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travel experiences

Getting to see New Zealand in a campervan is probably one of the best ways to do it especially in winter (June-August) when rates are cheaper and tourist numbers fewer. I have been fortunate enough explore the country a couple of times - in a campervan. The following hints (pronounced 'hunts' by most Kiwis) and tips are based on my experiences. If you'd like to see your tips published here, please get in touch!

before you book that passion wagon

who are the major campervan companies?

collecting/returning your campervan

driving your campervan

campsite tips

where should we go?

reading list

web links


Quotes are easy and valid for 7 days, true availability so you can book instantly.  A great source of relevant information with a qualified customer service team 


before you book that passion wagon:

·          Consider the length of hire.  More than 3 weeks in a sardine tin can drive you seriously mad and undoubtedly test everyone’s patience.  To lessen the chance of anyone ending up with manslaughter charges, either go for a bigger campervan or limit your time in them (Just as sardine tins have expiry dates, so do campervans!).  Oh, and don't go campervanning on your honeymoon as those divorce papers won't be far away!

·          Some companies will supply extras such as free mobile phones for the duration of the rental period.  So shop around to see what is on offer.

·          Ask the company whether a proper road atlas is supplied.  Britz don't provide any, which is totally ridiculous.  When you rent a car you ALWAYS get an atlas supplied.  Obviously Britz are trying to maximise their profit margins by alienating customers.  Although they say they provide 'maps' these are actually ones which are contained in the AA Guides which come with the vehicle and simply aren't good enough!  Either demand a road atlas or purchase one elsewhere!

·          Ensure your campervan is fully insured.  Bizarrely enough, vehicle insurance isn't compulsory in New Zealand so if some uninsured hoon (link to dictionary definition) writes off your van he won't be paying you a penny. 

·          If you're planning to visit both the North and South islands find out whether it's possible to hire one van for each island as the crossing can prove to be expensive and a pain in the backside.  Read more here (link).

·          Do you really want that water tank brimming to the top? Obviously you'll be saving petrol and be a bit more environmental if you put a smaller amounts in.

·          Choose your campervan company carefully.  There are numerous companies you can choose from – all offering different deals, vehicles and service.  Phone round to see what suits you best.


who are the major campervan companies?

Adventure Motor Homes - offer an extensive range of vehicles for hire from their depots in Auckland and Christchurch. These range from two berth models right up to luxury 6-7 berth deluxe automatic Mercedes Benz super cruisers.

Affordable Motorhome - With offices located in Christchurch, they are happy to arrange pick-up and drop-off locations to suit your requirements and offer rental motor homes in a variety of sizes and styles at reasonable prices.

Aotea Campervans - Experience New Zealand off the beaten track in a solar campervan. Aotea Campervans offers campervans from basic economy two berth to four berth deluxe models, some with showers, toilets, solar panels, and other features. Depots in Christchurch and Auckland.

Backpacker Campervans - Offer a range of 2-3 berth Campervans to suit your needs available from four locations nationwide: Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington. As part of Australasia's largest rental operator (Brits) allows them to pass on benefits to you including: campervans fully equipped with all living and sleeping equipment, unlimited kilometres, complimentary transfers, complimentary hire of mobile phones and discounts to New Zealand's leading attractions

Britz (or 'Brits') - One of Australasia's largest rental vehicle operators, giving you reliability and security behind you, with options and services to make every adventure complete. Free airport transfers (Auckland & Christchurch only).

Cruise - (Not sure whether these guys still exist 09/05) With branches in Auckland and Christchurch, agents in Queenstown, Wellington and Dunedin, Cruise have an extensive network of service agents available throughout the country for any little problem that may arise. Offering from 4WD to executive campers.

