Travel by way of camper was something we had our sights set on from the beginning of our travel planning years prior. Luckily we came across ShareACamper which offers private camper rentals with a variety of sizes, types, and styles. It was a much more personal experience all around for us. After a week long trip week long trip up the California coast a couple years ago, we realized there were a few key things lacking. This heightened our awareness in what we were looking for when deciding on a camper. The biggest difference beyond size and weight, this time would be on the opposite side of the road. After an hour or so of white knuckled laser focus, the nerves subsided and driving on the other side is as simple as following the dashed line.
This beast of a vehicle was more than just a camper though. It was our accommodation as we jaunted around New Zealand’s South Island for 20 days or so. Since this was technically our honeymoon, a tightly confined space for that amount of time seemed fair enough to test our limits (half joking…). We did however over-book our camper’s adult capacity by 1 or 2 so there would be more than enough space. A right-hand drive, duel-wheeled, diesel, we called her Bertha and she served us very well. These are a few things worth mentioning and highlighting from our South Island camper travels.
The camper was outfitted with a cab-over double bed, kitchen with 4 burner stove, mini fridge, enough cabinetry to stock up on groceries and heaps of wine. There was even a microwave for when we were hardwired with a campground power supply. The very back of the interior included a large table with plenty of space to spread out on. It turned out quickly to be a mission-critical space when plotting our course. Much of the trip was remote with limited to no, mostly no, WiFi access. Another quickly established tactic was to pre-load webpages worth reading when in a town or city that had more easily found internet sources.
Getting into it, as mentioned above, there were a few amenities we knew we would have to compromise on and a few that we wanted to make sure and have along the way.
Over the months leading up to the trip we learned of the strict government guidelines when it came to “freedom camping,” that is parking just about anywhere and sleeping. The main concern was that is be certified self-contained. This meant having the necessary facilities on-board, i.e. a functioning toilet. Our camper rental was well equipped with easy to use gear and more than enough amenities for our short trip.
Freedom camping has definitely taken a hit in recent years as tourists and I’m sure locals alike, have trashed known free campsites. Thanks to numerous Reddit posts and countless blogs across the web much was learned. While you can camp just about anywhere in the remote regions of NZ, things like private property and general respect are taken seriously. Things that Paige and I both appreciated and would abide by throughout the trip. Being self-contained meant no fines and allowed us to park and rest easy for the night without worrying if it was ok. We split our time between pay-for campgrounds and empty freedom sites usually tucked into the trees or on the edge of a beach.
Having a vehicle that not only offered us transportation but also was the home base for all of our South Island adventures was a a huge advantage. From waiting out rain storms at landmark parking lots to always having our gear with us, rather than back at the AirBnb or hotel was something I didn’t count on but greatly appreciated.
New Zealand roads are certainly different from any others I’ve ever driven, but with caution and a relaxed mindset, it was easy going. Across the hundreds of curves we must have taken, Bertha as she had become known to us, chugged along and kept us excited all along the way. To anyone weighing their options or considering camper travel across New Zealand I couldn’t recommend anything greater (except a helicopter at times would have been ideal). Certainly the need, or rather desire for an adventure vehicle has prioritized itself on my 5 year plan since this trip.