Top tips for winter campervan travel in New Zealand | 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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Dunedin and Central Otago, situated in the southern part of New Zealand's South Island, are regions steeped in natural beauty and cultural richness. Travelling by campervan allows you to freely explore the varied landscapes – from Dunedin’s rugged coastline to Central Otago’s golden hills – and discover a network of routes dotted with historical sites, quaint towns, and scenic camping spots. Whether cruising through Dunedin’s architectural marvels or winding through the vineyard-clad valleys of Central Otago, each journey is an invitation to delve deeper into the heart of the south. 

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Apollo Campervan branches

Christchurch

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. 

Queenstown

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. 

Auckland

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

Auckland

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

 

Christchurch City, New Zealand

Christchurch

 One of the world’s most unique destinations.

 

Queenstown

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:

Dunedin

 

 

Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Top tips for winter campervan travel in New Zealand.

Heading out on a winter road trip in New Zealand in a campervan is an experience like no other. The country's stunning vistas take on a whole new character, offering adventures that are both unique and exhilarating. 

In this handy guide, we'll take you through some essential tips for making your New Zealand winter road trip not just comfortable but truly unforgettable. 

From the must-have items for your campervan checklist to the best winter destinations in NZ, we've got you covered. Whether you're planning a NZ ski holiday or seeking the best places to visit in winter NZ, your journey is about to get a lot more exciting. So, grab a cuppa, and let's take a look at how to make your camper hire adventure the highlight of your winter.

 

Why you should take a winter campervan trip in New Zealand

Taking a winter road trip in NZ in an Apollo campervan is an invitation to witness a side of New Zealand that not everyone gets to see. As the cooler months roll in, the landscapes undergo a magical transformation, presenting a spectacle that's both quiet and majestic. 

Here's why a winter journey through New Zealand should be on your radar:

  • New Zealand in winter reveals a landscape that's utterly breathtaking. The snow-capped mountains, frosty mornings, and crisp air bring out a different kind of beauty. It all adds up to a more intimate and reflective travel experience. It's a time when the country's natural wonders feel like they're there just for you.

  • The drop in tourist numbers is a significant bonus. Make the most of the freedom to explore iconic spots without the usual hustle and bustle. The roads are less crowded, making your drive through New Zealand's scenic routes more relaxed and enjoyable. It's the perfect setting for those who prefer a more laid-back holiday, with plenty of opportunities to take in the views at your own pace.

  • For the thrill-seekers and adventure lovers, winter in New Zealand is a playground. The season is synonymous with exhilarating activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and even glacier hiking. Resorts like Queenstown and Wānaka become bustling hubs for winter sports, offering some of the best slopes in the Southern Hemisphere. Whether you're an experienced skier or trying it for the first time, the New Zealand skiing holiday experience is unmatched.

 

Our top 10 tips for winter campervan travel in New Zealand

Venturing through New Zealand in a campervan during winter offers a unique blend of challenges and rewards. To help you navigate this chilly but charming season, here are our top tips for a safe and enjoyable journey.

 

Check the weather forecast

Staying updated on the weather is a must for any New Zealand road trip. Winter can bring sudden shifts in conditions, so it's wise to be prepared. Packing additional layers, blankets, and a hot water bottle will keep you cosy inside your camper. Being well-prepared allows you to embrace the stunning winter landscapes without the discomfort of the cold.

 

Drive cautiously

Navigating New Zealand's roads in winter requires a careful approach, especially when conditions turn icy. Lowering your speed and allowing more space for braking are good practices. 

Equipping your campervan with snow chains is important to help enhance traction and safety on snowy or icy roads. These can be hired with your Apollo campervan. It's also a good idea to get comfortable with using these chains before you hit the road. 

If your adventure includes the ski fields, remember that campervans may need to be parked at designated areas, as direct access via entry roads is often restricted from June to October. Additionally, be aware of specific locations where campervans might not be permitted during the winter months, and plan your route accordingly.

 

Choose the right campervan

When it's time to choose the best campervan for your winter road trip in NZ, it's all about matching your needs with the right set of wheels. Winter travel has its own set of demands, so here's how to make sure your campervan hire ticks all the boxes:

  • Storage for your gear: Winter trips often mean bringing along more stuff – think skis, snowboards, extra blankets, and all those warm layers. You'll want a campervan with plenty of storage space to keep everything organised and accessible. No one likes a cluttered living space, especially when it's your home on the road.

  • Self-contained comforts: There's a special kind of joy in having your own little bathroom and kitchen with you, especially when it's cold outside. An onboard shower and toilet not only make your winter travels more pleasant but are also essential for freedom camping. It's about having those home comforts, no matter where you park for the night.

  • Heating options: Different campervans can come with different heating systems – electric, gas, or diesel. Electric heaters will need a power hookup, which is fine for campsite stays but not ideal for off-grid adventures. Gas and diesel heaters can keep you warm anywhere, but it's good to know how they work and what they need. For example, diesel heaters are super-efficient and great for keeping the chill at bay, while gas heaters give you that cosy warmth without needing a power connection.

 

Stock up on essentials

Getting ready for a winter road trip in NZ means making sure you've got all the essentials packed in your campervan. It's not just about having enough snacks for the road (though we all know how important those are!), it's also about being prepared for anything the journey might throw at you. Here's a quick checklist to make sure you're all set:

  • Food and water: Stock up on enough food and water to last you a few days, just in case you find yourself in a remote spot or get held up by unexpected weather. Think non-perishable items that are easy to cook in your campervan kitchen.

  • Emergency supplies: A well-stocked first aid kit is a must, along with essentials like a flashlight, extra batteries, and a multi-tool. These can be lifesavers in unexpected situations.

