The delights of South New Zealand and how to survive in your campervan

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Just one of the sunrises we saw on the road!

As our campervan draws its curtains for the final few times I thought that I would share with you intrepid campervanners the things that I have learnt about campervanning in New Zealand. Not only was campervanning so uncool to me prior to leaving England but I never thought that campervanning would teach me a lesson. It has taught me to not judge anything at all until I have tried it. Just like I should never have judged the literary talents of E.L. James. What a woman she is and boy will she go down in English literature history.

I would firstly like to point out, though, that I made the mistake in thinking, and saying in my previous blog, that washing your hair in a campervan is an achievable task. However, it is not achievable unless you’re a tiny child. I have struggled to wash my hair and have since gained an imaginative trophy for, wait for it, not washing my hair for ten whole greasy long days. Instead, I have been putting my hair into six hilarious plaits at night and sleeping on them in the hope that the back of my head isn’t matted like a Persian cat’s ass in the morning. There just isn’t enough water in the tank to allow a hair wash and two body washes. Instead, use two bottles of dry shampoo and spray as much as the fumes will allow on to little sections of your head instead. That is, in fact, how you keep your hair clean in a campervan – screw water and shampoo. (Or, Hanmer Springs offer a splendid shower with a hair dryer for that one SPECIAL clean).

So, what I have learnt that I can humbly pass on?

  • Don’t buy pre-chopped garlic in a jar because once that lid is off, OH MY.
  • Always park your campervan at a slight angle depending on which end your plug hole is at in the toilet/shower. Otherwise, the water doesn’t drain and when you need a wee at lunchtime and there is not a café in sight you don’t have to put plastic bags over your feet to keep them dry.
  • Don’t be boring. Always wave at other campers like you’re Ned Flanders. If they don’t wave back it’s because they didn’t get there in time and they will be wishing that they had.
  • Always park your van with the front facing the exit just in case you need to make that quick escape. Not that we had to, but we were entertained by donutters one night at Monkey Island camp ground. We almost joined in, but we didn’t want to risk losing the $5000 bond.
  • Request an extra towel each – they start to smell a bit damp after five or six days use.
  • Don’t be afraid when other campers, who are travelling alone, park their van inches away from your van even though there is enough room at the camp ground for thirty gigantic lorries, it’s just a cultural thing – from which culture, though, I am not sure. But it happened often.
  • Don’t chop onions in a van unless you’re in a Winnebago the size of your house.
  • I’ve said it before, but buy the NZ Camper App for £10.99 so that you can find the Dept. of Conservation free camp areas. These areas are always the most surreal, fairy-tale like camp areas, AND THEY’RE FREE! Any other country, I am sure, would make you pay for such views. We have had seals on beaches, cows in fields next to streams, and jungle like forests. They have all been hidden – they’re never signposted. Never pay for a camp site again! (Remember: We’re travelling in the winter and some of the reviews on the app say that some sites get busy quickly in the summer). There are also some real whiney bastards who forget that the sites are FREE and want toilet paper to wipe their ass with in a wooden drop toilet. G.E.T A L.I.F.E or even, your own toilet rolls you cheapo.


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Our view from Kidds Bush near Wanaka


  • This app also tells you where the dump stations are. This is imperative. Three days without emptying your toilet will leave you wishing you were in a tent even though it is snowing outside. These stations are found in the most inconspicuous of places; behind hotels; in cattle markets; at petrol stations (makes more sense).
  • Sometimes, just sometimes, fall asleep before you have to put the bed up so that your partner/friend can’t make you do it. You only to have to dismantle it all over again in the morning. It’s such a chore.

There you have it! I would like to take this opportunity to preach caravanning in the winter to you. Keep it a secret, I thought. Then I thought again, well the chances of enough people reading this, jacking in their jobs, and coming over to New Zealand all at once are quite slim. THE WINTER IS THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL BECAUSE OF THE EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS. There, I said it. Disapointed? Then try winter travel out for yourself because you will not be disappointed. The weather really is such fun.

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The one and only road to Milford Sound

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Milford Sound – Best place on earth


I want to tell you where to go and what to see and suggest a route like I did for the North Island. There are, however, just so few routes to take and so many places to see that it is worth you exploring everywhere in between Christchurch and Picton and Nelson and everything along Route 6 to the West Coast towards Greymouth and then back to Christchurch through Arthur’s Pass via Hanmer Springs for a whirl in the sulphur pools (and a clean). Don’t go back into Christchurch, only towards it, and head south along Route 1 onto Route 79 until you hit Lake Tekapo and camp at Lake Pukoki next door so you can sleep amongst Mount Cook with a home-made camp fire.

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Check the fire restrictions first, though.

Then, head straight to Wanaka (careful, don’t miss out any a’s) with the intention of getting up nice and early for the scenic drive along Route 6 to Queenstown. You MUST stay there a few days (free camping 15kms away) and visit Below Zero ice bar courtesy of a voucher from a discount website and take a trip on the steam boat. THEN, go to Milford Sound and walk along the tides edge and have a spot of lunch at the only café/shop/bar/petrol station that is in site for at least 100kms. Although we drove through Invercargill we did not stop, but we did stop for world famous oysters at Oyster Cove in Bluff just down the road. You will also be the most southerly people in New Zealand! Dunedin is an absolute MUST after Bluff even if it’s like a tiny Scotland with its castle like buildings and if it’s only for a look around the free Settlers Museum and for a coffee. Then head straight to the West Coast up again through Wanaka and go even further north alongside the ocean before turning inland again through Arthur’s Pass to drop your van off in Christchurch.

What do you know! It looks like I managed to give you some ideas for your South Island adventure!

Until next time, when I promise you won’t have to read about campervans again.


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