New Zealand was always a place that intrigued me, however, it was not somewhere that I actually knew anything about! So, I had absolutely no expectations for our visit. In total we had 20 days to explore the north and South Island, and decided the best way to do this was a road trip! (I apologise in advance for the length of this post, but I promise it is really informative!)
We took a plane from Fiji to Auckland. As we couldn’t get a camper from Auckland, we decided to fly to Christchurch and work our way back up north from there. This worked out well as our flight onwards departed from Auckland anyway, and it meant we could drop our camper off at the airport on route.
We sort of left planning New Zealand to the last minute and so, trying to book a camper was a bit of a nightmare. Eventually we got a Cabana with Jucy Car Rentals which set us back about €1,800. Considering this was our accommodation for the next three weeks (or so we planned!), it wasn’t that expensive.
Christchurch – Geraldine (via Lake Tekapo) – Dunedin (via Oamaru) – Millers Flat – Queenstown (via Gibbston) – Milford Sound – Arrowtown – Wanaka – Franz Josef – Carters Beach (via Greymouth) – Wellington (via Picton) – Taihape – Rotorua – Cambridge (via Matamata) – Auckland
Christchurch – Geraldine (via Lake Tekapo)
On arrival at the airport we were picked up by our free Jucy Airport Shuttle. This took us to the Jucy office where we picked up our car. When we got there, it wasn’t quite ready. So, instead of us just waiting around they gave us a car to go explore for a few hours. The weather in New Zealand was quite different to Fiji etc. so we went to a mall in the hope to get some warmer clothes. After a pretty unsuccessful shopping spree (its summer in New Zealand now, albeit cold!) we headed back to pick up our Jucy mobile and hit the road!
Christchurch didn’t really scream New Zealand scenery so we decided that Lake Tekapo would be our first point of call. On route, the engine light in the car came on, so we stopped to call Jucy and then had to detour to a mechanic. Turned out to be some emissions sensor that was faulty so we were told to carry on!
After a few hours we had made it to Lake Tekapo and just wow. Probably the most beautiful scenery I have ever laid eyes on.
We quickly learned after leaving Lake Tekapo in search of accommodation, that we need to book campsites! They were either closed or full when we came looking, but eventually we found somewhere about an hour drive away in a small town called Geraldine. The nicest man in the Top 10 Campsite showed us to our site, and we settled there for the night!
Geraldine – Dunedin (via Oamaru)
Night one in the camper was…different. We got up, showered and hit the road to Dunedin. We had heard that Oamaru town had the highest house cost in the whole of New Zealand at one point so went to check it out. What we found was a pretty quiet town with not much in it. We stocked the fridge and headed onwards to see the Moeraki Boulders.
The inland scenic route was our next point of call on our way to Dunedin. It is basically just a coastal road that provides some incredible viewpoints of the area. I’d 100% advise you to take this road rather than the highway. While it might take you longer, it will be totally worth it.
Dunedin – Millers Flat
Just as we were about to leave our campsite, we tried to start the engine, and…nothing. Battery dead.
In comes the campsite manager who jumpstart the car, and we waited for the AA to arrive. After an hour, they decided that there was nothing wrong and couldn’t do anything. It seemed a bit risky to try and venture far, so we drove to the Otago Peninsula and did a short walk to Sandfly Bay.
The car seemed fine after our mini trip, so we hit the road again making it to Millers Flat before we needed to stop. We stayed at this random campsite we found along the road. When I say it was covered in moths, it is an understatement. I couldn’t shower and tried avoiding the toilet too. The area itself was really beautiful and the tavern across the road had the cheapest drinks. Pretty sure we got two G&Ts and two beers for less than €20!
Millers Flat – Queenstown
At this point, sleeping in the car (or should I say, not sleeping) was beginning to take its toll. Cranky Jam was out in full force. I was so tired and just wanted to wash and dry my hair properly and not have to get changed in the back of a car, never mind catch some well needed sleep.
After some deliberation, I managed to convince Andrew to stay in a hotel. I found a place called Kinross Cottage on hotels.com, and because we had gathered a free night, it cost us next to nothing. The place was amazing and I wish we could have stayed longer! Located just outside of Queenstown, we were perfectly situated for the coming days.
The property is located on a vineyard and the grounds are out of this world. The room we had was amazing. It had a kitchen, meaning we could cook our own dinner and the decor was beautiful. Not to mention the hot tub on the hill which boasted views of the vineyard and mountains surrounding Queenstown. I fell in love with this place!
The following morning, I called AJ Hackett and booked our bungee jump on the Nevis. The highest bungee in the whole of New Zealand standing at 143 metres! I was so scared. The entire morning passed and all I could think about was the bungee. I’ll let the video do the talking, but you will see the fear written all over my face! Having said that, after the jump I was so filled with Adrenalin – one of the best things I have ever done!
The bungee trip took quite a while. Between checking in, getting weighed, driving there, doing the jump and driving back, it took up most of the day. What an amazing experience it was – check out the video below for the full experience!
We were starving when we got back to Queenstown, and what better way to quench that hunger than hitting Fergburger. Probably the most famous burger place in New Zealand. The queue was insane but it was definitely worth it! We strolled along the harbour and decided to go for a few drinks (celebrating being alive post bungee!) and hit Eicharts and Sundeck before heading back to the car to sleep.
The following day we chilled in the campsite until later that in the afternoon when I treated myself to a facial in Body Sanctum Day
Afterwards, we ventured up the skyline on the gondola, and checked out the sunset from up above. It was pretty amazing up there and you could see the entire city of Queenstown from above.
Queenstown to Milford Sound
This drive was absolutely insane – so many windy roads but such amazing out of this world scenery. It took us about 5 hours in total to get here, and thankfully we arrived when we did as so many of the campsites were already full (about 5pm).
