Have you ever thought about having a 2 weeks holiday on the road? Driving along the scenic landscapes of mountains, cliffs, plains, lakes, forests.. while spending all the nights in the vehicle you’ve been driving all day? That may sound a bit too much, but if kind of idea intrigues you, then maybe New Zealand is the perfect holiday place for you!
New Zealand is renowned for its natural beauty, having some of the most diverse environment on earth. To access these beauties, it is more suitable to drive your own vehicle: either by renting a campervan (which we’ll discuss more later) or a car. Of course, you can take a bus, coach, train or even a guided trip, however having the flexibility to set your own schedule is priceless. You get to decide anytime you want to stop; there are many lookout points along the highways connecting New Zealand’s major cities, from which you can see for yourself the beauty New Zealand has to offer.
The idea of driving a truck (the campervan is based on a commercial vehicle or truck chassis) for at least 300km a day (which is basically the average length you need to cover in a day in order to go from North to South island within 2 weeks) may sound crazy at first, but believe us, this is one of best the way to fully experience the country. You’ll find out that all the lessons you learned from boy scouts and camping experiences are very useful, and this could be a good activity for bonding with your family or friends.
The campervan has everything you could possibly need for the trip: starting from the gas stove, griller, microwave, fridge, kitchen utensils, mobile WIFI hub, toilet and shower, bed and sheets, and even a TV with a DVD player.. minus a hair dryer perhaps. Make sure you do some shopping at the local grocery store (where you can also find local goodies specific to the country, such as NZ chocolate, honey, cider, chips and ingredients) whenever you stop by a major city, or else you might be forced to hunt down an indigenous bird for your dinner.. which is illegal. Depending on the campervan’s type, some of the campervans are self-contained, meaning they have a storage for fresh, grey and black water, as well as garbage waste, so you can take a shower and even pee or poo inside it! Just don’t forget to occasionally stop by the dumping station, all those waste must go somewhere, you know. The completeness of your campervan, however, depends on your provider and the campervan type. For this trip we used a six-berth motorhome (self-contained campervan) provided by KEA.
One thing, if you think you can just pull over and park your campervan everywhere for overnight camping, you’re just plain wrong. You can only park overnight in either a) a freedom camping zone, which as it suggests meaning the free camping zone or b) a paid camping facility, either government-owned or privately operated. The paid camping facility, depending on how much they charge you (could be a flat rate or per pax basis, ranging from NZD6 to NZD20 per pax), offers you perks starting from power supply which enables the power plugs inside the campervan to charge your electric devices or use your hair curlers; up to hot showers and an open kitchen, even a washing machine and a dryer. However, the freedom camping zone is usually just a parking area for the campervan and sometimes (if you are lucky) equipped with a very basic toilet. If your campervan is not self contained, make sure that your chosen camp zone has at least a toilet and clean water.
Depending on your travelling style, campervanning could be a cost-efficient option to travel around New Zealand. We forked around NZD3,700 total for the six-berth campervan rent, gasoline costs, ferry from North to South island and camping fees. Dividing it with five people going on the trip over 12 days yields NZD62/pax/day. Add it with our dining expenses (which consists of mostly supermarket shopping, wine, cider and occasionally fancy dining) and our Hobbiton & Milford Sound tickets, we got about NZD99/pax/day (including campervan expenses), which is actually cheaper than Lonely Planet’s recommended budgeting of US$130-150/pax/day for a New Zealand trip. That figure, of course, excludes our personal expenses ie. buying a cute kiwi or sheep plushies for a hug whenever we miss New Zealand.
If you’re travelling from the North Island down to the South Island, you’ll definitely need more than two weeks to explore both islands fully. We did it in just two weeks, and we had to scratch out Dunedin, which is the largest city in New Zealand by size and population, and Invercargill, which is one of the southernmost cities in the world. But then, for some people, two weeks on the campervan might be a bit too much. By the end of the second week I would have started to consider the campervan as my new home.. if only I hadn’t had to return it! Anyway, despite the two cities missing, we still came home with lots of memories to remember, and lots of photos to remind us of it. We surely want to visit New Zealand again in the future!