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The Ultimate 7-day South Island Campervan Itinerary

A couple sits outside their campervan at the Milford Sound Lodge Rainforest Campervan Park.

A New Zealand road trip is something everybody should do at least once in their lives. It’s like nothing else in the world – picture well-kept, uncrowded roads with epic scenery around every corner combined with spending the night in holiday parks perched on the edge of beaches, forests or National Parks.  

Inspired? We would definitely recommend hiring a campervan over a rental car as you get so much more freedom. You can stop at camping grounds and holiday parks for the night with many often more scenic than your average hotel.

The Milford Sound Lodge team are keen travellers and will take every opportunity to get out and explore the South Island whenever we can. If you are heading out on a campervan holiday in New Zealand, we’ve put our wealth our knowledge together and come up with an unbeatable itinerary. This is our ultimate 7-day South Island itinerary in a campervan.

No day is longer than 3.5 hours of driving and covers off all the best bits of the central and lower South Island. Along the way, there’s time for one two-night stop – Wanaka or Milford Sound are our personal favourites.

This itinerary is based on starting in Christchurch and finishing off in Dunedin.

DAY 1: CHRISTCHURCH TO LAKE TEKAPO
3 HOURS DRIVING, 244KM

Pick up your keys and head inland to the stunning Mackenzie Country, which lies at the foot of the Southern Alps. En route, stop in Geraldine or Fairlie for a bite to eat – both are down-to-earth kiwi farming towns. When you first lay eyes on Lake Tekapo, it might take your breath away – the lake is an intense milky-turquoise colour, which it gets from the surrounding glaciers. Spectacular is an understatement! 

We’d recommend staying at the Lake Tekapo Holiday Park. Hit the hot pools, go stargazing, or stroll the lakefront.

DAY 2: LAKE TEKAPO TO WANAKA
2.5 HOURS DRIVING, 220KM

Today, take your time driving through some of the South Island’s most picturesque places. Heading south, stop at Lake Pukaki. Further on, journey up and over the Lindis Pass, which links the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago. Try to arrive in Wanaka in the early afternoon, so that you can explore the area a little – hire a bike and cycle the lakefront, go for a short hike in Mount Aspiring National Park or just kick back with your drink of choice and soak up the scenery. 

Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park is a good place to park up for the night.

DAY 3: WANAKA TO TE ANAU
3 HOURS DRIVING, 244KM

This morning your route takes you over the Crown Range, through the outskirts of Queenstown and along the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu. Te Anau looks out over the wilderness that is Fiordland National Park – it’s a spectacular settlement. Again, consider exploring on foot; stroll the lakeshore, walk part of the famous Kepler Track or even think about trying your hand at fly-fishing with one of the local operators.  

Spend the night at Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park.

DAY 4 & 5: DRIVE THE MILFORD ROAD TO MILFORD SOUND
2 HOURS DRIVING, 120KM

Today is the Big Kahuna of your trip – driving the Milford Road to Milford Sound! When it comes to Milford Sound, the journey is just as spectacular as the destination. Venture deep into the heart of Fiordland National Park, and make sure you leave plenty of time to stop for photos. Soak up the beauty of the Eglinton Valley, carved by glaciers during the last ice age; stop to see the Mirror Lakes and admire the accomplishment that is the Homer Tunnel – which took 20 years to complete. The descent into Milford Sound itself is spectacular. 

Park up for the night in our stunning Rainforest Campervan Park, perched on the edge of Milford Sound, before venturing out to explore. Make sure you book ahead.

DAY 6: MILFORD SOUND TO MANAPOURI
2 HOURS 15 MINs DRIVING, 140KM

Today, you’ll retrace much of your driving from yesterday, but when it’s all so beautiful, does it really matter? Spend the night in Manapouri, another little town on the edge of a huge lake. Take a stroll, hire a bike to stretch your legs or jump in the lake for a refreshing dip.

Park up at Manapouri Motels & Holiday Park.

DAY 7: MANAPOURI TO DUNEDIN
3 HOURS 20 MINS DRIVING, 290KM

Today, travel across much of the lower South Island to reach Dunedin. Stop for a look around in Gore – the official home of country music in New Zealand. There are a couple of great museums and galleries here. After Gore, it’s a two-hour drive to the beautiful university city of Dunedin and its Victorian and Edwardian architecture.

Ka Kite Ano – We hope you enjoyed our 7-day South Island Itinerary!
See you soon in Milford Sound.