How do you combine the two great Kiwi traditions of spontaneous road trips and locally crafted ice cream? Lucky you, there’s plenty to see and do in between stops for your favourite cool treat. If you’re not a native, don’t miss the chance to check out the itinerary and plan your own authentic tourist experience.
A Kiwi road trip would be an adventure in any vehicle, but given the natural beauty of the landscape, a campervan is a perfect choice for exploring New Zealand. Multiple campsites, beautiful wildlife and incredible scenery can be right outside your door wherever you stop on your vacation.
Rush Munro Ice Cream
Since 1926, Rush Munro ice cream has been a local favourite, manufactured in Hawke’s Bay. Known as New Zealand’s oldest ice cream maker, they’ve gained local fame with their flavourful, 100 percent natural creamy treats with no artificial ingredients. They still carry some of the original flavors they launched with, like Hokey Pokey. If you’re touring New Zealand, it’s a must-have treat.
So where do you start the ultimate New Zealand road trip? There are few places better to pick than Auckland. Auckland is a veritable urban playground, with tons of shopping, fine dining, theater and arts. If the city atmosphere becomes a little too much, you’re only a half hour drive away from gorgeous sandy beaches and hiking trails. If you feel very adventurous, charter a boat – Auckland has several small islands in easy reach that are worthy of exploring. Rangitoto Island, in particular, offers a beautiful sunset boat tour.
The Auckland Museum is a must see. This historic building is an attraction in its own right, but the museum houses the world’s most extensive Maori and South Pacific artifact exhibits.
There are no fewer than three Rush Munro shops within the city of Auckland, but if you’re too excited from the sights and sounds of the city, don’t worry. There’s a few right off the roadway as you head south to your next stop, Napier. Be sure to take a rest at Lake Taupo along your way for a swim in the geothermal waters.
Bay of Plenty is one of the most famous stops, where you can not only enjoy gorgeous beaches, but New Zealand’s only active volcano, White Island. While visitors can’t get extremely close, you can tour the bay and come close enough to see the yellow sulphur and a crater lake full of high-sulphuric acid content water. It’s likely as close as you’d really want to get to an active volcano. Want a shorter trip from Auckland to the Bay of Plenty? Check out our Great East Cape Jaunt!
Being situated near Hawke’s Bay means Napier is the best place to find Rush Munro ice cream; there is no shortage of shops in the area. Napier is so much more than legendary ice cream, however. The history of Napier is interesting due to the fact that without the powerful earthquake that affected the area in 1931, it wouldn’t exist as we know it today.
The efforts of rebuilding and re-establishing after the earthquake has left visitors and residents with a town by the sea that showcases the best in Art Deco architecture and styling. Be sure to take the walking tour to enjoy the historical buildings. In fact, there is the Art Deco Shop where travelers can purchase walking tour tickets, souvenirs and attend events. Portions of the proceeds are donated to helping preserve and restore the famed architecture of the town. Napier is also home to some of the finest wineries in New Zealand and regularly produces award winning bottles.
Don’t miss a stop by the National Aquarium of New Zealand, where over 50 marine animals are on exhibit as well as coral and dinosaur fossil specimens. Napier isn’t all buildings and shops, however. Take a hike to Te Mata Peak to experience one of the most breathtaking views possible from the summit lookout.
While you’ll find Rush Munro shops bordering Wellington, the town itself is a spectacular place to stop. Tourists enjoy Mount Victoria, where they can enjoy unobstructed views of the beautiful harbor. Hike up near dusk for the best view of the most amazing sunset you’ve witnessed.
If cultural appreciation is more your speed, be sure to take in the storytelling at Te Papa, where numerous fun and interactive exhibits showcase the history and culture of the people of Australasia. It’s situated on the waterfront, and many of these educational exhibits are free.
It comes as a surprise to many that Wellington is home to a budding movie studio. In operation for 20 years, Weta Studios is open to tours to film buffs around the world.
Zealandia: The Karori Sanctuary Experience, is just 10 minutes from downtown Wellington and houses some of the most exotic animals on the continent. It’s worth a trip to see kiwis and tuatara.
By far the smallest stop on our list, Blenheim is a quaint little town just across the Cook Strait. Don’t let the small size fool you into driving right by. If you skip this small town, you’ll also miss out on the Marlborough Museum. The Marlborough Museum documents winemaking in the area, which is fitting as the town of Blenheim is considered the gateway town to some of the most accomplished wineries New Zealand has to offer. There’s so many that wine enthusiasts can take their pick: each winery has their own specialty and flavour, but they’re all known for exceptional, high-quality wine.
Blenheim also boasts an airshow twice a year with a primary focus on World War One aircraft, and Pollard Park, where children and adults can rest and stretch their legs after a long drive. Yes, of course, there’s a Rush Munro shop in Blenheim. Why would you go to a park, if not with ice cream?
Our last stop is Christchurch. This town was built with English heritage. In 2010 and 2011, the town suffered several destructive earthquakes and as a result, exhibits a mix of architecture. Stand-in architecture has replaced the destroyed, historic stone buildings that once graced the town. Some of these have become an attraction on their own, such as the shops made out of shipping containers.
Despite the rebuilding process, Christchurch has a lot to offer to those who choose to make a stop in their travels. The Christchurch Gondola travels up Mt. Cavendish, allowing passengers a panoramic view of the city, the Southern Alps and Canterbury Plains. Christchurch is also well-known for dolphin watching in Akaroa Harbour. Mt. Hutt offers skiing, and the TranzAlpine Railway runs through the Southern Alps for a scenic tour.
While everyone seems to associate New Zealand with Maori culture, many people don’t realize that there are smaller pockets of Polynesian villages dotted throughout New Zealand. Christchurch is one such example, so as you wander, be sure to look closely at the wonderful things that make New Zealand one of the most unique places on earth. There’s no other place that combines urban and nature, old and new in quite the same way.
On your way back up to Auckland, be sure to take a stop in Hamilton. Hamilton is known for its sprawling, amazingly elaborate parks. You’ll find every setting from Italian Renaissance, Japanese Gardens and traditional Maori styles. The Waikato Museum explores Maori heritage.
Not everything is parks and history in Hamilton. ArtsPosts, a gallery, showcases local artists in their exhibits. A stroll down Victoria Street in downtown will give you a selection of small shops, bars and dining establishments, including your last chance to enjoy Rush Munro ice cream.
Don’t miss a trip through the Waitomo Caves just before Hamilton, where you can witness the phenomenon of glow worms on a guided tour.
There you have it! The perfect New Zealand Road Trip Adventure. Take a little extra time to explore the town that you stop in: if you have heard or read anything about New Zealand, it’s that each place has its own special atmosphere and secret charms only locals know about. And remember, always stop for icecream. When you get to your campsite, check out our Campsite Checklist!
If you’re looking for the perfect campervan rental to use for your best road trip, check out Mighway. You can find local owners renting out their campervans to travellers all over New Zealand. Don’t worry; insurance and maintenance is a requirement, and renters as well as owners are covered for emergencies. Mighway has you covered, so go ahead and find your perfect campervan rental and get started on your Kiwi adventure.