10 Reasons to Plan a Winter Campervan Road Trip in NZ | Apollo NZ
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Dunedin & Central Otago

A New Zealand campervan holiday to Dunedin and Central Otago offers a truly unique travel experience. Situated on the southeastern coast of the South Island, Dunedin is known for its Scottish heritage and Victorian and Edwardian architecture, while Central Otago, a short drive inland, offers dramatic landscapes characterised by rugged mountains, rolling plains, and crystal-clear lakes. Dunedin is a city that prides itself on its educational and cultural richness, home to the prestigious University of Otago and an array of museums and galleries. Dunedin’s weather can be cooler than other parts of New Zealand, with crisp, clear days perfect for exploring the historic streets or nearby natural attractions.

Central Otago offers a stark contrast with its semi-arid terrain, making it perfect for outdoor activities such as biking along the Otago Central Rail Trail and wine tasting at some of New Zealand's highest altitude vineyards. The region's dry climate and dramatic seasonal changes serve as a stunning backdrop for adventure and relaxation alike. Park up overnight in a Dunedin holiday park or find a secluded spot near one of Central Otago's picturesque lakes. With the convenience of your campervan, you can comfortably switch between urban exploration in Dunedin and remote escapes in the wilds of Otago. Whether you're drawn to Dunedin's cultural scene or the rugged beauty of Otago’s outdoors, this region promises a memorable experience.


Why explore Dunedin & Central Otago by campervan

Exploring Dunedin and Central Otago by campervan is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the region's unique blend of cultural heritage and stunning natural beauty. With a campervan, you dictate the pace and path of your journey. In Dunedin, you can easily navigate from the bustling shopping centre to quiet, windswept beaches along the Otago Peninsula. In Central Otago, the freedom to roam allows you to discover hidden gems, from secluded vineyards to historic gold mining towns, all at your own pace. The ability to spontaneously decide where to go next, from a morning exploring Dunedin’s architectural marvels to an afternoon tasting pinot noirs amidst the hills of Central Otago, is a true luxury.

Travelling by campervan not only offers all the comforts of home, including your own kitchen, bed, and living space but also saves you the hassle of packing and unpacking at each new destination. Plus, having your own facilities means you’re never far from a homecooked meal or a comfortable bed, even if you find yourself in the remote reaches of the region.


Things to do in Dunedin & Central Otago

Dunedin and Central Otago abound with diverse attractions, blending rich history with exhilarating outdoor pursuits and gourmet experiences. In Dunedin, discover the opulence of Larnach Castle or engage with local history at the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. For wildlife lovers, the area offers close encounters with unique species like the yellow-eyed penguin. Moving inland to Central Otago, you can hit the scenic cycle trails, savour exquisite pinot noirs at local vineyards, or try gold panning in Cromwell. Activities like water sports on Lake Dunstan also offer plenty of thrills, ensuring every traveller finds something to cherish.

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Apollo Campervan branches


Setting out from Apollo's Christchurch branch, the road trip through the Canterbury Plains and alongside the Southern Alps is breathtaking, with stops like Lake Tekapo and the historic town of Oamaru enriching your travel experience. 


Departing from Apollo's Queenstown branch, you're perfectly positioned to explore both the adventurous heart of the South Island and the tranquil beauty of Central Otago before reaching Dunedin. 


From Apollo Auckland, the multi-day trip to Dunedin and Central Otago – we suggest 10-14 days – offers a comprehensive tour of the North and South Islands, including crossing the Cook Strait by ferry

Auckland City Skyline


New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.


Christchurch City, New Zealand


 One of the world’s most unique destinations.



Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.


Helpful tips for visiting Dunedin & Central Otago


Climate and seasons in Dunedin & Central Otago

Dunedin and Central Otago offer distinct climate experiences that reflect the diverse landscapes of the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island.

Dunedin enjoys a temperate maritime climate with mild summers and cool winters, tempered by its coastal position.

  • Summer (December to February) are generally mild, with temperatures hovering around 15°C to 22°C, ideal for enjoying outdoor activities along the city’s beaches and exploring the lush Otago Peninsula.

