Top Winter Destinations in the North Island | Apollo NZ
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Wellington and the Wairarapa

Looking for great cafes, unique wildlife encounters, and boutique shopping? You’ll find it all and more in the Wellington and Wairarapa region. Wellington, the nation's capital, buzzes with an infectious energy, boasting an arts scene as vibrant as its famed coffee culture. Enjoy a relaxing breakfast overlooking Wellington’s beautiful harbour. Spend an afternoon meeting the wildlife at Wellington Zoo. And if you’re a foodie, you’ll love sampling the tasty offerings at Wellington’s renowned cafes and eateries. 

Just a short drive away, the Wairarapa region unfolds with its charming townships, renowned wineries, and lush rural landscapes. Once you’ve ticked off your list of things to do in Wellington, hit the road and start exploring everything on offer in the Wairarapa. We’re talking wineries, cycle trails, artisan producers, and spectacular coastlines boasting unbeatable stargazing.  

No matter what time of year you’re planning your campervan holiday in New Zealand, Wellington and Wairarapa stand out as year-round destinations. In summer, Wellington's waterfront comes alive, perfect for sun-drenched strolls and alfresco dining, while the Wairarapa's golden beaches beckon for lazy afternoons and vibrant sunsets. Autumn transforms the landscape into a tapestry of reds and golds; it's the best time to meander through the Wairarapa's vineyards, savouring the region's renowned pinot noir amidst the fall foliage.

 

Why explore Wellington & Wairarapa by Campervan

There’s no better way to discover Wellington and Wairarapa than with an Apollo campervan. Be as spontaneous or structured as you like. Take your time, travel at your own pace, and truly immerse yourself in everything on offer in this special region. With your own kitchen, bed, and bathroom onboard, travel by Apollo campervan is all about freedom and comfort. A road trip through Wellington and the Wairarapa in a campervan is all about the freedom to go where you want when you want. With a campervan, your plans are as flexible as your mood, allowing you to soak up moments that you'd miss if you were rushing to meet hotel or tour schedules.

Travelling by campervan isn't just about getting from A to B; it's about the experiences along the way. It's about impromptu picnics at breathtaking overlooks, morning coffees with views that beat any café, and nights spent under a blanket of stars. Fancy spending an extra day exploring a hidden gem you've stumbled upon? Go for it. Every turn in the road offers new possibilities, and with a campervan, you're in the driver's seat!

A campervan holiday in New Zealand, especially through areas like Wellington and the Wairarapa, is a journey into the heart of what makes this part of the world so special. And it's all yours to explore!

 

Things to do in Wellington & Wairarapa

Wellington and the Wairarapa are bursting at the seams with activities and sights, catering to every taste and interest. If you’re enjoying a family holiday, you’ll find plenty of great family-friendly things to do in Wellington that promise fun for all ages. And if you’re a foodie looking for a taste of something new, you’ll find no shortage of must-try food in Wellington. Venture into the Wairarapa, and you'll find a peaceful escape with wine tours, scenic hikes, and charming country towns waiting to be explored. 

Top 15 things to do in Wellington Top 15 things to do in Wellington

Top 15 things to do in Wellington

In this helpful guide, we share 15 of the must-do Wellington activities worth adding to your travel itinerary.  But first …

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Popular Wellington & Wairarapa road trips & itineraries

Positioned at the southern end of New Zealand's North Island, Wellington and the Wairarapa region are perfectly placed for unforgettable road trips. Starting from Wellington, you can easily navigate your way through the scenic routes that lead to the Wairarapa, where vineyards, coastlines, and quaint towns await. Whether you're coming from the North Island's urban centres or making the crossing from the South Island, these regions offer fantastic campervan road trip experiences with a variety of itineraries to suit every traveller’s taste. Here are a few worth checking out:

Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary

Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary

Thinking of hitting the top of the South Island on a campervan road trip? Great idea! From the lively vibe of Christchurch to the stunning beauty...
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Great savings on your New Zealand road trip

Apollo offers a fantastic selection of deals and specials for those looking to explore New Zealand by campervan. From hot deals and last-minute discounts to long-term hire benefits, you’re sure to find a deal designed to help you make the most of your campervan adventure. 
 

