Exploring New Zealand’s South Island by Camper Van

Mount Cook on New Zealand's South Island

New Zealand, like many global travelers, had been on our wish list for years, when finally the opportunity arrived. After spending some time in Wellington and enjoying the North Island, we chose to explore New Zealand’s South Island by camper van.


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Renting a Camper Van on New Zealand’s South Island

Our Camper Van in a campground on New Zealand's South IslandCamper vans are all of the rage in New Zealand and Australia, and really much of the world. Europeans just love them, but they are a little smaller than we road-hogging Americans are accustomed to.

We were greeted warmly by the folks at Maui, the camper van rental company in Christchurch, located less than a mile from the airport. We spent the next hour or so in an orientation of the 7.2 meter (23.6 ft) vehicle that would be our home for the next week.

Our next stop was Pack ‘n Save to pick up some supplies. Now envision this:  It’s a Saturday before Christmas in the largest shopping center on the South Island. It’s pouring down rain and every family in Christchurch is trying to get their weekly shopping done. In comes Bruce and Diana on the wrong side of the road in a 24-foot long motor home.

Little children and old women scurried to safety as we approached. However, a pole in the parking lot did not scurry and it’s now wishing it would have.

Holiday Parks in New Zealand

Amber Park campground on New Zealand's South Island near ChristchurchFinally, we succumbed to jet-lag, settling in for our first night in the convenience of Amber Park, a lovely family-owned holiday park in Christchurch. We might have done a bit of damage to their flower bed as we figured out how to park.

In addition to a number of spots for camper vans and tent campers, the holiday parks also have guest cottages, a communal kitchen, laundry, shower room, and other features.

Camper vans lined up in the Amber Park campground in Christchurch New Zealand.The communal kitchen is a great place to visit, especially at the beginning of your journey, because that’s where altruistic campers leave extra supplies. We found paper towels, cooking oil, a half dozen potatoes, coffee, sugar and the like.

A French couple parked next to us  gave us salt and pepper and a bottle of dish washing liquid. After a month exploring New Zealand’s South Island, they were heading home. We said “merci beaucoup” in our best French.

We slept, ate a simple meal of cheese, crackers, apples and Doritos, and then slept some more. Old women and little children have thanked us for that decision.

Tomorrow — the sun shines and we visit the hot springs in Hanmer Springs, lunch with a rocking frog and souvenirs we should have bought.



Tip: If you find yourself on New Zealand’s North Island, a very popular day hike is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a UNESCO World Heritage site. My friend Melanie hiked it during her visit to New Zealand.