Ultimate winter road trip to take in New Zealand | Apollo NZ
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Ultimate winter road trip to take in New Zealand

Auckland to Christchurch

Thinking about taking a New Zealand road trip by camper this winter? Great idea! With loads of unique adventure opportunities, cool attractions, and captivating scenery, travelling New Zealand by campervan during the winter months offers a truly special experience. 

To help you plan a road trip that takes in the best highlights, we’ve put together the ultimate 13-day winter road trip travel itinerary. You’ll kick off your adventure in Auckland before winding your way down the North Island. On day five, you’ll cross the Cook Strait to the South Island and spend the next week exploring the South Island’s iconic gems and highlights. 

As you travel through New Zealand’s welcoming townships and cities, each destination is an opportunity to see and do something new. From soaking in the hot pools at Hells Gate Mud Spa to exploring Christchurch in winter, your campervan road trip experience with Apollo turns the idea of winter hibernation on its head! Pull out your winter woollies, pour a hot chocolate, and let’s get started. 

Travel: 13 days

Route: Auckland to Christchurch, 2319 km

Best Time of the Year: Winter


The geothermal wonders of Rotorua

Cafes and cable car rides in Wellington

A soothing soak at Hanmer Springs

Stunning vistas of Lake Tekapo

Exploring Christchurch in Winter

Adventure in Queenstown 

Day 1: Auckland to Rotorua

Distance: 214 km

Travel time: 2 hours, 40 mins

Your campervan adventure begins at Apollo’s Auckland branch, where your home on wheels for this unforgettable 13-day New Zealand winter road trip awaits. The journey to Rotorua is an easy three-hour drive, taking you from the cityscape to the heart of New Zealand’s geothermal wonderland. Along the way, you might like to schedule a pitstop at the Hamilton Gardens, a stunning showcase of themed gardens that tell stories from different civilizations. It’s free to explore and there’s plenty of campervan parking.

Once you arrive in Rotorua, you’ll discover a treasure trove of winter delights, from the steaming marvels of Te Puia's hot springs to the rejuvenating mud baths at Hells Gate Mud Spa. For those looking for something a little more adventurous, why not try ziplining through the forest canopy with Rotorua Canopy Tours. This exhilarating activity is a unique and unforgettable way to experience the area's stunning landscapes and wildlife.

After a day of exploring, unwind at Rotorua Holiday Park, a cosy retreat with modern facilities and friendly staff.

Image: Sarah Blair


Day 2: Rotorua to Ruapehu

Distance: 222 km

Travel time: 3 hours

It’s day two and time to wave goodbye to Rotorua's steamy landscapes as you make your way toward the snow-dusted landscapes of Ruapehu. You may like to plan a break at Lake Taupō for a hot coffee and lunch beside the lake. It’s a great opportunity to stretch your legs and take in the picturesque views. 

Arriving in Ruapehu, you’ll discover plenty of winter-warming activities to choose from. Hit the slopes for some top-notch skiing or ride the Sky Waka gondola up to Knoll Ridge where you can enjoy a warm cuppa and fabulous vistas. If you're keen on taking a hike during your travels, The Timber Trail is a popular choice for walkers and cyclists. 

As twilight sets in, park up for the night at Ruapehu Holiday Park. This peaceful park is surrounded by amazing views and has excellent facilities for campervan travellers. 


Day 3: Ruapehu to Palmerston North

Distance: 170 km

Travel time: 2 hours, 30 mins

On day three, your campervan journey transitions from the alpine allure of Ruapehu to the urban charm of Palmerston North, via SH4. Midway, the riverside city of Whanganui serves as the perfect stopping point. Park up beside the flowing river and enjoy a leisurely lunch, meander through quaint shops, and admire vibrant street art that brings the city's creative spirit to life.

Palmerston North is a hub of cultural and recreational activities. Dive into the nation's sporting heritage at the New Zealand Rugby Museum, where the rich history of the sport is celebrated in an interactive exhibit. For some time out in nature, the Victoria Esplanade Gardens offer lush greenery, beautiful rose gardens, and scenic walking paths. The Manawatu River Pathway presents another opportunity for a leisurely stroll or bike ride, with picturesque views along the riverbank.

As the day winds down, Palmerston North Holiday Park offers the perfect overnight stay with spacious grounds set in 4.5 hectares of quiet parkland.


