Exploring New Zealand’s South Island by Camper Van – Part 2

Bruce Meyer driving a camper van on New Zealand's South Island.Exploring New Zealand’s South Island in a private vehicle is relatively easy, once you get the hang of driving on the left hand side of the road. A big orange sticker on the dash board reminds drivers of this necessity. That the South Island is the least populous, the traffic is less than you’ll find elsewhere in New Zealand.

But the roads are wide with broad shoulders. Although all signs are in English, it sometimes takes a few extra brain cells for most Americans to interpret their meaning.

This post contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link. There is no additional cost to you.

Driving Highway 7 on New Zealand’s South Island

We headed north out of Christchurch along Highway 7. At the little town of Waikari, we stopped for lunch at a place called The Rocking Frog.  It takes its name from a nearby geological formation called Frog Rock. Why didn’t we get a picture?!

The Hurunui Hotel exterior on New Zealand's South Island.A few miles later, we pulled off the road for a look around at the Hurunui Hotel. Established in 1860, it’s famous as the first business in New Zealand to have a liquor license.

Today’s owners have enhanced its amenities by adding a vineyard and winery. The old barn that once sheltered horses and other livestock is now the tasting room and a little gift shop.

A red and white quilt for sale at the Hurunui Hotel on New Zealand's South Island.I was intrigued by the quilt on the wall, me being a bit of a quilter and all. This style is called a “wagga.” I was told that traditionally, a “wagga” is made by men from old flour sacks, but today any quilt made from scraps is called a “wagga.” This is by a fiber artist named Carol Field. She was asking $150, which is a fabulous price for a quilt.

But I have plenty of quilts of my own and we had little room in our luggage for a souvenir of this bulk. Now that we’re back home, I regret that decision. (Return trip?)

History of New Zealand’s Hurunui Hotel

The Hurunui region is known for sheep ranching. This hotel was first opened in 1860 as a stagecoach stop for those traveling through and working in the region. I love this wording included on the license given to John Hastie, the original owner of the Hurunui Hotel:

“that he keep eight beds in four bedrooms; shelter for six horses; provide stock yards for yoking up cattle; provide horses for travellers to ford the river; and also direct strangers to a safe fording place.”

The dining room at the Hurunui Hotel on New Zealand's South Island.Today, the rooms aren’t much different than they were in the 1860s with simple twin or double beds with iron frames. The website describes them as “cozy.”  Yep, cozy is a nice word. Plus shared bathrooms are down the hall.

The dining room and bar are also described as cozy, with tables well-worn over the years and soot from years of warming fires staining the fireplace.

If we hadn’t been driving our rented little camper van, we most certainly would have booked a room for the night, despite their cozy amenities. We were already quite cozy as it was.

Hanmer Hot Springs on New Zealand’s South Island

Our destination was Hanmer Hot Springs, a natural hot springs and vacation community.

A steaming pool at Hanmer Hot Springs on New Zealand's South Island.We visited in November, which is early spring in New Zealand, and the little town was not busy at all. I had a nice soak, a massage and then Bruce and I shared a pizza before walking back to our little motor home.

Our next door neighbor was Paul from Australia, who, as it turns out, served in Vietnam about the same time as Bruce and was stationed in Vung Tao, as was Bruce, proving once again that it is a small world.

Tomorrow, on to Westport and Greymouth via Lewis Pass, then down coastal highway 6.