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Christchurch is known as the gateway to New Zealand’s stunning South Island, where unforgettable road trips through vast stretches of wilderness begin. From the rolling vineyards of Waipara to the geothermal wonders of Hanmer Springs, a campervan gives you the freedom to explore the South Island at your own pace.

Hiring low-cost campervans in Christchurch is easy and will allow you to take in numerous nearby sites sandwiched between the majestic Southern Alps and the mighty Pacific Ocean.

Let’s look at just a few of the top destinations near Christchurch you can experience by hiring a  campervan. We’ll also offer up a few important things to consider when renting a campervan in New Zealand.

Top 5 Campervan Destinations to Visit Near Christchurch

Awaroa/Godley Head Campsite

Simply a 45-minute drive from Christchurch sits the Awaroa/Godley Head Campsite, a peaceful natural retreat near the entrance of Lyttelton Harbour on the Banks Peninsula.

This scenic campsite is part of the Godley Head Recreation Reserve, providing plenty of great views of the Pacific and its rugged coastline, along with the beauty of Lyttelton Harbour of course.

This region played in role in WW2 and remnants of the period can still be observed through such relics like gun emplacements, bunkers, and observation posts. Then there are the many hiking and biking tracks, such as the Godley Head Loop Track, which offer the chance to spot local wildlife both on sea and land.

The campsite is equipped with basic amenities, including toilets and water, so no issues in terms of enjoying comfortable camping in what is still rather pristine nature.  


Offering over 12 acres of land, there’s more than enough space at Papanui to accommodate you and your campervan. Regarded as one of the top 10 holiday parks in Christchurch, Papanui offers plenty of facilities including bathrooms, laundry facilities, dump stations, TVs, and dining areas. There’s also an inviting indoor heated pool, private spa, and gaming room.

Papanui is a bustling suburb just minutes northwest of Christchurch’s city centre, offering up a harmonious blend of urban conveniences and suburban charm. You can visit the Northlands Shopping Centre, one of Christchurch’s largest malls, as well as enjoy a healthy selection of cafes and restaurants along the main road.

Enjoy green spaces like St. James Park or Edgar MacIntosh Park which offer walking trails, playgrounds, sporting fields, and ideal picnic spots. You’ll also notice the presence of 19th century architecture from its European colonial days such as St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

Papanui’s proximity to the city centre makes Papanui an excellent base for exploring Christchurch without having to actually stay in the busy city centre, before you take your campervan to venture further afield on the South Island to uncover more remote natural treasures.

You can simply park your campervan for the day while touring the city centre and make use of the easy access to public transportation to visit the many Christchurch attractions like Hagley Park, Christchurch Botanic Gardens, and the Canterbury Museum.

Spencer Beach Kiwi Holiday Park


Michal Klajban, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone from tourists to local families loves Spencer Park, thanks to the bounty of attractions and the welcoming accommodation. Spencer Beach Kiwi Holiday Park offers the perfect blend of coastal beauty, family-friendly amenities, and convenient access to Christchurch, being that it’s just 20km north of the city.

Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore nature trails, or enjoy quality time with family and friends, this holiday park has something for everyone. Plan your visit to Spencer Beach Kiwi Holiday Park for an unforgettable experience just a stone’s throw from Christchurch.

The park sits within a coastal reserve, allowing you to take advantage of quiet walks along beautiful Spencer Beach. There are several trails in the area including those found at Bottle Lake Forest Park which is located directly next to the park.

You’ll find both powered and non-powered sites for tents and caravans, as well as self-contained cabins. Onsite bonuses also include playgrounds, a mini-golf course, barbecues, and a swimming pool. They even often host outdoor cinema nights to take in a movie under the stars.

Avalanche Peak

While Avalanche Peak may be a much longer drive outside Christchurch, it will genuinely prove rewarding as it offers one of the most exhilarating hiking experiences in New Zealand and will leave you with a true sense of achievement.

