New Zealand is known for its spectacular wilderness. Its variety of landscapes and incredible places to stay make it the ideal destination for a motorhome trip. Aside from mapping out the route, deciding on stops and arranging an international driving licence, you will also need to apply for an NZeTA visa before you leave.
Planning an itinerary for your trip
New Zealand is an ideal destination to explore by motorhome. Although not as large as countries like the United States, the distances are relatively long (New Zealand is 1600 km long) but manageable. The advantage of renting a motorhome is that you can get everywhere without relying on public transport and without having to book accommodation. It is always advisable to plan the route in advance to get an idea of the distances between the places you want to visit and to avoid any last-minute surprises. The most common route for motorhomes is from one extreme to the other: from the North Island to the South Island.
The North Island
Most people start their journey in the northern city of Auckland, which is the countryʼs largest city and together with the capital the main international gateway to New Zealand. After visiting the main attractions of this multicultural city, rent a motorhome from one of the many rental companies and start your road trip. A visit to the Northland, with its beautiful beaches and lovely coastal towns, is a must. The city of Rotorua is a good place to stop for a closer look at Maori culture. You can then continue your route through the central plateau and visit Tongariro National Park and its peaks. Mount Ngauruhoe, known from “The Lord of the Rings”, is a must see. Another must is Wellington, the picturesque capital of New Zealand, located at the southernmost tip of the North Island. From there, you can take a ferry across Cook Strait to Pincton Harbour on the South Island.
The South Island
The tour continues through the Marlborough wine region and its capital, Blenheim, just half an hourʼs drive from Picton. Nearby is Hanmer Springs, famous for its hot springs and ideal for relaxing. You can then explore Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island, and Dunedin, the second largest. Those with time to spare can also visit the incredible wilderness of Stewart Island before returning to the mainland and marvelling at Fiordland National Park. Queenstown, with its mountains and huge range of adventure activities, is usually part of the final leg of the journey before the itinerary concludes with a visit to Lake Wanaka and its lone tree, and experiencing first-hand the amazing Fox Glacier.
Driving licence, NZeTA and other documents
In New Zealand, a B driving licence is required to drive a motorhome of up to 3500 kilograms. In addition to a British or Irish driving licence, an international driving licence is required, which should be applied for before departure. Payment for the rental of the motorhome and the associated security deposit is generally done by credit card. In New Zealand, people drive on the left side of the road and the speed limit is 100 km/h.
Another preparation you should make before travelling to New Zealand is to apply for an NZeTA. The NZeTA is similar to a visa and can be applied for online via the digital application form. After paying the cost of £49.95, the application is approved within 1 week on average. The NZeTA visa is valid for 2 years, and during this period you can stay in New Zealand for a maximum of 3 months per trip. This gives you enough time to go on a motorhome tour through this beautiful country.
Accommodation: campsites and free camping
New Zealand is a great country to camp in unforgettable places. However, bear in mind that you cannot camp or sleep just anywhere. In general, camping is not allowed in cities (it will be signposted) unless it is in a campsite, usually for a fee. New Zealand is also known for its many holiday parks where motorhomes can park for around NZ$50 per night. These parks are almost always equipped with electricity, washing machines, showers and toilets. There are also DOC (Department of Conservation) campsites, with very cheap accommodation and facilities such as toilets and showers.
There are also many places along the way where you can park and sleep for free. Most of them are outside the cities, known as "designated areas". Many of these places are in dream locations, such as on the beach, along a lake or in a forest in the middle of nature. However, to use these areas, it is recommended to rent self-sufficient campers (with a certificate that the vehicle can store clean and dirty water, has a toilet and does not discharge polluting liquids), as this is a requirement for camping in most of these areas.