Best Autumn Travel Destinations In New Zealand

Taking a New Zealand road trip offers up a bucket list of adventure at any time of year. But if you like the idea of exploring New Zealand when there are fewer tourists, then you simply can’t beat travelling in a Mighty camper during the autumn months.

Benefits of travelling New Zealand in autumn

Summer is the peak time for a campervan holiday in New Zealand, while the cooler autumn months of March, April, and May (excluding the Easter/ANZAC school holiday period) tends to be quieter with fewer crowds and less traffic. Because autumn is considered a ‘shoulder season’ for campervan travel, it’s generally less expensive for booking campgrounds and activities. And with the milder climate and beautiful colours on the trees, it’s an ideal time to enjoy one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Aside from walking, there is plenty to see and do, not to mention taste and experience during autumn in New Zealand. Dive into this guide to discover the top places to road trip to in the fall.

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The best way to travel around New Zealand

From majestic mountains to lakes of turquoise and emerald, you’re never far from a jaw-dropping view in New Zealand. To make the most of the stunning scenery, book your campervan hire through one of Mighty Campers’ three branches and make your way around some of the country’s top spots.

Campervan travel gives you the freedom and flexibility of van life – stop when you feel like it, take your time, and enjoy travel at your own pace. And because you don’t have to worry about motel rooms or other accommodation, it’s a great option for those on a budget.

Top 10 places to visit in autumn in New Zealand

1. Hawke’s Bay

Famous for its delicious wines, bountiful produce, and beautiful scenery, Hawke’s Bay is a popular destination for those on a North Island road trip.

Autumn is the ideal time to see some of that amazing scenery with an early morning climb up Te Mata Peak to see the sunrise and soak in the autumnal goodness. Also known as ‘The Sleeping Giant’, Te Mata Peak is suitable for all ages and fitness levels with a range of walking and mountain biking tracks. And if you’re into the fast-growing sport of geocaching, there are several geocaches to be found in this special spot.

For lunch, book a reservation at Craggy Range Winery and enjoy the view of Te Mata Peak from a different perspective. Source: TNZ Image Library

2. Taupō

As the temperatures begin to cool outside, warm up with a relaxing soak in Taupō’s geothermal waters. The region’s natural thermal springs have been used by Māori for bathing, healing and wellness for centuries. And there’s no better place to see the benefits for yourself than at Wairakei Terraces & Thermal Health Spa.

Another must-do on your autumn road trip planner is a visit to the jaw-dropping Huka Falls where nearly quarter of a million litres per second comes thundering over a natural waterfall and into the Waikato River.

For a great night’s accommodation just 20 minutes’ walk from Taupō’s town centre, book into one of the campervan sites at the Taupō TOP 10 Holiday Park.

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3. Waitomo

Just a few hours’ drive from Auckland, Waitomo is a hidden gem and an unmissable stop on your North Island road trip. Explore an underground wonderland where you can see breathtaking caves lined with magical displays of glowworms. And to really get your heart racing, try black water rafting where you’ll descend 80 metres below ground, raft in tubes along rapids, jump off waterfalls, float along the water under thousands of twinkling glowworms, and have the experience of a lifetime!

Just around the corner is the Waitomo TOP 10 Holiday Park where you can park up your Mighty camper and then walk five minutes along the road to the Tomo Bar & Eatery for a hearty authentic Kiwi meal and a cold beverage or two.

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4. Christchurch

There is no better time to visit Christchurch’s magnificent Botanic Gardens than in the autumn months when the flora and fauna put on a dazzling show of colour. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch amongst the trees or tempt yourself with something tasty from the onsite café.

A great way to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Christchurch’s revitalised inner city is by hiring a bike. The city is nice and flat with purpose-built cycleways to make getting around by bike easy. There are also plenty of cycle trails around the city if you’re in the mood to explore further afield.

If you’re looking for accommodation in Christchurch, book in at the North-South Holiday Park on Sawyers Arms Road.

