How to RV New Zealand
To jump to the section you’re interested in, below are links to each week of our trip.
Week 1: Picking up the Motorhome from Wildress (EP 144)
It’s time! We pick up the RV (Caravan) from Wilderness Motorhomes this week and the adventure truly begins.
Starting from Wilderness Motorhomes in Auckland, we beeline to The (world famous) Coromandel. If you are a local you probably know of secret caves and deserted beaches and wouldn’t go to the crowded places like Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove but if you are a newbie like us you gas up and take off because this is where the memories start!
Hot Water Beach
Hot Tip: You have to go two hours of low tide.
New Zealand Jargon:
Shovel = Spade
Rent = Hire
Check your tide table online and plan accordingly because you are off to one of NZ’s most unique natural attractions.
What to do: If you don’t already have a shovel you will want to rent one on your walk onto the beach. They run about $5-$10 and usually have a secure payment so you are incentivized to bring it back 🙂
Oh yeah…did I mention that NZ always has a place for your RV. It’s RV heaven here! There is parking available but be sure to pay at the kiosk and leave your proof in the window.
If you plan your day correctly this could be a few hours of fun. Don’t worry about bringing a lunch because the cafes near by are amazing! Be sure to talk to the people around you at the beach. There will be someone from just about every spot on the globe! This way you can embrace the crowds and maybe make an Instagram pen pal.
Hot Tip: Water taxis are available to save you from a hike
New Zealand Jargon: Tons = Heaps
This beach may have more beauty packed in one small space than you are prepared to handle! If it’s a nice day pack a lunch, drinks, hat, towel and tons of sunscreen. The NZ sun is no joke and no matter how olive toned you are your skin hasn’t felt sun like this before. You will be a tomato in 30 minutes flat.
You will find the land and sea to be equally fun on this adventure. If you have some snorkel equipment…bring it for sure. There is a designated snorkeling area with blue signs on buoys that will tell you the kind of fish you are seeing. If you are on land there are great photo opportunities as well as other sea caves usually a small waterfall to rinse off with.
We wanted to use our time here to get on the water…as well as see the attractions. So we went out with Captain Mat from Boom Sailing. We sailed, snorkeled, met new friends (all locals on the boat with us) and Caleb even got the chance to steer the ship.
Hot Tip: Download Campable to find out where to Freedom Camp and so much more.
New Zealand Jargon: Boondocking = Freedom Camping
RVing or “Caravaning” as its called here, is a way of life! You will find some of the best real-estate is dedicated to RV parks and locals are all over it! There is also something called Freedom Camping and that is your opportunity to camp FOR FREE in your rig.
One of the helpful apps on our trip was called Campable. Download it for sure! Where you find the “F” are all free sites. Your RV must be “self-contained” meaning you have all the facilities inside your rig. We will go into further detail on our travels of this app…but for now just know that it will save you heaps of cash when you are touring this BEAUTIFUL country!
See more on YouTube: The South Island (Episode 144)
We left Hot Water beach in the last episode and drove till dark. We ended up using our Campable app to find a Freedom Camping (free camping) location at Tanners Point. The immediate area has hikes and bike trails along with some great sea life at low tide.
****Special Note***** This would have been the perfect time keep going and visit Tauranga instead of Tanners Point…if you haven’t already been. Check out that episode here.
Hot Tip: If you only have time for one outdoor market. Make it the craft fair in the center of town. It had quite a variety of local art, jewelry, clothing, housewares and crafts. In addition, fantastic food trucks for lunch…and live music too!
New Zealand Jargon: Reservation = Booking
Tauranga is a city in the Bay of Plenty on the East Coast of the North Island. You will find beaches, shopping, historic buildings, great hikes (looking at you Mt. Maunganui) and Cricket (if the timing is right). We were able to visit a craft market when the cruise ship was in and the city was buzzing with energy.
If we were in our Wilderness Camper we would have HANDS-DOWN stayed at Mt. Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park. You can catch a glimpse of it in this episode and see just how perfectly located it is to hike the Mount or wander the town. This was a very busy campground and it seems reservations will be needed.
Because we had already spent a few days in Tauranga we moved from Tanners Point past Tauranga (in this episode) on to Rotorua and found free camping.
DRIVING IN NEW ZEALAND:
As soon as the big cities are behind you and you get the hang of driving on the left you may think all is well…but it is very important to remember that driving in New Zealand takes longer with the possibility of more fatigue. Take opportunities to pull over and enjoy the scenery or grab a coffee and snack at a street cafe. They are just about everywhere and they will keep you alert and ready for the next leg of your journey. Most of our drive days took twice as long as the GPS told us they would. Some part of that is because we were documenting everything along the way with video but that was also because the roads are narrow and it is road etiquette for RV’s to pull to the side when other quicker cars are coming up.
Is a geothermal town inland from the Eastern Shore on New Zealand’s North Island. If you are from the States or have traveled to Yellowstone you are familiar with shooting geysers and bubbling sulfates. What’s different about Rotorua is there is a whole town built around these unstable natural events. We visited Hell’s Gate in an effort to educate ourselves about the area and enjoy the mud baths. It is a touristy kind of thing to do…but we were defiantly tourists here and it made for a fun afternoon. In addition, we were freedom camping so using their showers after the mud baths made for a great way to last another night without an RV (holiday) Park.
Whenever we are in a new town we try to meet up with KYD Insiders for coffee. New Zealand is no exception. We found out that the Perry family was on the upper part of the South Island so that was our queue to speed up our North Island visit and hop on the Ferry (Interisland).
The Interislander is a great and easy way to continue your New Zealand journey from island to island. We traveled from New Zealand’s Capitol city, Wellington, to the South Island port of Picton with our rented Class C from Wilderness. The Ferry was a bit over three hours and depending on the sea conditions.
