We would have four nights in the North Island working our way down to to Wellington to get the ferry to the South Island where we would spend most of our trip.
We had a rough route and ideas of where our daily destination would be but really just took each day as it came, staying longer if we liked somewhere, moving on if it wasn't for us. I've decided the best way to tell you is by breaking it down stop by stop so here goes the great Kiwi adventure......Night 1 and 2 - Lake Rotoiti (Rotorua)
Our first destination was Rotorua, this was about a 5 hour drive from Auckland, the sun was shining and we had an i-pod full of roadtrip music from Simon and Garfunkle and Fleetwood Mac to Daft Punk and Take That (ha!). It was great to be out on the road. As we drove away from Auckland, the roads started to become quiter and the towns smaller, some so small we were through it in a bink of an eye! We took in the country landscapes and happily chatted away or listened to our music, time and km's passed by so quickly and before we knew it, we were approaching Rotorua and looking for our first place to camp up. We had decided that we didn't want to stay in camps in the main towns so looked for small costal places on the map near the town and headed there to find a quiet, pituresque place by the sea to rest our heads. Whist we drove we saw a sign for 'Lake Rotoiti holiday park' so took a detour to check it out, we found the most perfect small campsite on the shores of Lake Rotoiti and decided it would be a great place for our first stop
. We were lucky enough to get a spot next to the lake and were told by the owner by all means go and play in the kayaks on the lake but 'get a life jacket that fits and come back happy and alive' apart from that we were left to our own devices to enjoy the beautiful spot. By the time we were settled, it was getting towards evening so we got out the camp stoves and whipped up a quick spaghetti bolognese and ate it sipping wine in the warm evening heat whilst watching the ripples on the lake catch the sun as it began to set - it really was that perfect. That night we decided that we should spend another night at the beautiful lake, it wasn't just us that felt that way either all the people we spoke to had to stay an extra night as it was just so relaxing. The next morning, I leapt out of bed and went straight to look at the lake, what a perfect way to start the day. After a breakfast of porridge and bagels, we set off to have a look around Rotorua, our first stop was a blueberry farm where we tasted bluberry wine, homemade pickles, jams and chutneys and treated ourselves to a moist and fresh blueberry muffin and bluberry smoothies. This kind of thing is right up our street, anything that involves eating for one but you cannot get better that local, fresh, homemade produce - we left with some blueberry chutney, goosberry jam and a punnet of bluberries - antioxidant heaven! We then visited the thermal pools in Rotorua, you can smell the pools before you see them, infact, you can smell the whole of Rotorua before you see it - the 'eggy' sulphur smell wafts around everywhere
. We visited the bubbling pools of water and took some photos but ran out of time to go to the place where you can actually swin in them, that would have been wonderful (minus the smell!). By late afternoon, we wanted to get back to the lake to 'play' so we made our way back, put our swimming gear and life jackets on and kayaked around the lake until we were tired out and ready for dinner, a great way to end the day.Night 3 - Waipatiki Beach
The next morning it was time to move on and make our way nearer to the port, we were heading south towards Napier; an Art Deco seaside town with lots of places to camp for the night. Before we left we had got chatting to an older couple from Somerset we come to NZ every yeat to visit their son and escape the Great British winter. They had recomended that we take a drive to Waipatiki Beach and stay there for the night, they told us that the drive would take us through a road through a mountain that goes on and on and on but when you get there it is well worth it. So we set off again on the road making our way to the secluded beach we had been promised,we stopped here or there for photos or lunch, the world was our oyster. When we were getting near Napier, we made our way to the neverending road, roads in NZ are quiet at the best of times but this windy road made it's way up and up the mountains, through steep hills and fileds housing a few cows and sheeps here and there. Then what goes up must come down so down we went around and around bends with only a barbed wire fence stopping us falling off into the valleys - a great time for me to start asking Rob 'what happens if our breakes fail'. Eventually, around the mountain, we started to see the sea and a closed metal farm gate stating 'please drive in and close the gate'
. We made our way down the farm track, past old tractors and small buidings with corrugated roofs before getting to the reception and at last seeing the secluded sandy beach that nestled down in the bottom of the valley surrounded by mountains. The place was almost empty so we had the luxury of chossing a spot facing the sea all by ourselves. We took no time in heading straight for the beach - a two minute walk; a beautiful sandy beach with a few people dotted about here and there, I took a dip in the sea to cool down whilst Rob relaxed in the afternoon sunshine. We stayed on the beach until the sun started to make it's way down before going back to the camper for a quick dinner using the 'emergency' beans, we were far too relaxed for cooking! The darkness came quickly but the heat stayed so we sat in the camper with the doors open looking at the sky dotted with more stars than we had ever seen and pretended to point out constellations as the sounds of the waves lapped against the beach in the background.