  • Autumn (March to May) sees cooler temperatures and is a great time to witness the changing colours of the city's abundant foliage.

  • Winter (June to August) in Dunedin can be chilly, with temperatures dropping to 5°C to 10°C, but the city’s historical and cultural sites continue to draw visitors.

  • Spring (September to November) rejuvenates the city with mild weather and blossoming gardens, perfect for outdoor adventures before the colder months set in.

Central Otago contrasts sharply with a more continental climate, characterised by hot dry summers and cold winters.

  • Summers see temperatures that can climb above 25°C, making it an excellent time for exploring the region’s famous vineyards and outdoor recreational activities.
  • Autumn brings a dramatic change in landscape colour, particularly vivid in the vineyard areas, with cooler but still pleasant temperatures.
  • Winter sees temperatures often falling below freezing, blanketing the region in snow, which transforms the landscape into a winter wonderland, popular for photography and winter sports.
  • Spring slowly warms up the land, thawing lakes and rivers, and ushering in a season of growth and renewal.




What to pack

Preparing for your campervan adventure in Dunedin and Central Otago requires thoughtful packing to accommodate the varying climates and activities these regions offer. Here’s what to consider bringing along to make the most of your trip:

  • Outdoor gear: Given the diverse environments in Dunedin and Central Otago, versatile outdoor gear is essential. For Dunedin's coastal walks and city explorations, lightweight, breathable clothing will serve you well, complemented by a waterproof jacket for unpredictable showers. Central Otago's more extreme temperatures call for sun hats and high SPF sunscreen in summer, and warm, insulating layers in winter, especially if you plan to engage in snow sports or explore the frosty landscapes.

  • Campervan add-ons: Enhancing your campervan with a few extras can significantly improve your comfort and convenience. A portable heater might be necessary for chilly Central Otago nights, while a fan can keep you cool during the dry summer heat. Additionally, outdoor chairs and a table will expand your living space, perfect for enjoying the scenic views at your leisure.

  • Sun protection: Sun protection is crucial year-round due to New Zealand’s strong UV rays, particularly in the exposed and high-altitude areas of Central Otago. Pack broad-spectrum sunscreen, UV-protective sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. Insect repellent will also be useful, especially in the warmer months when sandflies and mosquitoes are more prevalent.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.



Nearby attractions and day trips from Dunedin & Central Otago


  • The Otago Peninsula tretching along the southern edge of the Otago Harbour, is renowned for its stunning coastal scenery and incredible wildlife. This area is a haven for nature lovers, offering opportunities to see rare yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals, and the only mainland breeding colony of royal albatross in the world. The peninsula’s rolling hills and rugged cliffs provide perfect vantage points for breathtaking views and photography.
  • Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle, offers a glimpse into the country’s colonial past, set against the backdrop of expansive gardens and the scenic Otago Peninsula. Built in 1871 by William Larnach, a merchant and politician, the castle features beautifully restored Victorian-era rooms and a unique collection of New Zealand antiques. The gardens are a highlight, recognised as a Garden of International Significance, perfect for a leisurely stroll.
  • Baldwin Street in Dunedin is famous for being the world's steepest residential street, attracting visitors from all over the globe. The street offers a challenging but quirky walk, rising significantly over its short 350-metre length.
  • Dunedin Railway Station is a stunning architectural marvel, known as the ‘Gingerbread House’ because of its ornate Flemish Renaissance style. Completed in 1906, the station is one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. Visitors can admire its detailed mosaic floors, stained glass windows, and grand booking hall. The station also serves as the departure point for scenic railway journeys that explore the spectacular landscapes surrounding Dunedin.
  • Tunnel Beach, just south of Dunedin, offers dramatic coastal scenery with sandstone cliffs, arches, and headlands. Accessible through a short walk that includes a tunnel down to the beach – hand-carved in the 1870s – this spot is perfect for those looking to explore a more secluded part of the coastline. The beach is particularly striking at sunset and is a popular location for romantic walks and picnics.
  • Otago Harbour is a long, narrow inlet associated with the bustling city life of Dunedin and the tranquil beauty of the Otago Peninsula. It's a hub for water activities, including sailing, fishing, and kayaking. The harbour is also a vital part of the local ecosystem, supporting a variety of birdlife and marine species, making it an excellent spot for wildlife watching.
  • Moeraki Boulders, located on Koekohe Beach along the Otago coast, are huge, almost perfectly spherical stones. These natural wonders were created by the cementation of mudstone over millions of years, with some over two metres in diameter.
  • The Catlins Coast, stretching between Balclutha and Invercargill, offers a remote and rugged landscape with a wealth of natural attractions. Visitors can explore dense rainforests and meet unique wildlife. Highlights include Nugget Point with its iconic lighthouse and the dramatic Purakaunui Falls.

