New Zealand With Kids: A Campervan Adventure

By: Antonia Milkop (my sister!)

 

 

Why Go to New Zealand

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: Kaiteriter Beach
We were looking for an affordable family holiday where we could chill out, spend time together as a family and still enjoy a bit of adventure. Photo: Kaiteriter Beach

 

We live in Wellington, on New Zealand’s North Island and were looking for an affordable family holiday where we could chill out, spend time together as a family and still enjoy a bit of adventure. We thought a campervan holiday ticked all these boxes; it offered a flexible way to travel (we could decide what to do and where to go on a daily basis) and it was (we hoped!) an easy way to travel with young children.

New Zealand is very family-friendly, the scenery is outstanding and you don’t have to drive far to come across completely different landscapes. One day you could be hanging out in geothermal hot pools, the next soaring through snow-capped mountains and then the next surfing on a golden beach. It really is a top destination if you want landscapes, activities, adventure and tranquillity.

A Family-friendly campervan adventure in #NewZealand #familytravel Click To Tweet

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: kids in campervan
Would it be endless crying, sleepless nights and time spent confined into a tiny space with two active pre-schoolers?

 

Campervan Trip with Toddlers

For our holiday, I had visions of parking up by deserted beaches, sipping wine while the kids played happily making sandcastles in the sunshine. Not long before we were due to set off, however, I started to have second thoughts. Were we about to embark on a torturous 10-day adventure? Would it be endless crying, sleepless nights and time spent confined into a tiny space with two active pre-schoolers? And what would we do if it rained the entire time? We were due to go in November, New Zealand’s spring time when the weather is notoriously unpredictable.

Fortunately, however, my fears were unfounded and we ended up having a fantastic family holiday. The beauty of campervan-ing is that you don’t have to be anywhere at a set time. You can plan your days with places, activities and sights to see but it doesn’t all fall apart if you don’t make it to your desired destination on time. You also have the freedom of being able to stop whenever you feel like it (“Ooh look, there’s some seals. Stop the van!”).

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: Freedom camping new zealand
If you have a self-contained campervan, you can park wherever you like as long as freedom camping is permitted in that area.

 

Freedom Camping

If you have a self-contained campervan, you can park wherever you like as long as freedom camping is permitted in that area. Holiday parks allow you to ‘plug in’ (connect to electricity) and also have various facilities like hot showers, toilets, laundry, kitchens etc. if you want to use them. Even though there were only 4 of us, we hired a 6-birth campervan for the extra space it gave us (I’d highly recommend doing this).

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: 6 birth campervan for families
We hired a 6-birth campervan for the extra space it gave us. Photo bottom left: Picton Harbour

 

 

A Family-Friendly Campervan Route

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: South Island road trip route, New Zealand
Our route in the South Island, New Zealand

 

Given that we live in New Zealand we have already seen a lot of the country’s main tourist sights and so chose a route based on driving times rather than iconic landmarks. We flew from Wellington, on the North Island, to Christchurch on the South Island with Air New Zealand and the followed the following route:

Christchurch – Hanmer Springs – Murchison – KaiteriteriRuby Bay Queen Charlotte Drive – Blehnheim – Christchurch

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: Kaiteriter Beach, New Zealand
Kaiteriter Beach

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: waterfall

 

More Great Road Trips in New Zealand

For alternative family road trip itineraries, take a look at Recommend Trips on 100% Pure New Zealand, New Zealand’s official tourist board website.

 

Campervan Rental

We hired our campervan through Apollo, however I was a little disappointed with their service. When we collected the van we were charged more than they originally quoted. We wrote to them on our return, and eventually they agreed to refund the difference. Try one of the companies listed here instead. For peace of mind, we also brought our own car seats for the children.

 

New Zealand Camping Apps

Deciding where to park for the night? These two easy-to-use apps with maps are very useful as they include ratings and reviews that you can check out before deciding where to stay:

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: sandcastles on Kaiteriter Beach
Making sandcastles on Kaiteriter Beach

 

 

The Best Part

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: The playground at McKee Memorial Reserve Camping Ground, Ruby Bay
The playground at McKee Memorial Reserve Camping Ground, Ruby Bay

 

Most of the holiday parks we stayed in had playgrounds and because we visited during the quieter season we usually got to park right alongside them. So my visions came true; not quite the deserted and dramatic landscapes I had in mind, but at least the holiday parks had a plugin and we could charge our phones and the kid’s DVD player. And enjoy a glass of wine in the evening of course!

