Last weekend we took the kids out of town to see family living on a farm south of Auckland. We were on the road for around three hours, and even though it’s currently ‘low season’ for tourists here in New Zealand, we spotted over 20 rental campervans and motorhomes.It seems that tourists are starting to cotton on to the fact that motorhome rental rates are lower and tourist attractions less popular in New Zealand in the cooler months!
Most of the motorhome drivers we saw were driving well, though a few were obviously being cautious and we saw a couple who were downright dangerous. Here are some tips for driving your motorhome in New Zealand, to ensure you keep yourself and others safe.
New Zealand motorhome driving tips
1. Keep left! The number one thing to remember when you’re driving your motorhome in NZ is that we drive on the left hand side of the road. If you’re not used to this, remind yourself (or get your backseat drivers to remind you!) constantly – it’s especially important to remember when you’re exiting a rest area or car park, or if there’s not much traffic around.
2. Size does matter. Always be aware of the size of your motorhome. Lots of motorhome damage occurs because the driver has forgotten about the size of their vehicle and thinks they’re in a car! It may sound ridiculous, but it’s so easy to do, particularly with modern motorhomes which drive just like a car. Be particularly careful around underground carparks or the low awnings of service stations. And look out for low hanging tree branches too – they can scrape the roof and sides of your motorhome.
3. Use your mirrors. Motorhomes are really easy to drive, and you will be amazed at how good the visibility is. Use the mirrors on both sides of the vehicle to help guide you and always be aware of what’s on either side, in front of and behind you.
4. Check behind you. Always, always check what’s behind you before you reverse (be especially vigilant if there are children around). If you’re not sure or visibility is poor, get someone outside the vehicle to guide you as you’re reversing. Many motorhomes have a reversing camera to help with this. If you have one in the vehicle, use it!
5. Look out for one lane bridges. One quirky thing about NZ roads is the ‘one lane bridges’ you’ll find particularly on narrow roads (such as the Coromandel coast road from Thames to Coromandel in the North Island). You will see a sign advising that you are approaching a one lane bridge. As the name suggests, the bridge only has one lane! Take notice of the arrow showing which direction must give way (yield). If you must give way, slow down or stop as you approach the bridge and check nothing’s coming the other way. If it’s clear, you can proceed slowly across the bridge.
6. Animal alert! New Zealand has plenty of animals that like to cross the road. Possums and rabbits are particularly common. Swerving to avoid (or hit!) them can be very dangerous. You’ll also find signs warning of various other creatures around New Zealand, including deer, wild horses and native birds such as takahe and kiwi. Many of our most precious creatures are nocturnal, so take care especially when driving in the dark.
7. Farmers share the road. As well as wild creatures, you will sometimes see livestock crossing the road in rural New Zealand. Farmers often have land on both sides of a road and they sometimes need to move their animals around. Take care driving around corners in the country – you may find your way blocked by hundreds of sheep or cows! Look for direction from the farmer, and if you’re not sure, pull over or stop and wait for the animals to pass. It’s a good opportunity to get some great photos to show the folks back home!