A great South Island escape


Shaelah and Andrew took a campervan around the South Island. Read more about what they have got up to during the 10 days they spent on the road.


10 days


Christchurch to Christchurch


Best Time of the Year



  • Queenstown
  • Arrowtown
  • Fox Glacier
  • Malborough 

The Journey


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 10

Day 1
Christchurch to Oamaru

Distance 270km - Driving Time 4 hours

We wanted to go to Oamaru to see the penguins, but once we arrived and the girl behind the desk warned us to bring all our woolies and jumpers because it was cold, we realised we couldn’t do it! I was freezing as it was during the day, and didn’t have any extra warmth to take so we just did the little day tour of the facility then headed out to the campground. Decided to come back and explore the old town the next day.  Stayed in a DOC campsite 20 minutes outside of Oamaru.

Day 2
Oamaru to Queenstown

Distance 272km - Driving Time 4 hours

We went back to Oamaru, then headed to Queenstown. We had wanted to go to Lake Tekapo, but we realised that was a whole lot of doubling back. Back to Oamaru, wandered around the old town, had a spectacularly delicious pie from the bakery, grabbed a desperately needed green juice from a juice cart, visited the steampunk museum. 
At some point on the way to Queenstown we found a little store selling merino wool (on sale, thanks to the end of season) and stocked up. FINALLY WARM AGAIN. I think we drove over the Lindis pass, stopped in Cromwell to get some fresh fruit and veggies… The pass had some really incredible views.
Stayed outside of Queenstown in 12 mile delta campsite, which was beautiful and where Andrew got some of the best shots of the trip.

Day 3
Milford Sound to Te Anau

Distance 171km - Driving Time 3 hours 30 mins

We tried to go to Milford sound but the road was closed, so we went to Te Anau instead, then stayed in Cascade Creek campsite.

Got up super early to drive to Milford – don’t do that, because they decide at 7:30 whether the road is open or not and we had already passed the sign at that point, too far along with no signal to check. We did a walk on the Keppler Track – 4 hours return, the second half of which was in POURING RAIN. Note: weatherproof jacket does not mean rain jacket. Headed up to the campsite which was windy, and rainy, and vast, and empty. Could hear ice cracking in the distance. Then there was a thunderstorm while we lay in bed and read. It was actually kind of fun!

Day 4
Queenstown to Arrowtown

Distance 192km - Driving Time 3 hours

Milford was closed again. Pretty disappointed, but we were prepared for that eventuality so we headed back to Queenstown. Headed out to Glenochy for a horse ride, which was spectacular. Back to Queenstown, through to Arrowtown. Stayed in the camping park there – which is really new and lovely, and inexpensive. Arrowtown is simply magical. We popped in to the Fork and tap pub for a drink or two after dinner, and Andrew had a great chat to a craft beer brewer about his sweet potato ale.

Day 5
Arrowtown to Fox Glacier

Distance 317km - Driving Time 4 hours 30 mins

While we would have both quite happily stayed a week in Arrowtown, we had places to go so we headed off via the Crown Ranges. Stopped in Wanaka, which looked like a postcard (would also happily stay there – there’s an organic fruit and veg shop!) It was rainy, and difficult driving so by the end of the day Andrew was exhausted.

We made the decision to stop and see the Fox Glacier and so glad we did! I’ve never seen a glacier, and the sheer scale and desolation, the lack of any sound but rushing water… it was an experience. Stayed at Marble Hill Campground.

Day 6
Fox Glacier to Maruia Springs

Distance 332km - Driving Time 4 hours 30 mins

This day was a lot of driving. It was pouring rain and windy most of the day. Stayed in a campground outside of Maruia, got there mid-afternoon and had a bit of a wander and relax (it had been go go go up till now.) Managed to make a campfire (the rain had died off) and cook dinner on it. We stayed up late and played with long exposures in the moonlight. Nearly froze our toes off, it ended up being a clear night and definitely was below 0 degrees.

Day 7
Maruia to Blenheim

Distance 260km - Driving Time 3 hours 30 mins

So keen for wine country – made it to Malborough, but we stopped at a lake that I can’t remember the name of and did an easy walk. We brought some groceries at this point though. Stayed in another DOC campsite outside of town – pleasant surprise to discover there was power for an extra $5/night. So the heater would run. Phew.

Day 9
Whites Bay to Hanmer Springs

Distance 282km - Driving Time 4 hours

Drove to Hanmer Springs, down state highway 1 – the coastal drive was spectacular – we were on the lookout for seals and lucky for us you don’t have to look to hard, they were lining the rocky coastline for all to see. We checked into a caravan park when we arrived into Hanmer, visited the springs (LOVED the hot pools!!) then cooked dinner and went to bed – it had been another long day driving so a good night’s rest was in order!

Day 10
Hanmer Springs to Christchurch

Distance 133km - Driving Time 2 hours

Did a walk just outside of Hanmer springs – woodland walk, so beautiful. Stopped at a seal colony on the way back to Christchurch. Took it pretty easy basically and arrived back in Christchurch with time to explore!

Road trip highlights

Best view?

Crown pass, Haast pass, Lindis pass, 12 mile delta, the lake that I can't remember the name of.

Best place to stop for a picnic?

At the top of the Haast pass, or when we stopped in a hut on the Keppler track

Favourite place?

Arrowtown, it was like we had travelled back in time

Favourite experience?

Dart Stables ride from Glenochy, it was the perfect way to see the area, it was fun, and the views were spectacular.

Top highlights?

Horseriding, staying in a completely empty campsite in pouring rain while we could hear the ice cracking up on the mountain behind us, making our own delicious dinner every night in beautiful locations, eating an amazing platter at one of the big wineries in Malborough, Hanmer springs, being able to go where we wanted whenever we wanted and cook our own food easily was actually so great.

Favourite pub/restaurant?

The fork and Tap in Arrowtown

Did you have a favourite Holiday Park you stayed?

We only stayed in 2, and Arrowtown was pretty great. Facilities were new and clean, staff were friendly, location was central and the price was good.

Top tip for other campervan travellers?

Pack appropriate to the climate. We were completely unprepared for how cold it would be. Merino wool undergarments. Also, take proper hiking boots if you plan to go walking/hiking. Nikes just don't cut it.

Can you share a recipe from something you cooked in the campervan?

The most memorable was probably when we managed to make a campfire (legally) and cooked steak, coleslaw (apple, cabbage, milk keffir, fresh garlic, blue cheese, lemon juice, rocket) and ash covered yams & potatoes that we just threw in the coals to cook because we had no foil

What is your greatest memory of the whole campervan holiday? 

Probably teaching my husband how to photograph in some of the most spectacular spots in the world. That, or the lambs. (Springtime!)