The children’s delight in the most simple of things was contagious. We heard shrieks of excitement from my daughter as she opened the little curtains by her bed upstairs to recite exactly what she saw when she was ‘trying’ to get to sleep at night. “Sea. Daddy I see the sea. Playground…look there’s a playground there… Duck. Mummy I see a duck. Look…look. What’s that….?”…and so on.

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: playground
McKee Memorial Reserve Camping Ground, Ruby Bay

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: sleeping bunk bed in campervan
We heard shrieks of excitement from my daughter as she opened the little curtains by her bed upstairs …

 

 

The Best Time To Go to New Zealand

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: Kaiteriter beach. November and March are the best months for avoiding the crowds
Kaiteriter beach. November and March are the best months for avoiding the crowds

 

I would highly recommend avoiding high season (i.e. not December to February) when the roads, and campgrounds, are much quieter. November or March are good months; the weather is (usually!) warm but you are not fighting the crowds of peak season.

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: Ruby Bay, New Zealand with kids
Ruby Bay, New Zealand

 

 

Three Things You Should Definitely Do

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: Take your time driving on New Zealand's windy roads
Take your time driving on NZ’s windy roads

 

1. Take your time driving on New Zealand’s windy roads

Don’t try to cover long distances each day. It’s pretty slow going in a campervan, and far more fun with a ‘less is more’ attitude. In 10 days, driving 1.5 – 2 hours a day, we covered just the top (eastern part) of the South Island. It’s possible to cover the whole island in that same time but I know for our family it would have been stressful (e.g. our boy gets car sick…did I mention that earlier?!)

 

2. Farm animals!

We saw so many animals on our travel and got to interact with them a lot, whether it was at holiday parks where they had their own animals that we could feed, or when we visited a petting farm with alpacas, goats, pigs and lamas…or just spotting various creatures on our travels. One of the highlights for my daughter was getting up close to a Tuatara, an extremely rare reptile found only in New Zealand.

We went to the A&P Farm show in Marlborough one day, a wonderful local event oozing with local kiwiana spirit, food and craft stalls, lots of cute animals, horse jumping, merino sheep contests, sheep-dog competitions, merry-go-rounds and rides. There we bought some of the most delicious wild venison burgers I’ve ever tasted from a local chap in his van there.

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: animals for kids new zealand
We saw so many animals on our travel and got to interact with them a lot including the extremely rare Tuatara (left)

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: sheep at the A&P Farm show in Marlborough, New Zealand
The A&P Farm show in Marlborough

 

3. Stopping on our travels for various treats

We had lots of coffee/fluffy stops, fish and chips by the beach, green mussels for lunch one day, oh yes and ice creams! Tourist sights are usually marked as brown signposts and we enjoyed looking out for these and stopping off on the road; seal colonies, beaches, viewpoints, picnic spots and more.

Probably the most pleasant part of any day, however, was arriving at a destination, parking up, cooking something we had bought (e.g. anything from local fish…to baked beans on toast) and cracking open a beer.

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: roadtrip dining
Stopping on our travels for various treats

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids:: beer sundowner
Probably the most pleasant part of any day was arriving at a destination, parking up, cooking something we had bought and cracking open a beer.

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids:
New Zealand is a top destination if you want landscapes, activities, adventure and tranquillity.

 

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids: Antonia Milkop and her family
Antonia Milkop and her family

 

A Family-friendly campervan adventure in #NewZealand #familytravel Click To Tweet

Useful Links

Ohau Waterful Walk and Seal Pups: A fantastic seal colony

Eco World Picton Aquarium

Waiariki Petting Farm & Cafe, Hanmer Springs

Tips for first-time motorhome drivers by Jarrod Wright, via the NZ Herald

More information on travelling in New Zealand with kids: Family-Friendly New Zealand

 

 

Pin For Later

Bookmark this post by pinning the image below to one of your Pinterest boards

New Zealand Campervan Road Trip with kids via @farflunglands

 

Leave a comment below:

17 thoughts on “New Zealand With Kids: A Campervan Adventure”

%d bloggers like this: