This trip to New Zealand was all that I had hoped it would be. Keelin was almost 10 months when we jumped on a flight with nothing but our small carry-on bags. We flew Hawaiian Airlines into Auckland and then immediately took an Air New Zealand flight down to Christchurch. When we arrived in Christ Church we promptly picked up our camper van at Britz, which would serve as our vehicle and home for the duration of our trip. Our first stop after getting the camper was to immediately hit the grocery store for supplies. Incredible to have all the food and whatever else you need with you! We started our trip on the South Island slowly making our way North and eventually leaving the camper van in Auckland before flying back to Hawaii.
One of the really amazing things about New Zealand was the ease of finding places to park for the night. Josh used an app called Camper Mate to help us navigate our trip and find our parking spots for the night. If you are planning a trip through New Zealand this app is amazing. If you haven’t already, download the Camper Mate app. It’s free and the best part is that it works offline even if you don’t have cell or wifi. It’s a wealth of information. It was most useful in helping to find camp sites and holiday parks. It also has cool attractions, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. Download it and explore with it a bit before leaving.
The beauty of having a camper with a baby was the knowing that we could stop at any point for food or rest. We tend to be spontaneous, last minute, laid back, flexible…. whatever you want to call it, when we travel. We will go into a trip having a general sense of what we want to do with out a set schedule. I think this makes traveling with our little family more enjoyable. Knowing that we aren’t rushed or pressured creates a much more fun experience for us. We did a one way rental which was cheaper and also allowed us to see more.
We only had 10 days which was about 10 days too short to do everything we wanted. To this end, we were on the road a lot. But that wasn’t really a bad thing as we enjoyed the scenery and random stop points along the way (courtesy of the camper mate app). Since we had Keelin, we stuck to Holiday parks which had electric hook ups. They’re a bit more pricey at 30-40 bucks a night but they provide a little bit of the creature comforts and all of them had public kitchens which made cooking a heck of a lot easier. There are also options for free or ultra cheap camp sites to stop at each night we just chose ease with more amenities. There are also a lot of places that have “free camping” which means you can just pull over and stop wherever for the night. It’s a really safe country and there’s not a ton of traffic which I thought was the best part. But the country is perfect to explore by campervan.
From Christchurch we went to Franz Josef Glacier and Nat’l Park which was really cool. We explored there and did some mini hikes with Keelin on one of our backs. We went a little further south to Fox Glacier but that was about as far south as we went. Since we were there in early spring for them there may or may not have been some icy roads and a blizzard threat further south that we opted to avoid. If we had more time, I would have loved to keep going south and hit up Fiordland Natl Park and Milford Sound. There’s also some cool stuff further south at Invercargill (penguins) and Dunedin. Things that we would have loved to do if time were willing. Maybe someday in the future we can return and experience those places. If you are into extreme sports, make sure you hit up Queenstown and Wanaka. They came highly recommended but we just didn’t have time (or the ability to do extreme things with a baby in tow).
From Fox Glacier we headed back north and stopped in Hamner Springs for the night, Cool town with some Hot Springs and good restaurants and bars. From there we went to Kaikoura (seals, dolphins) and then spent a day in Blenheim (wine county…lots of cool vineyards and tastings). From there we took the ferry across to Wellington (which is now a comical story of how we both fell ill from sea sickness as the sea conditions were “less than favorable” that day, but ill save that for another time). We spent the day in Wellington and then pushed north to some random town between Wellington and Rotorua. This is the cool part. You can find these neat little towns and then just decide to park it for the night. I believe it was called Mangaweka. From there we kept going north and hit up Rotorua. Really cool town right on a big lake. We did the hot springs there and also caught a native Maori show. From there we kept heading north and hit up Hobbiton. Im not a huge Hobbit or LOR fan but it was really cool and worth the few hours for the tour. From here we went to Auckland and spent our last couple days there since we had to fly out of there. I actually really liked Auckland but would say it’s not worth more than a day or two. They have a lot of cool ferry trips out of there to some of the other islands up the sound. We went to Devonport and Waiheke Island. Both were really cool. Devonport had some great restaurants and shops and you can get a really cool view of Auckland. Waiheke had a really nice beach and a cool little town, There are also a lot of trails for hiking and a handful of wineries.
This was our first international trip with a kid along for the ride and we found that it was truly amazing. Exploring the world with little people can make the adventure so much more rich and we love traveling and exploring as a family. We hope that this will be the first of many adventures for us as a family!