Traveling around New Zealand with a motorhome
New Zealand is undeniably a perfect country to explore with a motorhome. With spectacular scenery around every corner, and camping a fantastic way to enjoy all of this beauty, hiring a motorhome provides the best option to get around New Zealand. Below are some tips you may find useful to plan your motorhome holiday of New Zealand.
Which motorhome or campervan to choose
There is a whole range of different styles of campers available, from converted cars with a tent on the roof, to small campervans and more comfortable and luxurious motorhomes, so we can offer something suitable for everyone really!
The 2 to 4 berth campervans are a popular choice among travelers, and are a good budget option. They are generally fairly basic, with a fold out table that converts into a bed at night, and a small sink and cooking utilities at the back of the campervan. If you like, they come painted in all colors and with different artwork.
If you intend to freedom camp quite a bit, do ensure the campervan is fully certified self contained. A motorhome or camper with a larger water tank might also be desirable in this case. Should you travel with kids or in a small group, then a more comfortable motorhome would probably suit you better.
Not sure yet what the right option is for you. Just let us know, or complete the form on this page to inquire about a motorhome or to request a booking.
Many of the motorhome suppliers only have depots in either Auckland, Christchurch or Queenstown, so picking up or dropping off from other locations might not always be possible. Generally motorhome suppliers also charge a small one way fee if you drop off the camper in a different location than where you picked it up upon arrival.
Where to go camping in New Zealand
DOC (Department of Conservation) campsites
The DOC campsites are located in National Parks and nature reserves, generally with stunning views as well! They are more basic than holiday parks, bust most of them have shower and toilet facilities. You may also find DOC campsites with powered sites to charge your batteries.
Prices are also generally cheaper than holiday parks and range from anywhere between being totally FREE, up to about NZ$20. DOC campsite passes are available for purchase, but be aware that they are not available for use in campsites which have powered sites as well as serviced campsites.
For a complete list of campsites in both North and South Islands, download the PDFs below:
There are a number of holiday park chains in New Zealand, the most known and popular ones are Kiwi Holiday Parks and Top 10 Holiday Parks. The top 10 parks are of very high quality and generally are 4 to 5 star rated. You can find a whole range of amenities such as playgrounds, laundry facilities, etc...Prices start from NZ$40 for a powered site.
The Kiwi Holiday Parks are a little less high end, but still comfortable and well equipped. Prices range between NZ$17 and $22 per person for a powered site, but may vary a little.
When you are travelling with a fully equipped motorhome, you probably need to stay at a holiday park from time to time (depending on the motorhome and hot water/fridge usage, this may be every 2 or 3 days)
The law has become more strict on freedom camping. New Zealand's fragile environment has become under increased pressure from the higher number of overseas visitors each year, which impacts the environment. New Zealand is a very clean and green place still, and it is the intention that it stays that way.
It is therefore not permitted anymore to freedom camp anywhere with campervans and fines are increasingly issued.
However, there is still good news! If you are travelling with a fully certified self contained campervan or motorhome, then you may still freedom camp! So no worries, you can still get out there and find that gazillion star hotel for yourself... All you have to do is look up into the sky at night! Do ensure that you take all rubbish and leave no trace when you leave again. The next people parking up there and the environment will love you for it, and you avoid risking a hefty fine.
Equipment and optional extras
While traveling around in a camper is more comfortable than with a tent, and you have all cooking and sleeping equipment readily available in your camper (you are after all driving around in a mobile home), there are still some things common to the camping in general which you might want to take into consideration.
In several regions of New Zealand, and in some more than others, you'll meet some locals who'll like you an awful lot : sandflies! So stock up on some insect repellent such as DEET, to keep them at bay. If you do get bitten, try not to scratch immediately, or the itch might stay around for a little longer.
The sun in New Zealand is extremely strong, even on sunny days in winter you can easily get burned, so ensure you have plenty with you, as you'll be spending a lot of time outside. Sunscreen with high SPF is highly recommended.
If you intend to go hiking, ensure you have the appropriate equipment with you. More information regarding this can be found here
Every vehicle also comes with a first aid kit, which if used, you must pay for when you return the motorhome.
