South Island Road Trip in a 6 Berth Campervan with Kids
We are a family of 4 from the UK Travelling the world, this is our second road trip of our travels and we are in New Zealand; We flew in to Christchurch after a wonderful time in Fiji! We picked up our Maui 6 berth motorhome from the airport, and set off to explore the South Island. For those of you reading from the UK, you will feel like you are still in the UK until you are atleast South West of the Island, and it’s a very strange experience especially if you are in a little day dream and forget where you are!
We have shared our 21 day South Island Road Trip in this travel blog in hope that it will help others who are trying to put together a road trip plan, I have included as much detail as possible, and everything listed below is suitable for families.
All campsites mentioned can be found on an app we recommend you download called CamperMate, and most of our day trips we used www.bookme.nz for last minute discounts – I have also added approx. driving hours.
A lot of our ideas have come from other bloggers talking about their experiences, so please if you have any other information about the South Island of New Zealand for Motorhomes and campers please comment on this blog.
Night one – Spencer Beach Holiday Park Lots of open space, park and bounce pillow for kids
Night two – Fifield Driveway $12 Large quiet driveway perfect spot for a good nights sleep
What to see and do in Christchurch
This was a quick stay for us to get our bearings after a long flight but we went to:
The Antarctic Centre https://www.iceberg.co.nz $149 for a family but we received 30% off from a tourist Magazine
We had the best day here! Had a shivering experience in the Storm Room, cuddled beautiful Husky Dogs, had the most thrilling ride in a Hägglund which we didn’t expect to be such fun! And we finished the day watching a 4D movie! Absolutely perfect and highly recommended.
If you fancy a long stroll along the beach with an icecream, watching the huge waves and surfers this is perfect for you! If you walk along the peir to the end you will also see people fishing have a nose in their bucket to see what they have caught for their dinner!
–DRIVE FROM CHRISTCHURCH TO DUNEDINE 4 HOURS-
Night one – The Oval FREE This carpark does get busy, but it is next to a large playing field and a pub Incase you don’t want to cook, and you fancy a bite to eat.
Night two – Cairnlea by the Sea $25 Driveway stay plus Pony ride for an extra $10 We highly recommend this “Driveway” stop! The host is super friendly, welcoming and her home is absolutely beautiful! If you pay an extra $10 she will take you on the most magical horse ride you have ever been on! the beach was out of this world, I thought I was in heaven absolutely stunning.
What to see and do in Dunedin
Otago Museum – Discounts on Bookme
We absolutely loved this museum! So many activities for the kid, and highly educational especially if you are home schooling. After trying out all the science experiments, don’t forget to pop into the butterfly house at 11am to watch the release of new butterflies. The new butterflies have not had a chance to spread their wings yet so you will be able to hold them for a while! Beautiful experience for the kids.
Otago Perunsula – FREE
This drive is very tight and winding road but highly recommend as the views are spectacular – we managed it with our 7.2 meter motorhome.
–DRIVE FROM DUNEDIN TO THE CATLINS 2 HOURS
One Night: Purakaunui Bay Campsite – DOC Site – $20 2 adults 1 child 1 infant – We highly recommend this campsite, I can not stress enough how spectacular it is! The sunset and sunrise are magical, set up your chair and watch every single colour graduating across the sky! We were lucky enough to get close to Sea Lions too, and we were able to watched them fight and flirt with each other. Purakauni Bay Campsite has to be on your wish list! Tips before you go: No wifi, pay by cash only, long road driving in just keep going!
What to see and do in The Catlins
Nugget Bay Lighthouse – FREE
This is a must see, beautiful 800 metre walk up hill to the lighthouse, the views are amazing.
Sea Lions at Purakaunui Bay Campsite- FREE
Sunset and Sunrise at Purakaunui Bay Campsite – FREE
DRIVE FROM THE CATLINS TO QUEENSTOWN 4 HOURS –
Queenstown Top10 – become a member for $13 to receive discounts on other campsites
What to see and do in Queenstown
Skyline Gondala Rides and Luges – Discounts on Bookme www.skyline.co.nz
We booked this for Easter so our kids, they loved hunting for eggs at the top of the Gondala and after the hunt we made our way down to the Luges. Luges are go-karts that you pull a handle midway to release and drive down hill, and pull pack to break! The track is just like a go-kart track, but uses gravity – so can go quite fast (there are two to choose from depending on how brave you are) We doubled up so we had a child each, there were younger children riding themselves but I didn’t feel comfortable with this, especially with how fast others go. (I could just about control the luge myself!) Once your up in the Skyline you can also choose from Parachute jumps, bungee jumps for the adrenaline junkies!
