25 Apr The North Island of New Zealand with a Campervan Rental
We landed in Auckland, on April the 3rd to travel the North Island of New Zealand. We missed a whole day in flight. The flight itself was fine, although after completing so many long bus journeys with reclining chairs, the upright plane seats were a bit of a shock to the system, even though we were going to be living out of a campervan rental for the next three weeks! It was 5 am when we landed so we headed straight for our hostel, hoping they would let us in early – no such luck, not like South America. No answer at the hostel door, no matter how hard we banged on the door. Cold, tired and wet (turns out it rains A LOT in Auckland), we took refuge in a Kebab house filled with revelers just finishing there Friday night session with a tasty lamb doner. The football was on though, so we whiled away an hour or so, planning the next 3 and a half week road trip until they let us in the hostel.
It was another 2 hours before we were allowed into the room – almost 11 am – so we decided to have a quick shower and head out to explore before we picked up our campervan. We set off towards Mount Eden, clear skies clouded over slightly at the top but we still had great views over the city and the harbor. Afterward, we walked back downtown to get a few camping essentials, head torches, sleeping bags, towels, etc. We had a stroll around the harbor before heading back to the hostel.
The following day we picked up our chauffeur for the next 3 and a half weeks, Dunny the Campervan! Picking up the van. We called him Dunny. Aidan went straight in at the deep end and behind the wheel. I was quite surprised at how spacious it was, I imagined I would be banging my head every 5 minutes, but it really wasn’t too bad, not quite luxurious but the camper was cosy enough for the next three weeks.
After stocking up on food at the local countdown, we set off on the road. Then the rain started, about 30 minutes into the journey, it got progressively worse over the afternoon and didn’t stop for the next 48 hours – woohoo. We managed to get through it with the help of some soft rock, the music of choice on New Zealand radio, so some sing-alongs kept our spirits up (it can’t possibly rain for the whole time can it?). We drove the campervan around the Coromandal Pennisula, past some very pretty beaches and bays. We were hoping to get as far as Tauranga but it started to get dark about 5 pm, so we decided to stay at a campsite in Whangamate for the night.
After a wet and windy night we set off the next morning for Rotorua, trying to escape the rain, but it followed us! Sunny Rotorua Nice weather for ducks, well geese.. Once in Rotorua, we parked the campervan by the lake, and the rain finally began to subside. We wandered about Kairui Park, with geysers and mud pools, before heading back to the campervan for the night. The next morning we put our brilliant ‘shower plan’ into action, when in need of a shower, head to the nearest swimming pool! Luckily for us, our campsite had a big pool and spa. Fresh from the swim and showers we breakfasted in the car park (scenic) and headed to Lake Taupo. The best thing about driving through NZ is there is plenty to see, so on our way to Taupo we had a couple of stop offs at Huka Falls, a fast running river with great views of the Huka Waterfall.
We now had a full day free, so we decided to take a more scenic route with our campervan rental and headed south taking the river road to Whanganui. The road was very windy and narrow as it hugged the river bank, very beautiful though. The cloud parted for a while to get some great views of the surrounding area. We had planned on staying the night in Whanganui, but there was nothing there and nowhere to park, so we headed south again to the next ‘big’ town, Palmerston North.
Once there, as with every new place, we went straight to the i-site (an information site in every town) to find out our usual three questions, one being wifi?, Where is the swimming pool? And lastly, do you have free parking for our campervan? (asking for free wifi normally gets a laugh at least!). We were told we could park at a RSA car park (Retired Servicemen’s) which we did. After a stroll around the town and the park, we headed back to the campervan for dinner. We were going to treat ourselves afterward to a beer but all the bars shut at 8.30pm, so we didn’t bother and had an early night instead!
Breakfast in Palmerston North the next morning we headed to the local pool for some swimming and a hot shower, before brekkie in the park, then we set off. We headed down the Kaipiti Coast planning on stopping off at some picturesque seaside towns – we stopped in Paraparaumu, stepped out of the campervan and the wind nearly blew us back into the van!! We took a couple of pictures and hot footed it out of there and headed for Windy Wellington so didn’t expect much improvement. We arrived in Wellington about lunchtime and it certainly lived up to its name. We popped into the Te Papa (a kind of science museum, lots to see and do!) museum which was interesting but as it was half term, it was filled with kids playing with everything, so we didn’t get the chance.
We then drove up to Mount Victoria which gave great views over the city but it was so windy! We walked around town for a while and popped into the local i-site who informed us parking a campervan is a no go in Wellington and the nearest place to stay the night was at the Rimutaka Forest National park about 45 minutes away. We set off in the camper hoping to make it before the gates shut at 6 pm, as we drove further and further into the wilderness, the rain became torrential, and it was dark and scary. We arrived at the park gates, still open at 6.10pm and drove in and up to the campsite. It was so dark and scary, the kind of setting for a horror movie, so we decided to leave and find somewhere else to stay. But no! The gates had been locked, and we were trapped all night long! After a few moments of panic, we calmed down and made the best of it – shut the curtains and tried to sleep through the howling wind, rain, and nightmares! As soon as they opened the gates at 8am we were straight out of there… Phew!
We had our ferry booked (which included the campervan) for 1pm the next day, and as the rain continued we knew it was going to be a rough crossing ahead, but the skies cleared luckily. It was now time to leave the North Island of New Zealand in our trusty camper and move onto the South Island to see bigger and better things!