Prepare to hit the road around Aotearoa with these tips for campervanning newbies, writes Brett Atkinson
Experience the best of New Zealand with DoC
Department of Conservation (DoC) campsites make it affordable to stay amid some of New Zealand's most beautiful scenery. Powered sites at DoC's serviced campsites cost $23pp per night, and facilities often include kitchens and cooking benches, barbecues, showers and toilets. Booking ahead online for popular serviced sites, like Pelorus Bridge midway between Nelson and Blenheim, is strongly recommended.
Facilities at DoC's scenic sites may be more rudimentary, with cold showers, cooking shelters and picnic tables. Powered sites at scenic sites, including stunning Maitai Bay on Northland's Karikari Peninsula, cost $18pp.
DoC also offers basic campsites, free to use, but only available for vehicles with self-contained toilet facilities.
Sign up to be a member of the NZMCA
An annual fee of $90 secures membership of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, a worthwhile investment to access the organisation's range of benefits, including fuel savings and discounts at a variety of retailers.
An NZMCA membership really proves its worth with member exclusives, including their annual Travel Directory listing thousands of overnight camping locations throughout the country. The range incorporates DoC sites, holiday parks, and Park Over Property (Pop) sites on privately-owned land and available only to NZMCA members. Pop locations could include golf clubs, private residences, or areas of historical interest, and provide a secure overnight option for members.
The NZMCA also operates a network of 47 association-owned or -leased parks for exclusive member use, priced at an affordable $3.00pp per night. For members, the information contained in the printed and online Travel Directory can also be accessed via the NZMCA's own app.
Other benefits of joining the NZMCA include their CampSaver programme, offering discounts at holiday parks and campgrounds during off-peak and shoulder season travel periods, and motorhome wireless broadband services in conjunction with Wireless Nation. The DoC/NZMCA Campsite Pass, currently $175 for five months, provides access to more than 200 DoC sites.
Stay in a vineyard, orchard or craft brewery
Okay2Stay (okay2stay.co.nz) offers more than 100 locations around the country where members of the programme can park their motorhomes overnight for free for one night if they purchase local wine and artisan food products from their hosts. It's a great way to support local businesses, and locations include vineyards, craft breweries, dairy farms and fruit orchards.
Another option for travelling beer fans is to park up overnight at Brewtown in Upper Hutt. Powered campervan sites are $15 per person and distractions include four craft breweries, a distillery, and karting, ice-skating and ten-pin bowling. Central Wellington is easily reached by frequent train services.
Don't overlook getaways from our biggest city
Highlights of Auckland Regional Council's campsites include Tāwharanui Regional Park, where there's a wild kiwi sanctuary, while Sullivan's Bay to the south in Mahurangi Regional Park offers a great waterfront location. Costs for unpowered sites are $16pp. If you're planning on staying frequently in Auckland's regional parks, it's worth applying for an annual pass (adult/child $147/$57).
On the road and online
Download the CamperMate app for listings of campgrounds and holiday parks around the country. Many of the properties are bookable through the app, and information includes local attractions and reviews by other users of the app.
Also packed with regional tips and listings of campervan-friendly locations throughout the country is the Camping NZ app from Rankers NZ. Consider also downloading the apps from the Holiday Parks Association of NZ and Kiwi Holiday Parks.
'What I've Learned Owning a Motorhome'
With New Zealand's international borders closed, the author's brother Marc took the opportunity to buy a motorhome. Following a few trips around the North Island in his Burstner 736, here's what he's picked up so far.
1. Always get a big as fridge as possible. You'll need room for the wine, cheese and beer you'll inevitably want to buy along the way.
2. Stay at least two nights in a location. Being flexible with your onward schedule is also recommended if a third or fourth night seems like a good idea.
3. In between trips, leave everything you need in the van so you can get away spontaneously without the need for extra packing and organisation.
4. Never leave the interior lights on when the insect screens are open. Yes, we learned the hard way.
5. On the road, charge the motorhome's batteries, fill up with water, and empty the waste tanks every chance you get.