New Zealand, North Island, South Island 23

Top Reasons to travel New Zealand by Campervan

We had done our first campervan trip earlier this year, when we travelled from Auckland to Rotorua over four days. I had written about the pros and cons of campervan travel from our experience when I still wasn’t convinced it was the best way to travel around New Zealand. We decided to give it another shot and did 2 weeks travel from Auckland, North Island all the way to Wanaka, South Island and back again – a journey of 3300 kilometres plus ferry crossing.


I already wrote about all the amazing places we visited in South island, the highlights being the stunning scenery from our scenic flight from Lake Tekapo and the marine wildlife we were lucky to see in Kaikoura!

In this post I want to highlight the specific reasons – practical, financial and aesthetic – why travelling by campervan is such a great way to see New Zealand, plus recommendations from the many sites we had stayed at. Thanks to the wide range options to choose from -freedom camping to DOC sites for $20 per night to glamping sites, you can fit in different travel styles.  We stayed in several free sites with basic portable toilets, sites with hot showers, kitchen and laundry facilities to luxury campervan sites with play areas, swimming pools and spas (we made very good use of these!)

If you have ever considered travelling by campervan but wasn’t sure where to start, read this post. By the end of it, you might want to give it a try 🙂

So why is campervan travel in New Zealand so popular? 

Locations with stunning views – a fraction of what you pay for hotels with such views!

We like to travel often and whilst I wouldn’t say our travel style is completely budget – we like to eat well and we do visit paid attractions time to time- when it comes to accommodation, we keep it simple which helps to keep costs down. As long as room is clean, we are not fussed about ammenities. Let’s just say we wouldn’t be paying extra to have sea or mountain views. So it comes as a bonus when we are travelling in a campervan, to be able to have the best views one only dreams about and have the opportunity to see marine wildlife outside your window (we only saw a seal, but I know others who have seen dolphins.)

It’s one thing to step outside the car, admire the view for a brief moment, snap a few pictures. It’s a completely different experience to be part of that spectacular landscape or seascape, to wake up to such views every morning and the night sky…I have no pictures to do night time’s a just a surreal experience seeing the billions of stars and the milky way.  Many campervan sites are right next to water bodies – be it a lake, river or sea and here some of the free ones we stayed at enjoying the view from our ‘room.’

Free campsite at Lake Taupo – Oruatua Picnic Site

Lake Tekapo

Free campsite at Lake Tekapo – Freedom Camping in Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie


Lovely DOC campsite, $20 a night for all of us, MacDonalds/Oto Creek, near Franz Josef National Park

Freedom and flexibility to take detours, stop at lesser known places and travel anywhere and everywhere!

There is no lack of spectacular natural scenery wherever you travel in New Zealand 🙂 Blessed with blue seas, majestic mountains, lush rainforests, glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs and abundance of marine and bird wildlife, there is always something to make you stop at different spots, admire the views and take lots of pictures. Whilst this is possible with any kind of road trip or journey, being in a campervan just allows you that much more freedom to go off track, find lesser known off the beaten track places that you would not really get to see if you are stationary in one place. Being in a campervan allows you to stay at any of these spots as long as you would like to without worrying about getting to the next booked accommodation or it getting dark and having to get somewhere for a meal. Your food and accommodation travels with you, allowing you the freedom to roam and stop wherever you are.

steaming Kerosene creek

Swimming in the steaming waters of Kerosene creek, Rotorua first thing in the morning!


Randomly discovering the longest swing bridge in North Island whilst we stopped to get a drink at a cornerstore during our campervan trip in Rotorua


Taking a detour at Ohau stream walk and watching a posing seal pup

Wide range of choice from freedom camping to glamping sites

The variety of campsites you can stay at allows for so much flexibility and enables you to combine ‘roughing it’ and sitting in a mineral rich water spa (whilst paying $20 a night!) Every 2-3 days we stay at one of these fancy one – Top 10 Holiday Park – kind of campervan sites. We enjoyed hot showers, large kitchen and dining area, did laundry, play area for the kids, and in some of the places, hot pools and spa 🙂


Hot pool and spa fun whilst staying at Waikite Thermal Valley, Rotorua



Top 10 Caravan Park, Coromandel Hot Water Beach




Campervan site with nice play area – Ashhurtst Domain


Ashhurst Domain comes with hot shower, play area, lovely park and one of the more unusual ones – a cemetary!

Family bonding

One of the first things people mention to me about why they couldn’t do campervan travel is the lack of space. You are having to share a very limited amount of space with other people, be it family or friends, all the time! Whilst this can be challenging and even we were in doubt when we started on the 2 week trip, thinking this might be make or break!

