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Renting a campervan in New Zealand is the dream of many adventure holidaymakers. From Germany, New Zealand is at the other end of the world. It is not possible to fly further away.
Here, not only the seasons are mirror-inverted. The flora and fauna and the spectacular nature are also completely different from the native Central Europe. New Zealand is wild, exotic, exciting and beckons with the scent of the South Seas.
New Zealand is the country that marks the southern tip of the Polynesian triangle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here, exotic nature is paired with western standards and the colourful culture of New Zealand's indigenous people, the Māori.
New Zealand is therefore not only an exotic destination, but also a safe and comfortable one. The infrastructure is perfectly adapted to lively tourism. The standard way to travel here is by camper van. There are countless campsites, legal stopping bays and remote standing areas in the wilderness scattered across the country, which are free to use for campervans with their own sewage system.
A trip through New Zealand is incredibly versatile. Whether the visitor longs for lukewarm waters, gentle waves and white sandy beaches, diving adventures, surfing waves and beach bars. Or plans long hikes in the high mountains, around huge glaciers with downhill skiing.
Unlike neighbouring Australia, New Zealand is not home to any deadly creepy-crawlies.
New Zealand consists of two islands with different climates.
Accordingly, planning the best time to travel varies. It should also be noted that New Zealand lies in the southern hemisphere and the seasons are the mirror image of those in the northern hemisphere. If it's winter here, it's summer in New Zealand.
First of all, let's take a look at the different climate and weather conditions of both islands.
The northern part of New Zealand's North Island lies in the subtropics. Here, winters between December and February are very mild and usually frost-free. Summers can be very hot and humid. Large swarms of all kinds of flying creatures are also on the move now. The sea is lukewarm. It is not uncommon to see colourful jellyfish on the beaches and exotic shells crawling across the sand.
The southern part of the North Island is already in the temperate climate zone. The further south, the colder it gets. This applies to both the North and South Island. The average annual temperature in Auckland on the northern North Island is 20 degrees. In Wellington on the southern North Island it is 16 degrees. On average, 1,000 mm of rain falls annually on the North Island.
The entire South Island of New Zealand is in the temperate zone, although here too the rule is:
The further south, the colder. Above all, the more westerly, the more rainfall.
While the east coast of the South Island is dominated by relatively flat cultivated land, the eastern side is dominated by the New Zealand Alps with Mount Cook, 3724 metres high, as its enthroned peak. Up to 8,000 mm of annual precipitation falls in the mountainous regions of the South Island, as the clouds remain here. In winter, holidaymakers can even go skiing, as snow is not uncommon at high altitudes.
The east coast of the South Island, on the other hand, is New Zealand's least rainy region, with 750 mm of precipitation per year. In summer, the temperature on the South Island is between 20 and 26 degrees. Temperatures in the lowlands drop to 10 to 15 degrees in winter. Double-digit sub-zero temperatures are possible in the New Zealand Alps.
The best time to travel to New Zealand is the time that best suits the traveller's desired activities.
There are three ways to explore New Zealand by campervan.
Either the North Island, the South Island or both islands. You should plan at least two weeks per island. Due to the enormous time change, it makes sense to plan a few days to recover from jet lag.
So: Depending on which travel option the camper friend chooses, there are certain options available. We start with the North Island and work our way south.
Those who want to start their road trip in New Zealand on the North Island usually do so in the country's largest city, Auckland. Auckland is located in the north of the North Island and is the largest urban area in the country.
Auckland also has a good tourist infrastructure. Numerous hotels, car rental stations, restaurants and sights are located in the city. Perfect, therefore, to recover from the long journey for a few days and to do the most important things comfortably and quickly.
It makes sense to pre-book your campervan before you arrive to ensure you get one. Many rental companies are fully booked, especially in the peak summer season and during holiday periods.
180km south-east of Auckland lies one of the great highlights of the North Island: Hobbiton.
Hobbiton is a film village that was used for the exterior filming of the three-parter The Lord of the Rings. Visitors must pre-book a ticket for Hobbiton, board a coach at the main entrance, which takes them to the gigantic film set in a few minutes.
Here, travellers have the opportunity to wander through the huge wasteland-looking village, learn interesting facts about the filming and take breathtaking souvenir photos.
In the city of Rotorua, travellers with a caravan or campervan are best advised to find a great campsite on the beautiful Lake Rotorua and explore the area from here.
Rotorua is famous for its colourful and sulphur-smelling thermal pools. The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is probably the most spectacular thermal park in the country. It bubbles and steams in all colours of the rainbow over a huge area.
Also highly recommended is the free Kuirau Park in the middle of the city. Here, travellers walk through a huge lake of boiling steam, among other things.
