Punakaiki Pancake rocks

5 1/2 weeks travelling though New Zealand in a Campervan

After 1 week of searching desperately to buy a car in which we can sleep we realize that we are too late in the season to get a good deal here in Whangarei and finally decide to rent a campervan from Auckland.

Tokerau beach camping
Our first night camping in the camper van we find the most beautiful place on Tokerau Beach in the Doubtless Bay
Sleeping in the Campervan – I just about fit in 😉

In the moment that we fix the deal with the rental company we realize two bad news: Reto’s ears are heavily infected, so he has to start taking antibiotics and Cyclone Gita is on the way to New Zealand after heavily hitting the south of Tonga.

Therefore we change our plans, get the car and head up north first, in order to be still around in case of complications or Gita getting to close to our She San.

Cape Reinga lighthouse
Cape Reinga – all the way up north on the north island …
Cape Reinga lighthouse
… we visit the famous light house
Te Paki Giant sand dunes
a bit further south we hike up the dunes of Te Paki

Via Kerikeri we go to Tokerau beach where we spend an awesome first night freedom camping.

On the northernmost tip of the north island we visit Cape Reinga with its beautiful lighthouse, just at the right time when all the tourist busses have just left again.

Then we have a first problem with the car: We hear a huge noise and first of all think that we have lost the exhaust pipe. Then we see, that the cage of the spare tyre has gone loose and was hitting the road.
spare tyre lost
On the way to the next camping we loose our spare tyre but luckily we find it again the next morning 😉
…then Reto has to fix the broken fixation.

The spare tyre is nowhere in sight. We assume someone has stolen it and contact the rental company about what to do. The following conversations via whatsup let us worry a bit about the “no worries full insurance” coverage that we are supposed to have…

Fortunately the next morning we have a close look again and there we find our brown tyre hiding at the side of the road – uff, that was good luck to find it again! Now we just have to improve the worn off closing mechanism, fix everything with some rope and cable straps and off we are again 😉

Via Kaitaia, Ahipara and Kohukohu and Rawene which we already know from our bike tour in November we drive south to see more of the Kauri trees.
Tane Mahuta Waipoua forest
The Tane Mahuta in the Waipoua Forest is with approx. 2000 years one of the oldest trees in the world… here the lower part
Tane Mahuta Waipoua forest
and here the upper one.
Te matua Ngahere Waipoua Forest
And here the Te Matua Ngahere with a width of 16.4 m one of the thicker ones
Then we pass the West of Auckland with a Surf and bird watch break in Muriwai.
Muriwai Gannet Colony
In Muriwai we admire the coast and the gannet colony
Muriwai Gannet Colony
Are they fighting or kissing?
Muriwai Gannet Colony
And finally one who looks into my camera;-)
Horahora Domain Lake Karapiro
Camping dinner from the grill at Horahora Domain on the Lake Karapiro
After another visit of the ear doctor in Rotorua we follow the masses of tourists and visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
Government Gardens Rotorua
The old bath house in the Goverment Gardens of Rotorua
Lady Knox Geysir
Together with 1000 other tourists we watch the Lady Knox Geysir to be actived with washing powder – not such a good idea because all of them afterwards visit the Thermal Wonderland….
Artists Palette Wiotapu Thermal Wonderland
“Artits Palette”, thanks to the different minerals a coulorful sight
Devils Bath Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland
At the very end the Devils Bath doesn’t really invite for a swim…
Mud Pools
The Mud Pools can be visitied without admission fee – they are less culourful but have many small geysirs
Kerosene Creek
Also the thermal pool in the Kerosene Creek is fun to visit and free of charge, only afterwards the bikini is a bit sandy 😉
Huka Falls Lake Taupo
Huka Falls coming out of the narrow outlet of the Lake Taupo
Campervan dinner
Our first evening with rain – we are amazed to fit ourselves around the little table in the van 😉
Ruapehu in rain
Our first view of the Mount Ruapehu…

Stupid enough, we go together with thousands of others at 10 am to watch how th Lady Know Geysir gets initiated with a handful of washing powder. After a few fountains the spectacle is over and everyone rushes through the park…

Heading down to Wellington we hear in the radio that
Wellington from Mount Victoria lookout
Wellington seen from the Mount Victoria Lookout
Bluebridge Ferry to Picton
The Bluebridge Fähre brings us in 3.5 hours from Wellington to Picton

“all flights in and out of Wellington are cancelled” and find that Gita is suddenly supposed to be stronger than the 35 Knots that were predicted on the day before. We go over the mountains to “hide” in Upper Hut on a lovely DOC campsite and visit Wellington the next day.
After a night on the parking next to the museum we spend the morning in the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Wellington and board the ferry to Picton at noon.

