The New Zealand Campervan Experience

Hello everyone. We hope you are having excellent holidays. We were more or less internet-less while in New Zealand, hence the lack of posting. We have left kiwi-land and are now “down unda” in Australia and we wanted to catch you up on the magic that is New Zealand.

On the recommendation of a friend (who wrote this fabulous blog about her time in NZ), we traveled around New Zealand in a minivan that had been converted into a campervan. What does that mean, you may ask. Well I will take you on a tour:

Our home for 2 weeks. Fully equipped minus a bathroom.

Our home for 2 weeks. Fully equipped minus a bathroom.

For two people (who like each other), this minivan is perfect. It fits in a regular parking spot, but contains everything you need for day-to-day living (except a bathroom).

The campervan set up for daytime.

The campervan set up for daytime.

Above you can see the campervan as it looked in the morning after we woke up and put it back to daytime mode. There are seats on either side of the van behind the front seats. Those come in handy if it is pouring outside and you need to hide out for a few hours. All of our stuff lived under the seat on the right side of this picture in the two cubbies. Under the left side seat was our pantry. All our non-perishables were in there. Our perishable items lived in the cooler in the center of the picture. We bought a 3 liter bottle of water and froze it whenever we stayed the night somewhere with a freezer. In this picture on the lower right you can see the cooktop where Dan is making oatmeal, our standard breakfast. The cooktop slides back into that white cube on the right and all of the dishes and cutlery fit underneath. On the left is the sink (that we pretty much didn’t use), and the kettle that fits into the sink.

The campervan set up for nighttime.

The campervan set up for nighttime.

In the picture above you can kinda see the bed setup. It goes from behind the front seats up to sink/cooler/stove areas. The bed magically comes into being by pulling out a wooden plank from under the right hand seat, that then fits into the middle section. Then the back cushions from both seats cover the middle plank, and the top left area is filled with a plank and cushion that was standing upright behind the passenger side seat (on the left in NZ!). Then the whole thing is covered by a sheet and duvet. It was actually quite comfortable. It sounds confusing, but after putting the bed together once it wasn’t so bad. Here you can also see all of the equipment (stove side and sink side) properly put away. I can admit to the fact that it usually wasn’t this well organized!

The biggest question we get about seeing the country in a campervan is, how do you handle not having a bathroom? New Zealand is the land of campervans, so the country is well prepared for this kind of travel. There are two kinds of places you can stay at with a campervan: Department of Conservation (DoC) sites or holiday parks. DoC sites are low tech and low cost. A night at most DoC sites is NZ$10 per person. DoC sites almost all have toilets and running water. In some places you need to boil the water before using it as it just comes from the nearby stream. Holiday parks are private businesses that are like motels for campervans. You get a spot for your van and share communal kitchens and bathrooms. Holiday parks are where we took all of our showers. Holiday parks cost in the NZ$30-45 range for 2 people in one unpowered campervan. I think Dan preferred the solitude and beauty of the simple DoC sites, but I liked the community and services of the holiday parks. Also, the holiday parks are everywhere you, as a tourist, might want to go, where the DoC sites are more remote. I think in two weeks we only stayed at 2 or 3 DoC sites. Which, on the plus side, means we took more showers!

Most importantly, how was cooking in the campervan? It was great. We only had one burner, so one-pot meals were all we made. We had ramen with veggies (Dan’s favorite), burritos (my favorite), sloppy joes, pasta with veggie-filled sauce, and veggie curry. We went grocery shopping only a few times during the trip as with some planning our food lasted a while. The trick? When staying at a holiday park, freeze a big 3 liter bottle of water overnight and then that will keep your cooler cold for a few days until your next stay at a holiday camp! Worked for us. We never had any mold issues. Here are some pictures of cooking and eating while traveling in a campervan.

Burrito night, with a great view.

Pasta night, with a great view.

Rain or shine, I will eat ramen

Rain or shine, I will eat ramen

These little guys were looking for some snacks.

These little guys were looking for some snacks.

Burrito night number 2. Our favorite meal while campervanning.

Burrito night. My favorite meal while campervanning.

The reason that campervan travel is so popular around New Zealand is because the country is so amazingly diverse, even though it is quite small. We only had one long driving day, but in two weeks we probably drove over 2000 km, seeing much of the country (but not nearly all. I guess we will have to come back!). The campervan allowed us to go places we couldn’t have gone to otherwise.

Here are some of our favorite pictures that we took over the 2 weeks traveling the country in the campervan:

Now, just one last piece of advice before you all head off to plan your campervan trip in New Zealand: Buy the extra insurance. That way when this happens:

Is that a nail in our tire? Yes, yes it is.

Is that a nail in our tire? Yes, yes it is.

Flat tire off, doughnut on. Dan springs into action.

Flat tire off, doughnut on. Dan springs into action.

Flat tires suck, but we couldn't have picked a more beautiful place to get one.

Flat tires suck, but we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place to get one.

It doesn’t cost you anything more than some time and energy. Plus, you never know, a nice kiwi family may offer you their driveway to park/sleep in for the night.