The quick break down
Total spent: $2,035.16 NZD ($1,660.49 USD)
Total Distance driven: 3,630.9 km (2,256.14 miles)
Average Fuel Efficiency: 8.37 km/L (19.69 mpg)
Top 10 experiences I’d recommend
- Moeraki boulders
- The lighthouse at Nugget Point
- Hoiho penguins at Curio Bay
- Lake Wanaka
- Black sand beaches in Kaikoura
- Seal pups born and raised in the Oahu Stream
- Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland
- Waitomo caves
- Bridal Veil Falls
- The costal drive between Kawhia and Raglan
These last two were on my to-do list but poor weather prevented me, the surrounding area was absolutely gorgeous and I will make sure I have enough time to do them next time I get to NZ.
- Milford Sound
- Hiking Mount Turangi (Mt. Doom from LOTR)
If I were to do it all again
- Take 6-8 weeks instead of 2
- Bring a travel companion, both for the company and to help pay for gas (largest expense)
- Adjust my South Island route to include the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, the Able Tasman National Park, and Arthur’s Pass National Park
- Adjust my North Island route to include stops north of Auckland like: Warkworth, Kaitaia, and Cape Reinga, and hit the east coast towns like Whangarei, Paihia, or Kerikeri.
- Never pay for internet. Every public library has free wi-fi, and so does every McDonald’s
- New Zealand changed their rules for freedom camping, so if want to avoid a fine when you pull off the road to camp, and get out view from the main street. Show up late and leave early and you should be fine
- If you can’t find a good spot to pull off the road, 24 hour establishments like McDonald’s work well if you have blackout curtains to make it look like no one is in there. Again, show up late and leave early, and you shouldn’t have any problems
- New Zealand is green for a reason—it rains a lot. Have back-up plans or be able to wait out the bad weather.
The rest of this post is dense (photos and video of this trip can be found here); I wrote it for my analytical homies and for anyone who is interested in the nuts and bolts of planning a similar trip.
You will find information on the route I took, where I camped (used the Department of Conservation to find free campgrounds), my expenses, and some ideas on things to do, how long to take, and funds to budget.
Day 1 – Flew from Sydney into Auckland (slept in airport)
Day 2 – Flew from Auckland to Christchurch, where I picked up my camper van and then headed south to Waimate and Glenavy (camped on the side of the road)
Day 3 – Glenavy, Hampden, Moeraki, Brighton, Milton, Nugget point, Purakaunui falls, Waikawa (Camped at Penguin Paradise Holiday Lodge)
Day 4 – Waikawa, Curio Bay, Slope Point, Waipapa Lighthouse, Bluff, Cosy Nook, Te Anau (camped at Queens Reach Conservational Area)
Day 5 – Te Anau, Milford Sound (almost), Kingston, Queenstown, Wanaka (via crown range), Omarama (Camped at Ahuriri Bridge Campsite)
Day 6 – Omarama, Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapu, Kaikoura, Blenheim, Picton (side of the road)
Day 7 – Picton, Wellington, Shannon, Palmerston North, Turangi (This is where I crashed—full story in the Entertainment section below— I camped in a parking lot with the blessing of the officer on night duty who also helped me call the tow truck, however, I was looking for the Kaimanawa Road campsite)
Day 8 – Turangi, Taupo, Wai-O-Tapu (camped at the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools)
Day 9 – Wai-O-Tapu, Rotorua, Kerosine creek, Matamata (Camped in the Firth Tower parking lot – An employee at another campground told me they allow overnight camping but don’t advertise it)
Day 10 – Matamata, Otorohanga, Waitomo, Te Anga (Camped on side of the road by Marokopa falls)
Day 11 – Te Anga, Kawhia, Raglan, Hamilton (Camped in a Hamilton McDonald’s parking lot)
Day 12 – Hamilton, Auckland (Camped in an Auckland McDonald’s parking lot)
Day 13 – Auckland (Camped in an Auckland McDonald’s parking lot)
Day 14 – Auckland (Camped in an Auckland McDonald’s parking lot)
Day 15 – Auckland, Melbourne
Transportation (no gas) – Flights, ferries, vehicle rental, towing, etc.
I rented a small camper van from Escape Rentals, I was able to get a relocation special since it was the off season and they needed to get vans from Christchurch up to Auckland to prep for the summer. The relocation special was key because I wanted to see the north and south islands and if I started in Auckland and ended in Auckland I would have had to pay for two ferry tickets, however, the relocation special allowed me to fly from Auckland to Christchurch for $64 NZD and only pay for one ferry journey ($160.60 NZD) from the south to the north island.
Gas – Fuel, petrol, whatever you want to call it
This was where the majority (46%) of my expenses came from. I drove a total of 3,630.9 km, used 432.93 liters and spent a total of $937.21 NZD on gas. This averages out to 8.37 km/L or 19.69 mpg.
