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New Zealand is one of the most beautiful and scenic countries to explore. It’s full of mountains, lakes, fields and the roads are out of this world. You might not know it, but New Zealand’s population is tiny and pretty spread out so it’s understandable that transport links aren’t as set up as other places. But that’s the beauty of this unspoilt country and that’s why you absolutely must hire a campervan for your time here. New Zealand is one of those countries where it is easy to get around, and if you put in a little bit of time and effort to go off the beaten track every now and then, you will see some amazing sights.
Jess, my friend Lucy who flew out for a couple of weeks, and I hired a campervan from Jucy Rentals. We hired out a Jucy Condo which can sleep up to 4 people, so for 3 of us it was nice and roomy. All 3 of us could sit in the front and enjoy the views as well. Perfect for a road trip! The van is automatic which is something I had never driven before, but it’s a dream to drive and I would choose this over a manual like the one we hired in Australia every time.
When we visited, it was August. That’s right, the middle of winter. And believe me when I say it can get pretty cold (it snowed at one point), but generally, it’s not too bad. So don’t let the winter put you off doing a road trip around this stunning country. I loved every second of it and you will too. The roads are quiet, the campsites are more available and the cost of campervan hire is a lot less – travelling in the low season certainly has its perks!
But in case you are still a bit apprehensive, here is my guide to help you survive the New Zealand winter in a campervan
Park in a campsite
Ok, so the half the fun of having a campervan is being able to (within reason) park somewhere deserted, but parking in a campsite will mean you can plug the can into electricity. Therefore you know you will be able to use the equipment in the van without worrying that you might have a flat battery. And besides, many of the campsites in New Zealand are in stunning locations, so you won’t feel removed from nature, just more comfy than being completely in it.
Have an electric heater
This obviously links to the above – electricity + electric heater = super cosy + no flat battery. Win! When I picked up my Jucy camper there was a small fan heater in there which is pretty noisy but we used it no end in the evenings just before we went to sleep.
Park near amenities
Most campsites will have a shower block and a kitchen area. Try to park close to these so the run back to the van is shorter, especially with the shower block- It will be bloody cold when you step outside from having a hot shower! It also helps if you need the loo in the middle of the night.
Keep the door shut
Sounds obvious but it’s actually easier said than done. There bound to always be one of you that needs to go out to do something and the second the door is open, all the warmth escapes. So try and get organised so you can close the van up and whack the heater in.
The evenings are generally too cold to sit outside for too long so get a hot drink, play cards or stick a film on and chill out inside the camper.
Keep things tidy
When you’re leaping into the camper because it’s freezing cold outside or it’s chucking it down with rain, the last thing you want to do is break your neck. Make sure the camper is keep tidy so there’s room to move and room to leap! Campervans are well equipped with cupboards and storage so make use of them.
Keep a torch to hand
Winter anywhere is generally darker than normal, but in New Zealand it can get really dark. Light pollution isn’t really a problem which is amazing and you can nearly always see the stars no matter where you are. However, the other side to this is wandering back to the camper in the pitch black. So make sure you have a torch handy to help you get there.
Pack the right clothes
Ok, so this is another obvious one but it can be a bit tricky. I would recommend packing warm pyjamas as the temperatures can drop overnight and the warmth from the fan heater is only going to last so long. For the daytime, pack layers, a waterproof coat, hat, scarf, gloves and good walking shoes or trainers. New Zealand is all about the outdoors, so make sure you are ready to enjoy it!
so know you’re ready for winter, here are some important dos and dont’s for driving round New Zealand:
- DO make sure you fill the fuel up when you can as you can’t quite be sure when the next gas station will pop up.
- DON’T underestimate the weather – when you’re driving on mountain roads things can change pretty quickly, make sure you don’t try and keep up with the local traffic if you don’t feel safe.
- DO check your insurance policy – not all companies will cover things like driving at night which you may not even think about, make sure you have a good read before you sign it off. One thing I love about Jucy is their top insurance policy covers absolutely everything as long as you don’t (somehow) manage to submerge the van in water. Scratches and dents that you might worry about are not a problem with them!
- DON’T ignore the camping rules – there are some areas where you simply can’t just park up where you feel like it for the night (Wanaka and Queenstown for example), and there are strict rules about lighting fires. Don’t ignore these rules, they are there to protect and preserve the beauty of the country.
- DO know the height of your campervan – seriously, it would be pretty embarrassing to return it with no roof.