Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary | Apollo NZ
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Hawke's Bay

Looking for a New Zealand campervan holiday destination that ticks the boxes for sunshine, adventure, great food, and perhaps a little history and culture? You can’t go past Hawke’s Bay. This stunning region offers a taste of the good life amidst some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Whether you’re into adventurous hikes, wine tasting, or family fun, you’ll find plenty of great things to do in Hawke’s Bay.  

The appeal of the Hawke's Bay region lies not only in its charming townships such as Napier and Hastings but also in its natural attractions. The Hawke’s Bay weather is among the best in New Zealand, boasting plenty of sunshine that ripens grapes in its world-renowned vineyards and warms its expansive beaches. This climate makes the region a year-round destination for visitors looking to explore the outdoors whether on bike trails, on foot through its scenic reserves, or along its stunning coastlines.

Travelling by campervan allows you to take in everything Hawke's Bay has to offer at your own pace. Wake up to ocean views, spend your days discovering local markets or touring iconic wineries in Hawke’s Bay. In the evenings, enjoy relaxed sunset meals prepared in your campervan kitchen. And with plenty of Hawke’s Bay accommodation for campervan travellers, you’ve got the freedom to explore far and wide.

 

Why explore Hawke’s Bay by campervan

Exploring Hawke's Bay by campervan offers an unparalleled opportunity to dive deep into the region's offerings at your own pace. From the freedom to wander through the sunlit vineyards of Hawke’s Bay to parking along the coastlines near Napier, your campervan allows for a flexible, immersive travel experience. 

Travelling by campervan comes with heaps of perks that make the trip even better. Fancy cooking up some local produce from a roadside stall? You've got your own kitchen right there. Tired of hauling suitcases in and out of hotels? That's not an issue when your campervan acts as your base. You can also pack all the gear you need for outdoor fun – like hiking packs or surfboards – without worrying about space. And let’s not forget the convenience of having your own bathroom, which means no more hunting for public restrooms. It’s all about making your holiday as relaxed and enjoyable as possible.

 

Things to do in Hawke’s Bay

Hawke's Bay is a playground for explorers, foodies, and culture enthusiasts alike. Immerse yourself in the rich history and Art Deco architecture of Napier. Sample some of New Zealand's finest wines. Or simply explore the natural beauty of the region's landscapes and coastlines. Whatever you’re keen to see and do, there's something here for everyone. 

Things to do Hawkes Bay Things to do Hawkes Bay

Things to do Hawkes Bay

From Art Deco delights to world-class wineries, there's no shortage of unforgettable places to visit in Hawke’s Bay. And there’s...
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 Popular Hawke’s Bay road trips & itineraries

Located on the eastern coast of New Zealand's North Island, Hawke's Bay is easily accessible from major cities including Auckland and Wellington. Setting off from Napier, the heart of Hawke's Bay, you can delve into the area's renowned Art Deco architecture, explore the dramatic cliffs of Cape Kidnappers, or indulge in a tasting tour through its famous vineyards. Whether coming down from Auckland or making your way up from Wellington or even the South Island, Hawke’s Bay is perfectly poised to offer an unforgettable New Zealand road trip. 

Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary
Alyssa Tresider

Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary.

Day 1: Christchurch to Kaikōura

Travel time: 2 hours, 15 mins

Distance: 178 km

It’s day one of your New Zealand road trip and the first order of the day is to pick up your campervan from our Christchurch Apollo branch. Our friendly team will show you everything you need to know, answer any questions, and make sure you’re ready to hit the road. 

Once you’re behind the wheel, you may like to tick off a few of the must-see highlights of the city. And the good news is, you won’t have to go too far. Just a stone’s throw from our Christchurch branch are two top attractions. Dive into the chilly adventures of the International Antarctic Centre, where you can enter the Storm Dome, meet little blue penguins, or immerse yourself in the 4D theatre. For something a little warmer, head over to Willowbank Wildlife Reserve where you can meet New Zealand’s iconic kiwi. There are lots of other friendly creatures to see here too including tuatara, falcons, capybara, otters, and more. 

As you leave Christchurch, the road trip to Kaikōura offers beautiful views of the ocean and mountains. Once you arrive in Kaikōura, there’s plenty to see and do. One of the unmissable activities is a whale-watching tour. Thanks to its location – between deep oceanic trenches with nutrient-dense waters, Kaikōura is a magnet for an array of marine life. The star of the show is often the majestic sperm whale, which can be seen year-round. In addition to these gentle giants, visitors can catch sight of dusky dolphins, orcas, and even the occasional blue whale.   