The trek to the mighty peak starts from Arthur’s Pass village within Arthur’s Pass National Park. The trailhead is roughly 150km west of Christchurch which should take you about a 2-hour drive.

The hike up to Avalanche Peak which rises to a height of over 1,800m will definitely be a bit of a challenge for many, so don’t underestimate the trek and make sure you are fit enough to tackle the challenge. The main routes to the summit include Avalanche Peak Track and Scotts Track, both of which will see you navigating steep and rugged alpine terrain.

Despite proving to be a formidable challenge, the hike to the summit and back down can still be completed in under 8 hours for fit hikers. Add this fact to the rather straightforward 2-hour drive and this experience can logistically be done as an adventurous campervan daytrip from Christchurch

Maruia Hot Springs

The furthest destination recommendation to plan a campervan daytrip to, Maruia Hot Springs offers a natural hot spring resort where pure relaxation and wellness is the focus. Found within Lewis Pass National Reserve, the drive to the hot springs is just over 200km to the northwest of Christchurch.

You can expect to see natural geothermal pools which are rich in minerals and renowned for their therapeutic properties. In addition to the relaxing pools, you can take advantage of yoga classes, spa treatments, and wellness programs which all combine to create a place that will allow you to unwind and de-stress.

As a nice bonus, the resort is eco-friendly and sustainable, relying on natural and renewable energy sources to heat their pools and maintain its facilities. The scenic drive through the Lewis Pass is an adventure in itself, offering stunning views of the Southern Alps and the famous wilderness the South Island is known for.

Note that staying over at the campsite will give you 48 hours of access to the facilities even after you have vacated the premises, and the site offers a perfect spot for a night-time swim.

Costs To Consider When Hiring A Campervan In Christchurch

Campervan Hire Rates

Campervan hire rates in Christchurch are relatively inexpensive. But they do depend on a few factors, including the dates you’re looking to book your holiday and the type of campervan you’re booking. You can of course expect the rates to be higher during peak season (December to March), and the bigger the van, the higher the price it will cost you.

It’s also important to take note that many campervan rental companies have a daily mileage limits on their vehicles. You’ll need to ensure you’re staying within these limits or else you will likely need to pay excess.

As a rough guide, prices for basic campervans may start at around $50 NZD per day and can reach upwards of $200-$400 per day for more luxurious vans. Extras that will send the costs up include things like onboard kitchens, fridges, toilets, showers, etc.

Fuel Costs

You of course then have to factor in fuel costs. Thankfully, there are a number of attractions that are a rather close drive away from Christchurch which will help to keep costs down, but those further destinations like Avalanche Peak or Maruia Hot Springs will require a fair bit of fuel.

Most smaller campervans will use petrol, whereas larger campervans often use diesel for better fuel efficiency. As a rough guide, you can expect to pay anywhere from around $25-$50 per 100km for fuel depending on your campervan’s fuel consumption.

Parking and Campsite Costs


When you’re hiring a campervan, you’ll need to plan a few stopovers where you can park your rental and lay your head down for the night. You’ll likely come across many stunning sites to park your campervan for the night and while some may be free of charge, many sites will charge a nightly fee that would include use of their facilities.

You can seek out freedom camping (parking or camping on public property that is not designated for camping), but while this practice is mostly welcomed and free, it’s not free of responsibility. There are strict guidelines you need to follow to avoid potential fines.

Hiring a campervan gives you the freedom to roam New Zealand’s South Island out of Christchurch on your own schedule with great flexibility. Campervans enable you to explore more remote and less-touristy spots that are often inaccessible by public transport, and you’ll get to travel at your own pace without the constraints of check-in and check-out hotel times.

Traveling by campervan will see you visiting smaller towns and rural areas where you can experience more authentic local culture and hospitality. And staying in campgrounds and holiday parks will allow you to meet fellow travellers and possibly locals that can offer helpful travel suggestions or at least entertaining stories that can only add to your memorable New Zealand road trip.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.




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