If you ever go to Newzealand, please make your way to Waipatiki beach!Night 4 - Martinborough
The next day we left the sandy beach and drove to our last stop before we would catch the ferry to the South Island. The drive was inland and was more a long drive of necessity rather than the relaxed drives we had had on the previous days. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we reached Martinborough to find a small village with local shops, restaurants and deli's and a beautiful camp with a perfect view over the fields to enjoy whilst eating our camp stove dinner.
Night 5 South Island – Kaikoura Petaka Beach
The next morning, we drove the hour and a half from Martinborough to Wellington to catch the ferry to Picton on the south island. The drive took us high up through the steep mountains, so high that we were driving through the clouds and so steep that all you could think about was not falling off the edge. We made it to the port and boarded the ferry, it is three and a half hours to the South Island, most people spent it eating fish and chips or watching the free film, I caught up on my writing on the laptop and Rob relaxed looking out to sea. When we approached the South Island, we could already see the beauty that everyone was describing we would see; lush green hills and islands, mountainous terrain, blue seas – we knew that we would be in for some amazing sights over the next week. When we got to Picton, we decided to drive out a bit so we didn't end up in one of the busy spots near the port, we drove to Kaikoura on the east Pacific coast, it was a long day but always worth the drive when you read the words 'beachfront site’ on the camp description. When we got to the camp, it was early evening, we camped up overlooking the sea and used up another tin of the ‘emergency’ beans – they really are an essential for camping! When the sun set, we realised how dark the site was when we had to stumble back from the kitchen with our washing up, one of the things that really lets you know you are camping is all the stumbling around in the dark at night
! It’s all part of the fun and worth it to hear the wave’s sooth you to sleep.Night 6 - Waikuku Beach
The next morning it was time to move on again, there is nothing more freeing that the feeling that each day you can move on and leave the past behind so quickly. Back on the road we took another long drive; we stopped along the way to pick up some veggies in a local farm shop that are dotted all along the roads in NZ. We chatted to a friendly pomme that now lived in NZ and who was so excited for us to be on our trip, she gave us lots of advice and some free ice for our cool box, she had been to York University so it made her day to hear a northern accent and talk about familiar things from home. The world really is so small. Driving through the Marlborough region we were also on the lookout for some good wine so stopped off at the ‘Mud House’ winery and tasted some of the Marlborough and Waipara wines that they made on the premises. With a little help we picked out a red and a white and stocked up our van for the next few days. Friendly faces and a little bit of sun can really brighten up anyone’s day. To illuminate our day even more, the drive from ‘Mud House’ to our destination for the night took us on a coastal road so close to the sea you could almost touch it
. Each corner seemed to give us a more beautiful landscape to dreamily accompany us to Waikuku; when you thought ‘this can’t get better’ it just did. Again we chose Waikuku for its beachside location, when we arrived and found our space, we realised the camp was very big, busy and cramped so we knew this would only be our destination for one night. We made our way through the trees that sheltered us from the beach and were treated to a beautiful, long, sandy beach. This being the Pacific, we were warned about the strength of the sea. Surfers, body boarders and swimmers were enjoying the waves but most between the flags which I could not agree with more, safety first! We watched a wedding party on the beach taking photos as the afternoon started to draw to a close and lazily laid on the beach until the sun began to set casting shadows across the sea. We made our way back to the camper leaving only the driftwood behind which somehow managed to make the beach seem even more desolate. That night was my night off cooking so Rob was on the case, chicken Italiano was on the menu so I was left with the job of drinking wine and eating antipasto – perfect! Night 7 - Lake Waihola
We woke up bright and early and cooked our porridge on the camp stove before off for a hot shower, we had our daily routine now and there was nothing better that getting outdoors first thing in the day to drink in the clean fresh air
. Before leaving Waikuku we visited a local gift shop to pick up some local made pottery for a souvenir then made our way South through Christchurch and south towards Dunedin. It started off as a very hot and humid day, so hot that the heat penetrated into your skin and made you feel like a human hot water bottle. As we drove further south the heat was replaced by the wind; blowing the camper back and forth across the road and then came the rain – they say that in NZ you can have ‘four seasons in one day’ like in the Crowded House song and we were definitely experiencing that that day. It rained, it poured and it never stopped. As we reached Dunedin, we hadn’t decided where to stay, the rain made everything look drab and grey (like it does) so we decided to keep driving past Dunedin and find a quiet place for us to sleep. We took a tourist drive that took us through small places along the coast, at each place we drove into the camp but they weren’t what we were looking for so we kept driving, we reached a place called Taieri Mouth, by now it was getting late so we drove in to the camp and our first thought was ‘Craggy Island’. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Father Ted or the episode where they go on a caravan holiday but I swear, that was it! So after rejecting Craggy Island our last chance was at Lake Waihola, this was advertised as a lakeside camp so sounded full of promise, if only it would stop raining. We reached the small, very quiet lakeside camp and paid up for the night, the rain never stopping since it started about five hours previous
