If you’re thinking about exploring New Zealand’s South Island on a road trip, you’re in for a treat. Whether you are seeking a thrilling adventure or a relaxing nature retreat, you’re never far from either in New Zealand’s South Island.
Travelling in a campervan is a great way to take advantage of the incredible camping in New Zealand. However, with hundreds of stunning camping options on the South Island, it can be hard to decide where to go. To help you plan your perfect road trip around New Zealand’s South Island, we’ve made a list of the top 10 campgrounds to add to your itinerary. Let’s dive in!
Travelling in a camper is a cost-effective way to see and do more on a New Zealand road trip. One of the best ways to travel New Zealand on a budget is to take advantage of the incredible freedom camping spots, DOC campsites and holiday parks scattered throughout the Island. These are our top ten South Island campgrounds.
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Havelock Holiday Park is an affordable campsite set amongst the rolling hills of the Marlborough region. Settle in amongst the quaint little harbourside town of Havelock and explore the local hiking trails and local New Zealand attractions. The amenities on-site, include:
Cost: Powered site from NZ$32 per night
How to get here: Pick up your camper from the Mighty Christchurch branch and drive 4 hours and 30 minutes north to Havelock.
Things to do: Visit Marlborough Sounds, enjoy a winery tour in Marlborough, and taste the famous green-lipped mussels.
Golden Bay Holiday Park is located on the beach in the heart of Golden Bay. This rural nature oasis has its own private beach and is surrounded by bush and pastureland. Despite its remote setting, it is still within travelling distance to local attractions, hikes and more. The amenities in this holiday park include:
Cost: Powered site from NZ$39 (cheaper if you stay for 3+ nights)
How to get here: Pick up your camper from the Mighty Christchurch branch. Then drive 6 hours and 30 minutes north to Golden Bay in the very north of the South Island.
In the Māori language, 'kai' signifies food, and 'kōura' means crayfish. So it is no surprise that this coastal town is a mecca for seafood lovers looking to feast on the local crayfish (lobster). Kaikōura, with its vibrant marine life, is also one of the best places to visit in New Zealand for marine life encounters. Experience it all from the centrally located Kaikoura TOP 10 Holiday Park. This holiday park comes with all the regular mod-cons and amenities, including:
Cost: Powered site from NZ$50 per night
Alpine Adventure Holiday Park is located in the alpine town of Hanmer Springs. Using this holiday park as your base, immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of this year-round adventure destination. With the Hanmer Springs thermal pools close by, this is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand to adventure and unwind. To make your experience here even better, ensure you take full advantage of the amenities available on-site, including:
Cost: Powered site for two people from NZ$40 per night
How to get here: After you pick up your camper from the Mighty Christchurch branch, drive 1 hour and 45 minutes north to Hanmer Springs.
Things to do: There are plenty of adventure activities to keep you entertained, including mountain biking, bungy jumping, jet boating, or (if you're here in the winter) skiing! Once you’re finished, head to the thermal pools to relax.
Waikuku Beach Holiday Park is a family-focused park within 100 metres of the beach. You can ensure you will get a good night's rest with the strip of forest that helps protect this park from the offshore winds. Waikuku Beach is the perfect first-night or last-night accommodation option for a South Island road trip. The amenities available, include:
Cost: Powered sites starting at NZ$22 per night
How to get here: Waikuku is only a short 30-minute drive from the Mighty Christchurch branch.
Things to do: Visit the Lavender fields and explore the vibrant neighbouring city of Christchurch.
Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park is the perfect hold-up to explore the surrounding Mackenzie Basin region. Don’t miss the chance to visit the brilliantly blue Lake Tekapo and capture the iconic snapshot of the stone-walled Church of the Good Shepherd. This area is also part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, making it one of the best places to visit in New Zealand to watch the dazzling night sky in all its glory. The amenities available at this perfectly positioned holiday park include:
Cost: From NZ$56 for a powered site
How to get here: Lake Tekapo is located 2 hours and 45 minutes south of the Mighty Christchurch branch.
Things to do: Take a photo of the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd and explore Lake Tekapo.
Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park is located in the picturesque alps of the South Island. Here you are a stone's throw from outstanding beauty, world heritage areas, thrilling adventures and outdoor activities. If you are looking for an adventure holiday, this is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand to get your fix! The Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park will make you feel right at home as you explore with amenities such as:
Cost: Starting at NZ$22.50 per night for a powered site
Things to do: Visit that Wānaka tree, ski and snowboard at one of the four local resorts in winter, and experience the world’s highest waterfall cable climb
Queenstown TOP 10 Holiday Park is located in the southern lakes region of the South Island. Park up at this centrally located park and experience the very best that Queenstown has to offer. The amenities available include:
Cost: Starting at NZ$41 per night for a powered campsite
How to get here: with a Mighty branch right in town, you don’t have very far to drive to reach this centrally located Queenstown holiday park
Things to do: Go skiing and snowboarding in winter (or mountain biking in the summer) at the local mountains, grab a Fergburger, and take a ride on the Queenstown Luge.
DOC Cascade Creek Campsite is tucked away in the Fiordland region alongside the beautiful Lake Gunn. Marvel at the spectacular lakes and rugged granite mountains as you soak up the very best of New Zealand nature at this iconic DOC campground. The amenities available at this campsite include:
Cost: From NZ$15 per adult per night
How to get here: After picking up your van from the Mighty Queenstown branch, drive 2 hours and 50 minutes to Lake Gunn.
Things to do: Go fishing in the Cascade River and enjoy the Lake Gunn nature walk.
Purakaunui Bay Campsite is easily one of the best DOC campsites in the South Island if you are looking for an off-the-grid, coastal retreat. Set amongst the striking cliffs of the coast, the amenities are simple and include:
Cost: From NZ$8 per adult per night
How to get here: After picking up your van from the Mighty Queenstown branch, drive 3 hours and 25 minutes to Purakaunui Bay.
Things to do: Go for a surf at the beach, and walk to marvel at the striking Purakaunui Falls.
The South Island is brimming with stunning scenery and adventures that you will remember for a lifetime. With so many incredible campgrounds to visit, what better way to experience them all than with a South Island road trip.
If you are looking for more ideas on beautiful south island campgrounds, download the thl Roadtrip app. This handy all-in-one road trip planner showcases campsites, freedom camping sites, holiday destinations, top New Zealand tourist attractions, and more. With an offline maps feature, you can also save these and create your own custom South Island road trip itinerary. This is the ultimate companion for camping in New Zealand.
If you are ready to book your South Island adventure, book your Mighty camper today. Need a little more inspiration for your upcoming adventure? Check out our New Zealand itinerary ideas, campervan road trip costs and more on our blog.