Apollo Campervan branches

Christchurch

The drive from Apollo Christchurch to Wellington takes you along some of the South Island’s most scenic coastline. There’s a fair bit to see and do along the way, so be sure to take your time and perhaps plan an overnight stay in Kaikoura. This journey includes crossing the Cook Strait by ferry.

Queenstown

Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore more of the South Island? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and spend a few days heading northward, including crossing the Cook Strait by ferry. You may even like to plan an epic road trip and continue on to Auckland. You can arrange to drop off your camper at any of our three branches. 

Auckland

The North Island is packed full of sights and experiences, so why not tick off a few with a road trip from Apollo Auckland to Wellington? The beauty of a campervan trip is that you can stop when you need to, change your route, or take a detour if you spot a signpost pointing to something you’d like to see. 

Auckland City Skyline

Auckland

New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.

 

Christchurch City, New Zealand

Christchurch

 One of the world’s most unique destinations.

 

Queenstown

Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.

 

Helpful tips for visiting Wellington & Wairarapa

 

Climate and seasons in Wellington & The Wairarapa

Wellington and the Wairarapa showcase New Zealand's dynamic climate, offering a spectrum of seasonal experiences.

Wellington, known for as the ‘windy city’, presents a temperate maritime climate.

  • Summers (December to February) are pleasant with temperatures averaging around 19°C to 21°C, ideal for beach visits and outdoor cafes.
  • Autumn (March to May) brings cooler, calm days, perfect for exploring the city's vibrant arts scene.
  • Winter (June to August) sees temperatures drop to 6°C – 12°C, a time when the region's cultural events come to the forefront.
  • Spring (September to November) revitalises the city with mild temperatures and blooming gardens.

The Wairarapa, while sharing Wellington's temperate traits, often enjoys more pronounced seasonal contrasts, especially in the more rural areas. Expect crisp, frosty mornings in winter, transitioning to warm, dry summers ideal for vineyard tours. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, though June and July can be wetter, making the lush landscapes even more vivid.

 

 

 

 

What to pack

An adventure through Wellington and the Wairarapa in your campervan calls for thoughtful packing. Given the varied climates and the awesome variety of outdoor activities available, ensuring you have the right gear can make all the difference. From essential outdoor apparel to campervan must-haves and sun protection, here's what you should consider packing.

  • Outdoor gear: The great outdoors of Wellington and the Wairarapa invite exploration, so outdoor gear is important. Pack layers to adapt to the changing weather – think breathable fabrics for warm days and insulated, waterproof options for cooler, wetter conditions. Sturdy walking shoes are a must for those planning to tread the numerous trails or wander the vibrant city streets.
  • Campervan add-ons: To make the most of your campervan experience, consider packing some add-ons. A portable barbecue can elevate your dining under the stars, while extra camping chairs and a table (these can be added to your campervan hire) can make your outdoor setup more comfortable.
  • Sun protection: New Zealand's sun can be surprisingly intense, so ample sun protection is essential. A broad-spectrum sunscreen, UV-protected sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat should be on your packing list. For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

 

Nearby attractions and day trips from Wellington

Paekakariki & The Escarpment Track

Just a short drive from Wellington, Paekakariki serves as the gateway to The Escarpment Track, one of the region's most exhilarating walks. This trail offers stunning views of the Kāpiti Coast and the Tasman Sea, making it a favourite among hikers. The track's challenging stair sections and swing bridges add to the adventure, providing a rewarding experience with panoramic vistas at every turn.

Kāpiti Coast & Kāpiti Island

The Kāpiti Coast, with its beautiful beaches and quaint towns, is perfect for a leisurely day trip. For a unique adventure, take a boat to Kāpiti Island, a nature reserve that's home to some of New Zealand's most rare and endangered birds. The island's rich history and conservation efforts, combined with its natural beauty, make it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

Somes Island

Located in the middle of Wellington Harbour, Somes Island (Matiu) offers a peaceful escape with a rich history. Accessible by ferry, this predator-free scientific reserve boasts a unique blend of natural and historical attractions, including well-preserved WWII-era relics. It's an ideal spot for picnics, short walks, and wildlife spotting, especially for those interested in conservation and history.

