DESTINATIONS New Zealand Oceania

The Ultimate Campervan Itinerary to New Zealand’s South Island (Queenstown to Christchurch)

A campervan trip to New Zealand’s mesmerizing South Island had been on our bucket list for years and the experience truly exceeded our expectations.

This campervan guide shares our full day-by-day 14-day itinerary, must-see spots, and campsites – you’ll see just how much there is to enjoy in New Zealand’s South Island!

Our 14-day  Itinerary in New Zealand’s South Island in a Campervan

Day 1: Arrival in Auckland from Singapore
Day 2: Flight from Auckland to Queenstown
Day 3: Queenstown – Te Anau  – Milford Highway
Day 4: Cascade Creek – Queenstown
Day 5: Queenstown – Glenorchy

Day 6: Moke Lake –  Wanaka – Lake Wahea
Day 7: Kidds Bush Reserve to Mount Aspiring (Aspiring Hut Trail)
Day 8: Mount Aspiring to White Horse Hill Campsite (Mt Cook)
Day 9: Lake Tekapo
Day 10: Lake Tekapo
Day 11: Arthur’s Pass and Christchurch
Day 12: Christchurch
Day 13: Christchurch to Auckland
Day 14: Auckland to Singapore

Day 1: Arrival in Auckland from Singapore

We flew into Auckland from Singapore late afternoon so we opted for this Airbnb located just 10 minutes away from the airport. The room and amenities provided were all we needed for a 1-night stay after a long flight.

Day 2: Flight from Auckland to Queenstown

Highlight of the day: Movara Lake Walk

The following day we took an early morning flight to Queenstown where we picked up our camper van from The Pod.

We had originally planned to drive towards Milford Highway but we were informed that the road was closed due to a flood. We instead decided to make our way to Movara Lakes. The Movara Lakes consists of two beautiful lakes North Mavora and South Mavora. Apparently, this park was used as a shooting location for The Lord of the Rings movie!

The views at sunset were stunning. We set up our chairs near the lake and enjoyed our first glass of New Zealand wine after a long day.

The next morning we woke up early and went for a short hike called the Movara Lake Walk. It was a 1hr easy walk along the lake. The path resembled a tree tunnel and the views of the mountains were breathtaking.

After the hike, we had breakfast and set off to Te Anau.

Our Campsite in Movara Lakes

We spent our first night in the camper van at Movara Lakes North Campsite. The campsite was basic but there was plenty of space for each car and we loved the fact that there was no designated parking slot or numbering.

Movara Lakes

Day 3: Te Anau to Milford Highway

Highlight of the day: Milford Heritage Highway

On day 3, we headed to Te Anau, which is a lovely town known as a gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. I highly recommend stopping by the Tourist Center where you will find lots of valuable information regarding current road conditions, activities and campsites.

{Side note: you may notice the famous Milford Sound was not part of our itinerary even though it is one of the most popular spots on the South Island. There were two reasons for that: unfavorable weather conditions and budget constraints. Maybe next time!}

From Te Anau, we went on a full-day drive on the Milford Heritage Highway. This road is said to be one of the most scenic drives on the South Island and it didn’t disappoint.

Suggested stops:

Lake Mistletoe
Ellington Valley
Mirror Lakes

Besides these landmarks, the beauty of this drive is the surroundings: majestic mountains, lush valleys, sheep (literally thousands of them!).

Our Campsite in Milford Highway

We spent the night at Cascade Creek Campsite. There was not anything truly remarkable about this campsite beside the convenient location towards the end of our Milford Highway drive. Please note that advanced booking is required for this campsite.

Views from Milford Heritage Highway

Day 4: Cascade Creek back to Queenstown

Highlights of the day: Devil’s Staircase Lookout Point, Queenstown’s Botanical Gardens

On day 4, the weather wasn’t great so we decided we would just take it easy. We made a pit stop in Te Anau to check out the town a bit more and had lunch at the cute Redcliff Cafe.

We then continued our journey back to Queenstown. The views were incredible! I especially recommend stopping at Devil’s Staircase Lookout Point.

Once in Queenstown, we stumbled upon Ferg Burger, a popular burger place that always has a long queue of customers. We decided to give it a try given the rave reviews but we were honestly a bit underwhelmed!

