Road trip in New Zealand – Summary, tips and budget

2 January 2019
Mount Cook NZ

After 10 months of work in Auckland it was time for me to go on the roads of New Zealand! I had already visited the North Island so my road trip was mainly focused on the South Island. Departure on October 8, 2018.

For each part find the link to my post with more info and more photos of my road trip!

  • 1 week in North Island

Day 1 : Drive from Auckland to Taranaki
Day 2 : Mount Taranaki with clouds + Three sisters & Elephant rock + drive to Taupo
Day 3 : Drive to Napier + Waimarama beach + Maraetotara falls
Day 4 : Sunrise Napier + city visit + Cape Palliser (lighthouse+ seal+ elephant seal)
Day 5 : Rain, stop at Featherston
Day 6 : Drive to Wellington

For this week I ran a bit after the sun! Not easy in New Zealand so a lot of drive in Nord island.

three sisters sunrise napier elephant seal

  • 3 days around Nelson

Day 7 : Ferry + cullen point + center of NZ
Day 8 : South street + cable bay
Day 9 : Nelson

Arriving in the South Island I stayed in the area of Nelson 3 days (waiting for Abel Tasman) and I took the opportunity to go to a garage to fix a little problem with my van.

south street cottage nelson

  • Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Day 10 to Day 15 : Abel Tasman

I wanted to do at least one great walk in New Zealand. It was the first time I did a multi-day hike!

stillwell bay abel tasmanmutton cove abel tasman

  • Golden bay

Day 15 : Farewell + Wharariki beach

Before heading to the West Coast continue my road trip I wanted to see the end of the Golden Bay! At low tide sea lions make the show!

seal golden bay otarie

  • 5 days in the West Coast

Day 16 : Pancake rocks
Day 17 : Arthurs Pass
Day 18 : Rain Hokitika
Day 19 : Hokitika gorge + glacier
Day 20 : Blue Pools + drive to Queenstown

The West Coast is the rainiest region of New Zealand. Clouds are often blocked by mountains. After the first mountains the sun was there at Arthur’s Pass but then a lot of rain / cloud. I did not see the glaciers but those who saw them told me they had nothing exceptional…

  • 4 days around Queenstown

Day 21 : walk around Glenorchy
Day 22 : Moke lake
Day 23 : Big Nevis Swing
Day 24 : Isthmus Peak
Day 25 : Wanaka Lake + drive to Invercargill

I had been to Queenstown for a cruise in Milford Sound. This time I did not stay too much in the city but rather a walk around and Wanaka. And I did the Big Swing as well!

  • 5 days in Catlins

Day 26 : Bluff + rest
Day 27 : Waipapa + slope point + curio bay
Day 28 : Curio bay + McLean falls + Papatowai
Day 29 : Papatowai + purakaunui falls + Jacks bay
Day 30 : Surrat bay + Cannibal bay + nuggets point + roaring bay

The Catlins is a region quite rainy as well! Here you can meet wildlife such as dolphins (missed for me), sea lions and penguins. It was a must on my road trip!

  • 2 days around Dunedin

Day 31 : Tunnel beach + Dunedin + Baldwin street + botanic garden
Day 32 : Katiki point and yellow eyed penguins + blue penguins

Here again nature takes its place around the city! I was able to see both types of New Zealand penguins!

  • 2/3 days around Mount Cook/Tekapo

Day 33 : Oamaru biblio + drive to Pukaki
Day 34 : Pukaki + Ben lonmon lake
Day 35 : Mount Cook + Tasman glacier + Tekapo

The last stop of my road trip was Mount Cook and Tekapo. And I was rather lucky with the weather because like any mountain it is often rather capricious!

  • Drive back to Christchurch, van selling and come back to auckland

I then went back to Christchurch to try to sell my van (eventually I sold it to Palmerston North). So I made a stop in Kaikoura, took the ferry. And then I went to the only place where the weather was not too bad: Mount Maunganui!


  • Life in a campervan

  • Usefull applications

Personally I used Campermate a lot. I find it easier to use it to have the desired points of interest. By cons there are not all free camps! So if you are in a place where you can not find one, remember to check Wikicamps too.

I also used Gaspy to get the fuel at the best price around me.

  • Cooking in road trip

Remember to take advantage of promo to make your stock of non-perishable food (canned by ex). I also bought from time to time fresh products (yogurt, cheese) but they must be finished the next day max. Also think about making a soup stock or noodles, this will serve you on rainy / cold days. I do not personally drink milk but my travelmate took milk powder to avoid the problem of conservation. On my side I bought hot chocolate already containing milk!

  • Hygiene in road trip

I personally have not used my chemical toilets. There are public toilets pretty much everywhere in NZ and on a lot of camps. It was a search criterion. Beware some close at night so remember to check before going to sleep.

For showers, you can find hot showers between $ 1-5 but usually the duration is limited. Budget purpose, I opted for a shower 1j / 2 only and the second day I used baby wipes. If you are motivated to put yourself in a swimsuit outside you can use a solar shower as well.

  • Gas refuel

All fuel stations do not fill the bottles. Most just exchange 9kg bottles. So be sure to read the reviews on Campermate to find this info! For my road trip 1.5kg gas was used and it cost me about $ 5.

  • Electricity/internet

I personally had a second battery where I could charge in USB or cigarette lighter. And I had an inverter to charge the computer, SLR battery, etc. while I was driving. Otherwise you can go to a library, there is almost everywhere in NZ. Attention in some the recharge is paying or not possible.

For internet I have a french plan with internet on my phone. For occasional needs I “transformed” my phone into a wifi spot to access the internet from the computer. But for larger needs I also went to a library. Join the useful to “the pleasant” and try to keep this for rainy days where there is nothing else to do…

  • Budget

I counted my expenses from October 8 to November 12 (return to Christchurch). The rest is not really road trip😉.

I spent a total of $ 2727 for 36 days of road trip, about 5800km. That’s about $ 76 / day. Knowing that I have not specially restricted my budget! This is for one person but of course if you are few you can share the fuel costs. The budget breaks down as follows :

Ferry, bus, parking : $217,5
Fuel: $1045,31
RUC : $414,87
Food : $435,84
Activities : $372
Equipement : $114,53
Accommodation (when no free camp) : $70
General expenses (shower, washing machine, gas) : $56,95

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