New Zealand Honeymoon Advice
January 15, 2009 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Honeymoonfilter. Anyone have experience going on a campervan trip in New Zealand?

I am a travel noob. I have travelled outside of Western Canada a total of three times in my entire life and as one might expect I am a little apprehensive about travelling so far away.

We are planning on going on our honeymoon in late September/Early October '09 and are intrigued by the thought of cruising the New Zealand countryside via campervan.

What we would like to know is:

1. Is it fairly hassle free?
2. Is there one rental company that is better than the others?
3. Should we splurge and get the luxe RV? (toilet and shower)
4. Is there ample camping?
5. Should we worry about crime? (again, scaredycat guy far away from comfort of home)
6. Is it touristy? As in busy with tourists or is it somewhat unpopulated?
7. How the weather this time of year?

I have read this question and have done some research on google but was hoping a New Zealander (ite?) or someone that has done it could provide a little insight.
posted by chugg to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Any and all advice welcome.
posted by chugg at 10:01 AM on January 15, 2009

4. There are plenty of campsites in NZ.
5. Crime is probably about the same level as Canada I imagine, which means you'd have to be pretty unlucky to run into any trouble.
6. New Zealand is basically pretty empty outside the main cities. Very easy to get away from people/tourists. Esp. if you're going late Sept/early Oct it's still basically pretty cold especially in the South, which I think is the best place to check out

I think it's a very good idea - NZ is ideal for driving round in a campervan. Very windy roads though.
posted by dydecker at 10:27 AM on January 15, 2009

No specific RV experience here but we did recently return from a NZ vacation. Remember, driving is on the opposite side of the road. We rented a car for several days and it takes some getting used to and definitely adds a layer of stress, especially at night on winding unfamiliar roads.

NZ is made up of the North Island (more people, more cities) and South Island (less populated, more scenic). The only way between the two in an RV is by ferry at Wellington.

And it may be a comparatively small country but it still takes some time to drive around. We spent 2.5 weeks on the South Island going around the entire coastline and then only had a few days left for Auckland and Rotorua on the North Island. It depends what you want to see and what time you have but you will likely have to make some choices on what can and can't be seen.

Feel free to memail a fellow Canadian if you would like some more details on our trip.
posted by pixlboi at 10:39 AM on January 15, 2009

Best answer: The New Zealand AA website (equivalent of AAA in the US) has great travel information and answers a lot of your questions.

There are several good, well known campervan rental companies. The ones you see most commonly on the road are Britz, Maui, or Kea campers. They all have bases close to the big airports (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch). Renting a vehicle of any kind is pretty low-hassle and you can do it all online and usually arrange pickup on your arrival at the airport.

There are umpteen dozens of campgrounds in New Zealand. I'm familiar with the South Island more than the north and there are campsites up and down both coasts and in between, often right by the ocean or surrounded by native forest. The campsites are run by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and are cheap, a few dollars a night. They vary in the amenities they provide, and the further off the beaten track you are, the less likely you'll find drinkable water on tap. They will all have toilets and some form of water, but there will be signs warning you to boil it first. There are also privately owned campsites where kitchens, toilets, electricity and showers are provided. If you want a guaranteed shower every day, then it would probably pay to get a van with one included. As far as toilets go, every DOC campsite I've visited has had surprisingly clean toilets.

It can be touristy depending where you go. Places like Rotorua and Queenstown cater almost exclusively to tourists, and the big centres are crowded but have lots to do. It is incredibly easy to get away from people, though, if you want to. Campgrounds are often a great place to meet other people, local or otherwise, and a chance to find out from the locals about places you may not hear about otherwise.

In the South Island, that time of year is still fairly wet and cool. The ski fields could be still running (last year they didn't close until the end of October), and skiing in spring is great because you'll get sunshine and blue skies all day. The west coast of the south island is wet in general, I don't know if it's more so then. The top of the south island and most of the North Island will be warm and wet - I went to Whangarei and the Bay of Islands in October and it was cloudy, drizzly but warm for the entire week. The Bay of Islands is gorgeous but much of the touristy stuff there (including some restaurants and events) don't start until after Labour Weekend (end of October).

And yes, the roads can be horribly windy when you're not used to that. There are lots of mountain ranges between pretty much every town. Speaking of which: if you can, book a day trip on the TransAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth. It takes you across the mountains and through lots of native bush, and it is absolutely beautiful.
posted by tracicle at 11:22 AM on January 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

There have been some incidences of crime against campervanning tourists, but these are probably as common or rare as any other country. Lock your vehicle, tuck expensive cameras and wallets out of sight, and be aware of your surroundings, just as you would on any other holiday.

A year or two ago a bunch of guys from somewhere in Europe were travelling NZ by campervan and reported that their campervan was broken into and they lost laptops, expensive cameras, and cash. The NZ police and public were appalled and it was big news -- then it turned out they'd faked it for the insurance.
posted by tracicle at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2009

Here's a blog post from a few years back that may be helpful. They traveled quite a bit in NZ, look around the site for more ideas.
posted by sararah at 11:33 AM on January 15, 2009

My husband and I just honeymooned for two weeks on the North Island last September. Highly recommended! We drove around and stayed in hotels, so I can't advise on the campervan situation. Campervans are everywhere, though, and we plan to go back and see the South Island this way.