All In all we would highly recommend Skyline!
Arrowtown Bike hire from Arrowtown Bike Hire www.arrowtownbikehire.co.nz
Arrowtown is absolutely beautiful especially if you are travelling in Autumn, as the trees in and around the town are turning beautiful reds, browns and yellows. You can park your camper for free, walk into the village and grab yourself a full breakfast from https://www.postmasters.co.nz/ wonderful English cottage pub food is amazing. After breakfast cross the road to the bike hire shop and they will get you ready for your bike ride! The track you ride on is 16 kilometres towards a winery – its upto you if you have the energy to bike that far! We made it as far as the Southern Discoveries Bridge which isn’t far at all! BUT we had Ellie aged 8 riding with Glen on a tandem bike and Maisie aged 4 in a trailer on the back of my bike! Which was HARD WORK, we decided to take the road way back rather than go back up the hill! We were out for around 2.5 hours altogether which for us was just enough.
If you decide to go on a bike ride from Arrowtown book on the Arrowtown Bike Hire link above – if you have joined Top10 you will receive 10% off.
-DRIVE FROM QUEENSTOWN TO MILFORD SOUND 4-5 HOURS –
Knobs Flats Campsite $20pp £10 Child we recommend this campsite if you are wanting a good priced campsite to book rather than hoping there is space at one of the DOC campsites – our boat trip was at 3pm so didn’t want to risk not having somewhere to stay late at night.
What to see and do in Milford Sound
Mirror Lakes – FREE
Lake Marian – FREE
Milford Sound Juicy Boat Trip $90 (2 adults 1 child 1 infant) – Bookme for discounts
This was one magical trip and the drive to Milford Sound is probably the most unique experience of all; as you will drive for hours through fields, and all of a sudden the landscape changes without warning! You will be driving in the clouds looking at huge Beautifull mountains and lakes and there will be plenty of places that you will want to stop and say WOW! We decided to drive to Milford a day before our boat trip as we wanted to take our time stopping and taking photos (I would recommend this if you have a day spare). The boat trip itself was something that you cant describe in words, all I can say is you must go and it can not be missed!
Important Tips before you go
- Fill up your tank at Te Anau
- Make last calls / emails at Te Anau
- Empty your toilet waste at Te Anau Marina or Milford Sound as there will be no where else to dump
- Wrap up warm, regardless of how warm it is, as you will get very cold on the boat.
-DRIVE FROM MILFORD SOUND TO WANAKA 4-5 HOURS- Stop at Jackson Orchards, Cromwell Apple Farm.
Glendu Bay Campsite – $88 for 2 nights
What to see and do in Wanaka
Puzzling World – Bookme for discounts www.puzzlingworld.co.nz
Our girls absolutely love a challenging puzzle, so for us this was a must! If you love to boggle your mind, and try out a cool out door mazes this is for you!
Lavender Farm – Low cost but will only see Lavender in season https://www.wanakalavenderfarm.com/
Wanaka Tree – FREE
If you are going to Wanaka you must see #thatwanakatree it’s a tree that has grown out of the Lake a few metres away from the beach – yes that’s right a tree growing out of water! It attracts a lot of attention from tourists and has had a lot of photos taken! You could say that its quite a famous tree!
