Introduction

September 30th, 2009
Driving the Pacific Horizons 6 Berth Camper Van over the bridge near Hamner Springs

Driving the Pacific Horizons 6 Berth Camper Van near Hamner Springs

Our New Zealand Self Drive campervan holiday was well researched and the itinerary was agonised over to ensure we were able to see as much of the South Island of New Zealand as we could in the 13 days that we had allocated. We flew direct from Brisbane to Christchurch on Jetstar where we picked up the campervan and began our holiday.

Having young children our campervan of choice was the 6 berth Premium Camper Van, not only was there heaps of room, full cooking facilities, toilet and shower the children were positioned on a bench seats directly behind the front seat.  These ensured no car sickness and ease in reaching them with food, drinks etc. The camper van also had TV with DVD player and 3 huge beds.

Follow us on our 13 day journey around the South Island of New Zealand and we hope that our adventure inspires you to design your own itinerary to take in very best of this beautiful country. With so much to see New Zealand is a country that you will want to visit again and again and each time there is something new to see and do.

There are a great choice of camper companies – check out Wendekreisen CampersKiwi CampersJucy campers,  Kea Camper Hire,  Space Ship CampersBritz campersMaui Camper Rentals and Apollo Campers These are the best camper van rental companies in New Zealand ….  they will all be happy to help you arrange your next self drive New Zealand holiday.

Day 1 Brisbane to Christchurch

September 30th, 2009

Like any start to a holiday there is much excitement and this holiday was no exception.  We enjoyed a smooth start with drive to Brisbane, flight and transfers to the campervans all going to plan.

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Brisbane Airport – ready to go and kids are excited

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Driving through the New Zealand Countryside – so beautiful

The staff  at Pacific Horizons were very professional and helpful with campervan tips and ensuring we have enough warm bedding etc for the next 13 days.

Off to our first night`s stay, the Christchurch Top 10 Holiday Park – Meadow Park , http://www.tourism.net.nz/new-zealand/accommodation/camping-and-holiday-parks/christchurch/meadow-park-top10/#standard a little difficult to find, ensure you have a good map of the local area. This park was a little expensive (in fact the most expensive for the entire trip) but was fantastic.

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Camp ground in Christchurch

The kitchen and dining area was very clean with large fridges and cooking facilities for our use.  The kids enjoyed the playground which included a jumping pillow and play equipment which catered for a range of ages.  Bathroom facilities were modern and very clean and enough to cater for the number of people who stay a the park , no queues for showers.  There was also a family bathroom facility. This park also had an heated indoor pool and plenty of space for the kids to run around.  Our children enjoyed chasing the ducks and picking the flowers.

Day 2 Christchurch to Picton

September 30th, 2009

We found the campervan park very central and close to shopping centres and a 24 hour supermarket……..great for all those supplies that are needed on holidays.  It is also located only 4klms to the city centre and minutes from the airport (if you get on the right road).

Saying goodbye to Christchurch we headed north towards Picton. This stretch of road hugs the coastline and extremely scenic, snow capped mountains to the west and the rugged New Zealand coastline to the east.  Stop for a photo of  the black sand beaches – not something we Aussies are all that familiar with.

Make sure you stop at one of the few crayfish caravans along the drive closer to Kiakora.  They offer fresh and cooked crays, a New Zealand delicacy. Keep your eye out for seals as you pass the rocks, they enjoy basking  in the sun. Taking time out at Kaikora is a must, drive up to the lookout for a birds eye view of the surrounding areas, snow capped mountains, the ocean and the local farm land.

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Kaikora Coastline looking North to Picton

Continue through town to the point where you will be able to get up close and personal with the local seal colony. Another must. Kaikora is also the point where whale watching expeditions, dolphin and albatross encounters also leave from. Something to consider if you have time.

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New Zealand Fur Seals on the Kaikora Coastline – you can almost touch them – BUT DON`T – THEY BITE

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Montana vineyard – wine tasting or a spot of lunch

Then we continued on to Picton, more beautiful scenery as we head to the top of the south island.  The Marlborough Region is a definate area to visit with its well maintained paddocks of grape vines to of course tasting some of the fruits of their labour.

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The girls tried a few and stocked up for the rest of the trip

We stop at Montana, a New Zealand icon??? and one of our favourites, although it is shut we feel a back track tomorrow for a visit is a must.

