If you are going to explore with a campervan then New Zealand is the place to do it! We had never been camping, caravanning or in a campervan before and honestly it had never really appealed to me. As a young kid we would go camping quite a bit around Victoria and I loved it. As a parent doing all the organising, setting up and packing up I just couldn’t get excited about it. To be honest the fact that camping seems pretty inaccessible to a wheelchair user also put me off. However I booked our sale fares back in August and decided this was the time to experience a camper van adventure and we never looked back.
We hired a campervan for six nights/seven days and covered 1600kms of the North Island of New Zealand.
I did lots of research online and chatted to lots of people about which camper van to choose. Weighing up price , convenience, facilities and size.
With our family of 5 choice was rather limited as we needed 5 seat belts to travel safely.
Basically we had two choices for this experience.
- There is the 6 berth fully self contained ( with toilet and shower) fixed bed, bunk bed and dining table turned into bed. We were quoted anywhere from $2,0000 to $2500 for the week in April. The bonus of this camper was that you can freedom camp which would negate any fees for overnight stops.
You can find these types of campers here.
- We chose the Toyota Hiace converted camper which had seating for 3 in the front and two in the back. ( both back seats have anchor points for car seats) It cost $800 for the week. I figured for this more affordable price we could be a bit squished for a week.
We found our camper here.
Arriving at Auckland airport we could pick the camper up after 8:30am. Just keep in mind that the Jetstar flights from Melbourne get in at 5:30am so its a bit of a wait. We had breakfast in the upper food court.
A shuttle bus collected us and took us to the camper van office offsite.
When picking up your camper there will be some paper work involved and we also recommend taking your own screen shots of the camper just incase any issues arise with damages etc.
We also recommend organising insurance and excess etc with either the camper company or your own travel insurance.
Our camper took Diesel Petrol which ranged from $1.00 to $1.50 a litre.
We also paid a diesel tax ( $80) on returning the vehicle. We filled up for around $50 a time and did this 4 times.
Where to stay.
Within the North Island of New Zealand there are three options for where to park at night.
Here is a list of places to Free camp. These can only be accessed if you are fully self contained. We were not so we did not use these sites. Interestingly all the campers we saw that were self contained seemed to stay at the Holiday parks anyway so it may just depend on your budget and what sort of experience you are after.
Department of Conservation Campsites.
These sites have basic facilities like toilets and maybe a cold shower. They differ between sites and you can find lots of info here.
We stayed at two DOC sites.
The first one was near the Kauri forest and was brilliant. We parked on the grass by a picnic table with no power access an loved the rural feel.
Powered and non powered sites.
Simple Kitchen with fridge and hotplates.
It had access to a great walk in the Kauri forest and lots of space for camper vans amongst nature. When we stayed there were 4 other camper vans and a couple using a tent. It is a great way to meet other travellers.
In the kitchen area you sign in and grab a ticket for your dashboard. You can leave money in an envelope, wait for a ranger to pop by or use your DOC pass.
The second site we stayed at was at Matai Bay.
Non powered sites
It is right on the bay beach and a stunning location.
Tip: bring a head lamp to access toilets at night!
All rubbish must be taken with you.
This site has an upper and lower ground area and when we visited in April there was around 50 other campervans/tents.
For our family the prices was around $50 for DOC campsites.
You can also get a DOC campsite pass for seven days.
There are lots of Holiday Parks to choose from and we loved the TOP 10 sites in both Hot Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula and Rotarua.
You can get certain discounts if you are a Top 10 member in NZ or a Big 4 Member in Australia.
Hot Beach is an amazing location and the kids voted this their favourite as did we. The grounds are huge and the scenery is spectacular everywhere you look.
The Holiday park has every type of accommodation from non powered sites to glamping bell tents to beautiful cabins and great access to the famous Hot Beach along a boardwalk.
Hot amazing showers
Kids go karts for hire
Fish n chip shop onsite from 5.30-7.30pm.
Dumping stations and rubbish bins.
To stay here for our family of 5 in a powered site cost $80 a night.
Top 10 Rotatrua
This Holiday park is close to all the Rotarua attractions so a more city base. It was fully booked ( powered and non powered sites) when we were there and it also happened to rain all day and night.
2 x Kitchen and BBQ’s
2 mineral pools at varying temperatures to relax all year round.
Swimming pool for Summer.
For our family it cost $100 a night which was the most expensive stay on our trip.
Easy to drive and park when we were out sightseeing.
It fits in a typical car space.
Packing up each day to turn bed into dining and vice versa.
Bunk bed max weight was 60kgs and only suited to small children. My kids didn’t like the closeness to the roof!
We ended up sleeping 5 of us on the bottom area but once the kids get bigger this wouldn’t work.
Anymore than a week might have pushed us all a bit! (limited space inside when raining all day outside)
Our extra tips.
Having a table outside next to your camper is ideal. You can hire one, buy one or use picnic tables at camp sites. It just gives you that extra bit of space.
Make sure you have a heater to dry off! Our camper came with one.
Head to Countdown supermarket for supplies before you head off from Auckland. There are other small supermarkets called 4 Square but they are extra expensive. On that note we found all groceries and eating out to be more expensive than Melbourne.
Because we travel carry on only this was perfect for the camper too. In our camper there is no way big suitcases could have fitted comfortably with us all.
We used Google Maps on our phone for directions. We are with Vodafone in Australia and there is no extra charge for roaming in NZ until Jan 2018. View current info here.
If you are planing on exploring Europe by camper van check out these top tips from our friends Thass and Vix.
To see all our adventures head over to check them out on Instagram.