8 Common-Sense Tips For Your Motorhome Roadtrip In New Zealand

8 Common-Sense Tips For Your Motorhome Roadtrip In New Zealand

For years, New Zealand has been a dream destination for travelers. The long scenic drives, the opportunity for a memorable outdoor experience, and the friendly locals make Middle Earth one of the top choices for must-see destinations in the world.

If you're planning to take a motorhome with you to explore the beauty of NZ, we got you! Join us as we share eight common-sense tips you need to know before setting off on your New Zealand trip.

New Zealand: Expect a chilly, winter-like weather

1. Expect a chilly, winter-like weather

If you're visiting NZ during the summer, you can expect a fair mix of sunshine and breezy winds. You can opt for laid-back outfits like t-shirts, tank tops, or light sneakers, especially if you're visiting the South Islands. 

You should also bring a jacket or even just a scarf. You'll be thanking yourself for bringing those when you visit landmarks where the sun doesn't shine the brightest. However, the temperature can also get notoriously cold in New Zealand, especially during autumn and winter. 

If you're visiting South Island during the winter, prepare for the harsher cold temperatures. North Island fares better when it comes to moderate winter temperatures.

That's why we also recommend packing up clothes for layering or rainy days, such as sweaters, scarves, or raincoats.

2. Prepare for the lack of fast internet connection

Of all the things NZ is proud of, their internet connection isn't one of them. 

Sure, there are public spots like cafes and campgrounds offering free internet. But you'll only get frustrated with its slow speed and limited data. All you can do is check Google maps or open your email. 

To navigate the New Zealand landscape even without the assistance of an internet connection, you can download navigation apps with offline maps. Some of the best offline mapping apps are:

  • Google Maps - its offline navigation has limited features and only covers an area of 120,000 sq. kilometers, but it has extensive maps of over 220 countries. Android | Apple
  • Sygic GPS Navigation -its offline 3D maps makes it the perfect app companion for driving. It provides information such as traffic situation and fuel prices in the area. Android | Apple
  • Here WeGo - also functions like Waze, except it has better offline features. Android | Apple

You can use a portable hotspot if you're in an area with a steady cell signal. It may not boost your connection that much, but it can save you from consuming your cell data while connected to the internet.

Choose the right motorhome for New Zealand trip

3. Choose the right motorhome

The right motorhome varies depending on the traveler's needs and preferences. If your adventure involves a lot of camping, you'll need one with a large water tank. Certified self-contained motorhomes are a must if you're planning to try freedom camping.

If you're traveling with more than two adults or with your pets, then you'll need a spacious motorhome. Ideally, one that can sleep four or more people.

Make sure to review the rental prices of motorhomes too. Some rentals have hidden charges, such as deposits. According to NZ Motorhome Rentals, be extra wary of cheap ones since they're the most susceptible to these hidden costs.

4. Limited travel time? Head to South Island first

Natural beauty and Maori culture are abundant in the South and North Islands. But if you only have limited time for a motorhome road trip in New Zealand, we suggest starting at South Island first. 

This region has more scenic routes and destinations to offer than North Island. We're talking snowcapped mountain peaks and fjords - the dreamy scenery for long drives. The traffic is also lighter in the south.

Just make more room for your expected hours on the road when planning your itinerary. Roads on South Island can get steep and slippery, so make sure to add an extra 30 minutes to your expected driving time.

Camping in New Zealand tips

5. Camping is a must!

New Zealand is rich in camping grounds, so it would be a crime not to experience it during your motorhome road trip.

There are several camping sites to choose from.

Holiday parks

If you're looking for resort-like amenities, check out holiday parks. They have the essential and recreational amenities such as:

  • Playgrounds
  • Showers
  • Kitchens, complete with gas stoves
  • Food trucks
  • Pools
  • Barbecues
  • Common TV lounge (only in some parks)

Holiday parks offer accommodation options ranging from camping sites to apartments and cabins. They're usually located at the most scenic destinations around NZ and near towns and popular tourist spots.

