Rad Season Bucket List: Camper Van Tour Of New Zealand

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Go on a camper van tour of New Zealand

If you’re on this website, you’re already intrigued by the possibility of going away somewhere and doing something rad (sorry for the use of ‘rad’. I know it’s the name of the company but it was too irresistible to use just then!). You’re also either proficient enough to go away and enjoy an action sports type holiday, or you’re bold enough to try it for the first time. Being either of those things puts you in good stead for this series.

Introducing, the Rad Season Bucket List – a fortnightly series that gives you an incredible thing you should go and do or have done already. We’re not going to write things like, ‘hey, you should go surfing’ because that’s a no-brainer. We’re going to give you more credit than that. Here’s number four in our series.

Photo Flickr Scott Symonds

We all know someone, or at least several people, that has taken a gap year before university. It’s a right of passage these days and you’re the odd one out if you turn up at aged 19 without having spent a month or two on the beaches of Thailand contemplating how everyone would be peaceful if they just..y’know…relaxed a little more. But less of the stereotyping.

If you compare a tour of Australia to a tour of New Zealand, which a lot of people do, Australia has the Oz Bus, and several other tour companies, that drive you around stopping off at notable destinations for gap year travellers to enjoy. These might be your standard stops and you’ll see the sights that everyone sees but it’s affordable and plentiful. The thing with Australia is that there are many different places to go within a few hours drive of each other – especially throughout the East coast. New Zealand is more sparse and spread out despite it being dramatically smaller in size to its Brother from ‘Down Under’.

New Zealand does hold a tour similar to the Oz Bus called Kiwi Experience that allows you the freedom of jumping on and off at whichever destination you so please. However, there’s a major drawback to doing this.

By hiring a camper van to tour NZ, you can choose how long you stay in one location, pick whichever part of the country you wish to visit and you don’t have to struggle to find a place to stay.

“There are many small towns and beautiful things to find in New Zealand that won’t be in a brochure or a major stopping point for tour buses.”

You can only discover them by driving around the country – something I highly recommend. Not only that but you don’t have to share a huge coach with 35 other student travellers finding themselves.

Road to Mt Cook. Photo Flickr Christopher Crouzet

Even in peak season, when it might be hard to get a hostel in Queenstown or Wanaka (high tourist density spots), there’s always a place for a camper van. Much like the hostels, these places do get quite busy during the summer, but it’s rare that you will be completely shunted to a different town to park up. The majority of camper van parks are within walking distance to the tourist locations and well worth visiting.

When travelling, everyone thinks about cost; and it really fluctuates depending on the season – much like every other holiday destination. New Zealand is no different from the rest of the world so the summer is a much more expensive time. Hostel prices do go up slightly but camper van prices rise dramatically during this time.

Companies are aware that camping is a favourite pastime of travellers and when you have a country with a lot of fields and spectacular scenery, it’s a no-brainer. For a modest sized camper, you’re looking at around $150-200NZ per day. However, in the winter you’re looking at prices starting at $50 per day. It might seem quite pricey to do this but the pay back is superfluous compared to this outgoing. Personally, I travelled during winter and I would definitely recommend it. It may well be blisteringly cold at times (especially near the Mount Cook region) but the cold winter air, the crisp mornings, clear skies and wood fires that you take in far outweighs the grief of any cost.

If you are partial to a bus tour but love the greenery of NZ the one thing that sold it for me was the National Parks you are allowed to camp in.

“These quiet areas filled with some of the most awe-inspiring scenery (and desolate during winter) allow you so much freedom to experience whatever you wish to experience.”

The one drawback is that, similar to places like the UK, you cannot just park up on the side of the road for the night. Likelihood is that you won’t get found if it’s just one night but you’ll probably do more damage to the environment if you dump unwanted trash and water all over the place.

Based on personal experience, this isn’t an opportunity you want to miss. Incredible people, incredible country and the freedom of movement is something we all need to partake in. Forget about the full moon parties in Thailand or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, see all you want to see with a camper van tour of New Zealand and meet all the nicest people in the world in one place.

Video by Chris Simons

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Kel Verbiest

Kel is a content manager and sports writer based on the south coast of England. When he's not typing away, you can find him in several super people watching spots.

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