10-Day Campervan Itinerary for the South Island
The South Island of New Zealand is the ultimate campervan holiday destination with a new and breathtaking landscape to admire every couple of hours on the road. With 10 days to see as much of New Zealand‘s most scenic island as possible, this South Island campervan itinerary for 10 days incorporates all the highlights for the traveller who doesn’t mind a few long days of touring combined with a couple of standstill days. What’s more, this 10-day South Island campervan itinerary includes campervan rental and campsite recommendations to make planning your road trip effortless.
10-Day South Island Campervan and Motorhome Rentals
This South Island campervan itinerary is designed with self-driving a campervan or motorhome in mind, beginning and ending in Christchurch for a hassle-free rental experience. For a road trip in a comfortable, functional and reliable motorhome, not to mention being fully self-contained to make the most of the free camping spots listed in this itinerary, we recommend Wilderness Motorhome Rentals. They offer a range of late-model and cleverly designed RVs, from compact vans-for-two to more spacious and family-friendly 4-berth motorhomes. Check out their full fleet at Wilderness.co.nz.
See how Wilderness compares with more awesome alternatives in The Best Campervan Rental Companies in Christchurch.
Day 1 – Christchurch Airport to Hanmer Springs
Travel time: 1h45mins
Welcome to Te Waipounamu, otherwise known as the South Island of New Zealand! After arriving in Christchurch and picking up your rental vehicle from Wilderness, we recommend taking the scenic yet manageable drive to Hanmer Springs.
Depending on what time you can get on the road, you may like to stop by the city centre of Christchurch to admire its selection of gardens, as well as pick up groceries to cook in your campervan.
On the drive to Hanmer Springs, you’ll pass through the boutique wine region of Waipara with tastings worth seeking out (don’t drink and drive though). Your final destination is the alpine resort village of Hanmer Springs, most famous for its large hot pools complex. While there are a ton of amazing experiences in the town, as listed in the 19 Best Things to Do in Hanmer Springs, we recommend relaxing at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa.
Camping in Hanmer Springs
Day 2 – Hanmer Springs to Franz Josef Glacier (via Hokitika)
Travel time: 5 hours
Today, continue on your road trip to the West Coast of the South Island via the mountain and forest scenery of Lewis Pass. Stop for refreshments in the quaint town of Reefton before making your journey following the Grey River to Greymouth. The largest town on the West Coast is another good place to stop for self-catering supplies.
If the weather is clear but forecast to be wet for the next couple of days, we recommend making a beeline to Franz Josef so you don’t miss out on their helicopter or glacier hiking experiences. Otherwise, take your time on the way down to Franz Josef, perhaps to admire the vibrant blue pools of Hokitika Gorge or to experience the New Zealand rainforest from a different perspective on the West Coast Treetop Walk (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
We’ll talk more about what to do in Franz Josef tomorrow. For now, relax at your chosen campground…
Camping in Franz Josef
Day 3 – Spend the Day in Franz Josef
Most travellers visit Franz Josef to set foot on the famous glacier itself via helicopter. But don’t overlook some of the spectacular free experiences, like hiking to the glacier terminal face!
If you catch yourself in Franz Josef in bad weather, however, you can always soak the disappointment away at the Glacier Hot Pools or Waiho Hot Tubs, or choose something else from the 10 Things to Do in Franz Josef on a Rainy Day.
Things to Do in Franz Josef
- Do a free or guided walk to the Franz Josef Glacier Terminal Face
- Heli-hike onto the Franz Josef Glacier (more info on Viator, TripAdvisor and KKday)
- See rare birds and a stunning wetland environment at the Okarito Lagoon
- Do a helicopter flight over the Southern Alps (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- See a kiwi bird at the West Coast Wildlife Centre (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Kayak on Lake Mapourika with Franz Josef Wilderness Tours…
… And the list continues over in our 25 Best Things to Do in Franz Josef.
Day 4 – Franz Josef to Queenstown (via Haast Pass and Wanaka)
Travel time: 4h45mins
If you didn’t get the chance to fly over the glacier yesterday, today might be your chance. Otherwise, set off for Haast where you’ll journey through the Haast Pass with its array of short walks to stunning waterfalls and blue pools to enjoy independently, as listed on the DOC website.
Then, take your campervan on a scenic drive over the Crown Range and the Cardrona Valley to the “Adrenaline Capital of New Zealand”, Queenstown. You have plenty of time to experience its tours tomorrow. For now, you might like to check out the dining scene as outlined in The Foodie Guide to Queenstown.
Camping in Queenstown
- Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park
- Creeksyde Queenstown Holiday Park
- Q Box Motorhome Park
- Frankton Motor Camp
- Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park
- Arrowtown Holiday Park
- Twelve Mile Delta (DOC)
- Moke Lake Campsite (DOC)
- Twenty Five Mile Stream (Free)
- Kawarau Bridge Car Park (Free)
- Rum Currie’s Hut (Free)
- Crown Range Road Summit Car Park (Free)
Find out more about camping in Queenstown using our complete guide, Where to Camp in Queenstown.
Day 5 – Explore Queenstown
Adrenaline, food, wine, golf, scenery, spas: whatever your vibe is, Queenstown is likely to have it. In summer, take part in some epic canyoning or white water rafting, while winter is when the mountains beckon for the ski season (make sure you hire some snow chains). You might even like to take the campervan on a bit of a day trip along Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy or to the historic mining town of Arrowtown.
