NEW ZEALAND

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EXPLORING NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND – 1. THE ESSENTIALS

How to explore the South Island of New Zealand by road – in this first part of our series we cover the essentials you need to know before you hit the road

EXPLORING NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND – 2. MARLBOROUGH & THE NORTH COAST

The Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman and Golden Bay – the beaches, the national parks and the fish and chips

EXPLORING NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND – 3. THE EAST COAST & MOUNT COOK

The magnificent Mount Cook National Park and a curious French town

EXPLORING NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND – 4. OTAGO & FIORDLAND

Steampunk, penguins and bras on a fence – a tour through Otago and Fiordland

EXPLORING NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND – 5. THE WEST COAST

Glaciers, deserted beaches, sandflies and terrible weather – the classic New Zealand west coast combination

3 NEW ZEALAND WALKS YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS

In a land blessed with sublime walks, here are three of our favourites

THERE AND BACK AGAIN – A VISIT TO HOBBITON

The one where I got to be a hobbit for a day – at the Hobbiton movie set. And, if like me, you’re a Lord of the Rings fan you really shouldn’t miss it

THE DAY WE FLEW INTO MILFORD SOUND

Quite simply the best way to see the full majesty of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and Milford Sound

THE AMAZING TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand – where volcanoes and emerald lakes meet Middle Earth

EXPLORING MOUNT SUNDAY – HOME OF THE ROHAN

The awesome New Zealand landscape that doubled for Edoras, home of the Rohan people in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord Of The Rings

A SPACESHIP, HOBBITS & THE WEATHER

The awesome New Zealand landscape that doubled for Edoras, home of the Rohan people in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord Of The Rings

 

WHERE WE’VE STAYED

 

A selection of our favourite campgrounds

 

WHANANAKI

Motutara Farm
Motutara Farm

Motutara Farm

Cost
$28 p/n

What that included
Unpowered site, shower, toilet

What we thought
We managed to get a lovely pitch for our first night, overlooking Whananaki’s beautiful beach. We would have stayed longer than just one night but the weather was really poor and the wind was too strong to sit outdoors.

A shame really as it would have served as a great base to explore the far north of Northland.

Website

JACKSON BAY, COROMANDEL PENINSULA

Jackson Bay Campground (DOC)
Jackson Bay, Coromandel

Jackson Bay Campground

Cost
$23 p/n

What that included
Unpowered site, shower, toilet

What we thought
After a long drive on a gravel road this site’s beachfront location at the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula was a welcome sight – and perfectly placed for us to do the Coromandel Coastal Walk the following morning.

Website

KAITOKE, KAITOKE REGIONAL PARK

Kaitoke Campground (DOC)
Kaitoke campsite

Kaitoke campsite

Cost
$12 per night

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet

What we thought
This is a huge, grassy site with plenty of spots next to the river. We were also able to make ourselves a camp fire on the shore of the river, which was a bonus. All in all, great value for money.

Scene of the biggest storm of our two-month trip to New Zealand, however.

 

LINKWATER

Smiths Farm Holiday Park
Smiths Farm Holiday Park

Smiths Farm Holiday Park

Cost $32 p/n

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet, hot showers, kitchen, wifi

What we thought
Really friendly and helpful hosts (lots of advice and complimentary home made banana muffins on arrival) and gorgeous countryside made this a great start to our South Island leg. There’s also a 30-minute walk out the back of the farm to a waterfall, where a grotto of glow worms can also be seen at night

Website

FRENCH PASS, MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS

French Pass Campsite (DOC)
French Pass campsite

French Pass campsite

Cost
$20

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet, hot showers

What we thought
A stunning location, following an even more stunning drive from Havelock. The campsite itself is unremarkable but it’s what’s around that matters – including some great walks.

We also watched four three-metre bronze whaler sharks swimming literally a couple of metres from the beach, together with three stingrays and a seal.

Recommended.

Website

KERR BAY, LAKE ROTOITI

Kerr Bay Campground (DOC)
Kerr Bay campsite, Lake Rotoiti

Kerr Bay campground, Lake Rotoiti

Cost
$20 per night

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet, hot showers (token), kitchen, wifi

What we thought
Gorgeous lakeside setting with lots of walks/tramps on the doorstep, within Nelson Lake National Park.

Website

MARFELLS BEACH, MARLBOROUGH

Marfells Beach Campground (DOC)
Marfells Beach

Marfells Beach campground

Cost
$12 per night

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet

What we thought
We were somewhat exposed to the elements but being able to sleep to the sound of crashing waves made it all worth it.

Website

 

MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK

White Horse Hill campground (DOC)
White Horse Hill campground, Mount Cook NP

White Horse Hill campground

Cost
$20 per night

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet

What we thought
Fantastic location in the foothills of Mount Cook. The awesome Hooker Valley Track leads directly off the campsite, too. You need to get there early though if you want to bag a site with the better views.

Website

 

 

LAKE TEKAPO

Lake McGregor campground
Lake McGregor campground, nr Lake Tekapo

Lake McGregor campground

Cost
$10 per night

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet, cold showers

What we thought
The campsite itself is a bit of a car park but the serene, tiny lake that it sits on lifts it to another level. You can circumnavigate the lake in around 45 minutes on foot – and it’s a gorgeous walk at dusk.

Lake Tekapo and Mount John are a short drive away.