You will be very surprised how long it takes to get from point A to point B. We had read this, but it was still surprising. Narrow, curvy roads galore. Plus lots of beautiful scenery that makes you want to go slow so you can take it in. You might want to just pick one island, depending on how much time you have. Driving on the other side of the road is harrowing/tiring when you're not used to it. Take into account when you're planning that you might not want to drive for as long a period of time as you might on a road trip at home. You do get used it, though.

NZ, from what I could tell, is a really touristy country in general, but I never felt exploited as a tourist there. There were a lot of helpful resources for travelers, even in the small towns. You don't have to go far to get away from people, so remember always get gas when you can. Even though there's a town not far on your map, it may only have 10 people living in it (learned this from experience).

And I don't know if we were just lucky, but I found a lot of people were inclined to give you a little gift when they found out you were honeymooning. Have fun, it's a great place!
posted by slowfasthazel at 11:52 AM on January 15, 2009

I agree with the idea of choosing one island, depending on the amount of time you have.

Pluses for the North Island: not so cold, interesting Maori culture especially on the East Cape & the Far North, crazy volcano country in Tongariro National Park, lots of variety from the sub-tropical to the windswept and desolate. Minuses: too many farms & sheep.

Pluses for the South: Scenery like you wouldn't believe, an overdose of natural beauty really. Far far fewer people. Downsides: a bit touristy in places, a bit cold, and of course too many farms and sheep.
posted by dydecker at 1:24 PM on January 15, 2009

It's probably "shoulder season" there, so borderline busy. Roads are remarkably empty, so you definitely don't need to worry about that. Single lane, for almost all of my travelling.. My car was standard transmission - not sure how readily available automatics are, but I am sure they're at a premium price.

There's tons of people doing the camper van thing, so I imagine it's hassle free. I just rented a car, but I had no problems getting around. Didn't get lost, etc.
posted by backwards guitar at 1:54 PM on January 15, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone. We are even more pumped about this.

Side question - Is calling a person from NZ a 'kiwi' rough the equivalent to calling a Canadian a 'canuck'? Or is it more derogatory?
posted by chugg at 2:10 PM on January 15, 2009

Just got back from NZ last night!

4. Is there ample camping?
The south island is pretty much one big campsite/"holiday park."

5. Should we worry about crime? (again, scaredycat guy far away from comfort of home)
Probably not "worry," but be aware and lock your car doors. I saw signs and heard verbal warnings about theft from vehicles in tourist areas.

6. Is it touristy? As in busy with tourists or is it somewhat unpopulated?
Oh God yes. Granted I was there in the middle of summer, but the place was crawling with Germans as well as Kiwis on their own holidays. The only place that really screams "tourist trap" is Queenstown, but there are a lot of tourists everywhere.

re: the driving thing. I found the "it takes a while to drive everywhere" thing a bit overstated. I drove almost entirely around the south island in four days. I stopped quite frequently and one day stopped altogether at 1pm. Granted I was driving a car not a van, but the speed limit on country roads is 100km(~60mph). Most people go fast than this, and in fact if you go under 110 you will end up with one or more tailgating Kiwis within minutes.

The parts I recommend most are the west coast of the south island and Fiordland. The things I recommend least are spending extended time in Auckland. I should also mention the treatment I received at the airport there: the customs people were quite rude, and either they profiled me based on my beard and hippie-ish appearance or I'm the luckiest guy in the world, because I was "randomly" selected for explosives wanding every time I passed through.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:12 PM on January 15, 2009

ps New Zealanders call themselves "kiwis" all the time. There's nothing derogatory attached that I know of.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:14 PM on January 15, 2009

Good advice already. If you're looking for specific campervan companies, my friend works for href="">Spaceships - a neat company with great little campervans. It may or may not suit your needs. Feel free to mefimail me any questions and I can pass them on to her.
posted by minus zero at 2:43 PM on January 15, 2009

No problems with kiwi - many New Zealanders use this term and it has no negative connotations. I'll second the "getting gas when you can" sentiment - petrol stations can be few and far between once you get into the scenic drives. Also, boil your water at campsites - giardia can be an issue.

As far as crime goes -- violent crime is very, very unlikely; theft is uncommon but don't leave your wallet/passport/camera sitting around in your camper - just to be safe. And don't forget the keas :-).
posted by media_itoku at 3:05 PM on January 15, 2009

One thing that I don't see mentioned specifically.

You can park anywhere and sleep. You don't HAVE to be at a camper park. Just pull over, and that's it! (Probably nicer on an out-of the way spot, not next to a busy road!)

Enjoy, it's a beautiful country! And remember the side with steering wheel is closest to the center of the road! LOL.
posted by defcom1 at 4:43 PM on January 15, 2009

Violent crime is unlikely, but it does happen. Don't let your guard down lower than it would be at home.

(To put this in context, there's about 4 million of us, and roughly 1 murder per week, which would be national news every time).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:39 PM on January 15, 2009

What sort of activities are you keen on? If you want to hit the beach, or do some of the great walking tracks, then there are better times of year than September. On the other hand, if you want to ski, that's when you want to come down.

There's nothing derogatory attached that I know of.

Nothing at all. We renamed the fruit - peviously known as the Chinese Gooseberry, which we found inconvenient for obvious reasons - for marketing purposes. It's really the name of our national bird, which is why we adopted it for ourselves.

Seriously, it's our word, from our language. If you misuse it, that's your deal - but probably 99/100 folk here won't have any idea what you're even talking about.
posted by The Monkey at 5:52 PM on January 15, 2009

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