Things to Do in Queenstown
- Take the leap with a bungy jump
- Do a giant swing through a canyon (find out more, read reviews and get the best travel deals on Viator, Tripadvisor, Klook and KKday)
- Experience one of the 5 Best Jet Boat Tours in Queenstown
- Ski at The Remarkables, following our advice in The Ultimate Guide to the Queenstown Ski Season
- Hike Ben Lomond
- Soak in the scenery and hot pools of the Onsen Hot Pools Retreat & Day Spa (on Klook, Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Take a day trip to Arrowtown or one of The Best Day Trips from Queenstown.
For more information on each experience, check out the 45 Best Things to Do in Queenstown.
Day 6 – Queenstown to Milford Sound
Travel time: 2h50mins to 3h30mins depending on campsite
Do anything that you might have missed in Queenstown this morning, then hit the road to the glacier-carved fiords of Milford Sound. This is a scenic journey that you’ll want to take your time with giving that you have the luxury of a campervan to stay at one of the many campsites on the way to Milford Sound. This means you have more time to enjoy short hikes and see stunning natural attractions in the Fiordland National Park. Take your pick from the 18 Stops You Can’t Miss on the Road to Milford Sound, including the gorgeous Lake Gunn and the popular three-hour hike on the Routeburn Great Walk to the Key Summit.
You have many DOC campsites to choose from on this journey, just make sure to book early for these popular pieces of paradise. Otherwise, Milford Sound Lodge offers powered sites should you want to plug in your Wilderness camper.
Camping in Milford Sound
- Milford Sound Lodge
- Cascade Creek Campsite (DOC)
- Deer Flat Campsite (DOC)
- Henry Creek Campsite (DOC)
- Kiosk Creek Campsite (DOC)
- Totara Campsite (DOC)
- Upper Eglinton Campsite (DOC)
- Walker Creek Campsite (DOC)
For more details, head to the 11 Best Accommodations in Milford Sound.
Day 7 – Milford Sound to Te Anau
Travel time: 1h25mins
Enjoy a morning cruise at Milford Sound or one of the alternative activities like kayaking or the underwater observatory (see the 15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound) before the tourist buses arrive. Then, make your way back toward your final destination today, Te Anau. Some of the town’s highlights include the free Te Anau Bird Sanctuary and the Te Anau Glowworm Caves (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook). For more ideas, head to the 10 Te Anau Must-Dos.
Camping in Te Anau
- Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park
- Te Anau TOP 10 Holiday Park
- Getaway Te Anau
- Fiordland Great Views Holiday Park
- Henry Creek Campsite (DOC)
Find out more about some of your camping options in the 5 Best Holiday Parks in Te Anau.
Day 8 – Te Anau to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
Travel time: 5 hours
You have a long yet stunning journey ahead of you today with the first part being the return to Queenstown. Then, you’ll experience the dramatic river scenery of Kawarau Gorge on your way to Cromwell. Take a break in Cromwell before heading north through what is deemed the most beautiful road in New Zealand, Lindis Pass. You’ll come out the other side in Omarama where a highlight includes soaking in the tubs of Hot Tubs Omarama or checking out the otherworldly scenery of the Omarama Clay Cliffs.
Follow the vibrant blue waters of Lake Pukaki to Aoraki Mt Cook Village or to any one of the nearby campsites.
Camping in Mt Cook
Day 9 – Explore Aoraki Mt Cook National Park
This is your last full day among the South Island’s most magnificent scenery so make the most of it. For instance, take to the skies and land on a glacier in a ski plane. Alternatively, there are some stellar hikes to lap up the scenery.
Things to Do in Mt Cook
- Walk the Hooker Valley Track
- Land on the Tasman Glacier in a ski plane
- Heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier with Mt Cook Glacier Guiding or The Helicopter Line (on KKday and Tripadvisor)
- Go boating on a glacier lake with Glacier Explorers
- Stargaze in the Aoraki Mt Cook International Dark Sky Reserve…
… And the list continues over on our 20 Best Things to Do in Aoraki Mt Cook.
Day 10 – Aoraki Mt Cook National Park to Christchurch Airport (via Lake Tekapo)
Travel time: 4 hours
Your final day in New Zealand ends with one last Kiwi road trip, this time between Aoraki Mt Cook and Christchurch. Your first stop will be the lakeshores of Lake Tekapo with its brilliant blue waters leading up to the Southern Alps. Pick up souvenirs at the boutiques in Fairlie and, if you have time, do a horse trek in the Peel Forest just outside of Geraldine. The final leg of your journey is through the Canterbury Plains.
Remember to give yourself enough time to return your rental vehicle to Wilderness Motorhome Rentals who will be able to transfer you to Christchurch Airport, should that be your next destination.
Then it’s goodbye to the South Island of New Zealand!
The Best Campervan Rental for 10 Days on the South Island
So, how can you make the most of this South Island campervan itinerary for 10 days? Wilderness Motorhome Rentals offers an amazing range of motorhomes to really treat yourself while cruising the South Island. With inclusions such as airport or accommodation transfers in Christchurch, a New Zealand SIM card and all of the living amenities for a true home-away-from-home experience, your road trip couldn’t be easier. Get your trip started at Wilderness.co.nz.
More About a South Island Campervan Itinerary for 10 Days
That’s the end of our South Island campervan itinerary for 10 days. If this itinerary didn’t take you fancy, see our alternative 10-day itineraries, as well as more advice on campervanning in New Zealand.
- How to Travel New Zealand in 10 Days
- South Island in 2 Weeks: New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
- How to Plan a Campervan Trip in New Zealand
Finally, make sure all aspects of your trip are organised with The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.