The Koh family of Brian, Ra and their kids Blaze and Pascaline travelled the length of New Zealand in a Frontier and came away saying:
"Family Campervan Adventure New Zealand ... EQUALS AMAZING!"
They travelled for 17 days experiencing everything from digging their own hot pool at Hot Water Beach to visiting Hobbiton and Horse Riding to hiking the beautiful Milford Sound. Read their story below.
Auckland to Christchurch
Best Time of the Year
all year round
- Coromandel Scenery
- Hot Water Beach
- River Valley
- Fergburger Queenstown
- Milford Sound
- Chasing sheep
Auckland to Coromandel
Distance 168km - Driving Time 2 hours 45 mins
Words by the Koh Family
Greetings everyone!!! Five words for you; Family Campervan Adventure New Zealand…EQUALS AMAZING!
I shot this photo when we first picked up our campervan, the sheer joy was oozing out of both Blaze and Brian. I think it’s still one of my favourite photos from our three weeks! We packed all our belongings, put our home on the market and bought one way tickets to New Zealand to begin an adventure of a lifetime–one that starts with our home becoming a home on wheels for three weeks!
We met the most incredible people, photographed the most stunning landscapes, laughed really hard, got super lost, and embraced every challenge that came our way. We headed straight to the Coromandel Peninsula after advice from the Britz staff and we were not disappointed.
We fell in love with the Coromandel which was why we stayed a few nights. The scenery, small beach towns and kind locals will always have a special place in my heart. We especially loved Hot Water Beach. If you didn’t know, a hot water river runs below the earth's surface and into the Pacific Ocean at Hot Water Beach.
Two hours before or after low tide, you can grab your shovel and dig out your own personal spa! Long stretches of white beach surround you, as hot water fills your personal hot tub! Best hands-on science lesson EVER! Brian got to flex his muscles and do some digging while the kids sat back at watched. This amazing sunset was at Hahei Beach – another incredible spot in the area – the colours across the night sky were spectacular!
Coromandel to Matamata
Distance 152km - Driving Time 2 hours 30 mins
Unfortunately it was time to pack up our home on wheels but, fortunately it wasn’t too much of a headache. There is surprisingly a lot of room and space in our campervan and that’s saying something given all the gear we brought with us! Our camper came with linen, dishes, wineglasses even, and more! A home on wheels is not the size of a home that we are all used to, but there was something super liberating about simplifying our life to whatever we could fit in the campervan.
Hair done and cupboards shut, we started on our drive to Matamata and to Hobbiton – you can’t go to New Zealand and not see the home of the hobbits!!! If you love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books or have a passion for gardening, you will LOVE going on the Hobbiton tour! Our family often looks for adventures off the beaten path, but there are some tours you can’t miss and Hobbiton is one of them! The gardens are kept up year round and just gorgeous. And the small hobbit homes built into the ground were simply magical!
Matamata to Lake Taupo
Distance 118km - Driving Time 1 hour 45 mins
From Matamata we drove to Lake Taupo which is New Zealand's largest lake. Created by a volcanic explosion over two thousand years ago, the road follows the edge of the lake for miles with a multitude of places to pull over and explore. Taupo itself is a quaint town with wonderful restaurants and fun shopping. There is even a McDonalds that has an old plane set up with tables to eat at – the kids thought that was pretty neat but there was no McDonalds consumption on this holiday. Most of the time we stayed in Top 10 Holiday Parks - these parks have everything; hot showers and the coolest communal kitchens where you meet the world!
Lake Taupo to Rangitikei
Distance 147km - Driving Time 2 hours
From Taupo it was only a shortish drive to River Valley in the Rangitikei area and was my favourite experience in New Zealand. River Valley is most known for its intense white river rafting, but we fell in love with the horseback riding and amazing local owners. They are both in their eighties and spoke such life and encouragement into our family. When trying to find it, most locals didn't even know this beautiful valley existed because its farther south on the north island where tourists rarely come. But it is a gem, well worth the drive! We stayed here a couple of nights and got to dine out alfresco style - in fact, most nights and mornings for breakfast was like this! With so many national parks to choose from your choice is almost endless when it comes to finding a spot to pull into, have a cuppa or a picnic, or just to enjoy the view.
Rangitekai to Waitomo
Distance 240km - Driving Time 3 hours 15 mins
Today we headed to Waitomo and the perk of hiring with Britz campervans means the driver gets free entry into Waitomo Caves. Waitomo has a lot of adventure activities on offer despite it being quite a small place. For the thrill seekers in our family (Brian/Pascaline) that meant Blackwater Rafting – they came back grinning from ear to ear and convinced Mom and Blaze to join them next time around! The kids had a lot of fun on the tree swing which we soon discovered were at most of the places we camped along the way. The trees are magical in shape, size and texture, it’s no wonder that Peter Jackson picked New Zealand to film Lord of the Rings. I had to share this picture of Brian driving the campervan – we won’t lie, it was a bit of a daunting thought when we first picked up but really it’s not all that frightening.