Happy to say, other than mornings which is a bit difficult as the kids are up much earlier than us, rest of the time, the close proximity and lack of digital entertainment, did not cause any stress when it came to family dynamics. Normally in the mornings the kids just entertain themselves without waking us up. But in the campervan it wasn’t possible so it would always be an early start to the day (which is not necessarily a bad thing 🙂  We played board games, chatted during cooking and meal times, read together, shared the chores, and had a great time bonding as a family. And this is of course, just within the campervan. Outside the world was our playground!


Kids excited about spending the night in a campervan


Fishing just where our campervan was parked



Budget friendly gourmet meals with excellent views

Eating out in New Zealand can be very expensive and outside the bigger towns, options are limited. Being in a campervan allowed us to have a variety of meals – Italian, Thai, Bengali and good old canned spaghetti hoops and crisps when we didn’t feel like eating well! Having a fridge, stove and a microwave and all the utensils you might possibly need, enabled us to eat really well and cheap during our travels.  It was great to be able to have a picnic, a BBQ or just sit around our dining table inside the campervan or picnic table outside when we wanted to. And can I just add the views again during our meals were more than spectacular!




Breakfast at Lake Taupo



pot noodles meal with Ruapehu in the bakground


fresh gnocci with salmon and chilli flakes, one of our favourite campervan meals 🙂

Khichuri - typical bengali meal, rice, lentils and spices

Khichuri – typical bengali meal, rice, lentils and spices

Meeting People – Kiwis are some of the friendliest people we have met!

One of the best things of travelling around in a campervan is all the interesting people we have met during the road trip. The kids made friends with other camper kids, collected wood and made a fire together. We chatted to different people, all with their own stories and experiences of travelling and recommended places to visit. At one point, one family gave us their spare tickets to a popular spa in Taupo as they were heading back home!


making friends around the camp fire

Some useful bits of information

Having the CamperMate App on our phone was very useful. You can see all the campsites coded in green (free), blue (small fee e.g. $15-20 total) and purple ($20 per person) and description of the facilities available in each site. You can also find the information on the website. Best part was you can see other’s reviews which helped us to decide on which sites to stay at.

We used Motorhome Republic to find the best deal on which company to go with. So far both times we had used Britz and it had been good. There are different packages available but it roughly costs about $60 a day to rent for campervan with two double beds and being self contained (toilet included.) Plus there is fuel costs and whatever each site cost, unless you only use the free sites.

You need to book way in advance for the summer months, prices go up and they have limited availability of vans, so they tend to get sold out over the peak months of December and January.

Any other questions or enquiries, give me a shout out!

We are now preparing to do a campervan trip in summer (finally!) We are headed back to South Island over Christmas with friends visiting from Thailand. After that we are headed on a two month campervan trip around Australia, driving from Melbourne to Cairns.

Watch this space for lots of exciting travels ahead 🙂

The Selim Family Raasta

Linked to Nature’s Notes Outdoor Wednesday weekend travel inspiration, weekend wanderlust and Travel Photo Thursday

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  • shere says: November 20, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    we loved travelling in a campervan. We have spent 3 weeks in the East Coast of Australia, 1 month in Australia and 3 weeks in Southwest of USA. In the last one, we took the little one (10 months old at that time) for the first time on a transcontinental trip. With children, the campervans are really good, you always have a bed and food available 🙂
    we’re thinking of going on a campervan trip around Iceland or Norway once the second one is a couple of months old 🙂

  • Anda says: November 21, 2015 at 1:35 am

    Judging from your pictures, New Zealand is very beautiful. It seems pretty cold there now. I thought summer is coming in the Southern hemisphere. That looks a lot like a very early spring.

    • says: November 22, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Yeah it was quite cold when we were in the south island, in the 50s. I think spring is hit and miss here, some days really sunny and hot, others cold. I have been told summer will come sometime in Dec/Jan!

  • Lyndall @SeizeTheDayProject says: November 21, 2015 at 3:35 am

    What a wonderfully informative post. It looks like you had a wonderful time on your campervan trip around NZ. I think the whole “sharing close proximity” thing might be an issue for our teenagers. My hubby and I might do a campervan trip when they’ve left home! 🙂

  • Corinne says: November 21, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Off the beaten path with hot tubs and Catan! You’ve sold me. When we drove the South Island, we stayed in hotels, and it was not cheap. I did love that the owners always provided milk for our coffee (nice touch), but overall we would have rather had a more budget-friendly option. If or when we go back, the campervan it is.

  • Janna C says: November 21, 2015 at 8:30 am

    I’ve always wanted to try traveling with a camper van! I love road trips and my husband and I just usually take our car or rent a car to go on our trips. But this is a good way to save and I agree that you can be more flexible if you travel via camper van. Nice post! 🙂

  • Sumti Bhadani says: November 21, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Campervan travel is something new to me…I was not aware of this.. Thanks for your information..It was interesting to know so much facts about this…

  • Marian Krueger says: November 21, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    We missed out on Rotorua when I was in NZ earlier this year. Looks like you had fun, but I know it is a challenge being confined in such a tight space so congrats on making it through alive. LOL Great pics!

  • mark says: November 21, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Great pictures, this sort of trip is high on our bucket list in the next few years. It is great that you can save money with free camping every few nights. The top 10 parks seem similar to the Big 4 Parks in australia. Our kids love those giant jumping cushions.

    • says: November 22, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Good to know about the Big 4 Parks in Australia! We would need one of those every few days when we do our 2 month campervan trip there next year!

  • Ramblingwoods says: November 22, 2015 at 4:47 am

    Now that looks like some real fun and everyone looks like they had a great time. That would be something I would enjoy even over a hotel… Wonderful scenery…Michelle

  • Jo says: November 22, 2015 at 9:10 am

    New Zealand really is the most stunning place – I particularly love that area around Lake Taupo where ever curve in the road reveals another gorgeous view.

    While I would never travel in a campervan seeing those fantastic views of where you camped I can see why someone would. Truly magnificent!

  • Traveling Rockhopper says: November 22, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    I loved in New Zealand all “kiwi parks”, they’re great for traveling and camping 🙂

  • Lesley says: November 23, 2015 at 3:25 am

    This sounds like such a fun way to explore New Zealand with family. The options are endless.

  • Sam says: November 23, 2015 at 8:45 am

    What beautiful photos! Looks like you had an amazing time, New Zealand had never really been near the top of my list but it is slowly rising, and after reading this a camper an might be the way to go!

    • says: November 23, 2015 at 8:46 am

      glad New Zealand is rising on your list now 🙂 it really is a beautiful country!

  • budget jan says: November 24, 2015 at 4:17 am

    I love that you stayed at all those gorgeous free parks. We’ve travelled around N.Z.’s southern island by campervan about seven years ago. Next time (and there will be a next time) I’m definitely going to try them out. I think that campervanning in N.Z. should be on everyone’s travel wish list.

  • Rhonda Albom says: November 25, 2015 at 3:17 am

    We live in New Zealand and although we’ve never actually traveled around via campervan, I’ve talked to plenty of my travel friends who have and they all say they loved it. Glad you had a good time.

  • Linda Bibb says: November 26, 2015 at 3:01 am

    That Kerosene Creek looks amazing! I would SO love to see that. I camper-vanned through the U.K. when I was younger and agree that it is an amazing way to travel. Can’t recommend it enough.

  • Rob Taylor says: December 8, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    I was just trying to convince my husband that we would have a great time doing our spring trip through the Southwestern US like this. He’s not convinced that it’d be great with two SMALL kids. Any thoughts? I think we’re pretty hardy, but I can understand his hesitation.

    • says: December 8, 2015 at 7:57 pm

      I can understand his hesitation Rob, I was hesitant as well before we did it, for long road trips. I wouldn’t say it’s a travel style for everyone but I have a feeling you guys will love it – Here’s why:
      If you enjoyed the camping trip that you did with the kids, think of this as all the benefits of going camping (outdoors, nature, freedom etc) but having a bed and warmth to sleep at night! If you like preparing your own food – camper come swith fridge, microwave, stove, lots of cupboard space to keep dry food. It really allows lot of flexibility and convenience when travelling with kids – to be able to eat whenever and whatever you want. After a hike, or visiting somewhere don’t have to worry about driving back to hotel – bed is just there for kids to take a nap, grown ups too 🙂 I think travelling with kids, especially little ones, require lot of flexibility and campervan travel allows that. As far as logistics(toilets, etc) not sure how it is in USA, but here even the free sites have toilets. And so many of the sites are at the beach or inside a national park, you couldn’t ask for a better location 🙂

  • Isabel Leong says: January 16, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Very informative post! Have you travelled in May before? Any advice on travelling during that period?

    • says: January 17, 2016 at 2:27 am

      Yes we did go on a campervan trip end May. We went to Rotorua, it was great, bit cold but same as it was in south island in October. Where are you planning on travelling to in May?

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