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Christchurch to Nelson Road Trip

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Bathed in sunshine and wrapped in beautiful coastlines, Nelson and Marlborough join forces to deliver one of New Zealand’s most diverse and satisfying holiday destinations in the South Island.

With three national parks, multiple beaches and bays and world-famous wineries, you will find no shortage of outdoor pursuits for your New Zealand campervan holiday from Christchurch to Nelson.

Showcasing delectable produce, art, culture, adrenaline activities and family fun – all this and more can be found on this scenic loop from the Britz Christchurch depot.

Travel

10 days


Route

Christchurch to Nelson

1135km


Best Time of the Year

All year round

Highlights

  • Kaikoura
  • Queen Charlotte Track
  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • Golden Bay
  • Nelson Lakes National Park
  • Hamner Springs

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

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Day 1
Christchurch

Christchurch, also known as the garden city of New Zealand has absolutely earned its title, with many beautiful parks to wander around with a coffee in hand.

Visiting the Botanic Gardens is one of the best things to do in Christchurch, where you can check out the conservatories or simply admire the gardens. Head down on the right day and you will find all kinds of events from environmental talks to gardening chats.

Hagley Park in the centre of Christchurch has been around since the 1850’s and is 165 hectares in size. Take a walk alongside the river, or bring a picnic to enjoy among the mature trees. Just over the river you will find Millbrook Reserve where you can view the Abel Tasman memorial.

Christchurch also has a number of beaches including Sumner which is popular for surfing, or New Brighton where you can view Pegasus Bay.

When you are ready for a bite to eat, try out Addington for a unique trackside dining experience, or The Tannery for pub food and craft beer.

Exert some energy with a hike or mountain bike up Godley Head, where you can enjoy coastal views and see old military defence sites from World War 2.

Park the campervan up for the night at Christchurch Top10 Holiday Park or one of many other parks in the city.

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Day 2
Christchurch to Kaikoura

Head up SH1, and in less than 30 minutes you’ll reach Waipara, a burgeoning wine region where Pegasus Bay offers tastings and winery lunches.

SH1 then leaves the Canterbury Plains and winds over the Hundalee Hills before kissing the coast. Kaikoura lies at the southern boundary of Marlborough, straddling a peninsula guarded by the Seaward Kaikoura Range.

One of the best things to do in Kaikoura is Whale Watch tours, but there are plenty of other experiences to enjoy from dolphin encounters, to swimming with seals or kayak tours.

Walk along the view-filled Kaikoura Peninsula that passes the Point Kean Seal Colony, then stop for a bite to eat at Emporium brewing.

Sample the local Kaikoura crayfish at the roadside Kaikoura Seafood BBQ, or at the historic Pier Hotel.

Kaikoura accommodation includes campervan parks Alpine–Pacific or Top 10 Kaikoura.

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Day 3
Kaikoura to Blenheim

Distance 128km - Driving Time 1 hour 40 minutes

SH1 winds up the east coast through increasingly vine-lined territory, which reaches critical mass in the Wairau Valley, the epicentre of New Zealand’s wine industry.

Its 35-odd cellar doors, many with restaurants, can be toured on a mini-bus or bicycle if you don’t want to drive. Don’t forget to add bike racks to your camper hire and pack your bikes for the trip.

One of the best things to do in Blenheim is visit its star attraction Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, which displays a collection of World War One aircraft in powerfully evocative and moving ways. Enjoy more culture at Marlborough museum which is known for its Wine Exhibition, Victorian rooms and pottery collections.

Take a tour through Makana the chocolate factory and stock up on chocolates before parking up at the Blenheim accommodation spot Bridges holiday park.

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Day 4
Blenheim to Picton

Distance 28km - Driving Time 25 minutes

Stay on SH1 to reach Picton. Well known as the interisland ferry port, the town offers so much more with its welcoming disposition, trim foreshore park and harbour outlook and town walks.

Get outdoors and hike the Tirohanga track for stunning views of Picton and Waikawa or hire a kayak to whisk through the Queen Charlotte Sound.

Top things to do in Picton include a bike ride on one of the trails like Queen Charlotte Track which will offer stunning views of bays and coves, plus a peak at birdlife like woodpigeons and waxeyes.

When you are ready for a bite to eat, try the local seafood at one of the restaurants, then stop by Eco World museum to get up close and personal with wildlife like turtles, seahorses and tuatara.

Well placed Picton accommodation includes the Top 10 Picton holiday park.