Camping here isn't free, but the prices are usually affordable.

To find the nearest holiday park in your destination, you can check out this website.

DOC campsites

The Department of Conversation, New Zealand's organization for preserving the natural and historical heritage of the country, also manages over 200 campsites. You can find them in lakes, forests, and other terrains.

The cost of camping on one of these DOC sites can vary depending on the amenities included. The following are the types of DOC campsites to choose from:

  • Basic camps (free) - comes with basic toilets and water from an untreated tank, stream, or lake.
  • Standard campsites ($8/night) - have more facilities, such as showers, picnic tables, wood barbecues, and cooking shelters.
  • Scenic campsites ($15/night for unpowered sites and $18/night for powered) - same as standard campsites, but located in popular scenic destinations.

Free camping

If you're on a tight budget for accommodation, there are plenty of free camping spots around NZ. Toilets are already available but don't expect every outhouse in these areas to be well-maintained.

Since they're free, these sites can usually get crowded fast. If you want to set camp somewhere else that's free, you can try freedom camping.

Freedom camping involves setting up camp in an area that has not yet been officially classified as a campground. 

But there's a catch.

There are only designated areas for freedom camping. And to be qualified to camp in these sites, your motorhome should also be verified as self-contained.

Be sure to practice CLAYGO when you're camping. Lately, NZ has been restricting freedom camping due to irresponsible campers not following the rules and desecrating camping grounds.

To find campsites, public toilets, and dump stations around NZ, you can download accommodation apps for assistance. You can also find reviews from fellow campers on these apps:

New Zealand: Watch out for sandflies

6. Watch out for sandflies

One of the few downsides of visiting New Zealand is the dreadful, annoying sandflies. These bloodsuckers are an outdoor enthusiast's nightmare since they love to flock around water and greenery, like beaches and lakes.

They might look harmless, but their bites are awful. A rash can cause swelling, itchiness, and severe pain.

To avoid sandflies and keep your sanity in check, attach some mesh nets to your windows to keep them at bay.

Bring a bug repellant spray, and you've got a strong safeguard against these devil spawns.

For added insect-repelling power, you can diffuse citronella, eucalyptus, or lemon essential oils in your motorhome.

To keep your skin bite-free, wear clothes that cover your skin, especially when visiting areas such as beaches and forests. It is also wise to rub some eucalyptus or citronella oil on your clothing and exposed skin, such as the neck and ankles.

If you want to avoid these pesky flies completely, schedule your trip during the winter months. Sandflies aren't the biggest fans of the harsh coldness of NZ winter.

7. Visit the local tourist information offices

Looking for a map or some tips to make the most of your New Zealand motorhome road trip? Try checking out local tourism offices all over NZ. The people there can point you to hidden gems and exciting activities that you may not find in travel guides online.

They also have free WiFi in these offices. Feel free to connect if you need to check on your emails or send a quick update to family and friends at home.

New Zealand: Keep your tank full whenever possible

8. Keep your tank full whenever possible

Fuel stations in New Zealand are scarce, especially in rural areas of the South Island. If you stop in a town during your road trip, make sure to fill your motorhome up before you leave. 

Petrol prices can be a bit pricey in NZ, though, so take note of that when planning your budget for your motorhome road trip in NZ. You can download the Gaspy app to find out the best fuel prices in the area.

Ready, set, travel!

New Zealand is best enjoyed with a motorhome. Imagine the convenience of a portable home while you drive around this stunning country.

Just remember to keep the motorhome travel tips above so you can get the most out of your NZ excursion! 

Wojciech Kuźma

Hey there! My name is Wojtek and I am very happy that you came to my travel blog. I've been traveling the world for a few good years now and I still want more.

On my website I describe the adventures that have happened to me, you will also find here a collection of valuable tips for tourists and travelers. If you liked this article, be sure to leave a comment and read some more!

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