Bob and Liz
There we meet with Bob und Liz who invite us to spend a night in a real bed and enjoy a hot shower
Marlborough Sounds
Hiking in the Marlborough Sounds…
Sea lion Snout view point
…out at Snout view point we meet a lonesome but very playful sea lion…
California Quail with chicks
..and on the way back a California Quail with 2 little chicks

We visit Bob whom we have met in Turkey a few years ago and who told us at that time we have to visit the South island but preferably by boat. There we are now years later by car and I feel a bit sorry that we didn’t make our way down to Picton with She San…

Following our target to go hiking we do a fist walk in the Marlborogh sounds, then hike a good part of the Cable Bay Walk north of Nelson and hike up the Mount Robert on the Lake Rotoiti, unfortunately with quite some cloud cover…
Coast between Westport and Greymouth
On the West coast between Westport and Greymouth
Punakaiki Pancake rocks
The Punakaiki Pancake rocks are worth a visit, even at low tide when the blow holes don’t blow much
Sunset beach dinner in Greymouth
Delicious tortellini dinner with sunset at the beach in Greymouth
Middle Earth LOTR
Like in “middle earth” of Lord of the Rings…
Forest creatures
…with misterious creatures…
Blue mushrooms
..and blue mushrooms
Rob Monteiths brewery
Happy to smell and talk brewery again – we visit Rob in the Monteith’s Brewery

With a bit rain we arrive at the West coast, hike/climb up the Mount Te Kinga and visit the Monteith’s brewery where Brewery Manager Rob gives us a private tour.

In the afternoon we find a camping in Okarito with a roofed kitchen, when all of a sudden Lydia and Hannes from the SV Blue Lilly come around the corner. We are very happy about the company and immediately fall into endless “boating talks” 😉
Franz Josef with Blue Lilly
Well equipped with our rain jackets we enjoy the walk back to the Franz Josef Glacier view point
Franz Josef Glacier
and we are all impressed to find a glacier at an altitude of only around 400 metres!
Fox Glacier Lake Matheson
View of the Fox Glacier from the Lake Matheson
In Haast we see the weather forcast for the coming days
Lake Wanaka
First signs of blue sky on the Lake Wanaka at the other side of the Haast pass
Lake Hawea
…and shortly after on Lake Hawea even more…
Lake Hawea
From the Kidds Bush Camping we do a short afternoon hike quite straightforward up the hill with an awesome view
and hike past hunderts of these colourful mushrooms !
Lake Hawea
on the way down we are rewarded with a rainbow over the lake Hawea
Kidds Bush Camp
Evening sun at the Kidds Bush Campground
Lake Hawea
and sunset
Istmus peak
Hike up to the Istmus peak – almost 16 km and 1170 meter vertical for this and many other beautiful views over the Lake Hawea and Wanaka

which makes us “flee to the east” over the Haast pass. And immediately the weather improves.

From the lovely Kidds Bush DOC campground we earn the evening beer with a hike up the hill and afterwards wash off the sweat in the Lake Hawea.

The next day we find out about the Istmus Peak hike and enthousiatically do the rather long way up and down between the two lakes Wanaka and Hawea. The views are really worth the effort but my knees on the way down reach their current limit and tell me that that was really enough of hiking back down…

After a visit to the supermarket we take out our grill…
…and wait for the meet to be finished 😉
Via Wanaka and Cromwellwe drive to Arrowtown and Queenstown.
Kawerau Gorge
The Kawerau Gorge on the way to Queenstown is something for nature and wine lovers…
Kawerau Gorge
…and those who look for more thrill and action….
Arrowtown is claimed as a Historical Site 😉
…while Queenstown is flooded with tourists!
We quickly leave Queenstown to enjoy its surrounding areas..
Lake Wakatipu
… enjoy the view to the northend of the Lake Wakatipu and the glaciers of the Mount Earnslaw
Camping on Lake Wakatipu
We find a beautiful, quiet place directly on the lake, but the sandflies are eating us alive
Next target is the Milford Sound.
Lumsden Free Camping
In the middle of town we stay at the old station in Lumsden (together with approx. 80-100 other cars…)
Mirror Lakes
The Mirror Lakes on the way to the Milford Sound
Milford Sound Road
In the valley before the Homer Tunnel the mountains become steeper and more impressive
Milford Sound Mitre Peak
And finally the view out into the Milford Sound with Mitre Peak (left)
Milford Sound Waterfall
and the waterfall to the right.
Mitre Peak
And isn’t that a nice picture ?
Hollyford Camp Museum
In the Hollyford Camp we find an interesting museum and read many stories about Murray and Davey Gunn…
Hollyford Camp Irish Skydiver
who seem to have had a good portion of humour 🙂
Key Summit walk
From the Divide we do a short hike up to the Key Summit

Following the recommendation of our travel handbook we go there “anti-cyclical”: starting around noon in Te Anau we have no busses on the way up to the Milford Sound and once there we just arrive to find a parking again.