For those preferring to keep their feet on solid ground while soaking in the beauty of Kaikōura, the Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway is an ideal choice. This well-marked trail begins at Point Kean car park. As you make your way along the walkway, you'll be greeted by dramatic cliff-top vistas of the Pacific Ocean, with the chance to spot seals lazing on the rocks below. 

When stomachs start to rumble, Kaikōura's seafood scene is sure to satisfy. For a genuine local experience, head to Nin's Bin - a legendary roadside caravan, famous for its fresh crayfish. Another must-visit is The Pier Hotel, offering a range of seafood dishes with unbeatable ocean views. 

For a comfortable stay paired with top-notch facilities, the Kaikōura TOP 10 Holiday Park offers the ideal base. 

 

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

Day 2: Kaikōura to Blenheim

Travel time: 1 hour, 40 mins 

Distance: 129 km

The scenic drive from Kaikōura to Blenheim takes you through more of the South Island’s stunning landscapes. The route unfolds along the coast, offering spontaneous moments to stop, breathe in the fresh sea air, and capture unforgettable vistas.

Before you travel too far today, a must-do stop along the way is the Ohau Point Seal Colony. Easily accessible from the roadside, this spot offers a unique opportunity to observe New Zealand fur seals as they relax in the sunshine. With seals often lounging on the rocks or playing in the water, it's the perfect way to see these endearing creatures in their natural habitat. 

Blenheim, in the heart of the Marlborough wine region, is celebrated for its world-class sauvignon blanc among other varietals. While you’re here, take the time to visit a few of Blenheim's esteemed wineries. We suggest a visit to Cloudy Bay or Brancott Estate. Each estate offers its own distinctive experience, blending the pleasures of wine tasting with the charm of the countryside.

For aviation enthusiasts and history buffs alike, Blenheim’s Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is not to be missed. This unique museum brings history to life with its impressive collection of First and Second World War aircraft and memorabilia. Engaging displays and dioramas, designed with the help of film director Peter Jackson, immerse visitors in a bygone era of aviation bravery and innovation.

After a day of exploration, settle in at the Blenheim Bridges Holiday Park. Conveniently located near the city, the park offers a comfortable stay, ensuring you're well-rested for the adventures ahead.

 

Day 3: Blenheim to Nelson

Travel time: 1 hour, 40 mins

Distance: 118 km

Today, you’re off to Nelson. Bathed in sunshine and renowned as New Zealand's sunniest city, Nelson attracts visitors from near and far with its vibrant arts scene, golden beaches, and the nearby pristine parks of Abel Tasman and Kahurangi.

As you head off from Blenheim, plan a stop at Pelorus Bridge. This scenic reserve is a haven for native plants and wildlife, and the bridge itself is an iconic spot offering spectacular views of the Pelorus River. It’s an ideal location for a short nature walk, a refreshing swim, or a leisurely picnic amidst the tranquil surroundings.

Once you arrive in Nelson, head along to the World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum. This unique museum amalgamates art, fashion, and vintage cars in a display that's both eclectic and awe-inspiring. 

For those looking to get a panoramic view of the city and its surrounds, the Centre of New Zealand on Botanical Hill provides a rewarding trek and viewpoint.

Keen to see more? Experience the bustling local markets, relax at Tahunanui Beach, or enjoy a walk in the picturesque Maitai Valley

After exploring Nelson's many attractions, rest up at the Nelson TOP 10 Holiday Park. With its convenient location and comfortable facilities, it's a great place to recharge and relax. 

 

Day 4: Nelson to Abel Tasman National Park

Travel time: 1 hour

Distance: 60 km 

The Abel Tasman National Park, with its golden beaches, clear turquoise waters, and lush native forests, stands as one of New Zealand's most captivating natural treasures. 

The drive from Nelson to Abel Tasman is dotted with several worthy stops. Consider pausing in the artsy town of Mapua for a browse, or Motueka for a quick rest or snapshot of the scenic landscape.

Once in Abel Tasman, a world of outdoor exploration awaits. The iconic Coast Track offers stunning views and diverse terrains. The full track takes 5-days, but there is also a single-day option. For those inclined towards water activities, kayaking provides an intimate way to explore the park's lagoons, inlets, and secluded beaches. 

After a day of exploration and activity, the Marahau Beach Camp is an ideal spot to rest. Located close to the park's entrance, it offers the perfect spot to park up your campervan and enjoy a good night's rest.