Discovery Motorhomes New Zealand - Specialises in organising vehicle rentals. You get to compare prices and see real time availability for motorhome depots all over New Zealand. You can either search for availability or take a look at their dedicated vehicles pages to view each suppliers vehicles. When you do a search on their system you will only see vehicles available for booking now, so there's no need to send off email quotes and wait for replies.Also look at their sister site for Australian campervan rentals

Eagle Motor Homes - Offer touring New Zealand in style & luxury in their purpose-built, five-star mobile home. This luxury motor home is perfect for the distinguished traveller, who wants the freedom of travelling at their own pace, but also having all the comforts of home. The motor home also makes a fantastic temporary home for film crews, and those on working excursions throughout New Zealand. Their specialty is large luxury coaches set up on a personal level, serviced, stocked and ready to go. They can even offer a fully certified driver for holiday trips if required. Standard Touring Rates - average NZD$1000/day.

Getaway NZ - offers a budget priced self-drive campervan for those discerning travellers wanting value for money. These vehicles are well maintained offering reliable motoring for an enjoyable holiday. Campervans from $50 A DAY(Peak $70/day) and free days for hires 14 days or longer).

Good Value Campervans New Zealand - offer quality campervans at competitive prices. Their fleet of 2/3 berth late model campervans are well presented and are serviced regularly. Depots in Auckland, Wellington, Picton, Nelson, Christchurch, Greymouth (Tranz-Alpine Train Connection) and Queenstown.

Kea Campers - Founded 1995 in New Zealand, KEA became quickly the pre-eminent leader in the campervan and motorhome rental industry. KEA's mission is to provide the best vehicles and services in the leisure vehicle rental industry. Depots are located in Auckland and Christchurch.

Kool Combi - Travel through beautiful New Zealand in a unique and lovingly restored Volkswagen camper van for that special experience you will always remember. And you don't necessarily have to be a hippy!

Lang AutoService Ltd - A family owned and operated company, and have over 15 years experience in the motor home business, being small enough to care for each customers requirements, but also being experienced travellers themselves, so they understand your concerns and requirements, and really care that you experience and enjoy New Zealand. With offices in Auckland and Christchurch, they recommend the "one-way hire" as the most effective way to see New Zealand. There is no extra charge for one-way hires, and you only need one car ferry reservation.

Maui Rentals - have a large range of quality Motorhomes, sleeping from 2 to 6 people or choose one of our Rental Cars seating up to 10 people to leisurely tour New Zealand at your own pace. Claims to be Australasia's largest motorhome rental company.

New Zealand Motorhomes - New Zealand's Premier Online Booking Service. New Zealand Motorhomes is an Authorised Agent for all the listed companies. They  claim to have located the best Motorhome Rentals at the best rates for you.

NZ Motorhome Rentals -  AA 24hr breakdown service is standard on all their rental vehicles and you have a choice of insurance options that best suit your requirements. Drop off and pick up depots are conveniently located in Christchurch, Picton, Nelson and Auckland. Rates are also very competitive.

Pacific Horizon - Established as a family run business in 1985 and has grown from a modest fleet of vehicles to now be the Second largest supplier of quality Motorhome rentals in New Zealand.

Paradise - Offer a modern fleet of superior quality 2, 3,4 and 6 berth Motorhomes and Rental Cars available for hire from Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo and Christchurch. For your comfort and enjoyment, all of their vehicles are "SMOKE-FREE" so smoking is not permitted in any Paradise Motorhomes or Rental Cars!

R & R Quality Campervans Ltd - claim to have the most updated modern Deluxe Campervan fleet in New Zealand. You can return the campervan to Auckland, Picton, Blenheim, Nelson and Christchurch.

Spaceships - Now something completely different. Spaceships are unlike any other Motorhome hire or budget Campervan rental offered in New Zealand. Not only do you get a vehicle which is great to drive and custom fitted with all the features that you'll need to sleep, eat and travel in New Zealand - you also get access to our absolutely unique Support and Guidance service, which includes advice on where to go, what to do and discounts on great NZ activities - so you can really get the most out of your New Zealand experience.

Sunrise Holidays Campervan Hire  - A Nelson based company, offer a fleet of modern motorhomes and specialise in meeting clients who travel from the North Island to the South Island at the Picton Ferry Terminal. Offer 2 berth to 6 berth motorhomes.

