Natural Wonders: New Zealand’s South Island by Campervan
The south island of New Zealand is best known for its stunning array of natural wonders. From the mountains to the beaches to the glaciers to the rainforests, there is an endless range of choices to explore. The best way to do it is probably on an independent campervan tour of New Zealand, giving you the full freedom to take your time where you want, get off the beaten path, and save money while you do it.
1. Milford Sound
The largest national park in all of New Zealand is Fiordland, at the southwest coast of the south island. Milford Sound, a beautiful inlet created by glacial movement, is perhaps the most famous and stunning of many locations within the park. It is known for its beautiful water and alpine surroundings, with some of the best hikes and views around, including Mitre Peak. This is a beautiful place to camp out in nature for as long as you like.
At the opposite end of the west coast is an isolated and tiny town called Karamea, which is quickly becoming one of the most-loved tourist destinations on the island. Possessing a population of less than 500 according to Wikipedia, the town is known for having a laidback atmosphere but a wealth of things to do. Some of New Zealand’s best nature walks traverse the area along the Kohaihai and Oparara Rivers, and there are geological sites to see as well. All in all, it’s a great stop for a slow-moving holiday.
3. Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers
Remarkably easy to reach by campervan, these two adjacent glaciers are definite highlights of any trip to the south island. Descending from the Southern Alps and located very close to the coastline, they are a great place to see one of the world’s quickly diminishing resources. You can explore them on your own, via a guided walk, or, if you’re not worried about money, on a helicopter or plane sightseeing tour. However you do it, you’ll definitely remember the experience.
4. Aoraki/Mount Cook
As long as you’re exploring the Southern Alps, you can’t miss Mount Cook. As a result of how high it is (around 4000 m), you can see it from a lot of different angles, including all the way from the west coast. If you have a wilderness campervan, though, you can definitely get much closer. Mount Cook village is a great base for exploring New Zealand’s longest glacier and some iceberg lakes, and offers unparalleled views of New Zealand’s tallest peak. Dress warmly!
5. Lakes everywhere
For whatever reason, the south island is full of beautiful lakes. Te Anau is the largest, covering more than 330 tranquil square meters. Manapouri is perhaps even more beautiful then, as a result of its impressive depth (more than 440 meters at some points) and numerous islands. Camping spots around both of these are plentiful, and highly recommended. Enjoying scenes like these is one of the greatest advantages of having your own campervan to explore with.