Days Bay and the Remutakas

Days Bay, accessible by a scenic ferry ride from Wellington, is known for its vibrant arts scene, cafes, and swimming beach, making it a popular spot for relaxation and recreation. For the more adventurous, a drive through the Remutaka Ranges offers breathtaking views and access to a network of trails in the Remutaka Forest Park, perfect for hiking and biking enthusiasts.

 

 

Nearby attractions and day trips in the Wairarapa

Castle Point Lighthouse

Perched on a scenic clifftop, Castle Point Lighthouse stands as a beacon of beauty in the Wairarapa region. This historic lighthouse, accessible via a short, scenic walk, offers breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and the vast Pacific Ocean. It's an ideal spot for photography, wildlife watching, and soaking in the serene beauty of one of New Zealand's most picturesque locations.

Pūtangirua Pinnacles and Cape Palliser

The Pūtangirua Pinnacles, with their eerie, towering rock formations, offer a landscape that feels like stepping onto another planet. These geological wonders, coupled with a visit to nearby Cape Palliser, where you can climb New Zealand's tallest lighthouse, make for an unforgettable day trip full of adventure and natural beauty.

Greytown

Greytown is a charming Victorian country village known for its well-preserved heritage buildings, boutique shopping, and artisanal eateries. Strolling through the tree-lined streets, you'll find a delightful mix of antique stores, galleries, and cafes that exude a quaint, laid-back vibe. It's the perfect destination for those looking to unwind and indulge in the slower pace of rural New Zealand life.

 

 

Where to stay in Wellington & The Wairarapa with a campervan

Exploring Wellington and the Wairarapa in a campervan offers the ultimate freedom to discover New Zealand’s diverse landscapes and townships at your own pace. When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds that cater to every need. Here are a few worth adding to your travel itinerary:

Wellington

Wairarapa

For more great family friendly campsites and holiday parks, check out our guide to the best family friendly campgrounds near Wellington.

Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Top Winter Destinations in the North Island.

Whether you’re keen to swap beach towels for beanies this winter or to experience a slice of Kiwi beachside paradise minus the summer sunburn, you're in the right place. In this blog, we'll unpack the best places to visit in the North Island in winter that make you want to hire a campervan quicker than you can ask Siri for suggestions for “where to go for the snow season in NZ.” 

From discovering North Island's winter wonderland alpine regions to experiencing the solitude of the beachside beauties in the far north, we're here to guide you through the beauty of New Zealand’s North Island in its cooler months. Ready? Let's dive in.

 

Why you should explore the North Island in winter

As the cooler air sweeps through the North Island, it's not just the landscapes that undergo a stunning transformation; the entire vibe shifts. From snow-capped peaks, forests alive with shades of emerald and gold, and the kind of quiet that makes you want to whisper – this is winter in New Zealand; when the crowds thin out and the hot chocolates somehow taste more delicious. 

Overall, the North Island in winter is famed for its volcanic activity, Māori culture, award-winning wineries and for being home to a few epic ski and snowboard spots (like Ruapehu). However, its far north reaches are also the perfect place to escape the harsh chill of the south. Whether it's soaking in a hot pool while snowflakes dance around you, waking up in a snug camper to a frosty panorama, or exploring the northern beaches, there is plenty to explore on a New Zealand road trip to the North Island in winter:

 

 

What’s the best way to explore the North Island in winter

Flexibility and freedom are the names of the game when you're navigating the winter-wrapped wonders of the North Island. And what better way to be in charge of your course than behind the wheel of an Apollo campervan? Want to linger a little longer by that lakeside vista or find the perfect spot to watch the sunrise? No problem. With a campervan hire, you're the captain of your North Island winter adventure. 

Plus, it’s the best way to keep your toasty abode close by – because no one likes to be too far from their portable heater or stash of snacks when the temperature drops. Tackling a New Zealand road trip in a campervan means you've got all the comforts of home (on wheels) wherever the road may take you.