Tui Campers  - A family owned private company, which has been operating campervans and motorhomes since 1983. The company has grown from small beginnings to one of New Zealand leading rental vehicle companies. Tui Campers are geared towards the budget minded traveller seeking the best New Zealand campervan and motorhome rental value. They offer airport (Auckland and Christchurch International Airports), hotel and motel pick-ups. If you have recently travelled with them, I'd be interested to hear your storie - good or bad. I've recently had one comment emailed to me from a recent Tui customer (October 2008) who said "The vans are old, they leak, they supply dirty linen etc." So if you do decide to go with Tui you may just want to double check the van before driving off!!

United - Another family business that prides itself on exceptional personal service. United is large enough to offer a comprehensive range of vehicles and services but is still small enough to care.

Walkabout Quality Campervans and Motorhomes  - With more than 5 years of excellent service, their recent mention in the Lonely Planet is a testament to their endeavours! Walkabout will ensure you enjoy your holiday from start to finish offering travel throughout New Zealand in complete Luxury. They do recommend that arranging a your deposit of NZ$2000 will save you throwing your money away on the Bond Waiver Insurance as most claims are for windscreens, which you are covered for in their daily compulsory rate.

Wicked Campervans  - Another budget operator offering vans across the world and including New Zealand and Austraiai. They offer everything from budget through to 4WD campers so check them out as they often have special offers on. You may have seen one of their beauties in some part of the world as they operate globally now. There vans aren't too subtle to spot either!!

Wilderness Motorhomes - Wilderness Motorhomes is a partnership between brother and sister John Managh and Mary Hamilton. Wilderness Motorhomes offers seasonal pricing. Discounts apply for off-peak as well as hire periods of 21 days or more.


wicked campervans wicked campervans wicked campervans


Quotes are easy and valid for 7 days, true availability so you can book instantly.  A great source of relevant information with a qualified customer service team. 


collecting/Returning your campervan

·          Ensure you have plenty of time when transferring you campervan.  (With Britz it took us 2 hours to simply sort everything out when we collected our passion wagon.  Also be prepared for rude, disorganised and disinterested staff at Britz).

·          Check your vehicle thoroughly for damage upon collection.  Anything not noted down now will be accountable to you on the vans return.

·          Ensure the company has included everything that they told you was included such as chairs, tables, bedding, maps, cutlery, mobile etc.

·          Ask whether you can leave any of your surplus luggage at the depot.  There's not much space for suitcases or the wife’s' 20 pairs of shoes  (send your sexism complaints here).  Similarly, if there's just the two of you then leave behind any extra bedding and chairs.


driving your campervan

·          Remember that your van is heavier, less responsive and as aerodynamic as an elephant when compared to your Ford Escort back home.  Braking distances are longer and wind can be a real bugger on exposed roads.

·          Kiwi roads give suggested cornering speeds, which are pretty conservative – you can usually add on 10-15km depending on your vans size.

·          Petrol typically cost us 103.5 (Auckland) to 116.5 (Franz Josef) kiwi cents per litre (2002).  Petrol increases in cost as you head south from Auckland.

·          There are petrol stations in even the smallest of places.  However there are always exceptions to this and it's advised that you tank up before setting off for Milford Haven.

·          Be courteous to other drivers.  If you're the leading a 5km tailback, pull over in a safe spot to let those irate drivers overtake.  If however, you're driving the speed limit and that ‘hoon’ (Antipodean boy-racer) in the Holden Commodore (fitted with those naff blue neon Christmas lights on the bonnet) is massaging your bumper then just release that stenchy dishwater which you've saved especially for such an event!

·          Rental companies usually don't bother informing you of the dangers on the Kiwi roads.  Here are the main ones to look out for:

o         Give way to the right.  Bizarrely enough, when you're turning a leftie and an oncoming vehicle is turning right into the same street you have to give way to it.  We only found this out after a few near misses and many expletives!

o         Remember your vans height.  Although it'll make a snug fit in that multi-storey car park, you'll end up with a topless van.  Wellington must be renowned for topless vans as we had a close encounter with one of the many multi-storey's and we also met a couple that had ripped off their roof.  Turns out that they had rented their van from Christchurch Rentals who are apparently so affordable as they don't bother with insurance. Maybe they'll do compulsory insurance now...

