It’s practically impossible not to fall head-over-heels for the epic landscapes of New Zealand. With one-third of the nation designated as national parkland, New Zealand provides one incredibly dramatic setting after another, from wine country and mountain peaks to volcanic lakes, glaciers and rolling farmland where sheep almost outnumber people. Whether you’re on North or South Island, there’s always something to tempt you to stop, hike, climb or camp, and of course admire.
New Zealand’s population of around 4 million people means it doesn’t have a large or easily accessible public transport system, so renting a motorhome and taking to the open road is a favourite Kiwi pastime. It’s also a cost-effective and flexible way of travelling where and when you want, with your transport, bedroom and kitchen all rolled into one.
Whether you decide to park up in the middle of nowhere for some “freedom camping” or at a Department of Conservation (DOC) campsite, where you can plug your motorhome into electricity and access hot showers, bathrooms, waste disposal and laundry facilities, the location choices are endless. You may also come across more primitive, non-powered campsites which provide a cheaper alternative to DOC campsites.
It would be impossible to list all the itineraries you could follow in the vast wilds of New Zealand so we’ve selected three very different motorhome adventures which serve to illustrate the sheer diversity you will find in this country’s outstanding natural landscapes:
See the sights
Auckland – Matamata – Rotorua – Tongariro Crossing – Waitomo – Hamilton
Marvel at some of the North Island’s most unique features. Starting at Auckland with its exciting harbour activities and rolling vineyards, and heading onwards to the Hobbiton film set, ideal for Lord of the Rings fans. Rotorua and Taupo are steaming with the excitement of unique, geothermal attractions, plus the chance to walk the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Next, go underground to admire the Waitomo region’s cave formations. Check out Hamilton’s magnificent botanical gardens on your way back to Auckland.
Scale the mountains
Queenstown – Arrowtown – Southern Alps – Lake Tekapo – Christchurch
You won’t be short of impressive mountain landscapes here. After action-packed Queenstown with its mind-blowing lakeside setting, Arrowtown can seem beautifully quaint and calm. Explore old gold mines and take in the atmosphere at of the many cafes in town. Next, drive up to Aoraki (Mt Cook), New Zealand’s tallest peak, stopping off at the rural towns of Omarama and Twizel along the way. Take a walk along one of the mountain trails beginning at Mt Cook Village. Then drive through Mackenzie Country to the turquoise-blue lakes of Pukaki and Tekapo. Several small museums provide extra interest en route as you await the big city attractions of Christchurch.
Take to the water
Auckland – Wellington – Christchurch – Southern Lakes – Glenorchy
Shopping in relaxed, coastal Auckland is a must as is a visit to Piha, a black sand beach on its west coast. Make your way south from Auckland towards Lake Taupo, stopping off at the spectacular Huka Falls and head on towards cultural Wellington, along the straight Desert Road, taking in the epic views of Tongariro National Park’s volcanoes. From Wellington, take the ferry (with your motorhome) to Picton on the South Island, spotting dolphins, whales and seals as you go. Head for Blenheim and onwards to Christchurch, stopping off at Kaikoura for a plateful of crayfish, perhaps after a punt down the Avon River. At Hokitika, admire Fox and Franz Josef glaciers before travelling on down the coast through Mt Aspiring National Park to Wanaka with its boutique wineries and breweries. Glenorchy’s Lake Hayes and Lake Wakatipu are ideal for awesome mountain views, beech forests and lakeside hiking.
Which motorhome is best for a New Zealand tour?
There’s a huge range of motorhome styles to choose from, ranging from compact, economical, no-frills versions to fully loaded ones with showers, toilets and more… When choosing your motorhome, you might well be dazzled by size and mod cons but do bear in mind that bigger isn’t always better. Extra space and features can spell heavy loads and therefore difficulties scaling mountainsides. Other issues to think of are the cost of refuelling a gas-guzzler and an inability to squeeze into standard sized parking spaces. Bon voyage!