This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to read our Disclosure.
Since I was off on maternity leave, it seemed like a good opportunity to go away for a longer trip. We had visited Australia in 2005, but really wanted to visit New Zealand. We managed to get away for a month in March and spent 3 weeks traveling around the South Island via RV and 1 week on the North Island at a bach (cottage). The kids were 6 months and 2.5, which were great ages because it allowed us to do lots of great hikes. With two little kids, traveling in an RV was a great option because we had everything we needed on the “truck”, didn’t have to constantly move around and unpack and could travel at our own pace. We frequently stopped for lunch breaks, breastfeeding breaks, potty stops and could continue traveling during nap time. If you are looking for info on NZ costs, check out this post.
We rented our RV through Backpacker Campervans, which is just a budget division of Britz and appears to no longer exist. We paid $4,000 NZD for our 3 week rental, which seemed like a ton of money, but was totally worth it. We had a good size RV with two sleeping areas and enough space to strap the car seats into. We started in Christchurch and basically went clockwise around the South Island. We enjoyed exploring Christchurch – Cathedral Square, boating on the Avon, riding the trams, and taking the Gondola up. At our first campground we encountered a jumping pillow, which seems like the best invention in the world.
From Christchurch we headed to Lake Tekapo for beautiful views of the blue, blue lake.
Next up was Mt Cook and we had a campground with a lovely view of the peak. We did the Hooker Valley Glacier hike and enjoyed the fun swing bridges.
On we headed to Queenstown, which truly is an amazing town. Even though we had this strange campground right in the middle of the town which was basically a big parking lot. We didn’t opt for bungee jumping or the partying the town is well known for, but did go paragliding spontaneously, which was amazing. We went one at a time while the other watched the kids. We did this from the top of the Gondola, which had beautiful views of the lake. We also tried out the luge, which was fun, especially since it involved taking a chair lift up.
We enjoyed time around the lake and took an organized trip to the Walter Peak farm where we got to learn more about NZ animals and even see a sheep being sheared.
We drove down to Milford Sound and had a wonderful campground in the fjords. We did a boat trip and saw lots of waterfalls and even seals.
On the way to Wanaka we stopped a did the Rob Roy Glacier hike, which was really nice, although involved some off road driving on our RV to get to the trail head. We visited Wanaka Puzzling World, which was a quirky place.
We stopped by Fox Glacier.
Then on to Punakaiki to see the pancake rocks.
We arrived at Abel Tasman National Park and were now at the top of the South Island. At Kaiteriteri we enjoyed some relaxing time on the beach as our campground was pretty much right on the beach. We took the water taxi out to Split Apple rock and did a hike. The scenery in the park was spectacular and we encountered more swinging bridges!
From there we headed east to Marlborough Sound and Paul tried his first whitebait fritter (tiny little fish). We took the opportunity to visit some of the wineries, kids in tow.
Next up was Kaikora, known as the place where the mountains meet the sea. The landscape is really unique and the farms that connect the mountains to the coastline are lovely to walk through the pastures. We detoured to Hamner Springs for a soak in the lovely hot springs.
From there we returned to Christchurch, returned our RV, but not without going to a rugby game. We then flew north to Auckland for our week in the north.
For other New Zealand road trip ideas, check out this article.