Auckland to Christchurch by Motorhome - A Dream Family Road Trip

My kids love motorhomes. Ever since touring the Far North in a Wilderness motorhome three years ago Bella and Oscar have kept an eagle eye out for Wilderness vans on the road. There are not many long drives where I don’t hear “There’s a Wilderness Dad”.So booking another adventure in was worth it just for Bella’s big smile when I broke the news we were going on another motorhome road trip. “What? In a Wilderness? Really? (cue dimples) Awesome Dad!”

The Plan

The plan was simple. Pick up our motorhome at Wilderness base in Auckland and then we’d tour south, catch the ferry and end up at their Christchurch base. Along the way we’d visit a few NZ Must Do’s we’d yet to tick off.

Outlander 4 motorhome parked next to the ocean

Our Motorhome

Motorhomes have evolved to a higher level in the last three years. The modern Outlander 4 was a veritable hotel on wheels and a huge step up from our last motorhome. Our permanently made-up double bed was surrounded by ample storage. Everything we took aboard had a home. The kids had a cool drop down bed. Being self-contained wasn’t just a statement to tick a box, the bathroom and shower were all very private, spacious and functional. And with the manual transmission she drove like a dream.

Wilderness Motorhome Outlander 4

Our First Night – On Top of the World

A quick reference to our Wildernessts Camping Directory and Scott Cook, pointed us in the direction of the North Island’s highest freedom camping spot – the Turoa Ski Fields car park. That sounded like the perfect adventure. By nightfall we were high above Ohakune enjoying our first motorhome dinner, on top of a snow-covered volcano. Plenty of heating inside meant we never felt the crisp subzero temperatures outside until we ventured out for a view of Mt Ruapehu’s peak first thing the next morning.

Campervan next to snowy mountain in North Island NZ

Our Home, Our Castle

After some fun in the snow at Turoa, we scanned the Wilderness app for a freedom camping spot close to Wellington. We felt the urge to wake up by the ocean. Castlepoint, found along the Wairarapa coast, looked like the perfect spot and it didn’t disappoint. We parked beside the beautiful lagoon formed by a fossil-rich limestone reef and as soon as the handbrake went on the kids were out the door exploring.  From our motorhome, we had an amazing view of both peaks of ‘The Castle’ - our oasis for the night.

View of one of the peaks at Castlepoint on the Wairarapa coast

Kids exploring Castlepoint Lagoon in North Island NZ

Our Capital, Our Heritage

Next stop, Wellington. The kids were super excited to get their first glimpse of our capital city. They spent hours marvelling at the exhibits in Te Papa, our national museum. We were amazed by the larger than life characters created by Weta Workshop for the Gallipoli exhibition. Of course, we had to carry on to The Weta Cave to check out where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films all came together.

Girl looking up at larger than life soldier sculpture in Te Papa

Another night, another freedom camping spot. A few minutes out of the city and we were on Wellington’s South Coast, overlooking the South Island. Owhiro Bay Marine Reserve is a magical little spot, and we found it with crystal clear water.  And another nice easy motorhome-cooked dinner - burgers!

Wilderness motorhome parked along Owhiro Bay, Wellington

Sailing on the InterIslander

Like every spot along the way, we left Wellington vowing to return again, and soon our motorhome was parked on the ferry that was sailing to Picton in the South Island. Using the Wilderness app again we found a lovely little campground a few minutes out of Picton called Waikawa Bay – offering a little bit of Queen Charlotte Bay magic.

Interislander ferry sailing with mountains in the background

Kaikoura Coast - The Seal Coast

“Oh my god, there’s a seal, there’s another one, and another one.” This continued as we drove along the Kaikoura coast. The pups even swim up inshore towards the Ohau Stream Waterfall. At times there can be 200 seal pups frolicking in the waterfall upriver, even the two we saw playing on the day we were there kept the kids enthralled.

Girl looking out towards Ohau Waterfall, Kaikoura coast

NZ fur seal sleeping on a rock in Kaikoura

Getting in Hot Water - Hamner Springs

The drive inland to Hamner Springs was jaw-droppingly beautiful. The blossom trees were in full bloom, spring lambs jumped around in the lush green grass and the sun lit up the snow-covered peaks of the Southern Alps. By the time it set over the Alps we were soaking in the magical hot pools of Hamner Springs. Pure bliss.

Children looking at Lake Tekapo, South Island

The Promised Land - Lake Pukaki

Our last two nights were spent on the shores of Lake Tekapo.  We made the pilgrimage to the turquoise shores of Lake Pukaki, sat in silence inside the Church of the Good Shepherd, stood in awe at Mount Cook and walked into the glacier fed waters of Tasman Lake. NZ Must Do’s for sure.

Carado Wilderness campervan parked in front of Lake Pukaki

And there it was, our dream road trip had come to an end. I pictured myself carrying on with a surfboard, dive gear and a few fishing rods on for another six months around New Zealand. Reality check, time to board Air NZ for the flight back home and back to the office.

Wilderness Motorhome parked by the blue Lake Pukaki, South Island

Highlights

Reflecting on our road trip, the three of us all came to the same conclusion as to a trip highlight, well, sort of. It was tied between Castlepoint in the North Island and Lake Pukaki in the South Island. Both entirely different, but equally captivating landscapes. Oscar had other thoughts - the Superbowl slide at Hamner Springs was definitely his highlight of our trip.

Camper on the way to Mount Cook, NZ

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