13 images of vanlife in New Zealand

Not only is New Zealand absolutely gorgeous, it is extremely van friendly with many dump stations and freedom camping spots all across the country. This allows for epic convenient adventures if you enjoy living with less. My motto is “Work less, own less, do more”. It truly resonates with me, and ever since I have made this change in lifestyle, I have truly found my happy place. I hope to inspire you to do the same if you aren’t happy following the grain!

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It’s an amazing experience to be able to drive and live wherever you want. Mount Cook is a pretty epic spot to call home for a little while.

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Sometimes I enjoy watching the scenery from the inside of my van, even if it’s beautiful outside.

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I drove all the way to Milford Sound, and felt like having a nap. Gotta love waking up to a view like this!

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It’s quite stunning to have this kind of colors just outside your window. I must say I’m a bit mesmerized by the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki.

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Yoga anyone? Time to charge batteries at Lake Tekapo. I got some sun and so did my solar panel. Now we’re feeling energized and ready to keep going.

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Epic sunsets are guaranteed in every New Zealand road trip.

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The secret to being comfortable in the van life is molding your space to something you love. I created this beautiful space to hang necklaces up. Practical and pretty.

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Just a little drive up to Coronet Peak in Queenstown. Time to make some tea and enjoy the view.

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If you’re the kind of person that pulls over whenever you find a beautiful spot, a road trip through New Zealand’s North Island is perfect for you. I found myself stopping way too often!

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Keen to watch another sunset?

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You can even go on van trips during winter! You just need to do as I do: wear thermals, make loads of tea, and you’ll be ready for a good chill session in the fluffy white snow.

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Now, this is relaxation with a view!

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I’m pretty much obsessed with my van if you can’t tell. I sleep in it, cook in it, relax in it and it’s a beautiful prop for my photos. There’s no better way to road trip!

Activities for the family in NZ

Few countries in the world pack more into as compact an area as New Zealand. From Jurassic Park rainforests to 12,000ft mountains, neon-blue lakes to white-sand beaches — all within a day’s drive of each other — it’s hard to find a place with more varied landscapes or easier spots to explore, a place that lets you can squeeze every last drop of adventure out of the day.

Here are a few of the awesome family friendly activities, and why New Zealand is the ultimate destination for the family.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. Hike the Tongariro Crossing.

 Tongariro Alpine CrossingTongariro National Park, New Zealandwhere you at, Frodo?

If you only do one hike in New Zealand, let it be this one. Considered one of the best day hikes in the world, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing stretches across 12 miles of incredibly scenic volcanic terrain, most notably a series of green crater lakes simmering with steam. Tongariro is right in the middle of the North Island and is one of the most easily accessible hikes in the country. Plus the transport to and from runs like clockwork.

2. Swim with dolphins or whale watch at Kaikoura.

Photo: shohatakeyama

In Kaikoura, one of many places in New Zealand where mountains run right into the sea, you can jump off a boat into a pod of wild dolphins with just a camera, a wetsuit, and a snorkel. You’ll also see whales, splash around with seals, and catch your own crayfish for dinner.

And at Akaroa.

 Akaroa Dolphins – Harbour Nature CruisesAkaroa, New ZealandCruise two hours and see dolphins 🐬, seals, penguins 🐧, birdlive and the great seaside. Was one of my highlights so far. #kidslearning #activekids #funforteens #cruise #dolphins #animals #penguins

3. Explore Milford Sound.

 Milford Sound Scenic FlightsMilford Sound, New ZealandFly over the Wakatipu Basin, toward Glenorchy and the Southern Alps. Cross the divide into Fiordland and see the scenery completely change. Land at the world’s most scenic airport looking directly out to the famous Mitre Peak, Milford Sound.

Tucked away at the bottom of the South Island, Milford Sound is one of the last true wildernesses in New Zealand. A palatial fiord lined with vertical cliffs, glaciers peeking through in the distance, it’s one of those rare spots that looks incredible rain or shine. Depending on recent rain levels, those cliffs may be covered with hundreds of waterfalls. Get on the water and explore by boat or, better yet, a kayak.

Photo: vdway

4. If they have a stomach for it, bungy jump in Queenstown.

Kawarau Bungy Centre by Felicia Ng on 500px.com

Photo: feliciayng

I’m pretty sure New Zealand’s unofficial national sport is jumping off tall things. Bungy jumping was invented here, and on the road to Queenstown you’ll find the Kawarau Bridge, site of the world’s first commercial bungy jump. If you’re going to hop on the adrenaline-sports bandwagon in New Zealand, do it here. You can even opt for extra slack and get dunked in the river below.

