Travelling by Motorhome (in NZ) Self-Tour Suggestion
When coming to New Zealand it has probably has crossed your mind how to travel in the most effective way. In the country, most people rely entirely in their own means of transport (except big cities), so it's to no surprise that we would recommend to rent a car, van or motorhome to discover all the country has to offer. It's also the most practical, cheap and convenient way of touring around the islands and designing your own itinerary, peacefully, taking in all the beauty of the places you want to visit. Specially if you travel with other people. Driving is also more fun and will can allow more, or less time, to enjoy the places you visit without the rush or restrictions imposed by tour companies.
There are many ways of arranging the pick ups. But the best advice is to choose your vehicle online and make the reservation prior to arrival to guarantee availability and the best offers are always online. You can arrange picking up your vehicle at the airports or at precise locations in the cities. Just like a rent car company, these rental companies require a deposit before you pick up (normally NZ $1000) and make copies of your driving licence and passport. (New Zealand requires a conversion driving licence document which is available from your own county, known as international driving license). Once you drop off the vehicle, make sure to return it with a full tank to avoid any charges.
There are numerous companies offering rentals, the one we would recommend is Maui.
Below is the itinerary which the author took when travelling to New Zealand and planned this 7 day trip. Please write to us if you need any other tips or advice!
With a motor-home it's fun to take advantage of the facilities it offers, you can see more or fewer places depending how you want to plan your visits.
For the suggested trip covering both islands, 4 days can be enough, but if want to maximise the use, then a week to 10 days would be a good idea.
The following planner covers most of the country, highlighting the most important tourist stops and landmarks. It covers a 4 day tour with a caravan or motorhome and 3 days exploring by other means of transportation.
Day 1: Arrival at Auckland Airport - Rotorua. Collect the Motor-home by the dedicated Free transport to the Office. Please note that the office for collection closes at 17:00, so make sure your flights arrive within good time. In the office need to pay off the balance for the deposit and after singing a few papers your Motor-home will be ready to drive away!
Start the trip towards Rotorua, but first it’s advisable to stock up in some supermarket with food and supplies for the journey ahead! Once in Rotorua, find somewhere quiet to overnight. Journey time approximately 3 hour.
Day 2: Rotorua - Taupo - Wellington. An international tourism icon, Rotorua is renowned as the heartland of Maori culture.There are 16 lakes in the vicinity of Rotorua, many of which are fishable lakes packed with rainbow and brown trout. The lakes, all formed from the craters of extinct volcanoes, are a popular attraction for many water-based activities, it’s renowned for it’s beauty spots and geysers.
At midday continue the journey down to Taupo where there’s one of the biggest lakes in the North Island, take a few minutes to take in the breath-taking views and have your picture taking here for your online profile or blog! Have lunch and after continue southbound to Wellington. By the time you reach, it should be night and you will spend a night in the city. Journey time from Rotorua to Wellington is approximately 5 hours.
Day 3 Wellington - Interislander - Picton-Kaikōura. Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is set on the edge of a stunning harbour and surrounded by rolling hills, it's a city waiting to be explored, try a bit of food, a coffee, a stroll down the coast, shop in the city centre… there’s lots of activities to do here! In the evening take the Interislander ship to the South Island. You need to be at the Harbour Terminal one hour before, the Interislander ship departs Wellington at 18:25 and arrives at Picton at 21:25, journey time is approximately 3 hours. Pre-arrange the trip online by booking tickets (passengers + Motor-home).
About the ride: Interislander is the New Zealand ferry service which crosses the Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. The 92 km, three hour journey between Wellington and Picton is one of New Zealand's most iconic tourist experiences, and one of the most spectacular cruises in the world. All the ships offer a safe, comfortable and affordable journey, as well as a complete range of onboard services.
Once you arrive at Picton, drive the Motor-home to Kaikōura. Driving time approximately 2 hours. Locate the Whale Watching station and stay the night here.
Day 4, Kaikōura – Christchurch. You will be amazed of the scenery once you wake up, it's a true postcard picture! Make sure your camera's fully charged! Kaikōura, offers stunning coastal alpine scenery and a host of eco-tourism oriented activities, including Whale watching, Dolphin swimming, walks, and much more!