 

Image: Miles Holden

 

Day 5: Abel Tasman National Park to Westport

Travel time: 3 hours, 20 mins

Distance: 240 km

The journey from Abel Tasman to Westport reveals the dynamic shifts in New Zealand's landscape. As the sunny beaches of the north give way, the rugged and raw beauty of the West Coast emerges, characterised by its wild beaches, dense rainforests, and historic townships. 

Westport has a rich history of mining. In the late 19th century, the town thrived as gold miners flocked to the area, lured by the promise of gold-rich rivers and streams. Today, the township is better known for its coal mining industry. Head into the Coaltown Museum to learn more about the town’s fascinating heritage. 

Another top Westport destination is Cape Foulwind, not just for its dramatic ocean views, but also for the resident seal colony which can often be seen here. You may also like to take the one-hour work to see the Cape Foulwind lighthouse. Speaking of walks, the Charming Creek Walkway is another great option. This 5.5 km (each way) trail takes you through dense rainforest, alongside a cascading river, and past remnants of the region's mining and milling history. 

Park your motorhome up tonight at the Westport Kiwi Holiday Park. Set in 12 acres of native bush with park-like grounds, this picturesque campsite has everything needed for a comfortable, welcoming stay.  

 

Day 6: Westport to Arthur’s Pass

Travel time: 2 hours, 15 mins

Distance: 163 km

It’s day six already, and time to start winding your way back across to the east coast. We suggest making an early start today so you can fit in all the great sights and experiences in this part of your South Island road trip.

First on the list as you leave Westport is the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, one of the most visited natural attractions on the West Coast. The layered limestone formations, which resemble stacks of pancakes, are especially impressive at high tide when the sea surges into the caverns below and sets off the blowholes. 

Next up, you’ll come to the largest town on the West Coast, Greymouth. This vibrant township is home to the Monteith’s Brewing Company where you can stop in for a brewery tour and tasting session. The town's history of jade hunting, gold mining, and its coal industry can be explored at the local museum.

As you approach Arthur’s Pass Village, be sure to pull over at the Otira Viaduct Lookout, a great spot to take in views of the impressive viaduct and surrounding views. 

Once you reach the village, there are numerous short walks to enjoy. The 2 km return Devil's Punchbowl Waterfall is one of the most popular, providing stunning views of one of the area's most impressive waterfalls. 

While you’re in the Arthur’s Pass region, keep an eye out for the cheeky kea, New Zealand's native alpine parrot. Their inquisitive nature can sometimes lead them to pull at rubber parts of cars, like wipers or seals, much to the surprise of unsuspecting motorists. Note, while it's tempting to interact with these intelligent birds, it's crucial not to feed them, as human food can be harmful and promote problematic begging behaviour.

Tonight, plan a stay at the beautiful Jackson’s Retreat Holiday Park. Located in 15 acres of beautiful grounds, Jackson’s Retreat is currently voted by Rankers as the top holiday park in New Zealand. 

 

Image: Tourism New Zealand

 

Day 7: Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch

Travel time: 2.5 hours

Distance: 185 km

It’s the final day of your epic South Island road trip, and today you’ll be leaving the rugged peaks of Arthur’s Pass and heading toward the sprawling Canterbury Plains. 

Along the way, check out the massive boulders of Kura Tāwhiti / Castle Hill. Here, the landscape is dotted with hundreds of spectacular ancient rocks and boulders – some up to 30 metres high. A track loops around the rocks providing an easy 20-minute walk and plenty of fantastic photo ops. 

Further on, keep an eye out for the huge Springfield Donut. This quirky landmark was unveiled in 2007 as a promotional stunt for The Simpsons Movie and has since become a symbol of community pride – and an unexpected photo opportunity for travellers passing through.

The final item on your South Island travel itinerary is to return to Apollo’s Christchurch branch to drop off your camper.

 

Ready to explore the South Island?

Now that’s what we call a bucket list road trip! From whale watching and wildlife encounters to wine tasting and seafood sampling… it’s all here waiting. All you need to do to make it happen is to book your Apollo campervan hire in-branch or online. Get started today!

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Great savings on your New Zealand road trip

Apollo offers a fantastic selection of deals and specials for those looking to explore New Zealand by campervan. From hot deals and last-minute discounts to long-term hire benefits, you’re sure to find a deal designed to help you make the most of your campervan adventure. 

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Apollo Campervan branches

Auckland

Departing from Apollo Auckland, you’re perfectly positioned for a half-day drive to Northland & the Bay of Islands. This route ensures a seamless blend of scenic beauty and local culture, culminating in the stunning landscapes of Northland.

Christchurch

The drive from Apollo Christchurch to Northland & the Bay of Islands sets you up for a scenic multi-day journey across the South Island, including the picturesque ferry crossing at the Cook Strait, and into the North Island. 