Day 4: Palmerston North to Wellington

Distance: 136 km

Travel time: 2 hours

Today's leg of your journey takes you from the cultural vibrancy of Palmerston North to the heart of New Zealand's capital, Wellington. With its blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication, Wellington offers up plenty of activities perfect for the cooler months. If you’re keen on learning about the nation's history and culture, spend a few hours at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, where interactive exhibits bring New Zealand's stories to life. 

For a glimpse into the country's political heartbeat, a tour of the iconic Beehive and Parliament Buildings is a must. If you’re feeling peckish, Wellington's culinary scene doesn’t disappoint, with plenty of cosy cafes offering the perfect respite from the brisk weather. And no visit to Wellington is complete without a ride on the historic Cable Car, providing stunning city views as you head up to the Botanic Gardens.

Tonight, park up at the Wellington TOP 10 Holiday Park, a peaceful retreat amidst the excitement of the capital. 


Day 5: Wellington to Picton

Distance: 109 km

Travel time: 4 hours, 15 mins (including ferry ride)

It’s day five and today you’ll be cruising across the Cook Strait from Wellington in the North Island to Picton in the South Island. It’s super easy to cross the Cook Strait in a campervan. You just need to book your ticket, drive onto the ferry, kick back and enjoy the ride. The journey itself is spectacular, with the Marlborough Sounds serving up some seriously Instagram-worthy scenery. 

Once you hit Picton, you’ll find it’s a laid-back little town with a big heart, packed with things to do. Fancy a bit of a walk? The Queen Charlotte Track is right on your doorstep, offering stunning views and a good stretch of the legs. If you’re into a bit of history, the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum is a cool spot to check out an old-timey ship and get a feel for the seafaring life. And of course, there’s the waterfront – perfect for a leisurely stroll or settling down at a café to watch the boats bobbing in the harbour.

For your stay, the Picton Campervan Park is a great spot to park up, chill out, and plan your next day’s adventures.


Day 6: Picton to Hanmer Springs

Distance: 285 km

Travel time: 4 hours 

Leaving Picton behind, your journey heads towards the tranquil alpine village of Hanmer Springs. Along the way, a stop in Kaikoura is a must. This coastal town is renowned for its rich marine life and, of course, its delectable seafood. It's the perfect spot to indulge in some fresh local catch, with ocean views that make every bite even more enjoyable.

Hanmer Springs itself is a haven for relaxation and adventure. The town's crown jewel, the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, invites you to soak in its natural hot springs, surrounded by the stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains. But there's more to this alpine retreat than just unwinding in thermal waters. Thrill-seekers will find their adrenaline fix with mountain biking, bungee jumping, and hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

For your stay, the Hanmer Springs TOP 10 Holiday Park provides a cosy base to explore all that this charming village has to offer. 

Image: Instagram - @fieldnotes__


Day 7: Hanmer Springs to Christchurch

Distance: 126 km

Travel time: 1 hour, 40 mins 

As you journey from the laid-back pace of Hanmer Springs to the vibrant cityscape of Christchurch, the transition from mountain to urban life brings a new set of discoveries. Winter in Christchurch brings its own charm. The city's renowned Botanic Gardens take on a magical quality, with frost-kissed leaves and ethereal, misty mornings. 

For a cosy indoor activity, the Canterbury Museum offers a deep dive into the region's natural and human history, all within the warmth of its historic walls. And for those looking to embrace the chilly outdoors, a skate around the indoor ice rink in the heart of the city can be a highlight. Afterwards, warm up with hot drink in one of the many bustling cafes that line the streets.

Put your feet up tonight at the welcoming Christchurch Spencer Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park


Day 8: Christchurch to Lake Tekapo

Distance: 240 km

Travel time: 3 hours, 20 mins 

You’re over halfway through your ultimate winter road trip, and today you’ll be heading to the breathtaking Lake Tekapo region. The journey from Christchurch is sprinkled with charming townships, including Geraldine. Here, take a leisurely break to wander through boutique shops, each offering a unique selection of local crafts, artworks, and delicacies that reflect the creative spirit of the area.

Arriving in Lake Tekapo, you're greeted by the stunning turquoise waters of the lake, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Southern Alps. The natural beauty of this place is truly awe-inspiring, inviting you to pause and soak in the incredible landscapes. 

As the day transitions into evening, the Lake Tekapo Hot Springs becomes a sanctuary under the stars. Immersed in the warm waters, with the Milky Way overhead, it's an experience that captures the magical essence of Tekapo.

For your stay, the Lakes Edge Holiday Park offers a picturesque setting to park up your campervan. 


