Taking a campervan on Interislander
Between ancient Kauri forests, stunning coastlines and striking mountains, New Zealand is a road tripper’s dream. With endless sights from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South, it’s no wonder travelling by campervan is so popular. So whether you’re loading up the campervan with family, hitting the road with your friends, or going on a spontaneous getaway with someone special, a road trip is a great way to see it all.
But what happens when you get to Wellington? All of a sudden, you’ve run out of road. And you can’t very well fly your motorhome or campervan, can you? Luckily, there’s the Interislander Ferry to bridge the gap.
Take a campervan across the Cook Strait.
Getting from Wellington to Picton on the Interislander is a breeze. Enjoy relaxing in the eateries, bars and lounge areas, all while soaking in one of the most scenic ferry journeys in the world. The Wellington Ferry terminal is located just ten minutes from the city centre, with vehicle check-in being one hour before departure. Bringing your campervan or caravan on Interislander is as simple as driving on and off, so make sure you've got plenty of time to arrive and follow the instructions of our friendly check-in crew. Read more about driving on Interislander here and if you are holidaying with your furry friend, read more about travelling with pets here.
Once you've sailed to the other side, you'll have your pick of some of the best holiday destinations in the world. Whether you're after a bit of adventure, quaint country drives or scenic walks, the top of the South Island is the perfect place for a road trip.
Accommodation that accommodates.
Once you've journeyed across the Cook Strait, the first thing on your to-do list is probably sorting a place to stay. Luckily there are plenty of great campgrounds that cater to motorhomes and caravans. Most of them are pretty central, and handy to whatever route you've got planned for your South Island itinerary.
If you want to be a bit closer to the Marlborough Sounds, the Kenepuru Head Campsite is a great spot to base yourself. From there you'll have easy access to boating and fishing, and walking or mountain biking the nearby Queen Charlotte Track.
Pelorus Bridge Campground is a DOC campground on the banks of the Pelorus River. Swim, kayak, fish or walk around this beautiful river-flat forest area before heading on to the Nelson region.
Totaranui Campground is nestled at the northern end of Abel Tasman National Park, right next to the beach. It offers modern facilities, a boat ramp and even several fireplaces to complete the camping experience. So whether you're planning on hiking the multi-day Abel Tasman Coastal Track or relaxing by a beautiful beach, camping at Totaranui Beach is always a good idea.
If you want to stop off somewhere a bit more central on your South Island roadie, the Top Ten Holiday Parks Group have some excellent options. Picton, Blenheim and Nelson are all within driving distance from the Interislander Picton Ferry Terminal and an excellent base for all your adventures. With 46 campgrounds throughout the country and 15% off the Interislander fare for membership cardholders, the holiday parks have everything you need from kitchen facilities, laundry areas, swimming pools and kids play areas. Joining is as easy as signing up online.
Driving day trips.
One of the best things about taking a motorhome on a weekend getaway to the South Island is that you always have your wheels with you, so you can squeeze as many adventures as you want into each day.
French Pass Road offers some of the best scenery in all of Marlborough. The sweeping views of the sounds can be distracting if you're driving, but there are plenty of seemingly hidden beaches to stop at, plus short hikes with incredible views as well. It's a two-hour trip to reach French Pass or Bulwer, and you'll need to return the same way, but you likely won't mind catching the sights a second time around.
The drive from Blenheim to Kaikoura is another breathtaking journey along the coast. Not only because of the natural landscape but because of the wildlife you'll see along the way, watch out for seals, dolphins and even a whale! If you are travelling during the summer months, why not take a break from all the driving and catch the Coastal Pacific scenic train? Leave your campervan at either Picton or Blenheim train station and take an unforgettable journey by rail down the East Coast.
Walk it off.
Whether you're an experienced tramper or looking to give a multi-day hike a go for the first time, New Zealand is a walkers paradise. There are two internationally renowned tracks only a few hours' drive from the Picton Ferry Terminal.
The Queen Charlotte Track is renowned for its stunning views of Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds. Starting from Meretoto/Ship Cove, there is a seamless network of transfers, resorts and lodges and great food and wine along the route.
The Abel Tasman Coastal Track winds through national parks, native bush and beaches with golden sand. There's something for every schedule, with a range of short and long walks.
The Heaphy Track is another famous track. Located at the top of the South Island, you'll experience all the best parts of the West Coast. Keep in mind that it's a little longer than the Abel Tasman Coast Walk – taking between 4-6 days if you're on foot, or 2-3 days if you're mountain biking.
If you're looking for exciting things to do in New Zealand, the top of the South Island is an adventure goer's playground, with plenty of unique activities that you won't get anywhere else.
A canyoning adventure through Abel Tasman National Park should be top of your list. Abseiling down granite canyons, seeing the sunlight sparkling off waterfalls, and zipping through untouched native rainforests is an experience that will stay with you long after you unclip.
A fast-paced thrill can be found a little further south at Murchison, New Zealand's whitewater capital. Rafting and kayaking are always fun, but the ultimate adrenaline rush has got to be jet boating. Spinning through the Buller river at 85km an hour, it's an exhilarating 40 minutes of sharp turns, rapids, and high-speed action.
After something on land? Cable Bay Adventure Park is the place to be. Trek on horseback, take a quad bike for a spin or test your aim on the paintball course. They even have the world's longest Skywire, that's sure to thrill thrill-seekers.
Nelson is known for its stunning beaches and secluded coves, perfect for paddle-boarding, kayaking, and even kitesurfing. You might also spot some seal pups, penguins, or dolphins if you're lucky. Wherever your roadie takes you, adventure is never far away.
The Marlborough vineyards offer world-famous wine that's sure to impress even the most stubborn beer drinkers. So why not go on a leisurely guided wine tour through the rolling countryside? We recommend a guided tour if you want to enjoy a few wines as you go.
With more than 30 cellar doors and some incredible world-class eateries, you really are spoilt for choice. So to save you time, we've put together a selection of the best.
Arrive at Cloudy Bay and enjoy the very best of local seafood served with some of the region's best wines. In winter, lunches of local seasonal cuisine are served by the open fire.
Begin your day at the home of the first-ever Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Brancott Estate. The first vines were planted here in 1973, and the fruits of that labour are now world-famous. Sit back and take in the majestic views with a coffee or wine.
When you're in the Marlborough region, exceptional wine is pretty much a given. But what makes Saint Clair stand out is their sensational Vineyard Kitchen. The views extend past the vines towards the ever-changing and dramatic Richmond Range.
Plan your Interislander journey.
With so much to see and do on the road, Picton is the perfect place to kick off your New Zealand road trip. And with the Interislander carrying passengers across the Cook Strait since 1875, you can be confident you're in good hands.
There's plenty to see and do onboard. We're talking cinemas, breathtaking viewing decks, delicious eateries and more. So make your Interislander booking, load up the campervan and get set for a memorable holiday on the road.