Waitomo to Auckland
Distance 193km - Driving Time 2 hours 45 mins
Dropped off campervan, night in Auckland before flying to Christchurch
Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
Distance 271km - Driving Time 4 hours
We wanted to explore Christchurch city given its destruction after the earthquake a few years ago, but we had a long day driving ahead of us, so we pretty much bypassed the city and made our way to Lake Tekapo. There really is something so romantic about the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo - a small, stone church that sits in the middle of nowhere, with a backdrop of snowcapped mountains.
Views of Mount Cook were on offer here but there was no snow fun to be had this trip, but when we come back it will be on our must-do list. I love the scarf and hat ensemble that Blaze has on in the photo. It might also sound a bit cliché but what would a trip to New Zealand be if you didn't chase some sheep along the way? Lucky for Blaze he was able to chase some merino sheep just outside of Lake Tekapo – I say lucky sheep to be grazing in this beautiful part of the country.
Lake Tekapo to Queenstown
Distance 275km - Driving Time 4 hours
We took our time leaving Tekapo and made our way to Queenstown – the Adventure capital of New Zealand. Our other favourite view on the whole holiday was somewhere on the highway to Queenstown in the middle of the night.
We saw stars actually twinkle, as if they were dancing on the horizon. We’d never seen stars hang so low, as if we could grab one if we reached far enough. We all pulled over and stepped out on the dark highway and just stood in utter awe and silence. We will never forget that night.
Queenstown to Milford Sound
Distance 288km - Driving Time 4 hours
We had a few days in Queenstown and even then we could have stayed longer. As we got in late at night, waking up at the Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park in the morning was such a delight. Close to town and all that we needed we discovered all the nooks and crannies of the place and made a plan as to what we wanted to do for the next few days. Top of the list was a visit to Milford Sound.
It’s about a 4 hour drive from Queenstown and the scenery you drive through will make it seem like half the time. The landscape changes constantly from miles of golden grass fields to rolling green hills to the Milford Sound mountains that seem to come roaring out of the earth. Milford Sound is not only gorgeous scenery but also filled with tons of hiking trails for the family. Word of advice, leave for your hike in the early morning to avoid the sand flies that get worse as the day progresses.
Queenstown to Timaru
Distance 328km - Driving Time 4 hours 30 mins
We decided to treat ourselves to a famous Fergburger before leaving Queenstown…we were not disappointed. Blaze and I both have a wheat allergy so we never get our hopes up about the local burger joints but the notorious Fergburger changed all that! They have the YUMMIEST gluten free hamburger buns to go with their tasty burgers! One of my favourite meals of the whole trip! And get this ... they made a mistake with Blaze's burger and gave us all Ginger Beers to make it up to us! Sold! With our bellies full we were well set up for the long drive ahead – the kids fell asleep in the back of the camper and I may have dosed off in the passenger seat for a while there too.
Timaru to Christchurch
Distance 165km - Driving Time 2 hours 30 mins
The rolling green hills of the Canterbury area were breathtaking. Sheep, cows, and deer grazing in the hills. It’s certainly a landscape that helps you exhale and it was a beautiful high to end our holiday on. We did take a quick peek around Christchurch but really did need more time – we had a flight to catch and because we left Timaru later than expected the time got away on us.
Road trip highlights
River Valley in the heart of Taihape had the most BREATHTAKING view of rolling greens hills, sheep running through and cloud formations that took our breath away.Where did you stop for a picnic?
We stopped at a small town along the coast of Coromandel Peninsula for a BBQ. It’s amazing how New Zealand reserves some of the best land for national parks that we can pull our camper up along the beach and take in the most gorgeous scenery in the world.Best café for coffee?
We didn’t really stop at cafe’s for coffee because I’m allergic to caffeine. But we did have our fair share of Hokey Pokey ice cream! YUM!Did you have a favourite Holiday Park you stayed in and why?
We loved the Holiday Park in Queenstown. It was tucked alongside a creek and beautiful trees. The kitchen and showers were incredibly clean. It was a perfect location with only being walking distance to the fun shops and restaurants in the heart of Queenstown.What would be your top tip for other campervan travellers?
Top tip is to not plan where to go. Just let the road be your guide. That’s the beauty of having a campervan. We had no itinerary. Instead, we talked to locals and other campers and from their suggestions we made our way through the amazing country of New Zealand. I wouldn’t do it any other way if I could do it all over again. New Zealanders definitely live up to their reputation of being some of the most generous, hospitable people on earth. If you nail down a plan, you may miss the magic the locals can offer.Can you share a recipe from something you cooked in the campervan?
I don’t have a specific recipe. We did a lot of BBQing with other campers in Holiday Parks. That was the best, meeting people from all over the world in the Holiday Park kitchens and sharing notes and stories from adventures you’d all just had. But I will say that we were so relieved with how many Gluten Free options there were. Both me and my son have high allergies to wheat, and this was a concern with travelling. But New Zealand has the BEST, most YUMMY gluten free breads and pastries in the WORLD!What is your greatest memory of the whole campervan holiday?
Meeting Ms. Robin, her husband, Brian Sage, and their family. They’ve owned and operated River Valley (white river rafting and horseback trekking) for decades.