December 30, 2014

Tips for Campervanning in New Zealand

I’ve just spent 5 days in a 4-berth Maui camper van in Central Otago, following my nose with no (or very few) fixed plans.

Central Otago in autumn

It’s the tail end of Autumn here in New Zealand and pinot noir country was holding onto the remnants of its yellows, reds and golds and grape vines were turning from green to dusk to begin their winter cycle as leaves fluttered to the ground and the late afternoon sun made the scene look like a movie set.

It’s quite possibly the best time of year to be tootling around these parts with your mobile apartment and the wind in your hair.

In this post I’ll talk about tips for what to bring, leave behind and things to know about driving, parking, and staying in your motor home. The next one will cover great places and hidden gems to stop for a view, stay for a night or wander through a remote town.

Maui camper van

Parked up at the camp ground in Queenstown

Tips to know before you go:

Driving! While huge (7.2m long), the automatic transmission makes them easy to drive. Just beware of your overhead height when it comes to parking under trees! You don’t need a heavy truck licence to drive it, but you can only go 90kph like a truck.

Luggage! There were only 2 of us in our 4-berth van which meant we had plenty of room, but if you’re more than 2, pack your luggage in small cabin-size bags or squishy bags so you can unpack into the cupboards around the sides and stow your bags under the seats.

Your bedding is provided which includes sheets, blankets, duvets and pillows. We used both duvet covers, but if we’d been sharing I’ve heard from other friends also campervanning at the same as us, that they brought sleeping bags too and found them excellent to throw over their bed and to snuggle into of an evening.

Toilet! I drew the short straw and was responsible for emptying the cassette. We’d had a demonstration before we pulled out of Maui in Queenstown, but I did need to re-read my instructions on that fateful day. You can only empty your “black water” in a designated dump station. We used our loo sparingly in 5 days so only emptied the morning of our departure. It stunk! I’d suggest you empty it every 3rd day and add the little blue disinfectant powder to keep it fresh.

Shower! I only used our onboard shower once because we stayed 3 nights in a holiday park and used their facilities. But the set up is really very clever with a basin that folds open over the toilet seat and a shower head that serves as the basin tap when you position it low on the pole or fold the basin up and raise it up to shower. Just make sure you turn your gas bottle on at least 20 minutes before you want hot water – I didn’t wait that long!

Toilet emptying

Off to empty the toilet…

Camper van toilet empty

My toilet emptying face…

Where to stay: Free camping is not allowed in Queenstown or Wanaka or indeed within 10km of residential areas. That’s not to say you can’t park by a stunning lake and tuck down, but just look for signs. We stayed in a Top 10 Holiday Park for $52 per night for the 2 of us. The one in Queenstown is undergoing upgrades on the bathroom facilities and they’re great. Just take your own towel, soap (they don’t provide soap) and your toiletries.

Special Treat: Stay a night in a Winery Haven! These are a new concept for Maui who have partnered with a few wineries around New Zealand. The deal is you stay on their vineyard for the night with a food hamper and a bottle of wine. We stayed at Carrick and had a taste of their wines with the owner before being loaded up from the chef with salmon steaks to cook in our little kitchen and salads, breads and home made dips and a little chocolate brownie and cream. Much more food than I was expecting!

Maui Winery Haven

Our night at Carrick in the Winery Haven

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Read my post on How to spend 5 Days in Central Otago>>>

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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