Taupo is a town with a feel-good atmosphere. There are particularly wonderful campsites here with great lake views. On calm days, water sports or boating can be enjoyed on the lake.
Highlights of the immediate area include a boat trip, sometimes lasting several hours, through mystical river landscapes to the spectacular Huka Falls.
The Craters of the Moon Thermal Park is also well worth a visit. Here visitors walk on footbridges through a fantastic natural area, from which it steams, stinks and bubbles from all the gullies and craters.
On the way from Taupo to the capital Wellington, the campervan traveller should definitely stop for a night in Tongarino National Park. This rugged mountain landscape has already taken the breath away of many hikers.
Those who dare and are fit enough should not miss the 9-hour hike Tongarino Crossing, which leads around the active and also smoking volcano. Four hours further on, travellers reach the capital Wellington.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. It is very hilly and offers spectacular views of the ocean from almost everywhere.
We recommend a free visit to the gigantic National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongorewa. It is very centrally located, right on the Wellington Waterfront Walk.
Another highlight is climbing or experiencing Mount Victoria, which is located directly in Wellington and offers probably the most spectacular sunset in the city.
This is where the first voyage of discovery across the North Island ends. If you also don't want to miss the South Island, take the Interislander or Bluebridge Ferry from the port in Wellington to Picton on the northern South Island. Dolphins and seals can often be spotted on the way. The journey continues to Christchurch.
Christchurch is, in contrast to Auckland and Wellington, a rather unspectacular but nevertheless cosy city. If you want to rent a campervan, this is the place to be.
So, the first stage leads quickly to Lake Takapo and Lake Pukaki, which are close to each other. These two lakes glow in such a magnificent shade of blue that visitors can hardly believe their eyes. They are set against the picturesque mountain backdrop of the New Zealand Alps. Countless hiking trails start from here.
The large city of Dunedin offers wonderful beaches and campsites for rent, from which the sound of the sea can already be heard in the campervan. But Dunedin is not only about hours of beach walks.
On the nearby Otago Peninsula, the only albatross colony breeding on the mainland can be spotted. The best place to see the birds is the Royal Albatross Centre.
Milford Sound is one of the landmarks of New Zealand's South Island. It posters dozens of travel brochures and patiently poses as the best photo the New Zealand tourist has probably ever taken.
Along the shores of Lake Te Anau, visitors head towards the magnificent bay for a magnificent boat trip, often accompanied by dolphins. This can only be topped by the equally popular helicopter flight. However, free camping with the campervan is prohibited in Milford Sound, as the place is located in a national park.
Queenstown is one of the most picturesque towns on the South Island. Here, everything is really geared towards tourism. The shore promenade entices with countless first-class restaurants in front of magnificent lake views. Beautiful hiking trails lead directly from Queenstown along the shore of Lake Wakaputi.
Action holidaymakers in particular get their money's worth here. Activities such as skydiving, paragliding, helicopter tours, canyoning, rafting and much more are waiting to be enjoyed by adrenaline junkies. There are also several campsites to rent with a campervan.
Not far north of Queenstown is the 10 km long Franz Josef Glacier in the Westland National Park. It lies at an altitude of just 400 metres and in earlier times reached into the sea.
The glacier can be hiked or flown around by helicopter. It flows half a metre per day. The closest campgrounds for renting a camper van are in Waiau.
From Franz Josef Glacier, the tour returns to the north coast of the South Island, to the 225.3 km² Abel Tasman National Park. Between the picturesque bays of Golden Bay and Tasman Bay, lies a fantastic landscape of blue ocean tongues and serpentine island chains. A paradise for hikers and kayakers.
In Kaikoura, on the east coast between Picton and Christchurch, wildlife watching is a big part of the programme. Here you can even swim with wild dolphins under professional guidance. A truly extraordinary experience. Parking spaces for the campervan are available in town.
The last stage leads back to Christchurch, from where return and onward flights can be taken.
Renting a campervan in New Zealand is a dream that has already come true for many. But the journey is long. New Zealand lies at the other end of the world, isolated in the Pacific Ocean.
There is no direct flight from Europe. Europeans usually fly to Auckland on the North Island or Christchurch on the South Island via Australia or Asia. The entire flight often takes more than 30 hours.
Europeans do not need a visa for tourism purposes for stays of less than 90 days in New Zealand.
It should be noted that campsites can get quite crowded at times during the high season. Campervans are also booked up quickly. Therefore, if you are travelling during the peak season in the New Zealand summer months or during the holiday season, you should book and rent your campervan, caravan, campsites and accommodation in advance.
However, spontaneous campervan rental is quite possible in the low season.