We Kiwi’s, we love our overseas travel. It’s pretty typical for young New Zealander’s to see more of foreign countries than their own.
I myself didn’t visit Queenstown until I was in my early twenties. I had lived in New Zealand for 22 years before I stood on the shores of Lake Wakitipu, or relished the magic of the Remarkables. I remember thinking to myself, how could I have lived in New Zealand my entire life and never visited Queenstown once?
The reason… because I knew Queenstown will always be there, and I, as a New Zealand citizen, will always be able to live in NZ. So exploring Queenstown can wait a while longer. I’d rather spend my time and money on exotic countries like Spain, Italy, America, Vietnam, Croatia etc. etc. etc.
But this mind-set has got to change. WE LIVE IN NEW ZEALAND PEOPLE. NEW. ZEALAND.
It’s the most beautiful corner of the world and we all know it. We skite about it. We brag about it (in our own Kiwi-non-congratulatory way). We love our country. So let’s see more of it.
During Winter 2016, my best friend and I jumped in an Escape campervan and toured Northland for nine days. Our camper was named Kiko and we were very fond of her. It was undoubtedly the best holiday I have had in my life and I would do it again in a heartbeat (if bestie didn’t move halfway across the world).
Here are my tips for how to travel, and appreciate, New Zealand as a Kiwi (especially if you are on a low budget)
Travel by campervan
First tip, ditch the hotels and motels and hostels and travel by campervan. It will be your home away from home. You will get to know every nook and cranny of that camper like it’s your own tushy, and you will love her like your favourite Aunt. She will look after you, keep you sheltered when it rains, keep you warm at night (although not too warm because you can’t expect her to do everything for you) and she will take you to places you have never been before.
Hiring a campervan for nine days over winter cost us roughly $45 NZD a day each (including insurance). This is so cheap! You do have to add in petrol and campground costs (Kiko wasn’t self-contained so we stayed at campgrounds every night) but overall it is still a super cheap trip, and certainly much cheaper than hotels and even Air BnB’s.
Having a campervan lets you step right into the cliché of taking the road less travelled. You’ll be able to explore back roads, and gravel roads, and one-way roads (hopefully the right-way).
Your campervan may break down but that only adds to the fun. On our second day, Kiko’s sliding door broke and just wouldn’t open. No matter how roughly or delicately we touched Kiko’s knobs, she just wouldn’t budge. But it didn’t ruin our trip, in fact it worked to our advantage. We now had a daily yoga routine which stretched our limbs as we contorted our bodies through the confined space of the front cab to reach the drivers seat (not so fun in the middle of the night when you ache with the need to pee, but still, it’s an adventure).
Camper life is #thelife.
Choose your travel partner wisely
This is very important. I cannot stress this tip enough. Choose to travel with someone you actually like. Do not travel with someone you don’t. It is that simple.
I like Emma. She is a great travel partner. She cannot read a map to save her life and is deathly afraid of chickens (refer to image above). However, she can cook an amazing vegan meal, is reasonably nice to look at and laughs at my jokes. She is a great travel partner.
In all seriousness though, travel with someone who has a similar travel style to you. If you like to be active and enjoy nature, choose a travel partner who has similar interests. This will eliminate a lot of unnecessary tension and stress, and an ordinary trip will turn into an epic adventure.
Don’t be scared to travel in winter
Travelling New Zealand in winter is madly underrated.
Yes, New Zealand often has four seasons in one day. And yes, New Zealand weather is unpredictable at best and a shit-show at worst.
But remember those fine, clear, blue-sky winter days? Those are real! They exist! And you can find them on holiday.
We travelled for nine days in mid-July, and you’ll never believe it but we had only one day of rainy weather. The sun was shining and our legs were out for those other eight days, we even went for a swim at Rarawa beach. A swim in the middle of winter? My nana would have a hernia if she heard!
It really was magical. We had the roads to ourselves, there was hardly anybody around. No traffic and no tourists. Sometimes we even had the campground to ourselves. Often you will also find the rates are cheaper for campsites which brings the overall cost of your trip down
Make some new friends
Be prepared for furry friend stories here. If you do not like furry friends, you should probably hit escape, close the browser and leave right now. If you are a decent human and enjoy the company of furry mammals, keep reading
Before I went on our campervan adventure, I thought I had enough friends. I was happy with my quality and quantity of friends. My quota for friends was full.
Shortly after beginning the trip things changed as I met this handsome fella. His name is Mr Goat. Mr Goat is a goat. Mr Goat eats the grass at the Opononi campground in Hokianga harbour. Mr Goat is my new friend.
Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to Mr Goat the next morning. We still correspond via postal letters (which is proving to be more difficult than I imagined as the letters I receive from Mr Goat are less ‘letters’ and more scraps of soggy chewed up paper. Yet, friendships are full of compromise and I know he means well).
I did make another furry friend later in our journey when the Universe kindly introduced us to Roger, the three legged cat of Baylys Beach Holiday Park.
Roger was our snuggle buddy during the only rainy day we had. He cuddled us and loved us and forced us to love him until his tongue popped out and he swiftly hobbled off on his three nimble legs to no doubt coax some other naïve humans to give him love.
The moral of these stories is to make new friends while travelling. There could be cuddles in it for you.
Act like a tourist
Last but not least, do not be afraid to act like a tourist. I love being a tourist and I especially love being a tourist in my own backyard.
As you travel around New Zealand, please oh please be humble and sit down like you’re Kendrick Lamar, take off your proud New Zealander hat and go and see those classic tourist spots because you will miss out if you don’t.
Hold on to your knickers kiddos because there’s about to be a lecture all up in here.
We’ve gotta stop being too proud to see our own country. It is not embarrassing to take a selfie on top of the sky tower. Hobbiton’s more than short people and hairy feet. Don’t hold back your nostrils as you sniff the stinky Rotorua air.
New Zealand is a tourist trap for a reason people, and we are missing it.
On our tour of Northland, we checked out Tane Mahuta (he’s a big guy), we absorbed ourselves in our country’s history at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and we cruised through the beautiful Bay of Islands – we even saw a pod of whales.
It is absolutely worth it to pretend you’re a tourist for a while, even funnier if you don your best foreign accent (Irish is my personal favourite). Be prepared to experience some serious FOMO if you don’t.
Kiwi’s have gotta see more of New Zealand. The more we see, the more ammunition we have for when we are bragging and boasting and skiting about our corner of the world to foreigners.
So next time you find yourself daydreaming about that exotic island paradise, why not switch the channel to good ole NZ. Our country is pretty great.