o         Logging trucks are kings of the road.  Give them a wide berth.  Many seem to be reckless drivers whom don't seem to give a damn where they overtake you, even in 50km/h zones or at 120km round corners.

o         When driving on unsurfaced roads take it easy with your right foot, gently apply brakes where needed and slow down to oncoming traffic to avoid stones flying into their windscreen (hopefully they'll be just as cautious!).

o         Obviously stow everything away when driving.  Kettles, tabletops and dishes become missiles when accidents occur. 

o         Switch off the gas before setting off or going to bed.

o         Watch out for animals especially the larger variety such as sheep, which will make a big mess of the engine and windscreen.  Should you encounter sheep being herded, slow down but DO NOT STOP as you will only act as a barrier to the fluffies and annoy the farmer. 

o         Try and avoid driving at nights.  The number of dead possums are testament to the numbers having a death wish.  Should one decide to end its life just as you're approaching it – lift off from the accelerator, but DON'T BRAKE or SWERVE to avoid it!  Plenty of the pests remain in the wild harming New Zealand's indigenous wildlife.

o         Try not to hit those moa (herbivorous Dinornithiformes) birds – they're almost extinct...


campsite tips

·          If you're looking after the pennies (or cents) then its possible to park up for free in a number of places as you see fit.  Obviously don't start going into farmers’ fields late at night with your diped lights in the hope that he won't notice.  Farmer Hopkins will only be shoving that rifle down your hairy nasal passages as soon as you open that door in the morning to relieve yourself!!

·          Respect NO CAMPING signs and don't trespass!  Alternatively you may want to try one of the few free campsites available with perhaps only cold water available.  If your pockets stretch further then try one of the Department of Conservation (DOC) sites, which are often in beautiful locations.  Although they may be minimalist they do have running water and water.  Charges are typically around $6 per person.  If your pockets stretch even further then get yourself hold of one of the many campsite guides available (e.g. Jason’s, AA or Top 10 Holiday Parks) which show a categorised list of sites in each area together with costs (usually $16-24), facilities and usually poor directions on making it there.  It can be quite a feat ending up at the site of your choice!

·          In summer and other peak travel times such as around Christmas and Easter, it may be wise to book your campsites ahead.  Most have free phone numbers.

·          If using campsites for most nights, consider splashing out on a Top 10 Holiday Park discount card.  This will give you 10% off on its affiliated parks which all have to maintain a certain standard (although you may find yourself how some managed to pass the criteria levels.  Overall the scheme seems to work well, and it only takes 10 nights for the card to be worth its purchase price of $20.  Remember there are plenty of other independent sites, which are just as good if not better than the Top 10 Holiday Parks.

·          In windy conditions, try and park the camper near a building or trees (as long as you think that oak tree isn't going to end up with you in bed!) to give you some shelter.  It's no fun sleeping in a swaying van!

·          If you have a gas heater onboard, ask your rental company whether they have any electric heaters.  You can then run these at the campsites saving you your gas.

·          Similarly, you can save on gas by doing your cooking in the campsite kitchens, which are usually well equipped.  You can also obtain your hot water from the kitchen water boilers.

·          Campsites are a common site in New Zealand. Not as common as those sheep, and many road atlases such as the AA Road Atlas New Zealand will give you information on more than 600 campsites which will help you in your daily route planning. This guide will also tell you where your nearet motor caravan and motorhome dump stations are!

Some of the better campsites we came across: (will be listed here shortly, once I remember where I left that list!)


where should we go?

This entirely depends on the time you have and on the type of person you are.  New Zealand is known as one of the most adventure sport orientated countries in the world.  I suggest you read up on the areas you want to visit and the local activities, which are available. 

