New Zealand is renowned for its great scenery, incredible wildlife, and Middle-earth magic. But did you know it’s also a world-class surfing destination? With around 15,000 km of coastline, New Zealand has a fantastic variety of sensational surfing spots that offer a smorgasbord of breaks, points, reefs, and waves.
Booking a campervan hire for a road trip between New Zealand’s top surf spots is an awesome way to see the country. Not only will you enjoy the wild waves, but you’ll also be treated to breathtaking views, remote and rugged countryside, and cool communities and townships along the way.
This ultimate New Zealand road trip travel itinerary takes you from the top of the North Island to the heart of Southland. Ready to go surfing in New Zealand? Let’s dive in!
Auckland to Southland
Best Time of the Year
- Piha Beach
- Surf Highway 45
Whangarei District Council
Auckland to Tutukaka Coast
Distance 190km - Driving Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Your ultimate surfing road trip starts at Mighty’s Auckland branch where you’ll pick up your pre-booked campervan hire.
First up, it’s time to hit one of Auckland’s surfing meccas, Piha Beach. Just 45 minutes drive from the city centre, Piha is probably New Zealand’s most famous surfing haunt. This south-westerly-facing beach catches consistent waves all year. The surf is split into two by a huge volcanic stone known as Lion Rock. The waves on the southern side are more accessible and popular.
Next, it’s time to head north on the 2.5-hour drive to Tutukaka Coast. One of the most popular surfing beaches in the area is Sandy Bay – about 17 minutes drive north of Tutukaka township. In fact, most would agree that this is the best surfing beach in Northland. Sandy Bay is a beach break with several peaks down the beach to choose from. It’s suitable for all levels of surfers. It’s also home to a number of surfing competitions, including the winter Polar Bear Surf Classic.
While you’re in Tutukaka, take some time to wander through the gift stores, surf shops, and art galleries. Plan a special dinner out at Schnappa Rock. And for a relaxed overnight stay, park up your camper for the night at Tutukaka Holiday Park.
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Tutukaka Coast to Raglan
Distance 332km - Driving Time 5 hour 20 mins
On day two of your New Zealand surfing road trip, you’ll be heading south again to Raglan. Just two hours out of Auckland, this chilled-out seaside village has three great surfing beaches to choose from:
- Manu Bay is the most popular and well-known surf beach in Raglan. It is said to have the world’s longest left-hand break.
- Whale Bay attracts surfers from around the world. It has an excellent left point break and the surf works well on all tides.
- Ngarunui Beach is a great beach for beginners and those learning to surf. It’s also a beautiful beach for swimming and just taking in the awesome New Zealand scenery.
When you need a break from all that sand and surf, head into the town centre. Check out the gift shops, and get yourself a good coffee and some lunch at Raglan Roast Food Department on Wainui Road.
For a beautiful spot to stay, park up your motorhome at Raglan Holiday Park.
Raglan to New Plymouth
Distance 301km - Driving Time 4 hours 10 minutes
Today you’ll be heading to New Plymouth and on to Surf Highway 45. This coastal road from New Plymouth to Hawera leads to a number of legendary surf beaches, including:
- Fitzroy Beach is a popular surf spot with a beach break that can create some excellent barrels and hollow waves. At the opposite end is East End Beach, another great surf spot with slightly smaller waves and reasonably consistent surf.
- About 15 minutes drive from Fitzroy Beach, Back Beach’s powerful, punchy waves make it a popular year-round surf spot.
- Drive for another 10 minutes along the Surf Highway to reach Oakura Beach. This beach break offers both right and left-handers and is suitable for all levels. Lessons are available for beginners.
- Pack up your campervan and drive for another hour along the Surf Highway to Opunake Beach. This beach offers a nice-shaped wave with both right and left-handers. The outer reefs on the rocky points can be surfed if the conditions are right. A great beach for all surf levels.
Park up tonight at the Opunake Beach Holiday Park.
Tourism New Zealand
New Plymouth to Gisborne
Distance 635km - Driving Time 8 hours
Wake up bright and early on day four, because you’ll be driving from one side of the North Island to the other! Gisborne is around eight hours drive, but it makes for a great road trip.
After a long day of driving, check in at Waikanae Beach TOP 10.
Gisborne is another of New Zealand’s world-class surfing spots. There’s a beach for every level of surf. Beginners can head to the safe and shallow small waves of Waikanae/Roberts Road beach. It’s a great spot for families too with free BBQs, Olympic pools, showers, and a great new boardwalk.
For intermediate surfers, the Midway Pipe is a sandy beach break. Makorori Beach is another top spot – be there before dawn to watch the sunrise. As a bonus, there’s overnight freedom camping available here too.
If you’re a pro surfer, head straight to Wainui Beach. The waves are fast and powerful with fantastic barrels and hollows. Blacks Beach on the Mahia Peninsula is another pro spot with consistent right-hand reef breaks.
For a great brunch spot while you’re in Gisborne, enjoy an all-day breakfast at Flagship Eatery on Childers Road.
Gisborne to Masterton
Distance 529km - Driving Time 6 hours 50 minutes
You’ll be heading further south today to make the most of the lower North Island. It’s a fairly long drive, so relax and enjoy the road trip through some of New Zealand’s beautiful countryside.
Once you reach Masterton, stretch your legs with a relaxing walk through Queen Elizabeth Park and admire the massive American redwoods and picturesque grounds. You might also like to take a tour of the famous Tui Brewery.
Put your feet up for the night at Mawley Holiday Park.
Masterton to Wellington
Distance 160km - Driving Time 2 hours 50 minutes (from Uruti Point)
Before you head to Wellington, catch a wave or two at Uruti Point (a 50-minute drive from Masterton). Uruti is a beach break with good punchy waves for surfers of all levels. There are several peaks down the beach to choose from, offering both right and left-handers.