For more inspiration, check out our guide to family friendly things to do in Dunedin.


Where to stay in Dunedin & Central Otago with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Dunedin & Central Otago, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:




Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

10 Reasons to Plan a Winter Campervan Road Trip in NZ.

Planning to hire a camper for a winter road trip in NZ? Exploring New Zealand's diverse landscapes in a campervan during the cooler months is a truly special experience. There’s something magical about rugging up under the stars before bed, and then waking up to crispy mornings with a hot coffee and a cooked breakfast. If you’re looking for NZ winter holiday ideas, then you simply can’t go past a campervan road trip. 

To help inspire the ultimate travel itinerary, we’ll share ten reasons why booking an Apollo campervan hire this winter could be your most memorable adventure yet. 


Our top 10 reasons you should explore New Zealand in a campervan this winter

Travelling in a campervan during winter offers a unique perspective of Aotearoa, offering a blend of adventure and breathtaking beauty. Here are our top picks for why a campervan hire should be your go-to choice for a New Zealand winter road trip.


Spectacular scenery

There's nothing quite like the sight of New Zealand's landscapes as they transform in winter. The mountains, parks, and forests take on a new life, adorned with snow and frost in many areas, offering scenes straight out of a postcard. And when you drive New Zealand by campervan, these captivating views aren't just a part of your journey; they're the first thing you see when you wake up, your backdrop for lunch, and your sunset scene. Imagine sipping your morning brew surrounded by the snow-dusted Southern Alps or listening to the dawn chorus of native birds in one of New Zealand’s national parks. That's the beauty of campervan travel in winter.


Tranquillity and serenity

If you're seeking a getaway from the crowds, winter is your season. The usual buzz of tourist spots simmers down, leaving behind quieter roads and peaceful campsites. This shift allows you to experience New Zealand's natural wonders and attractions without the usual hustle and bustle. As an added bonus, some attractions and campgrounds provide off-peak pricing during winter making your campervan hire holiday even more appealing (this may not apply during the school holiday period). It's a win-win: fewer people and potentially lower costs, all while you're wrapped up in the stunning winter scenery.


Unique outdoor activities

A New Zealand road trip in winter isn't just about enjoying the scenery, it’s also an opportunity to add some unique outdoor activities to your travel itinerary. Whether you're carving down the slopes of renowned ski resorts like Cardrona and Treble Cone, or taking a glacier hike across the majestic Franz Josef Glacier, winter offers an exhilarating playground for adventure seekers. With a campervan, you have the ultimate flexibility to hop from one winter wonderland to the next.


The Southern Lights

Winter in New Zealand brings with it the chance to witness one of the most enchanting natural phenomena: the Southern Lights, or Aurora Australis. These lights weave a tapestry of vibrant colours across the night sky, creating a spectacle that's both surreal and captivating. For the best views, venture to the remote areas of the South Island, where the darkness and clarity of the skies serve as the perfect backdrop for this celestial dance. With your Apollo campervan hire, you're equipped to chase these lights at their most brilliant, turning an ordinary night into an extraordinary experience.


Cosy campervan living

The charm of a winter adventure in New Zealand is perfectly complemented by the cosy living a modern campervan offers. Apollo's campervan and motorhome fleet comes with all the home comforts, from snug bedding to fully equipped kitchens. For unbeatable cosiness, pack a hot water bottle and your favourite warm socks. And if you’d like an extra touch of warmth, you can also hire a fan heater when you book your Apollo campervan hire. After a day of exploring New Zealand’s wintery landscapes, you'll love returning to your own warm and welcoming sanctuary.