  • Warmth and comfort: Extra layers of clothing, thermal wear, and waterproof outer layers will help keep you warm and dry, whether you're inside the campervan or out exploring. A good quality, warm sleeping bag is also a must-have for those frosty nights.

  • Navigation tools: While digital maps are great, having physical maps or pre-downloaded maps as backups can be a lifesaver, especially in remote areas where signals might be spotty. We recommend downloading the thl Roadtrip app before you begin your road trip. This handy app is packed full of everything you’ll need to prepare for and enjoy your campervan road trip. Download on the App Store or Google Play.  

  • Entertainment: Don't forget to pack some books, games, or even a portable speaker for those cosy evenings in. It's all about making your campervan feel like a home away from home.

 

Plan your route

Mapping out your journey is a crucial part of preparing for your winter road trip in NZ. The winter season can bring a few surprises, from road closures to unexpected weather changes, so it pays to be prepared. Here's how to ensure your route planning is on point:

  • Stay informed: Before you set off, check out the latest updates on road conditions, closures, and detours. Websites and local news channels are great resources for the most current information.

  • Backup plans: Having alternative routes in mind can save you a lot of hassle if you encounter any roadblocks or delays. It's always better to have a plan B (and even a plan C) just in case.

  • Local insights: Don't underestimate the value of local knowledge. Chatting with locals or other travellers can give you insights into the best routes and hidden gems that might not be on your map.

  • Flexible travel itinerary: While it's great to have a plan, being flexible can make your trip even more enjoyable. Sometimes, the best experiences come from those unplanned detours and spontaneous decisions.


Stay connected

Keeping in touch and ensuring you have a way to communicate is super important on your New Zealand road trip, especially when you're cruising around in your campervan. Here's how to stay connected, even when you're off the beaten path:

  • Power up: A fully charged cell phone is your lifeline. Pack a portable charger or power bank to keep your phone juiced up, especially on those long stretches between stops.

  • Share your plans: Let your friends or family know your travel itinerary. A quick message to share your daily plans or any changes can keep everyone at ease.

  • Regular check-ins: Especially if you're venturing into more remote areas with unreliable reception, make it a point to check in regularly. Find spots along your route where you can get a signal and touch base.

  • Emergency contacts: Have a list of emergency contacts, including local authorities and roadside assistance, saved in your phone. It's also a good idea to have them written down somewhere in your campervan, just in case.

 

Choose campsites wisely

Finding the right spot to park your campervan each night is a big part of the adventure. To make sure your nights are as comfy as your days are fun, here's what to look for in a winter campsite:

  • Creature comforts: After a day of exploring, there's nothing like a hot shower to warm up. Look for campsites with power hookups, hot showers, and maybe even laundry facilities to make your winter camping experience a bit more like home.

  • Winter availability: Not all campsites are open in the colder months, so it's a good idea to do a bit of research and planning ahead of time. Checking availability and booking your spots in advance can save you from the hassle of a last-minute scramble.

  • Strategic locations: Choosing campsites that are close to your planned activities or attractions can cut down on driving time and allow you to spend more time enjoying the sights and experiences.

  • Safety first: Especially in winter, make sure the campsites you choose are safe and well-maintained. A little research on reviews or asking for recommendations can go a long way.

 

Stay warm and dry

Staying snug and dry is key to enjoying your New Zealand winter road trip to the fullest. Here's how to keep the chill at bay and ensure your campervan remains a cosy retreat:

  • Layer up: Invest in some good-quality thermal clothing that'll keep you warm from the inside out. Topping these off with waterproof outer layers means you can face the elements without a shiver, whether you're out exploring or setting up camp.

  • Ventilation is vital: Keeping your campervan aired out might seem counterintuitive in the cold, but regular ventilation is crucial to prevent condensation and moisture buildup inside. A little fresh air circulating through can make the space more comfortable and prevent dampness from settling in.

 

Embrace winter activities

Getting stuck into some of the great winter activities that New Zealand offers can turn your campervan journey into an epic adventure. Here's how to make the most of the season:

  • Hit the slopes: Whether you're into skiing, snowboarding, or just a good old-fashioned snowball fight, New Zealand's winter wonderland is your playground. The country's renowned ski fields offer something for every level, from beginner to pro.

  • Scenic explorations: Don't miss out on the breathtaking winter trails. Whether it's a frosty morning walk or a guided tour, the landscapes are spectacular.

  • Warm-up: After a day in the cold, there's nothing like soaking in a soothing hot pool. It's the perfect way to relax and warm up.

  • Local flavours: Winter is also a great time to explore the local cuisine. Cosy up in cafes and restaurants and enjoy some hearty meals that'll warm you from the inside out. Even better, stock up on local produce and artisan goods and create some campervan cuisine. 

 

Be flexible and adaptable

Winter in New Zealand can be full of surprises, and a flexible approach to your campervan adventure can lead to some of the most memorable experiences. The weather might throw a curveball your way, or you might stumble upon a hidden gem that wasn't on your radar. Being prepared to adjust your plans on the fly allows you to embrace the unique spontaneity that winter travel offers. After all, it's the unexpected moments that often become the highlights of our travels.

 

Ready to explore New Zealand in a campervan this winter? 

A winter campervan road trip in New Zealand is simply unbeatable. And with a bit of smart planning – from selecting the ideal campervan to packing the right gear – it’s one you’ll never forget.

Feeling inspired to start planning your winter travel itinerary? Apollo Campervans has the perfect range of motorhomes and campervans to suit your needs. Book your cosy campervan online now and set off on a memorable trip through New Zealand's breathtaking winter scenery.

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