New Zealand in a Campervan: The Route
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After researching all the places we wanted to hit on our trip we decided on a rough itinerary before we left.
We had prebooked the Interislander ferry with Jucy when we were booking our camper van and had allowed two weeks in the North Island and five weeks in the South Island. As we there in the summer we were advised to prebook the ferry to make sure we could cross on the day we wanted. There were a lot more places we wanted to see on the South Island so we allowed ourselves an extra few weeks to explore.
Aside from booking the ferry we decided to take each day as it came and enjoy it!
Planning a campervan route
- Make a list of your top must see places and make sure to tick them off. Even after over a month there were places we wished we had time to see (for example Coronamdel and Cape Regina in the North Island, Kaikoura and Dunedin in the South Island) but we had so much fun in other places that we extended our stay.
- Allow plenty of time for driving. The roads are windy, I actually don’t remember very many straight roads in the South Island. We always arrived much later than the GPS estimated at the start of the journey, there is just no way to drive at the speed limit in a campervan on windy roads.
- There’s a lot of driving. We found that leaving early, like 6 a.m. early, was the easiest way to do the long drives. There was less traffic and we were able to get to places early even if they were 5 hours of driving, even with stops we were arriving at the next destination in mid afternoon and still had time to enjoy our evening.
- Enjoy the scenery. The South Island in particular is spectacular and some of the drives are as breathtaking as the destination. We made lots of unscheduled scenery stops along the way.
- Remeber the weather. It rains in New Zealand, even in summer. And when it rains, it pours! There is some scenery better enjoyed on good days and you might need to change your route to match the weather forecast.
- Close the cupboards and drawers before you set of. Double check them every day. Stopping to batten up the hatches is funny at first, not so much on day 25!
- Make sure the scenic drives are worth the extra drive before you set off. We had one incident where a scencic drive was effectively a drive around the side of a mountain with a sheer drop and one lane which meant beeping the horn at every corner, of which there were hundreds, in case of oncoming traffic. I didn’t think it was scencic or enjoyable. I was sweating profusely the entire time and my knuckles were white from gripping the doorhandle for support. It was funny in hindsight, and I’m certain I lost at least a stone through sweat! There are some cracking scencic drives however, just chose wisely!
- Don’t set a rigid itienary. We met lots of people doing similar trips and they gave us some gems of recommendaitons. Some of the highlights of our trip came this way, its well worth being flexible.
The North Island
Map of North Island route:
After picking up our campervan at Auckland airport we headed straight up to Bay of Islands. From there we headed down to Matamata, taking a detour to Waipoua Forest and then into Auckland on the way. The next night was spent in Waitomo before we headed down to Wellington via Lake Taupo for the ferry.
[boxes type=’light’ title=’North Island Route’]
B. Bay of Islands
C. Waipoua Forest
Check out where we stayed on the North Island here. [/boxes]
Map of South Island route:
After getting off the ferry in Picton we stayed in Pelorus Bridge, then Maupa before making our way to Marahau to explore Abel Tasman. We were lucky to experience beautiful weather for this part of our trip so we decided to take advantage of the sunshine and head up to Golden Bay for a few days. From there we made our way down to Punakaiki and Lake Hawea. The weather was looking good for Milford Sound so we set off in that direction stopping overnight in Te Anau.
We had heard brilliant things about Arrowtown from other travellers on the campsites so we spent a couple of nights there on the way back from Milford Sound before making our way to Lake Tekapo. Akaroa was another recommendation from other campers so we made an unscheduled stopover and ended up extending our stay! This took us to the end of our trip and it was time to hit Christchurch for a night before our flight to Asia.
[boxes type=’light’ title=’South Island Route’]
B. Pelorus Bridge
H. Lake Hawea
I. Te Anau
J. Milford Sound
L. Lake Tekapo
Check out where we stayed on the South Island. [/boxes]
With the spectacular scenery on offer New Zealand is an amazing country to drive around. Be safe and enjoy!
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