New Zealand marks my first international trip with my new 3 month old baby girl – Kai Luna. We hired a camper van and went around south island for 12 days. What an adventure it was and I wouldn’t have done the trip any differently with or without baby (other then wishing I had more time to see this incredible country).
Getting there & accommodation:
We flew return Christchurch and picked up a camper van from Happy Campers – 3 berth, manual drive, and it exceeded all of our expectations. This blog post will be structured a little differently as our accommodation was our camper van and we were hopping different camping spots all over the island everyday. www.happycampers.co.nz were super friendly and helpful and it was a more affordable option than other camper van hire places.
We flew into Christchurch at night and therefore stayed in the comfort of our air BNB near the airport on the first evening.
We picked up our van at 9 AM and headed straight to the shop to pick up groceries for a few days and grabbed some cheeky Mcdonalds breakfast for the road. Keen to get started to our first destination we headed straight away to Lake Tekapo which was approximately at 2.5 hour drive. We stayed at Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park, which is situated right on the lake giving awesome views. There is also a beautiful church named the Church of Good Shepard and it is definitely worth the walk around the lake to check out. The stars here are spectacular and there are also hot springs (we didn’t opt to go into them) and the holiday park was great and had beautiful facilities.
On the road again we headed towards Queenstown which is approximately a 3.5 hour drive. We made plenty of stops along the way. Our first stop was in Twizel for a coffee/internet/breakfast break and we cooked up some bacon and eggs in the van then got back on the road again. All of NZ’s drives are super scenic so even if you’re on the road driving – the diversity of the landscapes are something to take in. Our second stop was at a sheep shearing shop where we got to look at the different types of wool (there are 3 million sheep grazing the grass of NZ) and had a small driving break. Our third stop was at Lake Pukaki where you can see beautiful views of the infamous Mount Cook. We had a little walk around and play with Kai here and wished we had the time to stay. Last stops were through the Otago wine region right before entering into beautiful Queenstown where we parked up at Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park. Queenstown is known for its activities such as skydiving, bungee and swing but we opted to head to the shops and eat Fergburger and ice-cream along the waters edge soaking in the last hours of sunlight.
We booked a coach-cruise-coach tour through Te Anau, Fjiordland, and Milford Sound. The tour started at 7 AM and ended at 730 PM so it was a big day for Miss Kai and she took it like a superstar. Milford Sound is the 8th wonder of the world and we were lucky to see it in all its glorious sunshine.
On the road again from Queenstown we headed to Lake Wanaka known by the infamous Wanaka tree. It was such a beautiful day, we cooked up breaky lake-side in the camper van picked up groceries in the cute town, walked around the trails of the lake, and laid down by the beach for hours. After getting in our fill (which wasn’t enough), we headed back into the van to park up in Josef Franz village – Glacier Campervan Holiday Park.
In Josef Franz we went up in a helicopter to see both Josef Franz & Josef Fox Glaciers (twin glaciers). We were lucky to have a glacier landing where we got to spend some time on top. It was such an incredible experience. And we ended the evening soaking in the Josef Franz Glacier Hot Pools.
Having an early start allowed us to park up near Hokitika seaside and eat breakfast at the beach. We walked around there for a bit then got back into the van to see Hokitika Gorge where the water is bright blue turquoise. Continuing on our journey north we stopped at a Dellworm Cave and proceeded onwards to Greymouth for some food. Trying to make our way up to the north part of the South Island we ended up parking in Murchison Riverside Holiday Park for the night.
Having a slow morning we had a birthday breakfast in Murchison at a cafe in town to celebrate Adam’s 31st. We then drove up to Moteuka & Kaiteriteri to pay for our tour to go to Abel Tasman National Park the next day. Kaiteriteri motor reserve is a campground right on the beach and the people there were lovely. We did a few walks around the beach and made plans to eat at Kai restaurant (how suiting) for Adams birthday the following night.
Today was the day we toured Abel Tasman National Park and it was perfect! We got a super hot and sunny day and the boat picked us up in the morning from the beach and took us to Anchorage Bay where we hiked the Pitt loop and hung out at Mu Te ka Bay soaking in the UV rays. After returning to Kaiteriteri for 6 PM we headed out for a nice dinner at Kai.
Sad to leave Abel Tasman, we headed off towards Havelock & Bleinheim to have some breakfast and hit up some wineries! We went to No1 estate and Cloudy Bay where I had the “Cloudy Bay experience” – which was tasting 4 different wines (PS Adam was driving). The winery was so much fun as they had a soccer ball in the back and tree swings to hang out in. Hoping to cover some ground we continued driving along the east coast as we weren’t sure where we were going to stay yet. Looking up some campgrounds on campermate- we ended up at Alpine Pacific Campground in Kaikoura as they had hot tubs and a heated pool! We met a wonderful family living on North Island and the father had trained in Shoreham by Sea to be a pilot – which is where Adam grew up – such a small world.
Waking up in Kaikoura we headed back towards Christchurch to drop off the camper van. We posted up in our air BNB and got Indian take out to wrap up our last night. My friend whom I worked with in London came by for a visit to meet Kai and it was so lovely to reconnect with her back on a different continent.
Sydney bound just in time for summer!
Don’t book any campgrounds before but use campermate app to plan a general route if you’re limited on time (exceptions: high season gets really busy for the top holiday parks)
I could’ve done another week on the North Island! There is so much to see and do in New Zealand – you’ll just never see it all. I can’t wait to do another campervan trip!