Touring New Zealand in a Campervan

Bula bula bula!

Ravi here and I’m writing this post from Fiji (rough life I know).

We have a spotty internet connection but figured it would be enough to pump out a blog post or two. We are still painfully behind, and need to write about the rest of our Australia adventures in addition to New Zealand and our ocean voyage to Fiji.

I’ve been thinking lately about our New Zealand experience and figured I’d start with that.

We spent the entire month of April touring around New Zealand in a campervan. I think if you visit NZ this is the best way to see things. The country is big and easily drivable, but many sites are remote enough where accommodation is sparse or just not worth paying for when there are great camp sites available that are more conveniently located. As vegans, it was also critical that we be able to cook our own food wherever we were.

An example of the type of epic campsites you can have in NZ. That is the ocean right behind us.
An example of the type of epic campsites you can have in NZ. That is the ocean right behind us.
This camp site was free, on a lake that was also a wildlife preserve.
This camp site was free, on a lake that was also a wildlife preserve. Click the photo to see a larger version. That is our van on the right side of the pic.

Our plan was to spent about two weeks in the south island and another two weeks in the north. Ultimately, we ended up spending almost three weeks in the south island and about a week in the north. We clearly cut the north island short. We had to skip some places due to inclimate weather and after a few weeks switched to a “see fewer things well instead of many things poorly” mentality.

I think two months would be the ideal amount of time to see both islands well and get in some solid multi day walking or kayaking trips. It is possible to see everything in six weeks, but only with good weather. If you have a month or less, you should really focus on one island or be deliberate about skipping some areas so you can do justice to the places you go to.

We did a lot of stuff over the month, but here were the highlights in chronological order:

  • Witnessed lingering devastation in Christchurch from the earthquake a few years ago.
  • Hiked Avalance Peak at Arthurs Pass, and met a parrot on the summit.
A Kea (alpine parrot) on the Avalance Peak summit.
A Kea (alpine parrot) on the Avalance Peak summit.
  • Spelunked the Cave Stream and strolled around Castle Hill (featured in the final battle scene from the Narnia movie).
  • Spent a night gazing at stars near Lake Tekapo, including a hike to the observatory.

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  • Hiked the Hooker Valley track to epic views of Mt. Cook and the Hooker Glacier.

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  • Played around the Moeraki Boulders.

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  • Saw baby penguins in the wild near Moeraki.

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  • Did our taxes in Dunedin. Boom!
  • Hiked Key Summit on the way to Milford Sound.

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  • Cruised Milford Sound.

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  • Strained to see Fox and Frans Josef glaciers during a rainstorm.
  • Caught the tail end of a cyclone in Nelson.
Tons of trees were downed and the Abel Tasman track was closed due to slips.
Tons of trees were downed and the Abel Tasman track was closed due to slips.
  • Hiked 25K of the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sound (via Water Taxi!).
View from a portion of the Queen Charlotte Track.
View from a portion of the Queen Charlotte Track.
  • Kayaked in Marlborough Sound.

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  • Took the nicest ferry ever from Picton to Wellington.
  • Hiked the Tongariro Crossing (19KM in one day, very mountainous, plus the Mt. Tongariro Summit).

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  • Went to amazing hot pools near Rotorua.
  • Visited The Shire at Hobbiton! It was awesome. Far better than I expected.
Recognize this place?  You are looking at Baggend!
Recognize this place? You are looking at Baggend!
  • Found vegan pizza in Auckland after I spent days dreaming about it. It wasn’t great.
All these slices are vegan. It was not great and crazy expensive ($8/slice I think).
All these slices are vegan. It was not great and crazy expensive ($6/small slice I think).
  • Saw two awesome waterfalls and massive Kaori trees in Whangerei (after biking in the rain and hiking a bit).
Whangerei falls.
Whangerei falls.

New Zealand is an amazing place. We plan to visit again, particularly the North Island, to get some more hikes in (or I should say “walks” as they are called in NZ) and see some spots we missed.

One thing is for sure, we will visit next time in the summer. The weather in NZ changes rapidly and can be harsh in the fall and winter. We had far too many days of severe rain and cold for our liking.

BTW…we rented a Lucky “Cruiza” camper from Lucky Rentals. It was decent, and tall enough that we could stand up in it (a must-have feature IMO). The only problem was the engine sucked and was super slow up hills, painfully slow. Overall it was a good van for the money and I would rent it again if I went back (we snagged a super low rate of $38 / day). Check them out if you need to rent a camper.

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Alison making coffee before heading out on a n afternoon hike at Lake Tekapo.

– Ravi

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7 thoughts on “Touring New Zealand in a Campervan

  1. Hello you two,

    Magic, though you would like NZ, especially the South Island. tongariro – amazing eh?

    Planning trip in UZA next year, probably ending up in Seattle – will keep you posted.

    Keep smiling

    Love from us

    Date: Fri, 16 May 2014 05:31:49 +0000 To: greynomad@live.co.uk

    1. Peter! How are you two doing? We are loving our travels and enjoying Fiji right now. Pease keep in touch and we will surely meetup, either in the UK or during your travels in the USA. Wherever we end up after our travels (Seattle or otherwise) you are welcome to stay with us.

  2. DearMr.Ravi and Mrs.Alison,

     Your blog is very inspiring, i have been reading yogiRavi’s blog for quite sometime and i like your idea of life, travelling together. We have been living in the Maldives for the past ten years and my husband and my son work here, i conduct yoga classes and i have mailed some two years back too.

    last month when we went on a trip we took some photos and i sending it to you, needless to say you guys inspire.

    When you come to Maldives please let us know. keep travelling and blogging, take  care,

  3. Hi Ravi and alison!
    Just wondering if you could share some wisdom with me on how you got the lucky cruiza for $38 a day? Thanks I appreciate it!
    Ashley 🙂

    1. Hey Ashley!

      We got lucky 🙂

      We checked their website and saw they were running a special. It was hard to believe since it was so much cheaper than the other vans…and frankly, when we called Lucky to book the van they couldn’t believe the rate….they hadn’t ever seen it publicized that low below!

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