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5. Hanmer Springs

The resort town of Hanmer Springs is an enjoyable 1-hour 40-minute road trip from Christchurch. Nestled amongst picturesque mountains and forestry, this tiny township is famous for its soothing thermal pools and spa and is the perfect spot to unwind and warm up as the cooler weather settles in. Book in a massage at the spa or release your inner child and enjoy the thrill of racing down the hydro-slides or going for a spin on the SuperBowl ride.

Hanmer Springs has a great selection of forest walks including the Forest Amble Walk where you’ll come across large wooden art sculptures along the way.

Plan a stay at the Hanmer Springs TOP 10 and enjoy the best pizzas in town or a sizzling stonegrill at Saints restaurant.

6. Lake Tekapo

There is no place quite as magical as Lake Tekapo in autumn. Surrounded by the snow-capped Southern Alps, the turquoise waters of the lake are backdropped by a colourful display of autumn trees making for some simply sublime photos.

High on the list for visitors to the region is the Church of the Good Shepherd. Built in 1935, the iconic church is a South Island must-do. Another top attraction is the Tekapo Springs where you can relax in the soothing warm waters and take in the captivating views of Lake Tekapo and the mountain ranges beyond. (1).jpegImage Source: TNZ Image Library

7. Queenstown

Bordering beautiful Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is simply magical in autumn as the warm orange trees reflect in the crystal-clear water. Call in to Patagonia Chocolates on Rees Street for a hot chocolate or coffee (and perhaps a sweet treat to go with it!) and take a stroll around the waterfront. Or to really make the most of the incredible scenery, take a scenic cruise down the lake.

You’ll definitely want to stay for a few nights in Queenstown, so book your accommodation at the Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park. They’ve got a great range of powered sites and it’s just a short walk into the city centre.

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8. Arrowtown

If you’re looking for the ultimate photo opportunity, head to Arrowtown and capture the autumnal trees in all their glory. Built alongside the pristine Arrow River, this delightful South Island township was once a gold rush village. Today it’s a popular New Zealand tourist attraction renowned for its charming tree-lined streets, quaint cottages, and top-class dining and shopping. Arrowtown is a short 15-minute drive from Queenstown making for a great day trip.

If you want an extended stay, book your campsite at the Arrowtown Holiday Park, just 5 minutes’ walk from the town centre.

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9. Wanaka

Wanaka is a magical destination throughout the year, but it’s truly a sight to behold in autumn as the crisp air and rich colours of the region invite adventure and exploration.

Part of Central Otago, Wanaka produces some outstanding wines. To sample them for yourself, head to Rippon for a delicious wine tasting in a beautiful setting. As you sip your pinot or riesling, take in the autumn colours reflecting on the lake, with the mountains standing tall in the background.

Discover more of Wanaka’s breathtaking beauty by walking the Mt Iron Loop Track. This 4.5km walk takes around 1.5 hours and offers up 360-degree views of the region.

10. Dunedin

Dunedin is a charming city located in the Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. Rich in heritage and renowned for its unique architecture and abundance of wildlife, the city has lots to offer.

For a close up look at some of the region’s unusual natural landscape, take a walk along the 2km Organ Pipes Track. The track features fascinating columns of basalt created by the volcanic formation of the Otago Peninsula. They’re well worth the walk and the site makes for a great picnic spot too.

While you’re in Dunedin, be sure to check out the local art scene by visiting the art galleries and exhibitions. You’ll find the majority of these on Dowling Street, Moray Place, and lower Stuart Street.

Dunedin also has a vibrant food and beverage scene. If you’re keen on a good brew, park up the campervan and head off on a Speights Ale House brewery tour. You’ll get to see how this iconic Dunedin brew is made and enjoy a sample while you’re there.

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Ready for your next New Zealand adventure?

From relaxing in hot pools to the thrill of underground rafting, there’s plenty to see and do over autumn on a New Zealand road trip. Get your next adventure underway and book your Mighty camper today.