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Day 5
Picton to Nelson

Distance 140km - Driving Time 2 hours

Follow the signs along Queen Charlotte Drive, the winding but wonderfully scenic drive through to Havelock. Around halfway, family-friendly Smith Farms Holiday Park is a great base for exploring the Anakiwa and Kenepuru Sounds area.

At Havelock, join SH6 to Nelson, stopping at Pelorus Bridge for nature walks or river swimming.

The highway snakes over the Whangamoa Range and emerges at Nelson, on the shores of Tasman Bay. The region’s capital is small and confident, blessed with beautiful Tahunanui Beach and enhanced by an active arts scene.

Stop and wander Founders Heritage Park displaying unusual character buildings, or the Victorian style Queens Gardens.

Centre of New Zealand Walkway gives amazing views over Nelson, and one of the best things to do in Nelson is visit Abel Tasman National Park to see waterfalls, seals and stunning Nelson beach areas.

Other great activities in Nelson include a visit to the Suter art gallery, and trying local craft beer at one of the bars.

Nelson Tasman NZ

Day 6
Nelson to Motueka

Distance 42km - Driving Time 40 minutes

The roads between Nelson and Motueka are lined with attractions, including wineries and the Höglund Art Glass studio where you can watch glass blowing in action. The Rabbit Island recreation reserve is another popular attraction, where you can swim and BBQ.

A must see in Motueka is the historic Moutere pub - which is the oldest pub in New Zealand!

Close to Abel Tasman National Park, Motueka has a pleasant high street and coastal walkway, along with an exceptional Top 10 Holiday Park that hires bikes to cruise the predominantly flat Great Taste Trail, a dedicated cycleway stretching across the region.

A must do if you visit over a weekend is shopping at their sunday market where you can get produce, second hand goods and more.

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Day 7
Golden Bay

Distance 75km - Driving Time 1 hour 30 minutes

It’s an hour’s drive from Motueka over Takaka Hill to Golden Bay, a quiet and idyllic region carpeted with farms and bush, and lined with sandy beaches.

Both Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Park can be accessed from Golden bay and some must see beaches are Pohara and Wharariki.

Bike through Canaan Downs track, then stop for some food in Takaka at the Mussel Inn brewpub.

Farewell Spit is an otherworldly duneland with fascinating stories to tell, and well worth taking a tour through.

Golden Bay campsites include Golden Bay Holiday Park or Wharariki holiday park.

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Day 8
Motueka to Nelson Lakes National Park

Distance 173km - Driving Time 3 hours

Take the Motueka Valley Highway to Kohatu and onward to the quiet alpine village St Arnaud, where you can access Rainbow ski field and beautiful Whisky falls. Visit the Alpine lodge to wine and dine after a big day of adventuring.

Nelson Lakes National Park has two glacier-formed lakes – Rotoiti (‘little lake’) and Rotoroa (‘long lake’) which are fringed with dense beech forest and surrounded by bald peaks.

It’s a dramatic and beautiful scene indeed, which can be surveyed from DOC’s Kerr Bay campsite, or explored on easy nature walks or day-hikes such as the highly memorable Mt Robert Circuit.

Kerry Bay Campsite is a stunning place to stop for the night.

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Day 9
Nelson Lakes to Hanmer Springs

Distance 235km - Driving Time 3 hours

This long but scenic leg begins westwards on SH63, before following SH6 past Murchison and heading south on SH65 towards Springs Junction. From there, SH7 heads through Lewis Pass, passing significant forest reserves on its way through the Southern Alps.

The small resort town of Hanmer Springs nestles into a basin, 10km off the highway. Hanmer Springs hot pools is a pleasure-seekers’ paradise, with open-air pools, fun slides and day spa facilities.

Conical Hill Lookout in Hanmer Forest Park offers panoramic views of the leafy town and countryside. You’ll find plenty of outdoor adventuring options including hikes, horse trekking, mountain biking, jet boating and bungy jumping and more.

Have a bite to eat at one of the restaurants, then park up at Hanmer Springs accommodation spots like the Top 10 in town or the larger Alpine Adventure Holiday Park, a short drive from the centre.

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Day 10
Hamner Springs to Christchurch

Distance 133km - Driving Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Departing from Hamner Springs. it’s a pretty drive on SH7 through to SH1, which meets at Waipara, then on to Christchurch. With luck you’ll have time left for a visit to the International Antarctic centre, and a bite to eat at the Cellar door before dropping off the camper.

Explore more of the South Island with Britz

Ready to travel the top of the South Island? Visit any Britz branch today to rent a travel van for your South Island adventure.