New Zealand | Campervan Adventure


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new zealand, south island, glenorchy, queenstown, freedom camping, campervan, wilderness campervan, breeze 2Freedom camping in Glenorchy (South Island).After an awesome five days in Sydney, we embarked on the true highlight of our R&R in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore10 days in a campervan, exploring New Zealand’s North and South Islands. We rented the Breeze 2 through Wilderness Motorhomes and would highly recommend them to anyone planning a similar trip to New Zealand (in fact, we already have recommended Wilderness to some of our colleagues).new zealand, south island, marlborough, blenheim, cloudy bay winery, wilderness campervan, campervan, breeze 2Cloudy Bay vineyard in Marlborough (South Island).We were a little nervous about driving an RV around New Zealand. For one, neither Kail nor I had driven in almost a year. Secondly, New Zealand vehicles are right-hand drive and driving is done on the left side of the road. Add a relatively large (19’7″ long x 6’9″ wide x 8’5″ tall) RV into the mix and well, it could be a recipe for disaster.new zealand, north island, campervan, wilderness campervan, breeze 2Our “kitchen.”Kail managed the entire thing superbly. I didn’t drive at all. I actually forgot to bring my driver’s license with me (Kail maintains that I “forgot” on purpose) but I don’t think I would have driven much had I brought it. Beyond a couple stressful incidents where Lonely Planet and our GPS failed us, it was smooth driving.new zealand, north island, wellington, wellington waterfront motorhome park, campervan, wilderness campervan,Wellington Waterfront Motorhome Park (North Island).New Zealand is built for camping — whether it’s in an RV (OK, that’s more like glamping) or a tent. There are tons of “holiday parks,” campgrounds that have everything from fully equipped cabins to parking spaces and charging stations for campervans to grassy spots for pitching a tent. The holiday parks also have communal bathrooms, kitchens, dump stations (to empty campervan waste tanks and wastewater) and freshwater refill stations.Our campervan had a shower and toilet, but we took advantage of showering, washing dishes, etc. at the holiday parks when we could. We were partial to the Top 10 Holiday Parks family. We stayed at Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park, Blenheim Top 10 Holiday Park and Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park. The nightly holiday park fees were around $40-50, which included the amenities mentioned above and, in most cases, wifi access.new zealand, north island, wellington, wellington waterfront motorhome park, campervan, wilderness campervan,Holiday park in downtown Wellington.There’s even a holiday park right in the middle of downtown Wellington, Wellington Waterfront Motorhome Park. It was perfect for a short stop to explore the city, and only about a three-minute drive to the Interislander ferry terminal, where we boarded along with our RV for the short trip from the North Island to the South Island. (We were able to book our ferry tickets through Wilderness, which made planning super-easy.)new zealand, north island, orakei korako geothermal park, lake ohakuri, campervan, wilderness campervan,Freedom camping at Orakei Korako Geothermal Park (North Island).Another reason Wilderness made our campervan adventure so easy? Three great guidebooks were included with our rental: WilderNessts Camping Directory (a guide to freedom camping spots) and Scott Cook’s NZ Frenzy Guide for the North Island and South Island (while we didn’t get to keep the books, we do have PDF copies of the NZ Frenzy guides). The guidebooks had short descriptions, photos and — most importantly — GPS coordinates to various freedom camping sites, hiking spots and other attractions. (We purchased the most comprehensive insurance package, which also included a GPS, snow chains and a camping table/chairs.)What is freedom camping? Freedom camping, or “wild camping,” is basically camping at non-holiday park sites — beachside, lakeside or raodside — designated as OK by local authorities. Only self-contained campervans (i.e. ones with waste tanks) are permitted to do so, and not just anywhere.new zealand, north island, orakei korako geothermal park, lake ohakuri, campervan, wilderness campervan,Freedom camping along Lake Ohakuri across from Orakei Korako Geothermal Park.We managed to freedom camp half the nights, with the other half spent at holiday parks. Sometimes our freedom camping was on paved, lakeside parking lots. Other times we were on sandy lake shores overlooking snow-capped mountains.Beyond the scenic surroundings, the other benefit of freedom camping is that it’s free. Campervan-ing is definitely an affordable way to tour a country. We spent four nights on the North Island: one night near Auckland (our arrival point), one night in Rotorua (access to geothermal parks and Hobbiton), one night in Taupo (exploring another geothermal park) and one night in Wellington.new zealand, north island, campervan, wilderness campervan, breeze 2On the South Island, we spent one night in Blenheim (wine country), one night at Lake Tekapo (scenic freedom camping and hiking), two nights in Glenorchy (beautiful freedom camping and near Queenstown), one night in Te Anau (en route to Milford Sound, which we never reached due to snow-induced road closures) and one night in Timaru before returning our campervan and spending a final night in a Christchurch hotel. It was sad to part with our little campervan, our temporary home for 10 days.One of my favorite parts about our trip was just cooking meals and relaxing in our campervan at night. Since it was winter, the daylight hours were short (roughly 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), and we spent a lot of time drinking wine, reading and hanging out before super-early bedtimes (even by our standards).I’ll write in more detail about the highlights of our trip (and share GPS coordinates for those looking to plan their own). We’re looking forward to returning to New Zealand one day for a second campervan adventure! Do you like camping (or glamping)?

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

9 thoughts on “New Zealand | Campervan Adventure

  1. I grew up camping, but now that I’m older and less a tom-boy than I once was, I would love to try gamping! I can’t wait to read about the rest of your time in NZ! What a dream of mine!

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    1. New Zealand is awesome — you should definitely put it at the top of your travel bucket list! And I think a campervan would be totally doable with a young child. We have colleagues who took a family trip with two kids a couple years ago. Thanks for commenting! 😀

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  2. Love this idea! We were just starting to talk about maybe doing New Zealand for our R&R next year, and when I started looking into it a bit, I got completely overwhelmed with how much there is to see – but this seems like a great way to do it.

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