A lot of people dream of traveling to New Zealand one day and the best way of exploring the country in my opinion is by going on a road trip. It’s a great way to take in the country’s amazing scenery and you can always pull over when you feel like it and have lunch in the sun, surrounded by mountains and nature.
Sounds like absolute freedom, doesn’t it? If you’re playing with the idea of a road trip in New Zealand, then this article is for you. I spent a month traveling NZ with a friend in 2017 and am listing below five tips that I consider the most important.
SPRING IS THE BEST TIME TO GO
A baby seal soaking up some sun.
While most people travel to New Zealand in the summer (December to February) I actually recommend going in the spring (September to November). The prices for hiring a camper van are lower during off-season, the roads are empty, places aren’t as crowded and camping sites always have spots available. Spring time in New Zealand is also known as waterfall season (snow is melting), nature starts to bloom and seeing baby wildlife is very likely!
PREPARE FOR MIXED WEATHER
We traveled from mid-October until mid-November and made sure to read up on the weather conditions first. In spring you generally get cool to moderate temperatures during the day (16°C in the south to 19°C in the north) which drop significantly at night. I remember spending some nights with my beanie and cardigan on in the van! Some campgrounds don’t provide electricity so be sure to check beforehand. In mountainous areas like Milford Sound and Franz Josef it’s also very likely to rain, so it’s always good to pack an umbrella or a raincoat.
SAVE MONEY WHILE TRAVELING
It’s always nice to save a couple of dollars when traveling, especially in expensive countries such as New Zealand, where food and fuel are very pricey. Using the app CamperMate, we were able to get a few discounts on camp site bookings. For groceries and fuel I recommend getting the Countdown Onecard and a Mobil fuel savings card. With these savings cards you’ll be able to save cash every time you shop groceries or refuel the van. Pretty much every big city has a Countdown store or a Mobil station, so we were able to make good use of the cards. Also convenient: the Countdown Onecard can be used at BP and Caltex petrol stations!
BRING A TRAVEL BUDDY
Me enjoying a chocolate cookie on our way into Milford Sound.
Normally I’m a big fan of traveling solo, but for road tripping New Zealand I’d actually recommend teaming up with a travel buddy. Especially for the long drives on the South Island it is great to have company and to take turns in driving. Because of NZ’s amazing landscape, it’s easy to get distracted from time to time as a driver. So, with a travel buddy, both of you will get to take a break now and then and be able to enjoy the scenery. And of course it’s always nice to simply have someone to chat to!
DON’T PLAN TOO MUCH
You might be surprised of how many beautiful places you will come across while driving to your actual destination. We drove by so many sceneries thinking, “Man, it would be so cool to spend some time or even a night here”, but because we only had one month, our itinerary was pretty tight. If we wanted to tick off every place on our list, we had to continue and leave those surprise spots aside.
All in all, New Zealand is the perfect country for a road trip and I especially recommend it to newbies. The roads are great, the scenery a-mazing, the kiwi people so friendly and there are plenty of helpful apps like CamperMate or Rankers which make planning the trip a piece of cake!