New Zealand Summary


New Zealand
North Island
South Island
Christmas and New Year's


New Zealand has provided us with both highs and lows of our year off.  It's been a different sort of traveling than we were doing in Asia. In Asia, even the most mundane things were different and interesting. In New Zealand, the culture and scenery is very similar to Canada, so we were not filled with the same sense of awe as we traveled from one attraction to another. In Asia we felt like explorers, while in New Zealand we felt like tourists.

Having said that, both Sarah and I agree that New Zealand is a place where we would consider retiring to during Canadian winters. The climate is superb, the culture is familiar, the cost of living is reasonable, and the people are very friendly. I felt right at home in this very laid back country where walking in bare feet seems to be a national fashion trend - there are shoeless people of all ages in downtown streets, malls, and grocery stores. 

Like most western countries, having your own vehicle is mandatory as there is minimal public transportation. We split our time between camper van rental and car rental/ motel. Chloe preferred traveling in the camper van (because she could move around and stretch out while traveling), but I think all the rest of us preferred the car rental/ motel option.  There were a number of reasons for this: 

a) the camper van is slow. While distances are small in New Zealand, the camper van averaged between 50 and 70km/hr (hills, stops, and just generally being slow) turning short trips into an all day ordeal. We seemed to spend all of our time driving; 

b) The car rental/ motel gave us a greater freedom to have our own space - some of us could shop or sightsee in the car, while others relaxed or did homework in the motel room; and 

c) Cars were much cheaper. On average, we spent about $100NZ for motel and $30NZ for the car per night. The camper was $180NZ per day. It used to be that you could pull up almost anywhere for the night in a camper van. Now most beaches and car parks have 'no overnight camping' signs, so we have to stay at 'Holiday Parks' or campgrounds. This added another $30 to $40 per night to camper van charges because they charge per person.  

Incidentally, we would highly recommend Ace Tourist Rentals for car rental. They were significantly cheaper than other quotes, and very nice. We rented a little Toyota Corolla. It was squishy for 5 of us, but it has a large trunk for all our luggage. 

Another thing that worked out well was staying in Holiday Parks while traveling by car. Almost all Holiday Parks have inexpensive cabin rental that can be made even cheaper if you have your own bedding. One of the big advantages were the ready made friends, as most parks seemed to be swarming with kids. The cabin quality was more variable than hotels, but for the most part, the cabins were good. 

We stayed in New Zealand much longer than we had initially planned. We accepted a very nice offer from the Jamieson's in Tauranga to spend Christmas and New Year's with them, so we extended our visit. 

Where do you want to go from here?
North Island via motorhome (November 3 - 21, 2002)
South Island via car rental/ motels (November 21 - December 20, 2002)
Christmas and New Year's in Tauranga with the Jamieson's (December 20, 2001 - January 3, 2002)

If you want to do everything in chronological order, choose the North Island option first!