-DRIVE FROM WANAKA TO HAAST 1-2 HOURS-
Pleasant Flat Campsite DOC Campsite $34 2 adults 1 child 1 infant
What to see and do in Haast
Waynes River Safari – https://www.riversafaris.co.nz/
This is one of the best experiences we have had in New Zealand so far, it wasn’t cheap but it was worth every penny! Defiantly wrap up for this as you will get wet and cold, but you will have a trip of a lifetime! The jet boat only takes around 8 people so it is a very personal trip, and is out in the rain forest for around 2 hours. You will seeing beautiful waterfalls, and fierce river rapids while Wayne tells you everything he knows about the rainforest – you will get some amazing information at each stop. The travel back is very exciting driving against the current, and you will enjoy a few fun turns and drops! Super exciting! One tip – it’s the rain forest and it will rain A LOT! Wrap up very warm with layers and take up their offer of warm jackets they have hanging up – you will need them!
Tips before you go
There is no internet or cell service until you pass Fran Josef, (you might be lucky to pass one or two spots here and there) But plan your stays before you head off, download your CamperMate so you can use it offline, as well as anything on Netflicks you would usually watch. Once your on your way you will not be able to make any calls or check for stops so have a little plan before you head off that way.
-DRIVE FROM HAAST TO HOKITIKA 4-5 HOURS- Stop at Fox Glacier for a Photo
Night one: The Woodstock Hotel – FREE The first night we stayed in a pub carpark for free – The Woodstock Hotel. The pub opens at 4 and offers amazing food and self brewed beers (you can try them all on a sample platter) Most nights they have a meal deal and some nights even live music!
Night two: Seaview Lodge and Campground – $45
This was the most quirkiest campsite we have ever stayed in! We chose to stay here as it was a 2 min walk to see free glow worms at “The Glow Worm Dell” You will find directions to this on google maps. Anyway, this place used to be an old Asylum and its open to campers for showering and cooking. We had so much fun exploring inside the building, walking down all the creepy corridors and finding creepy dolls! Highly recommend if you don’t mind somewhere strange to stay and explore!
What to see and do in Hokitka
Hokitika Treetop Walk – Bookme for discounts www.treetopsnz.com
This was fantastic, walking along the tree tops and seeing the iced topped mountains in the horizon, peaceful and calm. We had lunch in the café after, which was set up for children with a park and outdoor toys. We felt settled here, and stayed for sometime playing badminton!
Glow Worm Dell – FREE –Just a short work with a torch to a wall of glow worms! You have to wait until after sunset to see them.
See Mushrooms on the way to Woodstock Hotel – FREE – Keep your eyes open for red and white spotted mushrooms along the road, I was quite excited as I thought these kind of mushrooms only 🍄 existed in fairy-tales!
-DRIVE FROM HOKITKA TO PUNAKAIKI 1-2 HOURS-PUNAKAIKI
Punakaiki Beach Camp – $105 for two nights www.punakaikibeachcamp.co.nz
What to see and do in Punakaiki
Pancake Rocks – We went here twice as we loved it so much! Make sure you check the tide times as its best to go at high tide so you can see the waves pushing through the blow holes! Spectacular and exciting event for all the family to enjoy.
Truman Track – Best visited in Low Tide
Punakaiki Caverns – The tide does not effect the cave
Tips before you go –There are no shops or petrol stations here stock up before you go
DRIVE FROM PUNAKAIKI TO PICTON 4-5 HOURS (quick stop at Nelsons Lake for a Photo)
Do you want to see a Dinosaur tree?
On your way to Picton you may want to stop at Westport as its the next town to get some Petrol and shopping – on your way out you will pass Buller River. If you look to your left you will see what looks like a dinosaur! This is not advertised anywhere, we are guessing its just a fun find! I may go back and name it Englandsuras…..
Top10 Picton – We highly recommend Top10 campsites! They are not as cheap as some DOC stations, but with your 10% discount and during May/June 30% off it works out around the same! And for that you get a park for the kids, use of bikes and trikes (some charge some don’t) hot clean showers with music playing! (You May of heard us singing) We paid $20 for 1 hour in the hot tub which was pure luxury and relaxing family time.
What to see and do in Picton
Picton Foreshore – 12 minute walk through the harbour to the main town, nice walk through the town centre lots of nice places to eat. For the kids the Foreshore has a fantastic playground, with a water splash park in the middle for free! Right next to the beach. Highly recommended for a cheap day out while in Picton.
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Top Tip: We suggest planning your route around dump, water stations, and petrol stations and Plan your trip before you go to your next few destinations; Wifi and phone service is very limted.
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