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The gift shop was good as well – but no umbrellas for sale

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Driving through the Marlborough region was amazing with the continuous vines

The wind picked up and making driving a little harder than it has been.  We arrived in Picton early evening, finding somewhere to stay and bed down for the night. We stayed at the Picton Top 10 Holiday Park and found it to be comfortable.

Day 3 – Picton to St Anaud

October 21st, 2009

Today the wind and weather along the west coast play a part in deciding where we head.  The cruise through the Queen Charlotte Sound is abandoned so we take a walk along one of the many walks in this area.  At the end we experience stunning views of the sounds.

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Picton Lookout and short walk to the historic Maori Village

Also some Maori culture with sign posts and points of interest along the way.  The Maori Pa is quite interesting and a good learning point for the children. Picton is a main marine access point especially through summer offering diving, fishing and wildlife spotting experiences on a regular basis.

We backtrack to Montana for lunch but not a great choice, a lovely looking restaurant but not a suitable menu for children so on to Blenheim.  This town is a great base to explore the sensational Marlborough Wine Region.  Unfortunately time didn`t permit us to stay too long in this part of the world….that will be another trip all of its own.

The weather has further deteriorated along the west coast so we decide to abandon our plans to travel along to Westport and down the coastline.  Strong winds and driving rains are something we would rather avoid, so head down through the Wairau Valley to St Arnaud on the edge of Lake Ratoiti.  Stunning scenery along the way but the drop in temperature and fresh snow along the way has made us realise that missing the west coast was a great decision.

St Anaud, simply stunning scenery

St Anaud, simply stunning scenery

We camp in the  camp ground on the edge of the lake, stunning views looking down the lake.  The cloud lifts and we enjoy an afternoon by the lake. A stunning place to stay, weather is cool and the forcast is for snow down to 700metres over night.  The heater in the camper will come in handy.

Day 4 – St Anaud to Hanmer Springs

October 21st, 2009
From snow to......

The drive through Lewis Pass is closed sometimes so check local guides and always carry snow chains

From snow to……heated thermal pools in one day

Today we woke to an overcast day and fresh snow on the mountains….it was cold but these campers have heaters that run off  the diesel so we definately didn`t feel the cold throughout the night. The lake is breathtaking in the morning light.  We head off  to Springs Junction to fuel up and have morning tea. A quaint little cafe that offered almost everything but whitebait fritters.  The locals tell us that Lewis Pass is open, if too much snow over night this closes, so lucky for us it is open.

As we leave Springs Junction it is raining and as we get higher up into the Pass, it turns to sleet and finally snow……..magic, spectacular, falling snow.  The children are beside themselves as they experience something they have never seen before.  Snow plough pass us as they clear the road to allow the traffic through.  That was an amazing experience.

We continue on to Hamner Springs where we will spend the night at Mountain View Top 10 Holiday Park http://www.mountainviewtop10.co.nz/ The kids enjoyed the playground with trampoline and the facilities we good. The park is situated within walkind distance to the thermal pools and town. We enjoyed the afternoon relaxing in the thermal heated pools before exploring town. A quaint little town with snow capped mountains as its back drop.

Hamner Springs in the Middle of Winter is an Oasis

Hamner Springs in the Middle of Winter is an Oasis

Day 5 – Hanmer Springs to Geraldine

October 21st, 2009

Geraldine farmyard was our favourite cmping ground in the South Island

The Farmyard Holiday Park at Geraldine, a great place to stop if you have childrenHeading  south today from Hamner towards Christchurch, a nice drive through lots of mountains and rocky cliffs and lots of silver berch trees.  We took the opportunity to restock the camper before we headed off  to Geraldine. A  nice drive south across New Zealand`s longest bridge and Canterbury country before arriving at Geraldine.  This town has a country feel to it with some nice crafty shops to explore.

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Olivia loved playing with the animals

We stayed at the Geraldine farm stay just out for town, this was one of the highlights of the trip, expecially for the children who enjoyed playing and feeding the array of animals, playing the open space (a nice break from their car seats) and riding the quad bikes.  This place was very accommodating even organising a fire pit to roast marshmellows. The facilities were clean and the kitchen was equipped with cooking facilities for our use.

The following morning the park owners saddled the donkeys for the kids to have a ride on before we headed off.  This was one place that is a must if you are travelling with children, they just loved it and still talk about the close up encounters with the animals.

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You have to try the 4 wheel bikes – they have small ones for the kids as well in peak season – The big kids loved this too

Don`t forget to ask if the Quad bikes are available to use – great fun for all Big and Small