. Whilst camping is great, camping in the rain is a right pain in the bum, when one thing gets wet everything does and this wasn’t just a light shower – every time we needed the toilet we needed to walk though a swampy field in flip flops to get there! When the rain eased off for a few minutes, I ran off to do our laundry and Rob cooked up some dinner for us, oh it was such a miserable night, it really was. I walked back and forth from the camper to the laundry room every 15 minutes to feed another dollar coin into the most antique drier in the world, the rain was back and splattered down everywhere. Then the drier broke and we had to faff around going to another one in the middle of the camp which didn’t have a light so there we were, in the dark, doing laundry, brushing our teeth in the rain, walking through the swampy field for a wee – you had to laugh by the end of the night. The rain never stopped all night, on the roof of the camper it sounded like hailstones and kept us awake and it was so cold too – by morning at last the rain had stopped and we could erase the whole of the night before from our memories. We took a walk by the lake after breakfast, looking so calm now after the night before, feeling calm too – it seemed worth all the calamity just to stand by that lake in the morning and despite not staying at the ‘Craggy Island’ campsite, we definitely had a ‘Father Ted’ type night!Nights 8 & 9 - Te Anau
After making our way down the East coast, we then took the drive across the south Island towards Te Anau. This whole area of NZ has some of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscape and we couldn’t wait to get there. The sun was back today and we cheerily took in the landscapes listening to our road trip music along the way
. There are not many times in life that all you need to think about is the view so we absorbed as much as we could and daydreamed the day away, intoxicated by the natural undisturbed beauty. When we reached Te Anau we found our camp ‘Fiordlands great views’ and got a spot looking across to the mountains, as mentioned before this area is renowned for its natural beauty and the fiords, so tomorrow we would be treating ourselves to a trip to the world heritage Milford Sound and the one road that takes you there is known as and experience in its self. Before that though, we enjoyed a dinner looking out across the mountains accompanied by the wine we picked up from the ‘Mud House’ a few days before and if you’re feeling jealous by now you should be :-) it was perfect! The next morning we started out on the drive to Milford Sound, Milford Sound is the most visited Fiord of all the Fiordland, they recommend that you leave yourself at least two and a half hours for the one and a half hour drive because of all the times you will want to stop to take photos, they even have specially designed tiered glass roofed coaches if you want to go that way – a really great idea. The route is part of the Southern Scenic Touring route, there is only Milford Sound at the end, there is no petrol there so you have to fill up before you go and you have three choices of where to stay so like most we would be going there and back in one day. As we started out on the road after 10 minutes we were already stopping for the first photos of a rainbow across the bottom of the mountains, this is a rainforest area and either rains or shines – it rained but we came prepared all wrapped up
. As we drove along the road the mountains surrounding us grew and grew, the gargantuan structures making you feel so insignificant. As we drove further we found ourselves stopping more and more (just as they had told us) mountains, rivers, waterfalls, clouds between the mountains – so much to see, so much to take in. We stopped along the way at the ‘Mirror Lakes’ fortunately for us the sun had come out for those minutes we were there so we could see why the lakes were given their name. The water that runs into the lakes trickles down from the mountains picking up minerals along the way that makes it so crystal clear that when you look into them the reflection of the landscape makes it hard to see where one starts and the other ends – truly beautiful. As we carried on further up and around the mountains, we drove through the low clouds and the hazy rain until we made it to Homer Tunnel. The tunnel takes you right through one of the mountains and feels more like driving though a dark cave than a tunnel – all this making us realise why this drive is known as an ‘experience’ not just a drive. When we made it to Milford Sound, we were amazed by the scene in front of our eyes, the mountains, the fiord, the beauty, picture postcard perfect – legend says that the Sound was carved out by Maori magic I can only think it as true. As the rain eased off, the clouds moved away, blue sky and sunshine adding to the wonderment even more so and making us glad that we had waited until getting on one of the boat trips
