling through the South Island in a campervan. Each have great bathroom and entertainment facilities (especially for kids – all but one had the big jumping pillows). ***join the Top 10 for a discount at each stay, also book ahead because they are popular and book out*** 
  • West Coast Sandflies are mean – take a good mosquito spray and bite cream and buy flyspay or a plug in mosquito repellant. 
    Hire a campervan larger than you need – ie we hired a 6 berth for 4 of us. You will appreciate the extra space. 
  • Packing Cells – we brought from Katmandu (but can also get from Kmart). Best way to pack when using a campervan, so our clothes and items didn’t fall all over the place during our travels. 
  • Soft Suitcases/Bags are best for campervan, so that you can squeeze into the under bench storage for duration of the trip (and live out of your packing cells). 
  • Multi Plug powerpoint – take one of these as only two powerpoints, great for overnight charging of the whole family’s devices. 

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