 

LAKE OHAU

Round Bush Reserve (DOC)
Round Bush Reserve, Lake Ohau

Round Bush Reserve

Cost
Free

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet

What we thought
A simply stunning, and remote location. We managed to find a pitch with direct access to the pebbly beach, too. And, unbelievably it was free of charge.

Highly recommended.

PURAKAUNUI BAY, THE CATLINS

Purakaunui Bay campground (DOC)
Purakaunui Bay, The Catlins

Purakaunui Bay campground

Cost
$12

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet

What we thought
Most travellers camp near the beach but we decided to take the track beyond and up the hill, leading to a superb cliff-side setting. With great views of the beach and cliffs, this was great value for money.

Website

 

TE ANAU-MILFORD HIGHWAY

Mackay Creek campground (DOC)
Mackay Creek campground, Te Anau-Milford Highway

Mackay Creek campground

Cost
$12

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet

What we thought
Perfectly placed for an early morning drive into Milford Sound, the site looked out onto magnificent scenery of its own.

Website

MOKE LAKE, QUEENSTOWN

Moke Lake campground (DOC)
Moke Lake campground, Queenstown

Moke Lake campground

Cost
$20 p/n

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet

What we thought
A welcome respite from the hustle-bustle of Queenstown this is a quite site beside the lovely Moke Lake. There’s also a two-hour walk that circumnavigates the lake and leads directly from the campground. Special mention for the camp host, who calls himself “The Bear”. Looking something like a long-lost drummer from ZZ Top, he’s certainly a character.

Website

TITIRANGI, PELORUS SOUND

Titirangi Farm Campground
Titirangi Farm campground, Pelorus Sound

Titirangi Farm campground

Cost
$10 p/n

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet, hot showers

What we thought
Fantastic value, sublime location – possibly our favourite campsite of the whole trip. It’s a long, windy gravel road to get there but when the weather’s good it’s oh so worth it.

 

MOKINHINUI

Gentle Annie Seaside Camping Ground
Gentle Annie Seaside Camping Ground, Mokinihui

Gentle Annie Seaside Camping Ground

Cost
$20 p/n

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet, hot showers, kitchen, lounge, wifi

What we thought
The place just seems to have about everything you’d need from a campsite – including fast wifi (a real change for New Zealand). The grounds and the individual sites themselves are large and well-kept, too .

From here you can explore the immediate area or head north to the remote Oparara Basin.

Website

KOHAIHAI, KAHURANGI NATIONAL PARK

Kohaihai Campground (DOC)
Kohaihai campground, Kurangi NP

Kohaihai campground

Cost
$12 p/n

What that included
Unpowered site, toilet

What we thought
Great location on one of the best beaches we saw in New Zealand. Perfectly placed for exploring the Oparara Basin and the Heaphy Track.

The only downside was the ever-present plague of sandflies, although we were able to light a campfire which did keep them at bay for a while.

Website

IMAGES OF NEW ZEALAND

TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK

You really need a dry, clear day but if the weather gods are on your side this is the best one-day walk in New Zealand.
Read more at The Amazing Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

EMERALD LAKE

This stunning lake is arguably the high-point of the 19km long Tongariro Alpine Crossing trek. Perfect for a lunch-stop, too!
Read more at The Amazing Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

QUEEN CHARLOTTE SOUND

The highlight of the ferry crossing from the North to the South Island is the cruise up the stunning Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton. And the good news is that afterwards, you’ve got the rest of the Marlborough Sounds to discover!
Read more at Exploring New Zealand’s South Island – Marlborough and the north coast.

ROAD TO FRENCH PASS

And when you hit the road the Marlborough Sounds really deliver! This road to French Pass follows stunning scenery and provides you with the opportunity to kick up some dust in your wake…
Read more at Exploring New Zealand’s South Island – Marlborough and the north coast.

OUTER PELORUS SOUND

You really need a dry, clear day but if the weather gods are on your side this is the best one-day walk in New Zealand.
Read more at The Amazing Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

WHARARIKI BEACH

Epic, remote, wind-swept, and totally unsuitable for sunbathing. But don’t let that you put off. It’s unmissable!
Read more at Three New Zealand walks you won’t want to miss.

FAREWELL SPIT

Another incredible beach at the far northern tip of South Island. But prepare for the odd sandstorm as you attempt to walk against the incessant wind.

WAIRAU VALLEY

The drive on State Highway 63 between St Arnaud and Blenheim combines majestic mountain scenery with miles upon miles of vineyards.

MOUNT SUNDAY

Not only was Mount Sunday used as the location for Edoras in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, but from the summit, there are epic 360-degree views.
Read more at Exploring Mount Sunday – home of the Rohan.

TASMAN GLACIER LAKE

One of two glacier lake walks in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, this one is a fairly straightforward 30-minute climb from the car park. And it’s so worth the effort! You can also opt for a kayak tour of the glacier lake.
Read more at Exploring New Zealand’s South Island – the east coast and Mount Cook.

LAKE OHAU

We loved New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites. And this one, on the shore of gorgeous Lake Ohau, was a perfect illustration of why.

PURAKAUNUI FALLS

Accessed via an easy 15-minute walk through a moss-covered rainforest, Purakaunui Falls are certainly not the highest in New Zealand. But they’re one of the most beautiful.

MORE ON NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand’s superb official tourism website

Essential information on New Zealand’s Great Outdoors

Lots of tips and stunning photography

The indispensable guide for budget travellers

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