Travel: Campervan Sites in New Zealand Reviewed

Well. When I decided to embark on travelling and travel blogging and wanted to document some of the more special places we stayed I had little idea that this would include reviews of campervan sites in New Zealand. Yet, I feel quick and honest reviews of the NZ campsites we rocked up in our campervan could really help some of you if you're ever planning a road trip around this unique country. We honestly didn't stay in a bad campsite, and if you're like me you will agree that knowing where to get a decent hot, shower is worth a lot of Kiwi dollars. If you're looking for general NZ travel info, here's a great post with some amazing things to do in New Zealand, written from a local's perspective, and here are more tips for planning a campervan trip around New Zealand.

Best Campervan Sites on South Island, New Zealand

Night One:  Aspiring Campervan Park, Wanaka - A glam website accompanies this very cheerful campsite with cosy pitches and free internet, spa and sauna thrown in with the $42 you pay to rock up there for a night. You may be assured upon registration that you'll get a lake view but you won't unless you are 8 feet tall and standing on tip toes. There wasn't the best water pressure in the showers but it was clean and in a good spot for walking into town; a solid start.

Night Two:  Kinloch Conservation Campsite, Kinloch nr. Glenorchy - A government owned conservation site with absolutely no frills but total thrills thanks to a enchanting view that should it come with an ensuite bathroom you'd pay $100s for. Instead you're asked to pay $7.00. There's no running water and the toilet is a drop hole but you can pay $5.00 to have a shower at nearby Kinloch Lodge, a cute and cosy hotel and restaurant where you can also indulge in a three course evening meal or bar snakcs should you choose to do so. Worth the long trek along a winding road, which turns into a bumpy beaten track for the views along the way and at the final destination, however be warned that an army of seemingly deet-immune sand flies will get through any window or door open long enough and they bite, a lot.

Sleeping alongside Lake Wakatipu at Kinloch

Night Three:  Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park, Te Anau - Part of the Kiwi Holiday Parks chain, this friendly and unassuming campsite offered us the best shower we'd had since hitting the road as well as generous sized pitches, excellent communal facilities and views of the lake, albeit through the trees and over the road. We were introduced to IAC Wireless Cards here, which were also usable at many of the campsites we stayed; it's a pay as you go system for numerous country wide internet hot spots with $10.00 buying you 24 hours access and/or 500MB (whichever expires first). Our stay at Te Anau cost us $19.00 per person.

Nights Four and Five: Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park Queenstown - The most centrally located campervan park in Queenstown was conveniently close to the action but the sites were small and crowded and it did quickly feel like we were staying in a car park. Showers were also an additional cost of $2 for 8 minutes of hot water, and the shower heads themselves were mounted so frustratingly low on the walls I had to nearly limbo under the water flow to wash my hair. $20.00 per person per night seemed fair when everything was on our doorstep including IAC access.

Night Six: Rapahoe Beach Motorcamp, Rapahoe - Arguably the strangest place we stayed in on this trip and the website does little to convey this. Essentially it is someone's garden and house, albeit picturesquely perched overlooking the sea. Toilets, showers and lounge area had a homely if half-finished feel to them, but they were clean enough. Two of the  showers were actually located in the same room as the lounge and kitchen area and with no ceiling to separate you it did feel as if someone could pop their head over to say hello while cooking their super noodle supper. Surprisingly there was decent internet available though had to pay by the hour ($3.00). This cheap and cheerfully strange experience cost $15.00 per person for a powered site. Being surprised by stunning views of the sun setting? Priceless.

Lucky van, lucky sunset, lucky us at Rapahoe

Night Eight: Tahuna Beach Holiday Park, Tahunanui - We chose this one as it was the right side of Nelson for getting up early and heading off to get our ferry at Picton, but this actually turned out to be one of the better places we stayed at and was a relative bargain at $34.00 for two of us as the showers were brilliant and the facilities extensive around which the campervan pitches were conveniently circled. Aside from its close proximity to Nelson airport and the little noisy air traffic it generated (Heathrow it aint!) this was overall a great place to stay and had IAC Wireless internet too.

Best Campervan Sites on South Island, New Zealand

Night Nine: Martinborough Top 10 Holiday Park, Martinborough - Possibly our favourite campsite of the trip and part of the Kiwi Top 10 chain of campsites. The park still maintained a personal touch with family pets wondering the site and plenty of local information made available. Facilities were small but very clean and very modern and just, well, very nice. Slightly out of town but a lovely location looking across the flats of farmland and vineyards, we wished we could have stayed longer. Well worth the $20.00 per person.

The sky goes all impressive over Martinborough as we try the local wine

Night Ten: Kennedy Park Top 10 Resort, Napier - Well organised large site with big open pitches located around 2km from the centre of this famous art deco town. There was a bar and restaurant on site and the kitchens were huge though the sinks were very low; presumably because they assume everyone has kids to do the washing up!? Showers were nice and clean but had terrible water pressure and their position on the wall again assumes that the average height of a camper is 5'4" or smaller. A pricier site due to it being the closest park to Napier, $24.00 per person.

Night Eleven - All Seasons Holiday Park, Taupo -We were lucky enough to stay in this friendly park at the same time as New Zealand's Jack Daniels Club. When I say lucky I obviously mean extremely unlucky as this meant a slightly disturbed night's sleep thanks to their JD fuelled late night. However, very nice open plan facilities and outdoor area including a small thermal springs pool. Nice enough bathroom and kitchen facilities too and IAC Wireless internet access was available. It cost $20.00 per person again.

Night Twelve - Cosy Cottage International Holiday Park, Rotorua - Dotted in and around the pitches are numerous geysers as well as a couple of thermal spring pools and a geothermal steam oven, which extends your Rotorua geothermal experience. We were lucky enough to have an end pitch by the river which made for nice views and no passing traffic though a slightly longer walk to the showers and toilets, which were sadly probably the worst we used during our trip. Busy campsite and expensive internet ($10.00 for 100MB and no IAC access) and of course a lingering smell of rotten egg (aka sulphur) all for $24.00 per person. Our night here was also literally dampened by torrential rain, which leads us to discover (thankfully for the first time as it was our last night in the van) that there was a leak: cue sleeping awkwardly in the front seat and suffering from slightly soggy senses of humour the following morning.

A pitch with a view in Rotorua

Having written this I think it worth pointing out that New Zealand is the perfect place to roam free in a campervan or with a tent in the boot of your car and not pre-plan where you are going to stay, which is essentially what we did. But if you did want to plan I wanted to at least give a little insight to some of the places you could stay. There really are so many options for camping; you can stick to holiday parks like we mostly did (call me boring but I love a hot shower at least once a day) or you can find the many places where camping is permitted in beautiful nature reserves and conservation sites. However, also be aware that there are equally as many restrictions in national parks and areas of natural beauty so make sure that you're welcome and of course please camp responsibly (i.e. taking your rubbish away with you and don't light campfires). All international airports and the brilliant tourist information I-Sites will have a collection of directories and maps of where you can find campsites.

Happy camping!

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Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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