June 2007

New Zealand

Experience The Beauty By Campervan

By Gloria Bryson Pyszka

The majority of visitors to New Zealand intend to sample its magnificent scenery either by hiking or touring, as well as participate in fishing and daring sports that include bungee jumping and paragliding.

Many visitors rent RVs, or campervans, as they’re known there. The country is ideal for traveling by campervan, as campgrounds are inexpensive and found in most towns — often in beautiful locations.
During our late February visit to NZ, we rented a car and used B&Bs and hotels during our two- week visit.  I immediately had a touch of nostalgia for our own RV, as we passed campervans wherever we went.   

Campgrounds:  In the more popular areas, campgrounds offer electrical hookup and dump-station conveniences, grocery stores, playgrounds, etc.   Not so in the remote areas where you may stop in a rest area by the roadside (apparently they’re more restful and safer than those in the United States). During peak summer season, the campgrounds located in popular areas of both islands are filled, especially in the national parks and surrounding areas.

The Seasons:  Remember that New Zealand’s seasons are opposite from ours. Their winter/spring is May through September, while summer/fall is from October through April.

Van Rental Operators/Rates:  The four largest companies in the campervan/motorhome rental business include Maui Motorhomes– www.maui.co.nz;  Britz – www.britz.co.nz ; Kea – www.keacampers.co.nz .   Each Web site offers all info that you need to make a reservation online.

 Rental prices depend upon the season, not the number of rental days.   I used May or early winter pricing.  Maui Motorhomes offers a base rate, per day pricing for the following: two-berth rental — $72-$91 range; four-berths — $117; six-berths — $126.  Kea’s prices are all inclusive: two-berth rental — $185-$240; four berths — $260, and six berths — $295.Rates for high season, mid-December through February are two berths — $285-$335; four berths — $375, and six berths — $395.

We also came across campervan rentals from other companies. So, check out Apollo, Affordable Motorhome Rental, Scenic NZ Motorhome rentals, and Tui Campers.

Top Destinations (courtesy of the Lonely Planet’s NZ book): Visitors need at least two weeks to “do” both islands by campervan, and even then, you will see only a modest part of  NZ’s scenery.   Some of the North Island’s most popular destinations include Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park, Bay of Islands, Wellington, and Auckland. 

After taking the ferry across Cook Strait, you will arrive at the north end of South Island.   Start by visiting Blenheim, famous for world-class sauvignon blanc wines, plus some great reds. Think Napa without the crowds.  We also loved our stay in Old St. Mary’s Convent that now hosts visitors to the wine region (www.convent.co.nz ).    Other popular destinations include Kaikoura, Christchurch, Otago Peninsula, Mt. Cook, Milford Sound, Abel Tasman National Park, and Nelson. 

References: The two guide books we took with us were New Zealand DK Eyewitness Travel (2006 edition) and Lonely Planet’s  New Zealand (2006 edition). Go to www.selections.co.nz,  an excellent site for locating B&B’s and hotels in all regions of both islands. We used it for most of our accommodations.  

And, if you plan to drive, www.tourism.net.nz/new-zealand  has a great  resource to take with you.  It provides distances between every regional town and city on both islands — listed in miles,  kilometers, plus the time given for driving the distance.