We stayed in Milford Sound Lodge, where we camped for the night. When we got there we just chilled out with a glass of wine or two, before heading for dinner which we had at the lodge restaurant – Pio Pio. The food was incredible, probably the best we had in the whole of our trip, and I bumped into an Irish girl working there who went to my primary school! (Such a small world!)
The next morning we were up at 5am to head to our early morning kayaking trip through the fiordlands with Roscos kayaks. I was absolutely blown away by the entire trip and would recommend it to anyone with a base level of fitness! The kayak covers about 16km and it can be pretty tough as the current in the sea can be strong in areas – definitely a must see in Milford Sound!
Milford Sound to Wanaka (via Arrowtown)
We actually only decided to stay a night in Arrowtown as we ran out of petrol on route to Wanaka! We didn’t do anything here besides fill up the tank and sleep! The next morning we hit the road and arrived at Wanaka in the afternoon. When we arrived headed straight out in search of rental bikes. We went on a 4 hour cycle through Wanaka town and beyond stopping along the way at various photo stops, and to get an ice-cream. It was really pretty! We finished the evening by checking out #thatwanakatree at sunset.
The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed at 6am and drove to the base of Roy’s Peak where we started our morning hike (1,578 metres high!) which took us about 4 hours. It was tough. I’m not going to lie. I felt the pain of that hike for the next few days, but the view at the top was definitely worth it!
After, we hit Relishes cafe where we had one of the nicest brunches I have ever had, before hitting the road again!
Wanaka – Franz Josef
After sleeping in the car for the past few nights it was time for us to treat ourselves to another hotel stay – this time in Franz Josef. The drive here took about 2/3 hours which wasn’t the worst at all – even after our morning hike!
We arrived in the evening, ordered room service and got some well deserved Zzzz.
The following morning, we chanced our arm enquiring about the possibility of doing a helicopter trip to the top of the glaciers. Much to our surprise it was a runner, so we quickly got our stuff together to make an early morning slot. We did a 40 minute helicopter flight, taking in the sights of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, a landing on Fox Glacier itself and flying back over Mt.Cook National Park and the Tasman Lake. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. I was blown away. Amazing.
Franz Josef – Carter Beach (via Greymouth)
The journey to Picton is quite long from Franz Josef. On the way we decided to make a pitstop in Westport, and found a cute place called Carters Beach to stay. On route we got to stop and see the pancake rocks and blowholes in Greymouth. The pancake rocks got their name because they formed in Flat layers making them look like stacks of pancakes.
Carters Beach to Wellington (via Picton)
Two of Andrew’s friends live in Wellington. So, as the weekend approached we decided to get there as soon as possible to catch them on their days off work.
We took the inter-islander ferry from Picton across to Wellington. The journey takes about 3/4 hours in total. While it is pretty expensive it was a really nice ferry with a bar and restaurant and the views from the window were pretty cool.
On arrival it was straight to the pub, and that was pretty much the story for the entire time in Wellington. Lots of drinking and to be honest it’s the perfect place to do it!
I didn’t take one photo in Wellington!
Wellington – Taihape
The second night turned out to be a wild one, and safe to say I was not feeling the best the next morning. Predictably, I could only handle a short enough drive before we needed to pit stop in McDonald’s and grab a motel for the night.
Taihape – Rotorua
After a great nights sleep it was on to our next destination – Rotorua (or Rotton-rua as it is aptly named!). On route we stopped at the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland to check out the unique geothermal and volcanic features Rotorua has to offer. They were pretty cool, but the entrance fee was fairly steep for what is literally just a walk around a natural landscape.
That evening, we had a trip to the Tamaki Maori village. This was one of the best experiences we had in New Zealand. From start to finish, everyone from the coach driver who picked us up from our holiday park to those serving us dinner, immersed us in the typical Maori culture. We learned all about the Maori way of life, dance (haka included!) and even ate food cooked in the traditional Maori way – in an underground oven called Hangi. I would definitely recommend you do this trip if visiting Rotorua.
Rotorua – Cambridge (via Matamata)
I (embarrassingly enough!) have not seen the Lord of the Rings movie. That being said, I still was adamant on paying the Hobbiton movie set a visit. I was so impressed by the tour. The grounds, the flowers, the filming techniques. It was incredible and definitely worth a visit.
We decided to give up on the camper and booked a motel for another two nights. This was a short drive away and was called Kelly Road.
Cambridge to Auckland
After Cambridge we drove to Auckland where we stayed in an air bnb for one final night. Exhaustion had finally hit us! The next morning we went for coffee and a trip to Cromwell Park. Then it was on the road for one last time to drop the camper back to the airport.
Overall this trip was definitely one to remember. The incredible scenery that New Zealand has to offer is second to none. For anyone who is a fan of the outdoors and nature then this trip is definitely for you!
- Get a SIM card – you will use it looking up places to go and see along the drive. Don’t rely on getting wifi in towns etc. as not all places have it. I recommend going with Spark. We had coverage everywhere bar Milford Sound. The data package also included 1GB a day wifi at Spark telephone boxes, which are everywhere.
- Book your camper a few months in advance to avoid disappointment
- Don’t underestimate the time it takes to drive in New Zealand. Nearly all roads are single lane, and there are a lot of roadworks going on. The roads themselves are also very winding so you’ll need to drop your speed. Google maps time isn’t necessarily accurate!
- Spend longer in the South Island. It is way prettier and there is so much to do when compared to the north island.
- Bring lots of bug spray if you’re going to the South Island. You will need protection from sandflies as they are rampant in the southern region.
- Bring a rich moisturiser. Your skin will appreciate it!