Popular cities in New Zealand
New Zealand is as good as it gets from the point of view of touring by campervan. It has stunning scenery, good, quiet roads and myriad camp sites spread far and wide. This beautiful antipodean nation is about the size of Great Britain, though has a fraction of its populace making self-drive all the more easy going.
You have to see it to believe it. There are snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, fine beaches, rolling countryside; literally sheer beauty at every turn. Both the North and South islands have their talking points and you could start a tour from anywhere and be guaranteed a fabulous holiday.
The roads are well looked after, easily navigable and mostly single carriageway. Multilane highways approach main cities, but, thankfully, most of the country is not beset by tarmac. Roads are shared by cyclists, even cattle on occasion, but despite this, New Zealand likely has the safest, most straightforward driving of anywhere.
The weather, although changeable, is temperate and often features the bluest skies and fluffiest clouds. It rains most in the west, while the South Island is generally wetter and greener. November to May (spring/early autumn) is the main window for touring and camping.
There are campsites scattered all around the country, in and around main cities, towns and national parks, as well as near beaches. The locals are avid campers and the experience goes from simple tent sites and wild camping to landscaped resorts with five-star facilities
Auckland, the 'City of Sails', is the main start or end point for most visitors and has the best selection of campervan rental outlets. While busy and large, it is relatively straightforward to get in and out of Auckland, with Highway 1 going north and south. Many head out to the Bay of Islands, a three-hour journey and worthy of a couple of days.
Main touring destinations south of Auckland are the geothermal mineral spring towns of Rotorua and Taupo and Tongariro National Park. If you have time, consider heading east to the Art Deco coastal town of Napier under the guise of Mount Maunganui.
Wellington-'Windy City' and country capital-is in the south of the North Island via Highway 1 or 2 and has some of the most attractive British colonial architecture in New Zealand. Wellington is worth two or three days to ride the funicular and check out Te Papa museum.
A surprising amount of visitors head for the South Island by campervan since it has the most striking landscapes and even quieter roads. You could do a touring loop from the Interisland Ferry terminal at Picton to incorporate the dolphin town of Kaikoura, followed by the 'Garden City' Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, Queenstown, Wanaka, Mount Cook and Nelson in a couple of weeks.
It is best to spend more time at and in between each destination, however, as there is so much down this way. From Queenstown, for instance, is the beautiful Fiordland which contains the world famous Milford Sound and associated four-day hike.
There are many other national parks to explore, including Aoraki Mount Cook (at New Zealand's highest peak), Abel Tasman (from Nelson) and Fiordland National Park (from Queenstown).
Kiwi's drive on the left and UK drivers can use their home license to drive here. Although it all seems quiet and easy going (for the most part), the police are tight on speeding and camping in the wrong spot, so heed the signs. On-street parking is usually easy and all the big cities have campervan sites.
- Speed limits in the city: 50kph.
- Speed limits on national roads: 100kph.
- Help number: 111.