To get to Uruti Point from Masterton, head east out of town on Te Ore Ore Road, then turn right onto Masterton Castlepoint Road. Turn right onto Blairlogie-Langdale Road. Continue onto Homewood Road, then turn left onto Waiorongo Road, down to the beach and Uruti Point at the north end of the beach. You may need to walk if you want to go further up to the point.
Once you reach Wellington, park up at the Wellington TOP 10 Holiday Park.
Wellington to Collingwood
Distance 363km - Driving Time 8 hours (including ferry ride)
Today you’ll be heading from the bottom of the North Island to the tip of the South. Book your campervan on to the Interislander Ferry and enjoy the relaxing cruise across the Cook Strait to Picton. Have your camera charged and ready to get some snaps of the picturesque Marlborough Sounds.
Once you reach Picton, it’s a four-hour drive (263 km) to Collingwood. Check into the Collingwood Holiday Park, then it’s off for a surf at Farewell Spit.
To get to Farewell Spit, you’ll need to drive to Puponga (35 minutes). At Puponga, drive through and park at the Farewell Spit Cafe and Information Centre.
Collingwood to Kaikoura
Distance 375km - Driving Time 5 hours 20 minutes
The seaside village of Kaikoura is one of New Zealand’s top whale-watching spots. It also makes a great base to set up camp and explore some of the nearby surf beaches. Here are a few Kaikoura surfing spots worth checking out:
- Kahutara is a right-hand point break off the mouth of the Kahutara River. Best for intermediate to expert surfers.
- Mangamaunu is an exposed point break with very reliable surf. The best wind direction is from the west. This beach can have rips, so it’s best for experienced surfers.
Book yourself into the Kaikoura TOP 10 Holiday Park then treat yourself to dinner at one of the great local restaurants. Kaikoura is a great place to enjoy fresh seafood. One of the best is a crayfish meal from the world-famous Nins Bin.
Kaikoura to Christchurch
Distance 180km - Driving Time 2 hours 25 minutes
The drive from Kaikoura to Christchurch is another of New Zealand’s fantastic scenic road trips. On your way, plan a stop at Gore Bay (about an hour out of Kaikoura). This beach break, onto a mostly sandy beach, has several peaks offering punchy waves and possible barrels. Suitable for all levels.
Once you reach Christchurch, there are several great spots to hit. Here are just a few worth trying out:
- Taylor’s Mistake – 30 minutes drive from the city centre in Sumner. This popular Christchurch beach break is home to some of the best surf in town. Make the most of great right-handers off the rocks at the eastern end and fun left at the western end. A good spot for all levels of surfers.
- Te Oka Bay – just over an hour’s drive from Christchurch toward Akaroa. This sandy beach sits at the end of a long narrow bay and is a good choice when there is a big swell and you want something sheltered.
- Magnet Bay – about an hour's drive from Christchurch toward Akaroa. A good, long, left-hand point break on a large boulder beach. Aim for low- to mid-tide as the wave shape is better. Best for intermediate to advanced surfers.
Park your campervan up for the night at Spencer Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park.
Christchurch to Dunedin
Distance 360km - Driving Time 4 hours 36 minutes
Further south, Dunedin is a charming city tucked into the sheltered harbour of New Zealand’s east coast. That makes it a great place to see some of our unique and rare wildlife. There are also plenty of excellent Dunedin surfing spots to choose from, including:
- St Clair Beach (5 minutes from the city centre) - A popular local spot with a sandy beach break.
- Karitane Point (30 minutes from the city centre) - Located on the north side of the Huriawa Peninsula, this spot features a right-hand point break off the rocks out in front of the Waikouaiti River mouth.
- Brighton (25 minutes from the city centre) - A right-hand point break around the rocks onto a sand beach.
- Oamaru Harbour (10 mins from the city centre) - A beach break with lots of peaks to choose from.
Plan a stay at the four-star Dunedin Holiday Park & Motels. This lovely campground is adjacent to the beautiful St Kilda Beach – another great beach break for all levels of surfers.
Dunedin to Southland
Distance 290km - Driving Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Today, you’ll be heading right to the bottom of the South Island. It can get very cold down here, so be sure to have your surfing wetsuits and some hot chocolate on hand for afterwards! Your first stop is at Papatowai – a favourite for big wave surfing and one for experts only. Next, it’s on to Porpoise Bay, a beach break on a golden sand beach and good for all levels. Curio Bay is at the southern end of Porpoise Bay and is another good spot for all levels; you'll find several peaks to choose from with both right and left-handers.
Park up next to the beach at the beautiful Curioscape Campground.
Southland to Queenstown
Distance 195km - Driving Time 2 hours 30 minutes
It’s the final day of your ultimate New Zealand surfing road trip. And what better way to end it than to spend some time exploring the Adventure Capital of Queenstown. Indulge your inner adrenaline junkie with a Bungy jump, jet boating experience, or white water rafting. Or if you prefer to simply take a breath and have a bite to eat, head directly to Fergburger and try one of their epically massive burgers. They’re best enjoyed sitting down by the river – followed by a lie-down!
The last item to tick off on your road trip itinerary is to drop your Mighty camper back at their Queenstown branch.
Ready to catch some of New Zealand’s best waves?
As you can see, New Zealand’s coastline offers one amazing surf spot after another. If you’re ready to hit the beaches and experience them for yourself, the first step is to book your Mighty campervan.
With branches in Auckland, Queenstown, and Christchurch you can pick up your campervan at one branch and drop it off at another.
Looking for more inspiration for your next New Zealand road trip? Check out these helpful guides: