One of the best ways to see New Zealand is by driving around the country in a motorhome. Know the dos and don'ts to make your travels safe and smooth.
New Zealand is one of those countries that has so much to offer that you can go on multiple visits and still leave sights unseen. You need two weeks at the minimum for each island. One of the best ways to explore NZ is to hire a motorhome, this will be your home away from home and mode of transportation. No hotels or motels, no rental cars, no packing and unpacking, just more time relaxing and exploring NZ.
You can hit up all the popular tourist spots as well as venturing out to the lesser known ones, cooking and living out of the motorhome as you make your way. Not having to book hotels means you can alter your plans as needed, to extend your stay in a spot you take a fancy to, as well as having the flexibility to make spur of the moment decisions when you fall in love with a view (or when the weather is terrible).
But with all this freedom comes responsibility and you need to stay on the right side of law in NZ, and your conduct in your motorhome is part of this.
Be a responsible camper, always
New Zealanders pride themselves on being tidy, sustainable campers. Kiwis know the responsibility of preserving NZ's environment for future generations, and they know the importance of leaving a place as they found it. Given the beauty and natural plant and animal life, the centuries old rock formations and geysers, and stunning beaches and landscapes of the country, awareness of the ecological impact you have is vital. The central government as well as local councils work hard to ensure that while visitors enjoy the many spectacular sights, they follow requirements that ensure sustainability and minimal impact on the natural world.
This means that you should leave nothing behind when you leave - dispose of rubbish if there are bins on site, or else carry your trash with you to get rid of when you do find them. Recycle whenever possible at recycling facilities and only dispose of the waste you generate at designated places. This includes waste and sewage water.
Understand the different options to park your motorhome
There are private and public options, and there is quite a difference in the amenities and location as well as the number of fellow campers you'll find based on the choices you make. The kind of motorhome you have will also be a factor in where you can stay - Certified self contained (CSC) units offer you the option to stay at any camping site, as they have amenities like water tanks, waste water holding tanks and can meet sanitary and disposal needs for a minimum of three days.
Plan your trip in such a way as to be able to visit the more remote locations and also access commercial sites and larger towns where you can stock up on essentials like food and water as well as batteries and other essentials. Remember to only stay at official, designated camping sites if not self-contained, as you can be fined.
The art of freedom camping
Having a CSC motorhome is a requirement to freedom camp. Freedom camping refers to camping in public lands that are not marked as an official campground - but are still designated as okay to camp (versus any space which has a no overnight camping sign or where local authorities have banned it). They are available across the country in towns and cities and by beaches and lakes and native bush. While many sites don't have a charge, some do require you to buy a freedom camping permit for a nominal amount.
Camping at DOC sites
There are over 250 DOC (Department of Conservation) managed campsites dotting the NZ landscape, with the free ones having basic amenities and some paid ones (still working out cheaper than commercial or holiday parks) with better facilities. Do your research on the DOC website so you can find the ones that suit your particular need. All sites on conservation lands are administered by the DOC.
Holiday Park Camping
Offering both powered and unpowered sites, holiday parks are commercial campgrounds with a range of facilities, including recycling, charging and waste disposal, and even recreational activities like a playground or shared kitchen. Given the popularity of holiday parks, especially during the summer months, it is vital to plan and book ahead.
Try the Campable app
An app that shows you private properties like working farms, country and beach resorts and even vineyards where you can roll up in your motorhome and camp, are a great way to interact with locals and experience more of the NZ way of life. Campable sites are private and often more secure and exclusive - sometimes you will be the only motorhome there.