Later on, we went for a walk around the promenade and walked to the Botanical Gardens – we were surprised to see amazing giant sequoias there! I suggest doing the whole round to take in the views of the lake. It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with Queenstown.

Our Campsite in Queenstown

We spent the night at Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park. We paid $50 NZD for two (probably one of the priciest campsites we stayed at) but the facilities were great: large kitchen with cooking amenities, hot showers, and free wifi. It is worth noting that this campsite is an urban campsite, resembling a crowded city car park so please manage your expectations in that regard!


Day 5: Bel Mont Hike and driving to Glenorchy

Highlight of the day: Glenorchy-Queenstown Drive along Lake Wakatipu

On this day, we woke up early and headed to the Bel Mont Hike Trailhead, which is the starting point leading to the One Mile Loop but unfortunately, it was closed so we ended up exploring part of the Fernhill Hike. The views from up there were still fabulous.

From there, we headed towards Glenorchy on what’s considered to be one of the most scenic drives on the South Island – the road is simply called Glenorchy-Queenstown Road alongside Lake Wakatipu.

Suggested Stops:

  • 12 Mile Delta (great place to stop for lunch with a view)
  • Ithilien Lookout
  • Bennett’s Bluff Lookout

Once you get to Glenorchy, a rather sleepy tiny town, you can take some pictures at the wharf and if you have time you can also try the Glenorchy Walkway Scenic Point.

Our campsite between Glenorchy-Queenstown

Our campsite for the night was Moke Lake Campsite, just 45min from Glenorchy. The location of the campsite is idyllic, hidden among mountains and facing crystal lakes. There were horses around as well as cheeky ducks. This campsite was probably one of my favorites during the whole trip.

Day 6: Moke Lake –  Wanaka – Lake Wahea

Highlight of the day: Sunset at Lake Wahea

In the morning on day 6, we went for a hike around Moke Lake called Lake Dispute Track (1hr). It was absolutely stunning. After the hike, we packed up and hit the road towards Wanaka. We thoroughly enjoyed our pit stop by Webb’s Fruit in Cromwell to stock up on nectarines, peaches, and apricots. They were incredibly delicious and really affordable.

Our campsite in Lake Wahea

Our campsite for the night was Kidds Bush Reserve, 40 minutes north of Wanaka facing Lake Wahea. Great amenities at a great price point. Advanced booking required.

Day 7: Kidds Bush Reserve to Mount Aspiring (Aspiring Hut Trail)

Highlight of the day: Aspiring Hut Trail

After a good night’s sleep in the campervan, we made our way to Raspberry Creek Car Park, which is the start point of the Aspiring Hut Trail. We originally wanted to do the Rob Roy Glacier Track but it was closed so we decided to go for this hike instead.

We packed our lunch and hit the trail at around noon. The trail is beautiful, with lots of free-roaming cows and sheep, creeks, and the majestic Mount Aspiring and its glaciers. The trail is flat for the most part with plenty of photo opportunities along the way.

The endpoint is the Aspiring Hut, which is basically a lodge with a kitchen and a grass area where you can sit to enjoy a picnic. 

Our campsite near Mount Aspiring

From Aspiring Hut, we headed towards our campsite Glendhu Bay Motor Camp. Amenities included flush toilets, washing station, and hot showers! Despite the lack of scenic views, it was a practical and convenient place for us to reset.

Day 8: Mount Aspiring to White Horse Hill Campsite (Mt Cook)

Highlight of the day: Kea Point

Day 8 was all about driving all the way to White Horse Hill Campsite (nearest campsite to Mt Cook). The drive was really scenic.

On the way, we stopped by the cute cafe Tarras Country Cafe for a coffee and made another stop at Lindis Pass Viewpoint for pictures.

At around 4:30 pm after checking into the White Horse Hill Campsite for the night, we decided to do the 1-hr return walk to Kea Point. An amazing teaser of what was in store for us the following day: Hooker Valley Track.

Our Campsite in Mt Cook

We chose White Horse Hill Campsite given its proximity to Mt Cook. We were worried that we wouldn’t get a spot given the popularity of this campsite but to our surprise, there were many empty spots. Amenities included drinking water, flush toilets, and kitchens. And of course, mountain glaciers as a backdrop. Pretty epic!