 Skyline QueenstownQueenstown, New ZealandGondola, Luge, Stargazing, Mountain Biking, Stratosfare Buffet Restaurant, Market Kitchen Cafe, Jelly Belly Store, Souvenir Store. Also access The Ledge Bungy and Swing and Paragliding from up there.

5. Surf or bodyboard at Ninety Mile Beach…

Ninety Mile Beach Hiking.JPG by Tao Jiang on 500px.com

Photo: tjinnz

If you are headed up north of Auckland go to Ninety Mile Beach. At this stretch of Northland coast, you can zoom down the massive Te Paki Sand Dunes and then go for a swim and a surf.

or at Mangawhai Heads…

 Mangawhai HeadsMangawhai Heads, New ZealandHawaii or New Zealand?

at Hahei Beach or one of many other surf spots.

 Hahei BeachHahei, New ZealandNew Zealand beach hangs ⛱

6. Go rafting in Waitomo.

And now for something completely different. The caves at Waitomo are beautiful in their own right, but covering the walls and ceiling are hundreds of glow worms. They light your way like tiny blue stars, and you can experience this labyrinth of subterranean trippiness however you want: on foot, by boat, black-water rafting, or as an introduction to caving.

 Waitomo Glowworm CavesWaitomo, New ZealandSlowly gliding with the boat under 10-thousands of gloworms; fantastic experience. #cave #glowworms #boattour #extreme

7. Kayak at Abel Tasman.

kayaking-new-zealand

Photo: anoldent

The Abel Tasman, located across the Tasman Bay from Nelson, is one of the best stretches of coast in New Zealand — clear blue bays, sandy white beaches, big rock formations, old-growth forest. There are so many great swimming spots, but the area’s best explored by kayak or by hiking the track. It has some of the sunniest, warmest weather in the country, so if you’re looking for quality beach and bathing-suit time, head here.

8. Escape Auckland and picnic at Piha.

 PihaPiha, New ZealandAuckland escapes

9. Get lost in the redwoods in Rotorua.

 RedwoodsRotorua, New ZealandAwesome view among these tall trees. Makes you feel like an ant. Love it! 😍
#trail #mtb #redwoods

10. And while you’re there learn about Maori history and culture.

 Tamaki Maori VillageRotorua, New ZealandLearn about the culture and history of the Maori people. #history #statue

The people of New Zealand are some of the friendliest and most welcoming in the world. Once you get here, you’re in safe hands. Don’t miss out on a chance to experience the indigenous Maori culture firsthand. Around the Te Whakarewarewa Valley in Rotorua, you can visit Te Puia, a geothermal park that’s also the home of the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Insitute. Here you may get invited into a show at the Marae — a very special experience.

11. Punt down the water in Christchurch.

 North Hagley ParkChristchurch, New ZealandWonderful park to relax, do sport or just hang out for Picnic. #picnics

12. Walk to the edge at Auckland Sky Tower.

A post shared by Rebecca Leitch (@rebeccaleitch) on

There’s adventure to be had right in the heart of the city as well. At Auckland’s Sky Tower, New Zealand’s tallest building, you can walk around the outside of the observation area on a narrow ledge — 192 meters above the ground — or throw yourself off the top…attached to ropes, of course.

13. Wrap up and visit one of the many glaciers of the South Island.

 Tasman GlacierMount Cook National Park, New ZealandMirror mornings on glacier lakes ❄️

14. Check out Hobbiton.

 Hobbiton Movie SetMatamata, New ZealandEven if you don’t like Lord of the Rings, the Hobbiton move set is enchanting to walk around. The views from Bag End overlooking the hills is amazing. The price is definitely worth it.

Sitting amid rolling farmland on the North Island is Hobbiton, the set where parts of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed, and it’s one of the only ones where things were left intact for tourists to visit and enjoy. Whether you’re hopping fences and reenacting scenes from the movie or just wandering around wishing you could move into one of the hobbit holes, it’s a very cool place.

New Zealand’s South Island

The New Zealand landscapes are as diverse as can be, and Kiwis themselves are as genuine and friendly as they’re known to be. If you’re planning to travel across Aotearoa — “the land of the long white cloud” — be sure to set aside a good amount of time. Whilst you will naturally be taking the scenic route instead of a speedy highway, weather, too, has a mind of its own over here. Prepare to only loosely stick to your schedule, especially on the South Island — where there’s not only weather proposing distraction, but also some of the best hikes and scenic sights in the country.