Hot Tip: If you are renting a rig on the North Island try and fly out of the South Island so you don’t have to pay to ferry your rig twice. Departing (by plane) from a different city, than you arrived, is very common for people that want to tackle both islands. Also…the airfare from Auckland to Christchurch may be less expensive (depending on how many people you are traveling with) then ferrying your rig. Check out all the options to make sure you do what is right for your budget before you book. We were able to book the ferry a few days before travel as we didn’t want to pigeon hole ourselves to a schedule. Be sure to check travel dates to ensure there is open availability.
Picton is a very pretty port town. If you come over early, on the ferry, you can make the most of your day on several biking tracks, shops and wonderful places to eat. No worries if you come over on the last ferry though because The Holiday (RV) Parks stay open a bit later for the final ferry to arrive and will gladly set you up in a site.
Picton is worth an afternoon and even a night but if you are pressed for time move forward to the Marlborough District and take in the vineyards on the Golden Mile. More to come on this highlight as we did it on our way out of the South Island.
Week 2: Kaiteriteri & Able Tasman National Park (Ep 145)
KINA BEACH RESERVE:
This location was a fun hippy vibe, directly on the beach. There is a fresh water tap to fill jugs or wash a few dishes. There are no public restrooms, or dumping sites. When we saw $5 per adult and kids under 16 free we beelined it over. There are only a few sites so you will want to make your way there before you check out the market or winery on the way in. In the evening you will find quite a few people fishing off shore and having happy hour.
Hot Tip: Have some cash before you go as you will need it for the camping fees and there are several locals that sell their fresh fruit and veggies at the end of their driveways on the honor system.
WOW! You are officially on vacation. That is what Kaiteriteri will convey, without a single word, once you arrive. We stayed at Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve Camp. You will find a market, restaurant and walk up – take aways on property. Oh yeah, and I did I mention fresh fruit ice cream…Yep…I wanted to just stay here for a week. But with the prices being slightly higher than average and our time constraints we did two nights. If you are meeting someone that is not traveling in an RV this is a great place to spend some time as there are apartments and cabins for rent. You will also find there are several pop up storefronts advertising all kinds of activities; including boating, kayaking and mt. bike tours.
One of our BIG MISTAKES is not taking the boat tour to Abel Tasman National Park. The tickets were over $100 USD per person so we were hesitant because the whole South Island looks like a national park and we wondered if there was really a pay off for using a day and about $500 to get our whole family there. But from what we heard we really missed out and that is the primary reason people go to visit the area. You will want to look into the group tours as well as a Full-day Sailing adventure over to the area where you can disembark your boat and hike the beautiful trails.
BIKING in NZ:
We used our bikes just about every day on our trip in New Zealand. They were an add-on to the base price of our camper from Wilderness RV and worth it. You might find it easier to park your motorhome and then have the freedom to go into town with your bike instead of always trying to find a new parking spot.
New Zealand has some of the best biking areas we have see in over three years of travel and the Nelson region didn’t disappoint. The Tasman Great Taste Trail, starting from Kaiteriteri, was one of our favorites. You will find bike trails strait out of the campground that are well marked, similar to a ski hill, with varying levels of difficulty. We took the great taste trail through that area, as indicated by blue markers, until we found ice cream, in the next town, and decided to turn back. We could have gone further (or for multiple days) to the next town and done wine tastings, visited farms, vineyards and had lunch but we were ready to turn back.
PAINES FORD SCENIC RESERVE: (also spelled Paynes on some GPS)
Paines Ford is a former tramline (train) that operated from the 1880’s to 1900’s. Now it is a series of swimming holes in the Takaka River. What to know before you go: There is parking for RV’s and cars on the side of the road. You can keep busy here for several hours so bring some snacks and bug spray. There is really no shade so bring a hat or even an umbrella or tent to find some refuge.
Hot Tip: As always when jumping from cliffs, check the water level first! This area can be dangerous during the rainy season and the water levels can change drastically as well as shift the underlying rocks.
New Zealand Jargon: Long day hikes or overnight backpacking = Tramping
Is a resort town that feels more like a local’s hangout on the South Island. The lake makes for a fantastic activity or beautiful backdrop to an afternoon bike ride. We felt two days in Wanaka was worth the time in our busy schedule. If you have time it would be fun to rent a kayak or stand up paddle board to have an afternoon out on the lake.
Where we stayed: Wanaka Lakeview Holiday Park
The park had your typical community kitchen, showers, playground, and grass camping spots. It wasn’t luxury and the amenities were expensive but what it had going for it was the LOCATION. Perfect to bike ride into town or walk to the lake. We found that it was great for parking your Class C camper van and not needing to use it again for transportation.
The Big Fig
The tag line for the Big Fig is: slow food, served fast. Your experience will translate to healthy and flavorful food that took time and care but is ready when you are. Great for the casual dining night on your stroll to through the town. Keep in mind that the seating is family style so don’t be afraid to ask someone to share a table.
Charlie Brown Crepes
The wonderful smell and the green retro Charlie Brown Crepes caravan will grab your senses and draw you in for a fresh crepe. What will keep you coming back, every day you are in Wanaka, are the fantastic authentic flavors. We interviewed the owner Adrien, in our 147th episode, to find the backstory on such a fun Wanaka staple.
Wanaka Lavander Farm
The Wanaka Lavender farm is 10 acres of photography bliss. You can visit them for a stroll of the grounds, picture session, farm animals, or games under the trees. Don’t forget they have a little ice cream, chocolate and honey cafe too. Did we mention that they have parking for RV’s…yep! They are open 7 days a week during the summer for $5 per adult.
Yummy Food Trucks that are worth your time!
67 Brownston St