Day 9: Hooker Valley Track – Lake Tekapo

Highlight of the day: Hooker Valley Trail

After a quick breakfast, we set off to the Hooker Valley Trail. It is a very easy trail that features three suspended bridges. At the end of the trail, you are rewarded with close-up views of Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand.

At around 3 pm, we started to make our way towards Lake Tekapo. It was a gloomy day so the landscapes probably weren’t as good as on a clear day but it was still nice. After taking in the views of the lake, we took a coffee and cake break at the cute cafe The Greedy Cow.

Later that day we decided to do the 45min walk to the Mt John Observatory. The 360 views around the lake make it absolutely worth it. Highly recommend stopping at Astro Cafe for a coffee or snack.

Our Campsite after Lake Tekapo

After a full day at Lake Tekapo, we opted to continue our drive northbound and spent the night at Peel Forest Campground. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the campsite was fairly empty and it had great facilities like hot showers and hot running water sinks.

Lake Tekapo

Day 10: Lake Tekapo to Porters Lodge

On day 10, we spent most of the day on a leisurely drive towards our campsite for the night, which we found by chance on Camper Mate called Porters Lodge, a ski lodge and restaurant. If you are driving a camper van, you’re basically allowed to park in the parking lot and use the facilities (hot showers, toilets, and lounge with free wifi), so bear in mind that this is not your typical campsite but rather a car park adjacent to the lodge.

It was really cold on this day so we enjoyed having dinner inside the restaurant which had a toasty fireplace.

Day 11: Arthur’s Pass and Christchurch

Highlight of the day: Great Alpine Road

On this day we drove across the “Great Alpine Road”, which leads to Arthur’s Pass National Park. Suddenly the landscape was so different, featuring snow-capped mountains similar to those in Scotland. We were glad we made a detour before Christchurch to see a different side of the South Island.

Our Campsite in Christchurch

We went for Christchurch TOP 10 Holiday Park. It is an urban campsite with great facilities (hot showers, kitchen area, dining room, laundry room, etc.). It was surprisingly very quiet at night!

Added bonus was that its location was close to our camper van drop off and it had a dump station so we could get the car ready before giving it back.

Day 12: Christchurch

Highlight of the day: Birthday lunch at Strawberry Fare

This day was my birthday so we had a special lunch at Strawberry Fare. The meal was delicious and the dessert (pineapple and feijoa pudding with coconut sorbet) was definitely the highlight!

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Christchurch. I particularly enjoyed our stroll around the Botanic Gardens and our coffee stop at Rollickin Gelato on Regent St.

Rollickin Gelato Cafe in Christchurch

Day 13: Christchurch to Auckland

On this day we returned the car to the Pod (conveniently located just 7 min away from our campsite) and then took an Uber to the airport.

We landed in Auckland at around 1 pm and checked into our Airbnb. We explored the city center and then made a snack break at The Brit, a super stylish bar/restaurant with super chic decor. We had beer, potato chips, and fried chicken. It felt so good after 10 days of camping food!

Day 14: Auckland back to Singapore

Just like that, our camp van road trip in South Island came to an end!

Best Tips for a Camper Van Road Trip in New Zealand’s South Island

Always carry cash & spare change to pay for the campsite fees. Most of them have a self-registration system, meaning you won’t get any change.

Headlights are a must – especially when going to the toilet in the campsite at night!

There are LOTS of sand flies in the South Island! Bring bug repellent.

Download Google Maps offline in advance before you hit the road as network reception is spotty and unavailable in many places.

– Bring your own phone holder so you don’t have to go buy one on the spot (our camper van didn’t include it)

– It gets cold at night. Whatever season you visit South Island, I suggest bringing warm clothes.

Grab carton boxes from the supermarket. You’re going to need them to store grocery items or clothing inside the camper van. Helps you keep organized!

– Some of the popular camper van companies that we frequently saw on the road:

  • Jucy
  • Britz
  • Travellers Auto Barn
  • Happy Campers
  • Smart RV.NZ
  • Maui
Our Camper Van (The Pod)

Map of our Self-guided Campervan Roadtrip in South Island