These days, there is an app for (almost) anything. Often too many. So, which ones are the MUST HAVE apps to install on your smartphone when you’re doing a road trip around New Zealand? You know those that help you have a great time and save you some bucks; not the ones wasting your time (and data allowance).
We experienced van life around New Zealand in 2018 and again in December 2020. We also regularly ask fellow road trippers in Aotearoa what apps they would not travel without. So, this list is tried and tested (and regularly updated) by (heaps of) people in the know. All the apps listed are FREE. And you won’t find generic apps you use anyway and anywhere.
So, what are the best mobile apps for your travels around New Zealand?
Find a place to camp for the night
CamperMate is one of New Zealand’s most popular free travel apps. It is packed with campervan related travel information and helps you find whatever you may need on your road trip around New Zealand: free, low cost and paid campsites or hostels; free Wi-Fi; public toilets; supermarkets; laundromats; petrol stations; dump stations; tips from fellow travelers; road alerts and more. The app also offers last minute discount deals on accommodation and activities based on your location.
Rankers Camping NZ
When you combine Kiwi ingenuity with IT expertise, you get Rankers. Rankers Camping NZ offers every New Zealand camping location on your smartphone or tablet. It has offline maps, so you don’t need data to find your next destination.
Rankers was our primary campsite app during our road trip in December 2020. We would find a campsite on Rankers and read the reviews, and then check CamperMate to read their reviews too.
WikiCamps also works offline, so you don’t need to worry about having a cellular signal or Wi-Fi connection. In 2018, we found campsites that were not mentioned on CamperMate, so WikiCamps was a good additional app for us to have.
WikiCamps lets you create your own road trip itinerary using its in-built trip planner (a functionality CamperMate doesn’t have). Add sites to your trip, update your progress as you drive, and share your trip with friends and family.
Campable has a listing of private properties – resorts, vineyards, working farms, cultural sites and private clubs – that you can book for camping and motorhome travel in New Zealand. A bit like Airbnb, just for campervan and motorhome users.
You must set up an account online and provide your credit card to facilitate the payment process. Once that is completed, you use your smartphone to locate and filter the properties you wish to consider. And once you’ve found the perfect site on Campable, you can book (and pay for) it right through the app.
Save money on fuel
Gaspy tells you where the cheapest fuel is in your area. The prices on Gaspy are crowd-sourced, which means the app relies on like-minded consumers sharing fuel prices all around New Zealand. Just confirm or update the latest price listed for the petrol station you are visiting. That’s it. By working together we can all enjoy cheaper gas and put pressure on Big Oil to maintain competitive pricing.
Sharing fuel prices is not just economically rewarding but also fun, as with each share, you earn points. And the highest point scorer of the week receives a fuel voucher. How cool is that?
Know what the weather is going to be like
With New Zealand’s notoriously unpredictable weather, a weather app comes in handy, especially when you’re about to set out on a hiking trip or book a ferry crossing.
- is location-services enabled to provide easy access to forecasts and observations most relevant to where you are;
- provides a quick overview with morning, afternoon, evening and overnight icons; an interactive national temperature map and 48-hour forecast graphs;
- includes a real-time rain radar for your area, zoom-able 3-day rain forecast maps as well as severe weather warnings and watches for your location.
It even allows you to customize your weather dashboard and even view live traffic cameras for urban locations.
SwellMap Surf provides you with the latest surf and marine weather predictions for hundreds of spots around New Zealand. Forecasts are updated four times a day, using the latest atmospheric and oceanographic models.
SwellMap has the following features:
- Detailed daily forecasts providing ratings, summaries, set face, wave height, swell height, swell direction, swell period, tides, wind, gusts, sea temperature, sunset and sunrise.
- 7 day swell and wind forecast graphs, forecast maps of rain, pressure, temperature, wind, wave height, wave period and sea temperature to help you plan your surf trip.
It even lets you save your favorite spot forecasts.
The GeoNet app provides notifications when earthquakes happen, based on your settings on intensity, location, magnitude and depth. You can also choose to be informed when there is volcanic activity. If you felt a rumble and are not sure whether that was an earthquake, you can view recent earthquakes on a customisable map or in list form, and report what you felt at your location.
For those of you unfamiliar with earthquakes, the app’s FAQs contain some useful links to prepare yourself.
Unlike on the West Island (aka Australia), there are no deadly critters in New Zealand. But, as everyone who’s ever been to New Zealand will know, there are some nasties: they’re called sandflies (or Austrosimulium in biology terms).
