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Summer means sun, beaches and road trips! If you’re looking for the best way to explore New Zealand, there’s no better way than going on a summer road trip in New Zealand. The views, the open roads and the people are what makes New Zealand road trips the best summer road trip you’ll ever experience. At Escape Rentals, we’ll get you sorted with the campervan for your perfect road trip and guess what? We’ve also come up with our best summer road trips in New Zealand to get you started.


Before you go anywhere, you’ll need some reliable transportation. We believe the best way to travel around New Zealand in summer is with an Escape Rentals campervan. Our Nissan Caravans can seat and sleep up to three people. Every Escape Rental Caravan has 24-hour roadside assistance, air conditioning, standard insurance, stereo with aux, full queen size bed, 3 beach chairs, gas cooker, sink with running water, cooking equipment and portable toilet. Since it’s summer, grab some of our accessories such as a tent and sleeping bag so you can make the most of the weather and enjoy those starry nights.

All campervans also have an amazing artwork on the outside which make for great photo opportunities while you visit some of the most iconic destinations in the world. Before you hit the road also make sure to check if you need an international driving licence to drive in New Zealand.

We’ve split up our summer road trip locations by island, so you can string multiple trips together with ease.

North Island summer road trip locations

Auckland to Cape Reinga via Ninety Mile Beach (approx 6hrs, 427km)

If you’re starting your New Zealand road trip in Auckland, the first destination to hit up is Cape Reinga. This road trip will take you to the top of New Zealand and you’ll be accompanied by beautiful landscapes throughout. Make sure to check out Ninety Mile Beach on the way, it’s the best place to experience a sunset or even go for a surf. Once a year around February/March, Ninety Mile Beach also hosts a five-day fishing competition, where people try to catch the biggest snapper.

On this road trip, check out the town of Paihia. It’s a seaside town known as the gateway to the Bay of Islands. Here you can go on a sailing tour or even swim with dolphins. If you’re looking to live life on the edge there are also some rock pools and cliff-jumping spots around this town for you to enjoy too.

Auckland to Coromandel (approx 2.5 hours, 168km)

If you love beaches and sea life, a New Zealand road trip in summer isn’t complete without heading to Coromandel. Hot Water Beach is a mandatory visit to make this your best summer road trip ever. Here you can have your own man-made sand Jacuzzi all to yourself. The perfect way to relax after a long drive.

If you’re looking for the perfect ‘gram spot, look no further than the Cathedral Cove archway. You can either book a kayak to the cove or stretch out your legs by taking a walk along the cliffs.

Rotorua to Gisborne (approx 5 hours, 280km)

Looking to move away from tourist hot spots? It’s time to head on a road trip from Rotorua to Gisborne. On the way you’ll get to see New Zealand country life and lots of maraes. Gisborne is best known for its wineries and surf beaches. Plus, it’s the first place in the world to see the sunrise. It’s only right you wake up early, head to the beach and make the most of this! While you’re there you can explore the Tairawhiti Museum that has exhibits on New Zealand indigenous and colonial history.

summer road trip

South Island summer road trip locations

Nelson to Queenstown (approx 11 hours, 900km)

The drive from Nelson to Queenstown is pretty long so you’ll need to plan accordingly. From Nelson, get ready to drive along the west coast and make a stop at Punakaiki. Here, check out the Pancake Rocks at Dolomite Point south of the main village. That’s right, they’re pancake-shaped rocks!

You can also paddle the Pororari river by canoe or go rock climbing, bouldering and caving in the limestone formations. Next, head to Franz Josef aka the best of New Zealand’s West Coast glaciers. You can do a glacier heli-hike or glacier valley walk.

Wanaka is another New Zealand summer destination on the way to Queenstown with breathtaking views. This drive will make you feel like you’ve entered a whole different world. Once you see Lake Wanaka in real life, you’ll never want to leave. If you’re going to take too many photos anywhere, it has to be here.

Queenstown to Milford Sound (approx 4 hours, 300km)

This is by far one of the best summer road trips you’ll take in New Zealand. It’s like a postcard come to life. Everywhere you look you’ll find mountains, waterfalls, rainforests and animals. Basically, the best views ever. You can also stop at Mirror Lake and the Fiordlands National Park for a hike.

Milford Sound will leave you speechless. There’s a reason it’s known as the 8th Wonder of the World and you’ll see why as soon you hop out of your campervan. Remember to book a ferry in advance to take in everything that this magnificent destination has to offer.

(Note: even if you’re on a New Zealand road trip during summer, in this area of New Zealand it can still snow during this time so prepare your journey accordingly).

Travellers on top of a Escape Rentals campervan

Tips and tricks for travelling in New Zealand summer

For the best summer road trip in New Zealand, remember to slip, slop, slap and wrap. The sun here is a lot stronger than many other countries and you can get sunburnt even if it looks like a cloudy day. Carry sunscreen with you at all times with an SPF rating of 30 or higher and use a water-resistant one if possible. Cover up with hats, and sunglasses that provide UV protection. Stay in the shade out of direct sunlight when the sun is strongest around 10am to 4pm. It’s also important to stay hydrated and carry water wherever you go.

Lastly, check out our do’s and don’ts of a New Zealand road trip.

Nothing can beat a road trip across New Zealand in summer. These are some summer road trip ideas to get you started. Get in touch with us online or call Escape Rentals on 0800 21 61 71 to sort out your campervan so you can head on the best summer road trip New Zealand has to offer.