One definite suggestion I can definitely make is to get yourself a copy of 'Explore New Zealand - over 60 scenic driving tours' (from the Globetrotter series). Combine this with Lonelyplanet's New Zealand and an AA road atlas (for New Zealand!) and I guarantee that you will see and enjoy the best places in this amazing country! One place you can pre-order the 'Explore New Zealand' guide is here. Getting a copy now will enable you to plan your route before you even touch down (not all kiwi bookstores sell it).


reading list


·          New Zealand Guide , Lonely Planet  - still the number one guide for New Zealand. Providing information for travelling in New Zealand for every budget, this title offers guides to all its outdoor activities, its flora and fauna, sights, public transport, history and culture. Alternatively if you're stopping off across 'the ditch' in Australia you may wish to consider buying just the one guide for both places - Australia and New Zealand on a Shoestring

·          Exploring New Zealand - 60 scenic drives – We used this to route our trip and found it indispensable!  Shows highlights along the road. By dividing the country into 12 regions, each of which is further divided into approximately five tours tailored to offer the ideal combination of sights and experiences, the book will help the reader make the most of their driving holiday. There are 61 tours in total, and each contains a detailed map (created by Barry Bradley, New Zealand's leading cartographer) and full-colour photography that illustrates some of the highlights of that particular trip.

·          Tramping in New Zealand, Lonely Planet – good compact guide for tramping all round the country. New Zealand's Milford Track is so popular that reservations are needed to enjoy the four-day walk. This is a guide to this and other treks in the country. With excellent chapters on tramping facts and health and safety, each included walk is given equal priority with maps and sugesteditineraries and transport sugestions.

·          Kiwi Tracks: New Zealand Journey - Many of us dream of escaping from everyday life, tossing a few possessions in a backpack and travelling light in far-off lands. Andrew Stevenson did more than dream: he packed his rucksack and went.

·          AA Road Atlas New Zealand - Discover New Zealand's clearest mapping with this new large format atlas from the experts at the AA in association with Hema Maps. Including information on distances and journey times, map symbols, route planning, and key to map pages, this is the perfect companion for travelling through New Zealand. Each page is titled with its geographical location so you can turn to the page you need more easily. There is additional information on more than 600 campsites, motor caravan and motorhome dump stations, 20 city maps plus the Top 25 Places to See and the Top 20 Things to Do. The Lord of the Rings film locations are also shown on the mapping, so you can visit the set locations used for the films.

·          The Rough Guide Map New Zealand - An alternative to the AA Road Atlas. It's made of some clever material that makes it tough, rip-proof and waterproof, but still easy to fold, unlike thicker laminated maps. There's enough detail on the map for driving around New Zealand. And it shouldn't rip if you're arguing about directions whilst doding sheep on state highway one.

·          The Rough Guide to New Zealand - If you're not a Lonely Planet follower, then the The Rough Guide will prove to be just as good for you rtrip to New Zealand! It's the essential guidebook to this spectacular adventure destination. A fully comprehensive account, the guide incorporates a country full of magnificent scenery, craggy coastlines, sweeping beaches, primeval forests, snow-capped alpine mountains, bubbling volcanic pools, fast-flowing rivers and glacier-fed lakes. This jam-packed guide contains expert coverage, catering for every traveller, from the country rambler to the adventure-seeking junky to the new breed of Lord of the Rings enthusiasts.

·          Xenophobe's Guide to Kiwis - For a light-hearted look and NZ and it's people, this comes highly recommend! Reading this book first if you're thinking about going to New Zealand anytime soon,! It's hilarious, short and dead-on. In less than 100 pages, you'll get a very thorough introduction to the culture and people of New Zealand which will make your visit all the more amusing as you discover the stuff you've just read about to be perfectly true. Apart from the sheep bit...

·          The Penguin History of New Zealand - Not just another boring historical book - did you know that New Zealand was the last country in the world to be discovered and settled by humankind? It was also the first to introduce a full democracy!



web links

Air New Zealand

Akiko – news, general info, kiwi links including pink links.

Bushwise NZ – Useful accommodation and activities guide for woman travellers.

Department of Conservation – National Park info, news, info on tracks etc.

NZ Government - General country info as well as info on customs, immigration etc.

NZ Tourism Board - What’s on guide and many more links.

Queenstown - the world's number one adventure capital.  Find out what will make your stomach wretch!

NZ Telephone Directory – Find that phone number

Tranzrail – Check for discounts, special tickets and timetables

VIP Backpacker's Resorts

Youth Hostel Association


campground information:

Holiday Parks

Jasons Camp

More campgrounds…


PS - Don't forget to mention when booking your travels!

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