We can blame our ancestors for them: When the Māori god Tu-te-raki-whanoa created the West Coast of the South Island, the locals stopped working to admire his work. The goddess Hine-nui-te-pō became slightly annoyed seeing those unproductive people. So she created the sandfly to bite them and get them moving.
If you, your travel mates and fellow road users have a medical emergency where the patient needs resuscitation, knowing where the nearest Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is could save lives.
The AED Locations app helps you find the nearest AED based on our location. AED location information is stored by the application and available offline.
Buy second-hand (and sell things you no longer need)
TradeMe is New Zealand’s equivalent of eBay and Craigslist. Most people looking to buy or sell their car or campervan will use this online platform. We even used Trade Me to find parts for our campervan which were unavailable (or too expensive) at auto shops nearby.
The app gives you the ability to:
- list items to sell and edit them later;
- search, browse and filter by category;
- add, view and remove watch list items;
- bid on items or buy them straight up;
- add items to your shopping cart to purchase multiple items at once;
- pay using your credit or debit card; and
- credit your Trade Me account.
BTW, jobs and properties are also listed on Trade Me. So, if you are looking for (part-time) work or want to rent a room, you may also want to check out the app.
Explore this beautiful country
- Book bus trips as well as the InterIslander ferry and TranzAlpine train travel and day tours.
- See details of your upcoming trip/s, share your itinerary with friends and family, find your bus stop and check where your bus is in real-time.
- Join InterCity Rewards to earn free trips, and manage your rewards account.
AA is the Automobile Association of New Zealand. But the benefits of the AA app do not only apply to members.
The AA Traveller app is a one stop shop for all things travel in Aotearoa:
- AA’s travel editorials and detailed e-guidebooks help you plan an exciting and memorable trip.
- The app also allows you to book accommodation, rental vehicles and experiences, buy ferry and train tickets, and even travel insurance.
Members can enjoy additional discounts and never miss out on promotions as notifications are sent directly to their smart phone.
Roadside Stories are audio guides that keep you entertained on your road trip around New Zealand. The app contains 13 major road trips across the country with 140 stops. Each stop has a four-minute audio file and images of the location. You’re not just travelling from A to B but you learn about the people, the history, and the cultural and natural significance of the area you’re passing through.
Given the size of the audio guide files, we recommend to download (only) those tours relevant to you (before your trip), ideally somewhere where you don’t have to pay for data. Each tour includes a map showing the location of the stops.
This app was recommended to us by a friend of ours who is a local tour guide.
New Zealand’s Great Hikes
The Great Walks of New Zealand showcase premier hiking trails through some of the best scenery in New Zealand. From native forests, lakes and rivers to rugged mountain peaks, deep gorges and vast valleys – there is a Great Walk for everyone.
On the Great Hikes app you can learn more about the routes, their history and more:
- Abel Tasman Coast Track
- Heaphy Track
- Kepler Track
- Lake Waikaremoana
- Milford Track
- Paparoa Track
- Rakiura Track
- Routeburn Track
- Tongariro Northern Circuit
- Whanganui Journey.
This is a must-have app for those who tramp (as hiking is called) in New Zealand.
New Zealand is made for tramping (as mentioned above) – also known as hiking or walking in other parts of the world. And to do it safely in some of the remote, but beautiful parts of New Zealand, you need Pocket Maps. This app allows you to view accessible areas and public conservation land either live or using the maps that you have downloaded. The maps show the public access boundaries and can show where and how you can traverse the lands.
Pocket Maps lets you search your exact location by region and through the map layers, understand what type of access land you are currently on or looking to hunt, fish or mountain bike through.
Great Rides App
New Zealand is also a great destination for (mountain)biking. The Great Rides app helps you to pick, plan and plot your next adventure on the New Zealand Cycle Trail. Created by passionate New Zealand rider and cartographer, Gary Patterson, the Great Rides app is a New Zealand Cycle Trail national partner, and the only mobile app featuring all 22 Great Rides.
Want to kayak around Abel Tasman National Park, fly over Aoraki/Mt Cook and the surrounding glaciers or book a table for dinner in one of Auckland’s or Wellington’s many restaurants? BookMe offers significant (last minute) discounts on travel and dining experiences, so you can do more fun stuff while you’re out and about exploring Aotearoa.
Tour operators and restaurants all around the country which have not sold the expected number of seats up to a week ahead put their offers on the app, giving you the chance to save up to 90% of the retail cost.