RVing in New Zealand

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After 15 years of RVing in the U.S., we decided to try something a little different. As part of a 5-week trip to Australia and New Zealand, we rented a motorhome for 2 weeks in New Zealand.

How did we pick out this motorhome?

One of the sites we used to research RVing in New Zealand was HeathAndAlyssa.com, who spent 3 months RVing there. They had such high praise for the Wilderness RV company that we didn’t even look anywhere else. Since my friend Melinda was going to be with us, we needed an RV with 2 bedroom areas. That meant that we couldn’t get one of the little vans –  it had to be bigger. We picked the Ranger 4 model.
The cost varies with the season and the availability. We were there in high summer season (February in the Southern Hemisphere). It wasn’t cheap! We paid about $400 NZD per day – roughly $300 USD. So it worked out to $100/day each. Still well worth it for really nice accommodations and the ability to cook our own meals rather than paying for eating out.


We picked up the RV in Auckland (North Island) on Feb. 5 and dropped it off in Christchurch (South Island) on Feb. 20. We drove a total of 2,150 KM (1,336 miles). Diesel fuel was just over $4/gallon ($1.599 NZD/Litre). We spent $492 NZD on diesel, roughly $330 USD.

Here is our first look around the camper. What IS the steering wheel doing on that side?!?

Here is how the bed worked – it was really cool:

Internet Access – and GPS …

How come I’ve never seen a dashboard device holder like this in any RV over here? It was oh-so-perfect for holding my iPad – and the iPad, with Google Maps, made a perfect GPS.

We sprang for the extra $10 NZD per day (about $7 USD) for the Internet service. That got us unlimited data with a cellular provider chosen by Wilderness. There was an antenna on the roof, and a router in the closet. I’m not sure how many devices we were allowed to attach, but we had at least 4 online at one time.

The WiFi router in the back of the closet. (Click to enlarge)

Just like cellular Internet in the U.S., it was not always available. It ranged from high-speed, excellent service to non-existent. I’d say it was good about 70% of our trip. Well worth it – I think we used about 80 GB. Jim’s Pixel phone and my iPhone were on Google Fi, which works internationally with no adjustments. Sometimes when the RV WiFi didn’t work, our Google Fi did. And … sometimes nothing worked.

Driving in New Zealand

Jim likes driving an RV. For 14 years we were fulltime RVers in the U.S., so he’s certainly had enough practice. Staying to the left required an adjustment, but he had no problem with that. But the roads were narrow, curvy and often steep. That made it stressful.

The motorhome we had was a lot smaller than the big rigs he has driven in the U.S., but at nearly 10 feet high and just over 22 feet long, it was still a big vehicle. Lesson learned: we should have planned to drive no more than 2-3 hours/day. When he had to drive 3-4 hours, or even 5, he was wasted – and no fun – by the end of the day.

Here is a little movie where I compiled some photos and video clips of driving in New Zealand:

Campgrounds

Melinda first traveled in New Zealand by camper van about 20 years ago. She remembers being able to just pull off the road anywhere that looked nice and spend the night – something that has become known as “Freedom Camping.” Other people have also told us that Freedom Camping is the way to go in New Zealand. Well, not anymore. We only parked in one Freedom Camping area, 2 driveways of Melinda’s friends, and the rest were commercial campgrounds. They were easy to find with the CamperMate app for New Zealand.

The prices ranged from $15 NZD/night to $45 NZD ($10-$30 USD). Now, that doesn’t sound bad until you learn that it is per person, not per RV like we’re used to. For the most part, campgrounds were similar to U.S. campgrounds. One difference was that none of them had sewer at your site. That’s because the RVs used cassette toilets. You had to remove the cassette and take it to where the dump drain is. It was a simple enough matter – the only problem was that the capacity was so low. Even in our little Roadtrek, we can go a week in between dumps. This cassette was full in about 2 days of similar use. At least that’s how it seemed to me.No matter what country we’re in, it’s Jim’s job to dump the tanks!

Chris Guld is President and Teacher-in-Chief at GeeksOnTour.com. She and her husband, Jim, produce a free weekly YouTube show called What Does This Button Do?  They have been Fulltime RVers, popular seminar presenters at RV Rallies, and regular contributors to RVTravel.com, for many years. 

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