The New Zealand roads are full of them (if it is possible to describe the often gloriously empty New Zealand roads as full of anything)……campervans that is.
There are those who hire – everything from the tiny, luridly orange ‘Spaceships‘ to the larger, all-comforts-included ‘Kea’ motorhomes, logo emblazoned with a kea (that wonderful mountain parrot whose vandal-like proclivities drive travellers to laughter or tears) which travellers seem to rate so highly.
For those who buy there is every size and shape in between and with every stage of campervan vehicle decrepitude represented.
Top of the range camper motorhomes – Kea
Maraehako, independent campsite, Bay of Plenty, North Island New Zealand
One of the reasons so many travellers and holiday makers go for the camper van hire New Zealand option is because of the total freedom it gives you to explore every nook and cranny of this magical country – from the well beaten tourist trails to hidden treasures – and because there are almost as many campsite options as there are sheep!! Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but the point is, no matter what your budget, no matter what your personal inclinations (wild and basic, in the heart of the action, comfortable and fully serviced, in forest, mountains or city and so forth), there is a campsite experience to match your requirements exactly.
If your meanderings are fairly directionless like mine tend to be then your first port of call, on arriving in an area where you want to stay, should be at one of the i-Sites – that marvellous Kiwi infrastructure of tourist offices found everywhere. Step inside and fill your boots with a mountain of books, leaflets, flyers and brochures which detail all your options for camp-sites.
At the top end of the scale are the modern, well-equipped, 4 or 5 star rated campsites in New Zealand are the ‘Top 10 Holiday Parks’. Typically set in park-like environments, you can have things such as hot showers, electric hook-up, Internet, dump stations and TV rooms as the norm while some have extras like swimming pools, tennis courts, surf board hire and so on.
‘Top 10’s are typically the most expensive option – expect to pay around a minimum of NZ$35 for two people for one night – and although they are full of facilities and conveniences they can seem a little lacking in character. Each to their own of course.
Off the beaten track beaches
Motutara Farm campsite, Whananaki North, North Island New Zealand
The 50+ ‘Kiwi Holiday Park’ options are like the ‘Top 10’s more down-to-earth (generally cheaper) little brother. Each camp-site is independently owned and what you might find at each one varies considerably but they are all conveniently listed in one brochure which you can pick up for free at any i-Site.
And so on to my personal favourite for campsites in New Zealand – the Department of Conservation (DOC) camp-sites. If you love the great outdoors, being surrounded by unspoilt nature in all her glory and at times, the possibility of sharing with no-one else (local wildlife excepted) then boy are you in for a treat!
All have the minimum of toilet facilities (typically of the long drop variety which is only a problem for the squeamish and those who can’t hold their breath for the length of time it takes to do what they have to) and a water source (sometimes from a stream) but all are in heart-achingly beautiful places. Some have other facilities like showers and kitchen areas to prepare food.
Payment is usually by honesty box, self-registration and prices range from the completely free to a few dollars per night per person and are always the cheapest option. Visit www.doc.govt.nz to see all that is available but be warned – the pictures and places may well have you packing your rucksack hastily and running out the door.
Department of Conservation camp, Catlins, South Island
Aside from these options, dotted everywhere in New Zealand, North and South Island, you will find a multitude of small, privately owned camp-sites which may not be listed anywhere and can only be found by word of mouth or stumbling across them as you go – their presence only announced by a partly hidden rickety sign. These can be the cream of the crop such as the tiny Maori owned Maraehako I found on Highway 35 which sits right on the beach and cost next to nothing.
So, modern and fully serviced or back to nature and basic? You choose but don’t expect the choice to be easy. It’s quite hard to find a camp-site anywhere in New Zealand which doesn’t have you wishing you could stay… just a little bit longer.
For further information about camper van hire and where the best holiday campsites in New Zealand are, contact Jerry Bridge directly.
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