We choose to spend the night in the Hollyford Camp which is a lovely and very interesting site and in comparison to the DOCs for an additional NZD 7.- /person we enjoy a clean well smelling toilet, a hot shower and a heated and sandfly protected common area…

The other day we do an early hike up to the Key Summit and are out of the area long before the busses start moving back again…

In Manapouri we meet up with our friends Annie and Hugh from the SV Vega

Meeting Hugh and Annie from Vega
In Manapouri we meet Hugh and Annie from the Vega who spoil us with a lovely dinner
Lake Ruataniwha
Lunchtime on the Lake Ruataniwha just before Twizel

and exchange about travel plans and favorite camp sites.

Due to the weather forecast we decide to go back north to Mount Cook rather then visiting the South and East Coast and arriving in the mountains with bad weather.

White Horse Hill Campground
Together with many others we camp on the White Horse Hill Camping at the bottom of the Müller Glacier…
Meeting Blue Lilly in Hooker Valley
… and meet again Lydia and Hannes on the Hooker Valley Track
Mount Cook Hooker Valley
And there it is finally, the great Mount Cook..
Mount Cook Viewpoint
…obviously attracting a lot of visitors…
Meeting Kristie and Dan from Te Poe Rava
And what a nice coincidence again, we also bump into Dan and Kristie from the Te Poe Rava
Müller glacier
The Müller glacier on the way up to the Sealy Turns/Müller Hut
Mount Cook
The top tips of the Mount Cook
Another highlight is the Lake Pukaki with the hike up and around Mount John.
Lake Pukaki
Hiking on and around the Mount John on the Lake Pukaki
Castle Hill lime stones
The lime stones at Castle Hill, Arthurs Pass
Bealy spur track
View from the Bealy Spur track into the valley of the Arthurs pass
Lake Lyndon
Camping on the Lake Lyndon – nice but cold and full with sand flies
Back on the East coast we enjoy the sea lions and Peninsula Walkway in Kaikoura and slowly make our way up to Picton.
Lobster Kaikoura
Fresh lobster on the parking in Kaikoura
Sea lion Kaikoura
A jung sea lion in Kaikoura
Sea lion Kaikoura
and here the gumpy dad who determinately roars at us when we come too close…
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
We enjoy the Kaikoura Peninsula walkway…
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
…until the weather changes and we almost get blown away!
Camper van dinner in the rain
In the evening the rain doesn’t stop and we have an easy dinner with fast noodles and soup inside the car …
Cape Campbell light house
Cape Campbell light house, a 3-4 hour walk from the DOC camp at Marfells beach
Marfells Beach
Sunrise at Marfells Beach
Mount Robertson
Hike up the Mount Robertson – unfortunately a mountain without a summit view
Mount Robertson
but where we hike others go up and down with the motor bikes… !
Rarangi post box
In Rarangi there is a competition of who has the most original post box – my favorite is a man made out of three gas bottles 😉
Bluebridge ferry Picton
Our ferry is arriving in Picton – time to head back up north…
From Wellington we rush up to the Tongariro National Park, the weather seems good for a hike up the Ruapehu…
Ngatitoa Domain Parirua
But also the north island is beautiful – we find another great spot on the beach in the Ngatitoa Domain north of Parirua
Mussels from the beach
Curiously I ask the locals what they collect on the beach – and find that it is mussels
Fresh cooked mussels
An hour later we enjoy our first self collected mussels – yummy!
Wanganui Memorial tower
In Wanganui we get an overview from the War Memorial Tower
Wanganui town center
and have a short look into the pretty historical town center
Tongariro National Park
Evening light in the Tongariro National Park: Tongariro (left) and Ngaurohoe (right)
But even though we start with the first light at just after 7 am
The Ngauruhoe on our way up the Ruapehu
…and once again almost from the top.
Crater rim Ruapehu
On the crater rim of the Ruapehu…
Crater rim Ruapehu
…unfortunatetly the clouds come against us…
Crater rim Ruapehu
..we do a quick selfie…
Crater rim Ruapehu
…and start getting back down again

we arrive at the top a few minutes too late to reach the dome for the crater lake view point.

Well, we are happy to have reached the crater rim and only with the help of some GPS points we find our way back down through the rocky and rough landscape…

Close to the Lake Taupo there is steam coming out of the forest…
Kiwi tree
My first kiwi tree!
Back in Auckland we get picked up by Andy
In Auckland we visit Andy – we haven’t seen each other for almost 25 years
Harbour tour with Andy and Ian – we learn everything about the most important Acukland sailing vessels…
Americas cup
…and even admire the America’s Cup (middle) next to the Luis Vuitton Challenger (left) and Luis Vuitton Cup (right)

who studied with me in Weihenstephan some 25 years ago. He shows us around Auckland and spoils us with some great beer, awesome food and a normal bed and hot shower!

What a beautiful finish in this great NZ camping experiance 😉

Tips for great free Camping and Hiking in New Zealand with the Campervan

One thought on “5 1/2 weeks travelling though New Zealand in a Campervan”

  1. Great blog and pictures… what fun we all had! Hope to get together again soon xx

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