I was studying in Australia when some friends and I decided to take a 10-day trip around the south island of New Zealand. We had never taken a trip together and all had different ideas about what we wanted to do and see. But once we started researching all the amazing experiences New Zealand has to offer, we knew there was only one way to see it. We were going to embark an epic road trip.
Our journey started in Christchurch when our plane arrived after dark. We hired a campervan with DriveNow and stopped for the night on the side of the road. The convenience of New Zealand is that there is plenty of wild and open space; you are unlikely to be bothered if you hunker down on the side of the road outside of town for the night. With no tour group to follow and no hard-pressed itinerary, we had the freedom to go just about wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Here are some of the highlights from our road trip around New Zealand.
The trip started a bit bleary. On our first day we drove through a blanket of fog. My mind kept going back to the photos I had drooled over before our trip began. I had seen the pictures (and Lord of the Rings), but unfortunately, all I could see now was mist. But then, all of the sudden, it was as if the sky decided to open a curtain. The fog gave way and we immediately stopped the car. What we were viewing was unbelievably gorgeous. California’s Highway 1, Australia’s Great Ocean Road, and Hawaii’s Road to Hanna all get plenty of hype. However, in my mind, McArthur’s Pass is the most scenic drive I have ever done.
After conquering the mountains of McArthur’s Pass we arrived at the West Coast. We took our time exploring the pancake rocks of Greymouth before heading south to Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers. Two of us decided that we wanted to do a tour that took us up the glacier. Our third friend opted to do a cycling tour. Another advantage to having our own transport was that the odd man out was able to meet us later in the day after our respective tours were finished.
Our next big stop was the legendary Queenstown, deemed the adventure capital of the world. This picturesque town offers everything you’d expect from the birthplace of bungee jumping. Whether it’s speed boating, paragliding, or go-carting down a mountain, if you are an adrenaline junkie then this is the spot for you! We parked our campervan a bit outside of the town at a campground, which provided calm evenings to bring us down from our intense days.
Our final stop will be familiar to those who are fans of Lord of the Rings. While in fact the movies were filmed in New Zealand, the most notable landmark is Mt Doom. Locals call it Mt Cook. We didn’t have the time nor the energy to climb it, but many serious mountaineers use it as training for hiking Everest.
While the South Island of New Zealand could be considered small, it is packed with beauty and adventure. Getting our own transport and camping out along the way will always be one of my favorite travel memories. With so many beautiful places to see you’ll want to be on the road to experience them all. I hope one day I can do it again, this time with Casey along for the campervan experience.
Have you ever taken a campervan trip? Have you visited New Zealand?