I’ve lived in New Zealand since I was a kid, and my family’s done the tourist thing many times. We’ve done the coach tours; the hotels; the motels, but by far the best holiday we had was in a campervan.
Why? Campervans are cramped and the toilet and shower facilities aren’t exactly luxurious, but they give you what other accommodation options simply can’t: freedom.
New Zealand is such a varied place. It’s got glaciers at one end and sub-tropical rainforests at the other. It’s got sophisticated cities and tribal villages; mystical caves that contain the stars and seething lands of volcanoes, geysers and mud pools. You can’t discover New Zealand by staying in one place, or even a few different places. You have to keep moving, and you never know what you might find.
Let’s face it, New Zealand is a long way to come for a holiday – it’s expensive to get here, for many a once-in-a-lifetime trip – so you want to experience as much of it as you can. You could go on a coach tour, but I found that offered a very artificial view of the country, and you have no control. You have to move on when the group does and you can’t go where you want to go. If you see somewhere interesting down a side road, you can’t turn down it to investigate. You can in a campervan.
That’s how we found lots of wonderful, little places like the Craters of the Moon, a magical geothermal park you can walk around in less than an hour. The boardwalk wends its way between steam vents and the landscape is truly out of this world. I felt like I was in an episode of Star Trek – a high-budget one at that.
In a campervan, you can travel from one end of the country to the other, taking in every fantastic view, stopping where you want and keeping to your own flexible schedule. You don’t have to worry about finding accommodation because you’re already in it. You can sleep in the wild but still have a roof over your head.
You can even take your campervan on a ferry across Cook Strait, the body of water between the North and the South Islands.
No wonder you can’t drive anywhere in New Zealand without seeing a campervan. It is absolutely the best way to discover the country. Just remember we drive on the left.
Article by Abigail Simpson, author of POMS AWAY! A British Immigrant’s View of New Zealand