Articles posted in the "Recent" category
March 13, 2014
If you are pondering a visit to New Zealand, consider a visit during the off-season. Not only will you be rewarded by quiet beaches and walking tracks, campgrounds will be blissfully serene, and highway travel will be (almost) worry-free.
Although New Zealand has a relatively small population, international visitors boost the population to nearly 5 million (that’s and extra 20%) during the peak summer period. And, although the summer is warmer than other times of the year, competing with locals (not to mention other international visitors) for space at the country’s hot-spots can be a bit unnerving.
Autumn and spring both have their advantages, particularly for those interested in the outdoors.
- Daytime temperatures are more forgiving, allowing for comfortable long-distance tramping and mountain biking. Some campervan companies have bikes and gear available for hire (no need to find another provider), so make sure you ask when researching your campervan rental.
- Bookings for popular walking tracks, huts and backcountry campgrounds are less likely to be full. Most Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites and walking tracks (with overnight facilities) require booking. This is to manage demand over peak periods, as well as a visitor register for emergencies. Always remember to to sign in and sign out of walking tracks in New Zealand.
- Discounts on activities and accommodation are often available during the quieter visitor seasons. When reserving your campervan, ask the company what ‘extra value’ components are included if you hire over the shoulder and off seasons: you might be surprised at what is available.
How much time do you need to visit New Zealand?
When visiting any country, allowing plenty of time to ‘get to know ‘ the place is always better than rushing around.
Here are a few pointers in your New Zealand trip planning:
- 10 days – 2 weeks: Visit One Island (North or South), unless you have plans to fly between them
- 3 weeks: Just enough time to do a quick tour of both islands
- 4 weeks: Allows enough time for a break of a couple of days at your favourite spots on a two island tour
- 5-6 weeks: Enough time to experience the hidden gems New Zealand has to offer
Planning a visit outside normal peak season is an excellent option for those able to do it. Not only will you get to see more of the country, you’ll be able to meet more of the locals and experience more of what “real life” in New Zealand is really like.
February 4, 2014
Renting a campervan and travelling around New Zealand is an excellent way to get to those “out of the way” places while still retaining some special home comforts: proper bed, hot shower, chilled drinks, and power for your ipod!
Sometimes, though, getting to the end of the road isn’t enough of an adventure . . . sometimes you want to keep exploring. This is where cycling bridges the gap.
New Zealand is on its’ way to creating one of the largest networks of cycleways in the world. For those who are interested, bringing a bike (or renting one while you are here) is the perfect companion to a campervan rental.
First, the campervan provides you with a secure base from which to ride one of the hundreds of developed trails around the country. Second, cycling gives you the opportunity to stretch out and experience New Zealand’s beauty close-up and personal.
So where can you ride? New Zealand roads are notoriously winding and narrow. Fortunately, hundreds of kilometres of developed cycle trails exist around the country. Trails range from leisurely one hour loop trails to 3-4 day cross country adventures. Rotorua and Queenstown are excellent places to ride. Outside these more developed riding centres, many communities have invested in their own trails, giving cyclists the opportunity to get an ‘insiders view’ into some of New Zealand’s most untouched wilderness and rural environments.
Where can you find information about riding? Most communities of 4000 citizens or more will have an official information centre, or “i-Site”. These centres provide extensive infomration about the local region as well as activites within the area. If they do not have a dedicated cycling trails, they will certainly be able to offer advice on where to ride a bike. Towns without information centres will invariably have a garage/petrol station or local shop where you can ask locals about things to do in the area. Alternatively, for those keen on cycling their way around the country, visit the NZbybike link to find out more about some of the country’s network of cycle trails.
Where can you rent a bike? Most larger centres, and some more popular small ones, will have bike shops with rental bikes. Depending on the type of cycling you want to do, shop experts will offer advice on the type of bike to hire, as well as trip plans. Highway/road cycling is recommended for those with signficant road riding experience; however mountain biking is well suited to any age and ability. Some campervan rental companies are now offering hire bikes as part of their ‘optional’ menu.
When planning your trip to New Zealand, consider using a bike as a secondary means of transport. Not only will it keep you fit along your journey, it is an excellent way to discover more of what the country has to offer.
December 3, 2013
Sometimes a great weekend getaway is as good as a week away. If that getaway takes me to a beautiful, out-of-the -way place, even better.
Such was the case last weekend.
After packing a small amount of fishing gear, and a chilly bin of food and drink, we headed out from Rotorua toward the Bay of Plenty coastline. A scenic 45 minute drive along Lake Rotorua and the surrounding hillside saw us arrive at the relaxed seaside village of Maketu. It was early afternoon, and the locals were out enjoying the sun, making the most of the early summer conditions. The tide was on the rise, and as the afternoon wore on, the surf club car park began to fill as more and more surfers arrived to make the most of the 4-5ft waves.
I am not a Bay of Plenty local, but the greetings and welcomes we received from residents certainly made us feel like we were long-standing members of the community. A truly wonderful experience. As the waves began to mellow at Maketu, we drove over the hill to another seaside village, Pukehina, to try our hand at surf-casting. As daylight faded, we had yet to catch ourselves any of the early season snapper or kawahai that we had hoped would be on our dinner menu. As we packed our gear back intothe van, with hearts a little forlorn, two local fishermen parked up alongside us.
“No Luck?” one asked, leaning across from the the passenger seat.
“Nope, nothing . . .” I replied.
“Do you like flounder?” the other asked.
“Yes, love it, ” I replied, “But we don’t have our flounder net with us. Shame.” I answered back.
“No, I mean, do you WANT some flounder?” the driver replied.
“Really?” I was stunned.
“Yeah, we caught heaps yesterday . . . my wife is sick of eating them. I’ll go home and get you some . . . ” And with that, they were off down the road.
They returned 15 minutes later with 3 flounder and a piece of paper with their contact details for the next time we visited.
With dinner sorted, we headed back to the campsite. We made a meal fresh Waihi Bay flounder, salad, a cool ginger beer, and a warm fuzzy feeling that this weekend was one of the best weekends we had had for a long, long, time.
Thanks to everyone we met last weekend. You’ve made this summer one of the best already.
October 20, 2013
Situated at the end of one of New Zealand’s most spectacular roads, the little village of French Pass nestles comfortably between the torrent waters of French Pass and New Zealand’s 8th largest island, D’urville Island.
With a small DoC Campsite, and a boat ramp metres away, an annual trip to the Pass to fish and enjoy the pristine environment is always high on our agenda.
Getting to French Pass is a big part of the fun. While the road is well maintained, it remains a true ‘kiwi’ road, gravel in most places, with one lane bridges, and sheers drops alternating between the east and west. Sheep and cattle roam freely over the hillsides, and cattle stops (and gates) are frequent. You will quickly secure all drawers and loose items after passing over your first cattle stop!
The views from the road are stunning. I read in one travel guide that the drive takes 2 hours from the turn-off from State Highway 6. I suppose it would if you drove non-stop. We normally allow 3 – 3.5 hours for the drive. We stop often, take photos, and make a cup of tea (or two) along the way. If you are driving from Nelson, add 45 minutes to reach the turn-off, or coming from Blenheim, add 1.5hours.
After a long drive, it is always a pleasure arriving in French Pass. The road winds dramatically as you make a short, sharp descent into the village. After a long drive at elevation, it always comes as a bit of a shock to suddenly be at the beach. The views to D’urville Island are always stunning, and the jetty is a welcome site after a long, dusty drive.
The DoC camp is located on the waterfront, and has 18 sites. It is always a good idea to reserve a site from November through February as the place fills with Kiwis escaping for a week or a weekend during the warm summer months. If you bring a boat, there is boat parking along the waterfront (for larger boats) and smaller ones can be kept with your vehicle in the campsite.
If you are keen to experience the outdoors, French Pass has a large number of activities. Boat-based wildlife tours (seals, dolphins, whales) are available, as are fishing charters and bird watching excursions. Hiking tracks are numerous and range from easy to difficult. Ask the local shop owner for some suggestions if you aren’t sure which direction to head.
Of course, fishing is a priority for many visiting French pass, and the jetty is a perfect place to drop your line.
Making time to to visit French Pass should be on everyone’s list of “must do’s” for their Kiwi campervan adventure. Sure, it takes a bit of time to get there, but that is the point. Taking time ensures you really ‘take in’ what’s around you. French Pass will rank as one of the most beautiful, and memorable, journeys on your road trip.