New Zealand is brilliant. The scenery, the people, the sweet accent, Hobbits…the list goes on and on, and in addition to the familiar superlatives, I have to add one more that I love: Camper Van Culture. Renting a camper in NZ is dead easy, a terrific value and just so much fun – like a rolling slumber party! But what is really impressive is the extent to which things are accessible to a camper van. Nearly everywhere we went had accommodations for parking, driving and navigating our wheeled Taj Majal. This was never more clear than in transferring our party from NZ’s North Island to the South. In the US, campers (called RV’s) are typically enormous, yet sleep only two, and apart from wide-open freeways, the outer reaches of a Wal-Mart parking lot or an RV Park, navigating one can be a frustrating experience.
Traversing from Wellington in the North to Picton in the South couldn’t be easier. Buy a ticket, queue up at the appointed time, and simply drive your camper plus all your possessions onto the deck of one of Bluebridge’s two ferry boats. Three comfortable hours later, you drive down the ramp and continue the scenic smorgasbord. On and off the ferry is easier than navigating your local parking garage in a Camry.
The New Zealand breed of camper is perfectly-sized. We rented one of the largest available sizes; plenty of room inside for sleeping, cooking and playing Rook, yet found our camper from Kiwi Auto Homes actually easier to drive than the rented mini-van. The difference in size – especially height – is not insignificant, but doesn’t feel unwieldy in the least. An average minivan is 16.5 feet (5 m) long, 5.75 feet (1.75 m) high and 6.5 (2 m) wide, while our camper was 21.5 feet (6.5 m) x 13 feet (4 m) x 7.2 feet (2.2 m).
Think you’d like to visit New Zealand? (Hint: You Absolutely Do!) Wonder if you can handle a camper? Answer: Yes. Alternative Answer: That’s what insurance is for! 🙂
There’s a bunch of information available online, but start here with these two great sites:
- Wilderness.co.nz’s blog has a ton of trip reports, practical information and rents campers for up to 4 persons.
- Liz, the Young Adventuress, posts a very detailed and “real” trip report. The post is two years old and some information dated (We crossed Haast Pass without any issue whatsoever, for example), but the advice regarding camping and driving in NZ very much represents our experience.