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Otago Peninsula

Dunedin’s great outdoors begin at the spectacular Otago Peninsula. Start at the top and go from there. To reach Harbour Cone, follow Portobello Road, take a right turn onto Seaton Road and park your car at Highcliff Road for a 30-min (or so) walk to the top.

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The Catlins, Purakaunui Falls

A 1.5-hour drive south from Dunedin, The Catlins bear rugged treasures. Options are endless but a trip to Nugget Point (see below) and Purakaunui Falls – One of the South Island’s most accessible tiered waterfalls – make for a pleasant and very photogenic introduction.

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The Caitlins, Nugget Point Lighthouse

The lighthouse can be reached with an easy 10-minute walk from the carpark. Views are best at sunrise and gusts are almost always strong.

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Hooker Valley in Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park

A very accessible introduction to Aoraki National Park, the 3 to 4 hour return Hooker Valley Track offers views galore. Do you dare to go for a dip next to the icebergs?

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Banks Peninsula

From Little River to Lavericks Bay, there is much more to the Banks Peninsula than Akaroa. Aside from the simply-put epic views along summit road, I suggest a day trip to Le Bons Bay. One bay over to the left is Lavericks Bay, with an exquisite glamping option (look for Canopy Glamping
). Back in Little River (1 hour from Christchurch), the Silo Stays add a new, luxurious dimension to sustainable tourism, housing visitors in converted silos.

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Akaroa

A spectacularly-set French village within two hours from Christchurch. For a dose of culture, be sure to stop by at the Giant’s House – a local institution by international renown Kiwi artist. Dolphin cruises are a popular option, too.

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Wharariki Beach

Beaches come in a plethora of colors and settings In New Zealand; from rugged black sands to sparkling golden grain. Wharariki Beach, located on the northernmost point of the South Island, is one of the purest. A 20-mintue walk from the DOC car park will take you through green meadows onto white sand. Watch out for seals and stay for sunset.

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Abel Tasman National Park

Its easy accessibility and vicinity to Nelson makes the Abel Tasman one of the busiest national parks in the country. Rightly so, as the many hidden bays and beaches could be from one of the Pacific Islands up north. Bring your walking shoes and do some kayaking to best enjoy New Zealand’s version of Fiji.

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Nelson Lakes National Park

Heading South from Nelson, the Nelson Lakes reminds me of continental Europe, Austria perhaps. Clear lakes and excellent day walks (or multi-day hikes) make this a popular camping destination. If you only have one night, stay in Kerr Bay. Bring sand-fly/mosquito repellent.

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Hanmer Springs

An easy 2-hour drive (make it three if you stop at the wineries along the way; Black Estate is a favorite), Hanmer Springs calls for adventure. After all the outdoors fun, the thermal pools will soothe tired muscles.

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Shamarra Alpaca Farm in Wainui Bay

Did you know that Alpaca fiber is three times warmer than sheep’s wool? Feed the cuddly creatures and don’t forget to take in the backdrop.

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Sealy Tarns/Mueller Hut

The choice for day walks around the South Island is abundant and while I have spent my fair share of days and nights hiking across it, Mueller Hut remains a firm favorite. Plan for a 4-hour ascent and a 3-hour descent. Staying overnight requires a booking (DOC website) and is highly recommended. Otherwise, Sealy Tarns make a beautiful 3-hour return trip.

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Milford Sounds

Awesome rain or shine. On a sunny day, take a scenic flight with Milford Sound Scenic Flights. Otherwise, rise early for a long drive (4 hours) from Queenstown or base yourself in picturesque Te Anau (2 hours). Once arrived, jump aboard a nature cruise to get up and close with the fiord, its waterfalls, and seals.

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Queenstown Hill

A local favourite and accessible by foot from town. The 500-meter climb up starts and ends on Belfast Street and takes around 3 hours return.

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Mt. Roy

There is a reason Mt. Roy is one of New Zealand’s most instagrammed spots. From Wanaka, follow Mt. Aspiring Road for approximately 6km until you come across a Roys Peak Track sign on the left. Towering 1578m over Wanaka, the 8km hike to the top will take you around three hours. Note that the track is closed in spring from October 1st to November 10th (inclusive) to allow for lambing.