Queenstown

Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore as much of New Zealand as possible? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and take your time heading northward over an epic 10-14 days taking in some of the great southern highlights along the way. 

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 Hawke's Bay

 

Climate and seasons in Hawkes

Hawke's Bay is known for its consistently warm and dry climate, making it a favoured destination throughout the year. The region's weather complements its reputation as one of New Zealand's premier wine-growing areas, with long, sunny days that nurture vineyards and invite outdoor adventures.

  • Summers (December to February) in Hawke's Bay are typically warm and dry, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C. This is the perfect time for beach outings at places like Waimarama or Ocean Beach, and for enjoying al fresco dining in Napier or Hastings. The warm weather also makes this a peak season for exploring the region’s numerous vineyards and wineries.

  • Autumn (March to May) brings cooler temperatures and the landscape bursts into vibrant colours, especially in the vineyards where the leaves change hues against a backdrop of crisp blue skies. The mild weather is ideal for hiking and cycling through the region's parks and reserves.

  • Winter (June to August) sees cooler days with temperatures generally between 10°C and 15°C. Although colder, the days are often clear and sunny, providing perfect conditions for visiting indoor attractions like the Art Deco buildings in Napier or the Hawke's Bay Museum.

  • Spring (September to November) rejuvenates the region with fresh blooms and gradually warming temperatures. It's an excellent time to witness the orchards in blossom and to enjoy the late spring events that celebrate the region’s produce and wine.

Hawke's Bay's sheltered position in the rain shadow of the central mountain range means it receives less rainfall than many other parts of New Zealand, but packing a rain jacket is still advisable. The pleasant climate in spring and autumn, along with the vibrant seasonal changes, make these particularly delightful times to visit.

 

 

What to pack?

Preparing for your campervan adventure in Hawke's Bay calls for smart packing to make the most of the region's sunny climate and abundant outdoor activities. From relaxing on its beautiful beaches to touring its famous wineries, here’s what you should consider bringing along:

  • Outdoor gear: Hawke's Bay's varied landscapes, from coastal paths to vineyard trails, demand versatile outdoor gear. Opt for lightweight, breathable clothing to keep cool during warm days, and include a layer or two for the cooler evenings – perfect for enjoying a night under the stars. Sturdy walking shoes are a must, whether you’re exploring the streets of Napier or hiking the trails at Te Mata Peak.
  • Campervan add-ons: To enhance your campervan experience, think about including a few extras. A portable barbecue is great for cooking up local produce as you enjoy panoramic views of the bay, and additional camping chairs and a table will make your setup outside the van more comfortable and inviting.
  • Sun protection: Given Hawke's Bay's reputation for being one of the sunniest areas in New Zealand, good sun protection is essential. Pack a high-SPF sunscreen, sunglasses with UV protection, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the sun, ensuring you can safely enjoy the great outdoors throughout your trip. For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

 

Attractions and day trips in Hawke's Bay

 

Napier

A city reborn from the 1931 earthquake, Napier is renowned for its beautifully preserved Art Deco architecture. Strolling through the city, visitors can enjoy vibrant street art, boutique shops, and waterfront cafes that make Napier a cultural gem worth exploring.

Cape Kidnappers

Cape Kidnappers is famous for its dramatic coastal cliffs and as the home to the largest mainland gannet colony in the world. A guided tour offers a chance to see these magnificent birds up close and enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Te Mata Peak

Te Mata Peak provides panoramic views of Hawke's Bay and is a must-visit for anyone wanting to capture the beauty of the region from above. Hiking trails range from easy to challenging, catering to all fitness levels.

Wineries

Hawke's Bay is one of New Zealand's oldest wine regions, famed for its Bordeaux blend reds and rich Chardonnays. Visiting local wineries for tastings and tours is an indulgent way to experience the area's gourmet offerings.

Art Deco Tours

Take a step back in time with an Art Deco tour in Napier. These guided tours, often available on foot or by vintage car, highlight the city's unique history and architectural heritage, celebrating the style that defines the region.

Beaches

Ocean Beach and Waimarama Beach are pristine stretches of sand perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and long beach walks. Both beaches offer a tranquil escape with stunning ocean views, ideal for a relaxing day by the sea.

Havelock North

Havelock North is a picturesque village known for its artisanal food scene, boutique shopping, and the lush Te Mata Park. Its charm and scenic setting make it a delightful stop for those exploring the greater Hawke's Bay area.

 

Where to stay in Hawke's Bay with a campervan

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

Napier

Wider Hawke’s Bay

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