Ever thought about travelling the South Island of New Zealand with your family in a campervan?
We visited back in 2013 when Master E was 20 months old. Here’s my pick on what to do and where to go to experience a truly magical part of the world with your family.
There are many benefits of a New Zealand campervan trip. It is a lot cheaper than staying in hotels and apartments, you see and experience more, and it really does become a family bonding experience. And when it comes to most holiday parks in New Zealand, they really are second to none. They’re clean and fully equipped with kitchens, dining rooms, hot showers, laundries, internet kiosks and Wi-Fi, picnic areas, barbeques, change stations for babies, activity desks and dump stations (for your toilet & kitchen waste).
When to travel
If you’re not a fan of very cold weather then perhaps travelling in winter is not the best option, although you can opt for heaters and extra blankets. Winter temperatures on New Zealand’s South Island can range from 1°C to 12°C but it’s the best time to go skiing and enjoy the snow, see glaciers, build snowmen and participate in a good old snowball fight.
If warmer weather is more your thing, summer days on the South Island are long and sunny with mild nights (10°C – 22°C), perfect to experience various outdoor activities. Autumn is a little cooler than summer but the changing colour of the deciduous trees is very picturesque. Spring can experience a mix of cold and warm days but is quite beautiful with new growth after the winter.
A suggested itinerary
Christchurch is the best place to pick up your campervan as flights from Brisbane to Christchurch are usually cheaper than flying into Queenstown. Campervan depots are located close to the airport and depending on when you arrive, you can either take off on your adventure straight away or stay overnight at one of the many hotels right near the airport and collect your van the next morning.
Lake Tekapo Holiday Park
Lakeside Drive, Lake Tekapo
Only a 3-hour drive from Christchurch, the turquoise colour of Lake Tekapo is magnificent and so are the Southern Alps that form its backdrop. Drive in, park your van on your lake view powered site and enjoy the many activities within walking distance from the holiday park. At Tekapo Springs, located right beside the holiday park, you can enjoy ice skating, tubing, hot pools and for the mums, a day spa. In the summer months you can canoe, pedal boat or Zorb ball on the lake. Take a walk down the road to catch a game of mini golf and visit the Church of the Good Shepherd where you can marvel at the way the church window frames the Southern Alps like a picture. Don’t forget to take a photo of the famous Sheep Dog Monument by the water’s edge. Come nighttime you will be amazed by the clarity of Tekapo’s night sky, unobstructed by any pollution or light. Experience it in full at The Mount John Observatory just up the road. www.laketekapo-accommodation.co.nz
Arrowtown Holiday Park
12 Centennial Avenue, Arrowtown
Before venturing into Queenstown, consider staying a night or two in the old gold mining town of Arrowtown. Surrounded by picturesque mountains, it’s a laidback town with plenty to enjoy. The Arrowtown Holiday Park has not long been redeveloped and offers very modern facilities. Just a short stroll from the holiday park will have you in the centre of town where you can eat fudge from the famous The Remarkable Sweet Shop, visit the Lakes District Museum & Gallery, pan for gold on the historic Arrow River, marvel at the historic miners cottages lining the street or visit the Chinese Settlement that dates back to the early 19th century. If you’re here to ski, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are close by too. www.arrowtownholidaypark.co.nz
Queenstown Holiday Park
Upper Brecon Street, Queenstown
When you arrive in Queenstown be prepared for loads of fun. Queenstown Holiday Park boasts modern facilities with the most spectacular view of The Remarkables from the communal dining area. The list of things to do in Queenstown is endless. Apart from the obvious skiing, you can take the Skyline gondola up the mountain to experience amazing views over Lake Wakatipu to The Remarkables, Cecil Peak and Walter Peak. While up the mountain there’s the luge ride for the thrillseekers, a cafe, and the Stratosfare restaurant serving up buffet lunch and dinner to hungry families. Once you’re back down the mountain you can enjoy boat rides on Lake Wakatipu and adrenaline junkies must not miss the Shotover Jet boat ride on the Shotover River. There’s Lord of the Rings tours, horse riding journeys, scenic helicopter flights, guided walks and lots more to experience in Queenstown. Lastly, don’t forget to visit Fergburger for the most amazing hamburger that will refuel you after a huge day of fun. www.holidaypark.net.nz
Lake Wanaka Holiday Park
212 Brownston Street, Wanaka
With stunning views over Lake Wanaka, this is the perfect stop for your trip back up to Christchurch with comfortable facilities and a short walking distance into town. While mum and dad could likely sit all day gazing at the magnificence of the Southern Alps from the campervan, the kids will love the mysteries of Puzzleworld and marvel at the huge toy collection at the National Transport & Toy Museum. There’s skiing here too, with Cardrona and Trebel Cone being the nearest ski fields as well as the Snow Farm. The Snow Farm has plenty of family fun including the Snow Fun Zone where kids can go snow tubing, sledding, build snow sculptures and explore snow caves.
Geraldine KIWI Holiday Park
39 Hislop Street, Geraldine
Geraldine is a great family friendly spot to stay overnight and recharge your batteries for the final leg back up to Christchurch. If you’re a bit of a foodie, Geraldine is home to an abundance of locally produced foods with the farmers market held every Saturday from October to April. There are a number of walks and scenic reserves for the whole family to discover as well as playgrounds within the town and in the holiday park itself.
Things to consider
There’s no use considering a two berth van if you have a family of four. The van should have enough beds for everyone and, most importantly, seatbelts for everyone too. Baby seats and booster seats are an optional extra.
It’s likely you’ll need plenty of storage to keep the living and sleeping areas clear. Make sure there are plenty of storage options when selecting your campervan.
When travelling with your family, it’s always handy to have a van that has a couple of separate living areas so that everyone isn’t cooped up at night time or when the weather turns bad.
Food preparation and equipment
Having the right food preparation area and equipment is a sanity saver because you will be preparing food regularly when travelling with kids. Check that the van has a sufficiently sized fridge, cooking utensils, a microwave and storage for pantry items. Depending on the campervan company, items such as heaters, baby seats, GPS, and picnic table and chairs usually come as optional extras. Also check whether or not towels and linen are included and that there are sufficient for your family.
Be aware that older model campervans may not include the safety features that newer models do. It’s always a good idea to ask the campervan company if there are safety features included to give you peace of mind when your kids are playing inside the van while you are outside appreciating the view.
What’s your idea of a good family holiday?
This article appeared first at Kids in the City Magazine.