Every motorhome supplier offers some additional extras you may hire at an additional cost, though the charge is generally not very high. These may include items such as additional chairs and outside folding table, a GPS navigation system, Wifi, an exchange of linen among other things.
Driving a motorhome in New Zealand
Many motorhomes are pretty easy to drive these days with their power steering and automatic transmissions, but it is still quite a bit different than driving a car, so here are some tips for driving with your motorhome in New Zealand:
- Number 1 rule in New Zealand : stay on the LEFT hand side of the road!
- Be aware of the size of the motorhome, especially when turning or parking. Look for designated camper parking areas and signs.
- Always ensure that things exterior to the motorhome such as awnings, power cables, etc...are stowed away safely when driving
- Have a rest in one of those comfortable beds if you get tired
- Remember that motorhomes don't accelerate the same as cars, so take this into consideration when overtaking, as it will take you more distance. However, why overtake at all..most likely you will be overtaken instead by faster cars
- Pull over safely when you can to allow cars to pass
- Take extra caution when it's very windy. These vehicles are tall and catch a lot more wind than a passenger car.
- You might have to pay attention a little more to position the camper in the middle of the road. Your wing mirrors are your friends, use them...looking in the rear mirror will only give you views of the interior.
- Familiarize yourself with the motorhome dimensions which will be good to know if you come across any height or width restrictions on the road
For more tips about driving in New Zealand in general, continue reading here
Make sure you follow the appropriate guidelines for treating wastewater when travelling in a motorhome and always ensure you use the WWPT (Wastewater Treatment Plant) for this purpose. Wastewater treatment stations can be found in most campsites and holiday parks in most of the main cities and towns.
To find the nearest WWPT, check out the following list
One question you may be asking is if you should take insurance or not. If you want a completely trouble free motorhome holiday then the answer is an easy YES!
All of our motorhome suppliers offer standard insurance with the hire, which is pretty much the third party insurance. With standard insurance the motorhome suppliers will secure a bond by charging your credit card before departure (freezing an amount on the card). Depending on the type of camper, this can be between NZD$5000 and $10000, which is expensive. It is reimbursed when you return the vehicle without any damage. So if you have an accident, the motorhome company will charge you for this.
You have the option to reduce this liability to NZD $0 by taking additional all inclusive insurance which ranges from anywhere between NZD$25 and $55 per day, depending on the vehicle. We recommend you do take the additional insurance, just for your own peace of mind.
The motorhome supplier will still take a copy of your credit card details, in case there's any other damage to the motorhome upon your return.
Each motorhome company has slightly different policies and insurance options, so we do recommend you read the terms and conditions for a specific supplier that comes with the quote we provide you, so that you won't have any unexpected surprises.
One aspect that makes travelling with a motorhome so appealing is obviously the freedom to go where you want, park where you want, and have that ultimate independence. That means you probably don't always want to stay in campsites to ensure all your devices and appliances are fully charged.
Following a few steps and make then part of your daily routine will help you a lot to stay away from campsites as long as possible:
- Limit the amount of showers you take, and when you do, take "military showers", turning off the water while soaping or shampooing.
- Live with the daylight, which means get up when the sun comes up, and go to sleep when the sun has set, using less electricity at night
- Don't drink water from your tank. Take some extra jugs.
- Focus on meals that don't require many dishes to wash
- Carry hand sanitizer
- Use public toilets where possible..You won't have a problem finding them in New Zealand. There are loads, and all very well maintained and clean
- Keep the engine running for a little while when parked, to charge the battery systems that power your fridge. This will be the main source draining your batteries.
- Stay in free DOC campsites which sometimes have showers and toilets.
Top reasons for hiring a motorhome in New Zealand
- Clean and cheap camping grounds with good facilities and most of all spectacular scenery!
- Chance to be social whenever you want, or just disappear in the wilderness
- Empty roads in comparison with other parts of the world, making driving an absolute joy
- Comfortable and reliable vehicles with unlimited kilometers and 24/7 roadside assistance
- Enjoy the most increbible sunrises and sunsets from your mobile bed
- Ultimate freedom and independence : Go where and when you want to go
- ...and finally...which hotel can beat millions of stars at night!?