Culinary delights

Winter is the ideal season to dive into the hearty comfort foods that New Zealand is celebrated for. With an abundance of local delicacies – from fresh seafood to artisan cheeses, your taste buds are in for a treat. Local farmers markets are a great place to pick up something tasty that showcases fresh, locally sourced ingredients. And what better way to enjoy these culinary delights than by preparing them in your campervan's well-equipped kitchen? Embrace the joy of cooking on the road, turning each meal into a cosy and memorable dining experience amidst the stunning winter landscapes of New Zealand.


Hot springs and thermal pools

New Zealand's geothermal wonders come to life in winter, offering the perfect escape into the warmth of natural hot springs and thermal pools. From the geothermal heartland of Rotorua to the hidden gems in the South Island, these warm waters provide a sanctuary against the winter chill. Places like the Miranda Holiday Park or the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools not only offer a rejuvenating soak but also overnight campervan parking. This means you can enjoy a soothing dip under the stars and retreat to the comfort of your campervan, parked just a stone's throw away. It's an experience that blends the rustic charm of outdoor living with the indulgent pleasure of a spa retreat, all within the backdrop of New Zealand's stunning winter landscapes.


Captivating wildlife

New Zealand’s winters offer the opportunity to experience some unique wildlife encounters. The cooler months mark the migration of majestic whales along the coastlines, making it a great time for a whale watching cruise. The shores also become playgrounds for playful seals, basking in the winter sun or frolicking in the waters. Not to be outdone, adorable penguins make their appearance, waddling along beaches and nesting in coastal areas, providing heartwarming sights for nature lovers. 

For bird enthusiasts, winter is an excellent time to observe native species in their natural habitats. Guided tours are available, taking you through dense forests and protected reserves where the chorus of native birds fills the air. From the melodious calls of the Tūī to the elusive sight of the Kiwi under the cover of dusk, these experiences bring you closer to the heart of New Zealand's wildlife. 


Fun winter festivals

Winter in New Zealand is not just about picturesque landscapes and cosy nights; it's also a time for vibrant celebrations and community spirit. Embrace the festive atmosphere by diving into some of the country's most invigorating winter festivals. Queenstown's Winter Festival is a highlight, transforming the adventure capital into a hub of excitement with street parties, fireworks, and a wide array of events that celebrate the chilly season in style.

Another significant winter event is Matariki, marking the Māori New Year. This cultural festival is a time of reflection, remembrance, and renewal, observed with various events across the country, including art exhibitions, traditional performances, and community gatherings. 


Stargazing under winter skies

Winter's clear nights in New Zealand offer some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world. The crisp, cool air reduces atmospheric distortion, making the stars appear brighter and more numerous. With your Apollo campervan hire, you can venture out to some of the most remote and dark locations, far from city lights, to gaze up at the celestial wonders overhead.

Aotearoa is home to the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, one of the largest dark sky reserves in the world, located in the Mackenzie Basin of the South Island. Here, the Milky Way stretches across the sky in a dazzling display, with constellations, planets, and shooting stars visible to the naked eye. Whether you're an avid astronomer or simply wish to enjoy the natural beauty of a starlit sky, winter provides the perfect backdrop for unforgettable nights under the stars. So, grab a blanket, step outside your campervan, and look up to be mesmerised by the universe's vast beauty.


Ready to explore New Zealand in a campervan this winter?

From the warmth of thermal pools to the thrill of winter festivals and the awe of natural wonders, your Apollo campervan hire is your ticket to experiencing the best of New Zealand's winter. With state-of-the-art features, cosy interiors, and the flexibility to take you from snow-capped mountains to starlit skies, Apollo ensures your winter adventure is nothing short of magical.

Ready to kick off your unforgettable winter journey? Book your Apollo campervan online today and unlock the wonders of New Zealand's winter landscape at your own pace.

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