. We boarded the boat and looked out across the Sound which eventually joins up to the Tasman Sea. The trip would be 45 minutes and all there was to do was to enjoy the scenery, as the boat started to move the rain started again accompanied by the harsh wind so we all stood up there, in the rain, getting soaking wet taking it all in. We passed natural waterfalls, native fur seals and were told myths and legends along the way, we came back soaked through and exhausted but wouldn’t have missed it for anything. We made our way back to Te Anau and both agreed that sometimes there is just too much to take in all in one day but that it was something we would ever forget.Night 10 - Lake Outlet
It was time for us to move on again, we were now making our way back up the South Island to catch our ferry back to Wellington in a few days time. Our next destination was Queenstown which is a Mecca for outdoor activities, water sports and sky diving, unfortunately (?) we wouldn’t have time for any of that but we did want to take the drive to Gelnorchy to see some of the beautiful scenery where Lord of the Rings had been filmed. We made our way to Queenstown stopping along the way to take photo's of more beautiful scenery, in fact our lunch spot must have been the most incredible view possible looking out over a huge lake surrounded by mountains
. We then carried on along the amazing road and came across a runaway lamb on the road, the poor thing so scared and not able to get back up to the fields galloping along the roads nearly causing a few accidents until it eventually managed to get back to it's fields. When we reached Queenstown, we then took the long, long mountainous road to Glenorchy, the route took us all along the lakefront of Lake Wakatipu, looking out to water and mountains as far as the eye could see. As we made our way along the scenic road, we turned the corner to find the most breathtaking view across the lake to snowy mountains in the background, we stopped the car to take in the unbelievable view along with many other people who just stood there asking themselves ‘am I really here’. The drive there and back took about an hour and a half but to see those snowy mountains against the blue, calm lake was worth all the effort. When we got back to Queenstown, we took a quick wander around the town before we made our way to Lake Outlet camp for another nights rest. The camp was so pretty, right next to the lake with a view of the mountains, on any other day the view would have wowed us but it had so much to live up to on that day so we never really appreciated it fully. After our dinner and washing up, we stood and looked up at the stars, it was a very dark night and the stars filled the sky and shone so bright you almost felt like you could touch them. After a restful night’s sleep, we woke ready for our usual routine, Rob goes off to make the coffee’s, I make the porridge and we eat it next to the beach/mountain/lake – wherever we may be
. As I leisurely stirred away at our healthy breakfast all of a sudden flames gushed out of the gas bottle and I screamed ‘take it over there to the bushes’ so there Rob was, running around with a flaming gas bottle until he eventually put it down in the bushes still like a big ball of fire. So what now? I started to think it was going to explode so Rob frantically made his way back over to the thing to switch off the valve with me praying ‘please don’t explode’ – thankfully it didn’t and we were both in one piece laughing about Rob running around with this fire ball first thing in the morning!Night 11 - Franz Josef Glacier
After the eventful start to the day, we made our way towards Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers – two natural glaciers that you can drive to and visit. We reached fox glacier by the late afternoon and followed the signs up the mountain towards the view point. When we got to the top, we took a 10 minute walk through a dirt track to a view point of the glacier, quite an incredible sight and something you wouldn’t expect in NZ. The big, sharp shards of blue ice, sitting between two mountains making you feel as though you are looking to the Swiss Alps not NZ, a huge contrast to the sandy beaches of a few days before
. We then took the road towards the glacier to get a closer look and walked as close as we were allowed to with all the other walkers and sightseers, the closer you get the more you could see what a huge and interesting structure it really was. I would recommend anyone to visit. We then carried on the drive towards Franz Josef Glacier, by the time we reached the town; it was ready to find somewhere to stay so we stayed in a local holiday park for the night, treated ourselves to a diner of picky bits and bobs, drank too much wine and slept like babies. The next morning we visited Franz Josef glacier, we were able to get closer to this one than the Fox and it was bigger and more prominent on the landscape, we took plenty of photos and were amazed by the sight of it and to learn that the glacier is like a frozen river that slowly melts and moves down the mountain not just a ‘big lump of ice’ as I described it to Rob - ha ha.Nights 12 & 13 - Murchison & Paraparaumu
We then had to make our way for a night’s sleep somewhere within a few hours of the port to catch the 12.30 ferry the next morning, after a long day’s scenic drive we decided to stop at Murchison about an hour and a half from Picton. The first place we stopped at was overrun with bumble bees so me (and Rob) being the chickens that we are decided to move on and stayed elsewhere