After the suggested Whale Watching activity, in which it's recommended to take sea sickness tablets (due to the boat movements following the Whales), drive to Christchurch. Driving time approximately 2.30 hours.
At Christchurch, make sure you arrive by 16.30 to the Depot office at the Airport to leave the Motor-home. Free transfers are provided to the airport by the Motor-home company. At the terminal head for Bus route 29 which will takes you directly to the city centre.
Make your way to your accommodation. We recommend to stay near the train station for the next part of the tour.
💭Suggested Hotel! Addington City Motel, 241 Lincoln Rd, Addington, Christchurch. This Hotel-Hostel style accommodation is designed for convenience and quick overnight stays to those travellers who are continuing their journeys from Christchurch. It offers a courtesy shuttle service to and from the Railway Station. Free WIFI and Local Phone Calls. The motel units are away from the main road and there are no upstairs motel units ensuring that you have quiet surroundings. It offers double rooms, or little apartments which are all serviced units, which can sleep from 1-5 people. Fully equipped separate kitchen with full sized cookers/ovens, microwave, iron, ironing board, separate shower, toilet and bathroom.
During the evening, would be a good idea to explore Christchurch, the most English style city of New Zealand! Don’t miss the incredible cathedral!
Day 5: Christchurch – Trans Alpine Train- Greymouth – Franz Joseph. Be set for an early departure, about 7.30am. Take the complimentary shuttle bus that will take you to the Train Station.The train from Christchurch to Greymouth departs at 8.15 and arrives at 12.45pm.
About the ride: The TranzAlpine scenic train journey travels between Christchurch and Greymouth, from one coast of New Zealand to the other. From your carriage you’ll see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and river valleys of the Waimakariri River. Your train then climbs into the Southern Alps before descending through lush beech rain forest to the West Coast town of Greymouth. An open air viewing carriage allows you to get even closer to the stunning scenery and provides many opportunities to photograph your favourite spots. There’s a lot to look forward to! The trip is 223.8 kilometres long and takes just four and a half hours. There are 16 tunnels, and 5 viaducts, the highest being the Staircase standing at 73 metres.
On arrival to Greymouth you need to head directly with your luggage to the Train Station bus stop, where at 13.30 you'll take a regular bus to Franz Joseph. Arrival time is 17:04, journey time by bus is 3.34 hours. Get off at Franz Joseph Main Road Bus stop.
💭Suggested Hotel in Franz Joseph! Punga Grove Motel and Suites, at only a short walk away from the bus stop, located at 40 Cron St. Punga Grove offers stylish motel accommodation in the heart of Franz Josef Glacier village. Perfectly positioned in a beautiful rainforest, set amongst native forest against a stunning backdrop of high alpine peaks, Punga Grove is your natural West Coast accommodation choice for your stay in Glacier Country in New Zealand.
During the evening you have to relax, but we do suggest to book your activity for next day (if you have not already done so). Tourist offices and operators are near by and local shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
Day 6: Franz Josef day. You have one whole day to wonder in this marvellous location and experience some of the adventure activities that can be offered. Depending of your choice of activity you could go walking up to Franz Josef Glacier, have a helicopter flight, a guided in-depth guide to the glacier or even a skiing day!
In the evening why not treat yourself to a nice dinner in one of the nice restaurants of this little town and sample the breathtaking views across the landscape and scenery!
Day 7: Franz Josef – Greymouth - Trans Alpine Train - Christchurch - Auckland. The last day of the tour, be ready for a full day of travelling!
- The bus leaves Franz Josef Main Road Bus Stop at 9.15 and arrives back to Greymouth station at 13.15pm. (Some busses make a stop at Hokitika a small town in the West Coast region, 40 kilometres south of Greymouth, and close to the mouth of the Hokitika River. You can get out for a small walk around and quick snack break).
- Trans Alpine Train back to Christchurch departs at 13.45, arriving at 18:05.
- From Christchurch make your way to the city by taxi or public transport and catch bus 29 to the Airport.
- Take your flight to Auckland in the evening and you are back to where it all started!