Accommodation – Lodging and lodging accessories (laundry, towel rental, camp ground, etc.)
Accommodation was a very small expense because I slept in my van for 11 of the 15 days. The first night I slept in the Airport; the third night I paid for a homestay with a kitchen so I could cook a majority of my food, shower and wash clothes; the seventh night I camped in a camp ground because they gave you free access to their hot springs with the campground purchase; and the last day I traveled to Melbourne and slept there for the night.
The second night when I stayed at the homestay with a full kitchen allowed me to cook a majority of my food easily and efficiently, which I then stored in Ziploc bags and ate when I was hungry.
Food – All food and beverages excluding alcohol
The goal was to not eat out, however, the occasional sweet tooth and laziness hit and the goal didn’t get completely met.
Criteria for meals:
- Easy to cook/clean/eat
Cheap and tasty are obvious, but I will explain ease of cooking/cleaning/eating. The cooking facilities in the van were very minimal. I had one stove, one small pan, one small pot and a small pump sink connected to a 3 gallon refillable jug (plus utensils, plates and cups for three people).
Therefore, I wanted meals requiring only one pot or one pan to cook, without a lot of food preparation. I wanted no-plate-required food, like burritos. I wanted meals with clean up, 80/20 ground beef is high in fat and when you try and wash a dirty pan with cold water, the fat solidifies, gunks up your brush and is hard to clean (protip: newspaper absorbs fats and oils and are helpful in this situation). To make it easier on myself I stayed at a homestay with a large kitchen on day 3 where I cooked a lot of rice and potatoes so I could just reheat them later when needed.
After the dust settled I wouldn’t say I did the best job picking out a menu; there was food left over at the end and there wasn’t enough variety, which resulted in spending money in restaurants for a few meals.
Entertainment – Alcohol, tours, admission fees, and everything else
There were only a few things I paid for, entertainment wise: the Waitomo cave tours, zorbing, and the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal wonderland. The rest of my time was spent seeing landscapes for free.
The only thing I would have paid for would have been Milford Sound. Unfortunately, I had booked a cheap early morning ticket using bookme for $45 NZD, however, it started to snow the night before and as I made my way to the sound in the morning I was stopped by a fallen tree in the road, once the road was cleared I still had time to make my tour, unfortunately the road had been closed due to the snow and I decided to head back and continue my journey without seeing the sound.
Sadly, this would not be the last time pour weather spoiled my plans. I was unable to hike Mount Turangi due to snow and poor visibility and as I made my way to Taupo I was looking for a free campground to camp for the night, it had started to rain and was low visibility. When I saw the road I needed to turn on I was already passing it, so when I pulled over to make a U-turn, the van lost traction in the wet grass and I slid out of control towards a ditch. Luckily, I stopped before any damage could be done to me or the vehicle, however, the van was stuck.
I had no phone, it was getting dark and raining; things were looking pretty grim. Now, this is where I want to give a shout out to the kindness of the New Zealanders—I encountered it throughout my entire journey, but this was best example—within 5 minutes of my accident, there was at least 10 people (including an 18-wheeler) who pulled over to make sure I was ok and offer assistance.
They offered me their cell phones, their car to sit in and their company as I waited for the cops and tow truck to come and tow the van out. Officer Brendon then insisted I drive into town (once the tow truck driver determined the van was safe to drive) and park in a parking lot for the night, there was a sign declaring no camping, but since he was the only officer on duty, he assured me I wouldn’t get a ticket.
The towing ended up costing me $258.75 NZD, which I planned on using for gas to see New Zealand north of Auckland, but instead got to hang out with Auckland for 2 days more than I wanted…bummer. But, you never know when disaster may strike and I’m just happy the van I were both ok.
I know, I know, it has been forever (over a month) since my last post, so is the cost of trying to travel and write at the same time. Since my last post I’ve been from Bali, back to Singapore, Thailand and now I’m in Hong Kong for a week before heading to South Africa.
My favorite pictures from Bali will be up soon and I’ve been having requests to share more personal stories about my adventures, so I’ll try to get some posts up featuring highlights from the trip so far.
skippin straight from NZ to Bali mate? No love for WA? Come on bro! Spend a whole month here and not even a shout out?!?
Naw mate, you’ll get your shout out. Don’t you worry.
I was thinking the same thing! And after you had such accommodations there too!
This is really good Dave. I’m reading all of them and hoping to plan something similar with all your tips.
Thanks Tam 🙂
Can’t wait to see what you come up with when you start planning.
Great post!! I just heard about your trip/blog from Charlotte (we just met at a sorority event) and I wanted to say I appreciate the level of detail and effort you put into this write up!
Everything about this comment makes me smile 🙂