 

The top 10 winter campervan destinations in the North Island

Let’s dive into the top spots that make the North Island a winter wanderer's delight. From cities alive with culture to landscapes that whisper tales of Middle-earth, here's our pick of the best North Island activities to add to your New Zealand road trip:

 

1. Auckland

Ah, Auckland, where the winter air is crisp, and the adventures are plentiful. This city is a paradise for those who love a bit of urban exploration, with a side of nature's finest just a stone's throw away. Fancy a sail to a secluded island or a hike through ancient rainforests? Auckland deserves a spot on your New Zealand itinerary. Wine tasting with a view or beachcombing for treasures? You bet. The City of Sails shines in winter.

Where to stay: Takapuna Beach Holiday Park.

 

2. Hobbiton

Next stop: the shire. Well, Hobbiton, to be exact. Nestled in the heart of the Waikato region, this magical movie set invites you to step into the world of hobbits, elves, and perhaps a wizard or two. Whether you're a die-hard fan of the films/book or just in it for the Instagram-worthy pics, Hobbiton in winter is truly special. The rolling hills are lush, the ale at the Green Dragon Inn is just right, and the hobbit holes look even cosier against the dewy backdrop. It’s a hop, skip, and jump (about a two-hour drive in your campervan) from Auckland, making it an easy addition to your travel itinerary. 

Where to stay: Cambridge Top 10 Holiday Park

 

3. Waitomo Caves

Dive deep into the heart of the North Island in winter, and you'll find the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. In this ancient cave system, a boat ride takes you through the Glowworm Grotto, illuminated by thousands of glowworms that create a view reminiscent of a starry sky overhead. It's a surreal experience, akin to gliding through the Milky Way, making the Waitomo Caves one of the best places to visit on the North Island and an essential stop on your New Zealand road trip.

What sets Waitomo apart in winter is the ethereal quietness that accompanies the caves' natural beauty. With fewer tourists, the serenity of the caves is amplified, allowing for a more intimate connection with this 30-million-year-old natural wonder. The glowworms, unique to New Zealand, turn the cave into a living galaxy — a sight that's especially magical when the outside world is wrapped in the snowy embrace of a North Island winter. For those journeying from Auckland, the drive to Waitomo is a scenic route, taking roughly 2.5 hours – perfect for discovering the snow-capped landscapes of the North Island in winter.

Where to stay: Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park.

 

4. Mount Maunganui

Next on our list is Mount Maunganui, a coastal paradise that shines even brighter in the winter sun. Crowned “New Zealand’s Best Beach” by TripAdvisor and ranked among the top 25 beaches worldwide, "The Mount" is the epitome of a winter escape. The majestic Mauao, an extinct volcano, watches over the town, offering walking tracks to its summit where 360-degree views span the entirety of the Bay of Plenty.

Winter here is about embracing the outdoors without the summer crowds. The beaches, with their white sand and gentle waves, are the perfect spot to soak up the winter sun with a book in hand. For the adventurous, the waters still offer the thrill of surfing, while Pilot Bay is perfect for a more tranquil swim. Best of all, you can reach this winter haven in under 3 hours from Auckland. This is a perfect addition to a New Zealand road trip for anyone looking to escape the winter chill!

Where to stay: Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park.

 

5. Rotorua

Our journey of the North Island in winter continues to Rotorua, a city renowned for its geothermal wonders and rich Māori culture. In winter, Rotorua's steamy hot springs and bubbling mud pools offer a warm refuge that contrasts sharply with the cool air, creating an almost mystical atmosphere. Here, you can immerse yourself in these enchanting landscapes, soak in mineral-rich waters, and experience the warmth of Māori hospitality.

Beyond its geothermal attractions, Rotorua is a hub for outdoor activities, from mountain biking through the Whakarewarewa Forest to exploring the serene lakes that dot the region. From Auckland, the drive to Rotorua takes approximately 3 hours, offering a scenic route with plenty of places to stop off and soak up the rich beauty of the North Island's winter landscapes.  

Where to stay: Rotorua Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park.

 

6. Mount Ruapehu

Mount Ruapehu stands as a towering testament to the North Island's volcanic heritage, offering a unique winter experience within the Tongariro National Park. In the colder months, Ruapehu transforms into a premier ski destination, with Whakapapa and Tūroa ski areas providing slopes for all levels of skiers and snowboarders – easily the best place to visit in the North Island to see snow.

