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?
Sign up to receive our email newsletter full of actionable tips and practical advice every month
Connect with the locals
Speaking the local language, even just a few words, makes all the difference when visiting a destination. Developed by Air New Zealand, the national carrier of Aotearoa (New Zealand in the Māori language), Kia Rere is an app that introduces you to the Māori language and culture.
From the basics of the Māori alphabet and correct pronunciation to common words and phrases, the app is a great little knowledge base for those who’d like to truly connect with the land and people of Aotearoa. It even teaches you the national anthem and the haka.
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 travellers; 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.
How is the information kept up to date?
GeoZone is a network of travel apps that all share the same GPS travel information and comments. The information is supplied by councils, government and third parties. The network also allows users of these apps to add new information and once verified, these submissions are added to the network. The sharing nature of the network ensures that connected apps show up-to-date information.
While every effort is made to ensure the information contained in the apps is correct, no one can guarantee 100% accuracy. The apps have great feedback loops. So, if there is something you find is incorrect, do your part and report it.
Save money – on fuel, activities and dining
This is an absolute must-have for anyone with a vehicle in New Zealand. It has saved us A LOT of money over the years.
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 list 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?
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 that 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 price.
We all know how travel costs can add up. Aotearoa is no exception, especially because there is so much you could do here. So, having another discount website at your disposal might come in handy. Enter: TreatMe.
Things we have come across on TreatMe include unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences like
- a night’s stay (with dinner and bubbly) in a grain-silo-turned-hotel on the Banks Peninsula near Christchurch
- a case of six award-winning wines and entry to a gorgeous sculpture garden on the Matakana Coast north of Auckland; and
- mountain bike and kayak adventures along the Waikato River Trail and Lake Karapiro near the Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata.
Also worth noting: If you want to surprise someone special, all deals can be purchased as a gift.
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.
The MetService New Zealand Weather app
- 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, zoomable three-day rain forecast maps as well as severe weather warnings and watches for your location.
It even allows you to customize your weather dashboard or 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
- Seven-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 favourite spot forecasts.
New Zealand has its nickname ‘the shaky isles’ for a reason. So having an app on your smartphone for New Zealand’s earthquakes and volcanic activity is a MUST.
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 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 biological 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.
But there is good news: Even for this problem there is an app. Sandfly Map allows travellers and locals to report sandfly hotspots around New Zealand.
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 your location. AED location information is stored by the application and available offline.
More #VanLife articles
- Van Life: How much does it cost to get started
- Van Life: How much does it cost to explore New Zealand
- Van Life: Internet access for travellers in New Zealand
- Van Life Essentials: The complete packing list for your campervan travels
- Van Life Essentials: Key fixtures and fittings for your campervan
- Campervan relocations: What to expect and are they worthwhile?
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 TradeMe 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 a 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 TradeMe account.
BTW, jobs and properties are also listed on TradeMe. 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 beautiful Aotearoa
For those of you without wheels, travelling in New Zealand by bus is easy with the InterCity bus app. The app allows you to:
- 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.
New Zealand’s Great Walks
The Great Walks of New Zealand showcase premier multi-day 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 Track
- Milford Track
- Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial 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.
Ever wanted to hike the length of a country? Well, with Te Araroa (meaning The Long Pathway) you can. All 3,000km (1,900 miles) from the very top to the very bottom of New Zealand (or the other way around).
The Te Araroa app is the go-to app for those hiking the Te Araroa trail. Users are able to view maps and elevations (including offline topo maps), campsites and huts, as well as official trail notes and user comments.
Do you just want to do day hikes? No problem. Pocket Maps has you covered. The app enables you to view public conservation areas and other accessible lands, pointing out public access boundaries, and where and how you can traverse the land.
Maps are split into regions and can be downloaded for offline use. App features also include route measuring and GPS positioning.
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.
Have you travelled around New Zealand? What travel apps did you use? Please share your recommendations in the comments below.