. We settled into the quiet camp which had no more than 5-6 people staying there and we were all spread out with plenty of space. After dinner, we washed up and the park became very, very dark, so dark you struggled to see your own hand in front of your face. When we got back to the camper, we heard a rustling in the bushes, we looked up and saw a full moon, we then remembered that the camp was near a graveyard and then thought back to the old man we had seen wandering around the park and looking at us earlier – imaginations can run wild so easily – we got ready for bed extra quick than night and locked ourselves in. Too bad neither of us slept to well, both dying for a wee but neither daring to go! When we sleepily got up in the morning, the park had become overrun with bumble bees, I wandered off for a shower then sat in the back of the camper getting ready whilst Rob went to shower, all the time he was away all I could hear was bzzzzzz, bzzzzz, bzzzzzz and the sound of them bumping into the van trying to get in – KILLER BEES! When Rob got back, there were about 8 bees trying to get into the van so he jumped in the driver’s seat still in is towel, left me in the back and we zoomed out of the camp leaving the bee’s behind. We had to drive for at least an hour before we could stop without being attacked by them, we tried once again before that but Rob only managed to get on one trainer before they attacked again. With all this commotion we were also rushing to Picton for the 12.30 ferry, they advise you to be there about an hour before and in our chilled out state we thought we had ‘plenty’ of time – we had time but definitely not plenty! That’s one thing about the roads in NZ, they go on forever before you see anything and sometimes you think they will never end, that morning we got to the port at 12.15 – I was stressed, Rob was laughing and the ferry was an hour late. Call it just a bit of luck!
When we got off the ferry back on the North Island, we took an hour drive up the west coast to a small camp near Paraparaumu; this was really just a stop of necessity. The camp was nice enough, the owner was a bit of a character but it was just a pleasant place to rest for that night.Night 14 - Opunake
With only a couple more nights left, we had a lot of driving to do this day to make our way back up North towards Auckland, we had seen so many beautiful sights an were enjoying our trip so much that now that it was coming to an end we started to feel so sad. We loved the camper, loved the feeling of moving on each day and loved the freedom. We drove towards Hawera and then took the ‘Surf Highway’ to find a great spot by the beach – it was the day before Valentines and the old romantics that we are we wanted to find a beautiful spot to celebrate at. The camp we found at Opunake was just what we were looking for, right on the beach, great facilities and nice and quiet as the holidays were over. We sat in the sun and relaxed enjoying a glass of wine with our dinner before taking a walk onto the beach and sitting together to watch the sunset – what a treat to be able to walk 30 seconds and be on a beautiful secluded beach. The sun set painted colours in the sky, we could see orange, yellow, blue, grey, red and pink. The clouds looked like paintbrush strokes and we sat on a piece of driftwood with the sand between our toes, listening to the tide slowly go out, drinking wine and eating chocolates – blissful. The next morning we woke and had a special breakfast of heart shaped pancakes and exchange our cards before packing up and moving on – who says romance is dead!Night 15 - Raglan
That morning we set out again, this would be our last destination before handing over our camper back to Escape the next morning. We headed towards Hamilton but found a small costal place called Raglan to stay. This was a really beautiful spot with a beach merely seconds walk away. The wine from the night before had taken its toll so we were both feeling tired and the feeling that this was our last night out on the open road dominated our thoughts. What and adventure we’d had, the sights we’d seen, the time we had taken just to stop and look at the world. Unforgettable.Back to Auckland
So that was that, the next morning we packed up the van and made our way back to Auckland, the memories we made would stay with us forever but it was time for our road trip to end. In a few days time we would be moving on again to a new country, a new continent, a new adventure but we will never forget the time that us two pommes took two weeks to explore two islands in a campervan painted with two lovely ladies at the other side of the world.
So there we were ready for our big Kiwi roadtrip, Paul and Michelle took us to Escape ('the worlds coolest campers'!) and we picked up our camper 'Hula Girl' and loaded it up with all our bags. This would be our transport and home for the next two weeks and we loved it as soon as we picked it up, the added bonus was that she was their newest camper so was in great nick and the artwork was fantastic! The camper was really well equiped for what we needed, the seats and table in the main part folded down to become the queen size bed, the back housed a sink, camping stove, camping chairs, pots,pans and room for all your supplies - I organised my little kitchen and we stocked up with enough food for a few days plus the 'emergency' tins of beans and away we were.