For those less inclined to hit the slopes, the Sky Waka gondola is the perfect North Island activity for breathtaking views across the Central Plateau and the unique volcanic landscape below. Dining at New Zealand's highest restaurant, Knoll Ridge Chalet, offers an experience not to be missed, combining stunning vistas with delicious cuisine. Located roughly halfway between Auckland and Wellington, Mount Ruapehu is accessible via a 4-hour drive from either city, making it a feasible weekend trip for winter sports lovers looking for the best places to visit in the North Island for a skiing New Zealand road trip.  

Where to stay: Whakapapa Holiday Park.  

 

7. Taupō

Next up on our tour of the North Island's winter gems is Taupō, a town that sits on the edge of New Zealand's largest lake, formed by one of the most significant volcanic eruptions in history. Winter in Taupō is a time of stark beauty, with the lake's misty mornings and the surrounding thermal areas offering a stark contrast to the chilly air. The Craters of the Moon and the Huka Falls are just a glimpse into the region's volcanic power and beauty. 

Whether it's fishing for trout in the crisp, clear waters of Lake Taupō or enjoying a hot soak in one of the many thermal pools, the area offers a multitude of ways to enjoy the North Island winter season. Taupō's central location also makes it an ideal stop for travellers looking to explore the central and lower parts of the North Island. The drive from Auckland to Taupō takes about 3.5 hours, making it an easy addition to any North Island winter travel itinerary.

​​Where to stay: Taupō Top 10 Holiday Park.

 

8. Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park, a UNESCO Dual World Heritage site, presents an otherworldly landscape that becomes even more captivating in winter. Here, the dramatic volcanic features and alpine flora are draped in snow, offering a stunning contrast of fire and ice. One of the must-do winter North Island activities in Tongariro is hiking the Taranaki Falls Track, where you can enjoy breathtaking alpine views without the bone-chilling cold often associated with high-altitude treks. 

The trail leads to the spectacular Taranaki Falls, cascading over an ancient lava flow from Mount Ruapehu – a sight that's especially mesmerising amidst the tranquillity of winter. Located roughly halfway between Auckland and Wellington, the park is about a 4-hour drive from either city, making it an accessible addition to any North Island winter travel itinerary.

Where to stay: Tongariro Family Holiday Park.

 

9. Napier

Napier is a city that turns tragedy into beauty, rising from the ashes of the 1931 earthquake to become a global icon of Art Deco architecture. Walking through the streets of Napier is like stepping back in time, with every building telling a story of resilience and rebirth. Winter is a fantastic time to explore Napier's architectural wonders, as the cooler weather makes for pleasant walking conditions. Take a self-guided tour or join one of the guided walks offered by the Art Deco Trust and immerse yourself in the city's rich history and unique style. Napier is a 5-hour drive from Auckland and about 4 hours from Wellington.  

Where to stay: Kennedy Park.
 

10. Wellington

Last but certainly not least, Wellington, the cultural heart of New Zealand, is a must-visit on the North Island in winter. This is a city where creativity and nature coexist. In winter, the city's vibrant arts scene, from theatre to visual arts, comes alive, offering warmth and inspiration despite the cooler temperatures. 

Whether you explore the renowned Te Papa museum, cosy up in one of the city's many cafes, or take a windswept walk along the harbour to experience the unique charm of this seaside city, Wellington is one of the best things to do in the North Island, New Zealand, in winter. Wellington is at the southern tip of the North Island, making it a longer drive from Auckland (about 8 hours) but just around the corner for those starting from this southern city. 

Where to stay: Wellington Top 10 Holiday Park.

 

Ready to explore the North Island?

The North Island of New Zealand is a winter wonderland waiting to be explored. From the magical glowworm caves of Waitomo to the Art Deco streets of Napier and the cultural buzz of Wellington, each destination offers its own unique winter charm. Ready to explore the North Island for yourself? Book your Apollo camper online today and pick it up from any Apollo branch before setting off on your unforgettable New Zealand road trip. The North Island's winter magic is calling.

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