Day 9: Lake Tekapo to Wānaka

Distance: 200 km

Travel time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

On your road trip today, you'll swap the tranquil beauty of Lake Tekapo for the lively shores of Lake Wānaka. It's a scenic drive that leads you from one stunning lakeside gem to another, each with its own allure and a host of activities to enjoy.

Lake Wānaka’s shores are graced by the solitary That Wānaka Tree, a photogenic willow that stands gracefully in the water, making it a must-see for visitors. For those seeking a bit of quirky fun away from the chill, Puzzling World is a delightful detour with its mind-bending illusions and mazes, offering entertainment for all ages.

Wānaka shines in the winter months, presenting a variety of activities to make your stay memorable. Whether you're carving down the slopes at nearby ski fields, taking to the skies for a scenic flight over the Southern Alps, or enjoying a peaceful walk along the lake, Wānaka has something for everyone.

As the day winds down, the Wanaka TOP 10 Holiday Park offers a warm welcome. 

Image: Miles Holden


Day 10: Wānaka to Queenstown

Distance: 125 km

Travel time: 2 hours 

Leaving Wānaka behind, your next destination is the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown. It's important to note that Apollo campervans are not permitted on the Crown Range Road, so you'll be taking the scenic route via SH8. This detour leads you through Cromwell, offering a chance to explore the Cromwell Heritage Precinct, a step back in time with its historic buildings and quaint streets.

Queenstown is a playground for winter activities, where the thrill of adventure meets the beauty of the snow-capped mountains. For those seeking a rush, options abound from jet boating on the Shotover River to skiing the slopes of The Remarkables. But if you're in the mood for something more laid-back, a cruise on Lake Wakatipu offers breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks in a more relaxed setting.

Tonight, a stay at Queenstown Creeksyde Holiday Park provides a warm and welcoming base amidst the excitement of Queenstown. 


Day 11: Queenstown to Dunedin

Distance: 305 km

Travel time: 4 hours 

Today's leg of your New Zealand road trip takes you from the adrenaline-fuelled streets of Queenstown to the historic and cultural richness of Dunedin, located on the east coast. Dunedin, known for its Scottish heritage and Victorian and Edwardian architecture, offers a unique blend of cultural experiences and natural beauty. In winter, the city's charm is amplified, with crisp, clear days perfect for exploring its historic sites.

Dunedin is a haven for those who love history and nature. The Otago Museum is brimming with natural history and cultural artefacts, offering a warm escape with fascinating exhibits. For wildlife enthusiasts, a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsula provides a rare opportunity to observe these majestic birds in their natural habitat. And for a leisurely indoor activity, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery showcases a mix of historical and contemporary art, perfect for a winter's day.

Tonight, the Leith Valley Touring Park is the perfect spot to relax and unwind after a busy day.


Day 12: Dunedin to Timaru

Distance: 197 km

Travel time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Day 12 of your travels takes you back up the coast, leading you to the charming township of Timaru. Along the way, take a break in Moeraki to check out the famous Moeraki Boulders. These large, spherical stones are a natural marvel, scattered along the beach and steeped in Māori legend, offering a unique photo opportunity and a chance to stretch your legs in a picturesque setting.

Once in Timaru, immerse yourself in the local culture and history. The South Canterbury Museum offers fascinating insights into the region’s rich heritage. For a leisurely afternoon, the Timaru Botanic Gardens provide a peaceful escape with beautifully curated plant collections and walking paths.

Cap off your epic road trip with a stay at the Timaru TOP 10 Holiday Park


Day 13: Timaru to Christchurch

Distance: 160 km

Travel time: 2 hours, 15 mins

On the final day of your 13-day NZ winter holiday, you'll make your way back to Christchurch. This return journey offers a perfect chance to explore a few Christchurch attractions you might have missed during your initial visit. 

A highly recommended visit is the International Antarctic Centre, located just a stone's throw from Apollo's Christchurch branch. This unique attraction offers an immersive experience of the world of Antarctica, featuring interactive exhibits, a snow and ice experience, and even the chance to meet some resident huskies and penguins.

Dropping off your campervan at Apollo's Christchurch branch marks the end of your incredible journey across New Zealand. 


See the beauty of New Zealand in winter with Apollo

We hope this carefully crafted itinerary has sparked your excitement for a winter adventure like no other in New Zealand. With so much to explore and experience, there's no reason to wait. 

Book your Apollo campervan online today and set the stage for an unforgettable winter journey. Make this season truly memorable by taking an adventure that takes you through the heart of New Zealand's stunning landscapes and vibrant communities.



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