Best Car Rental in New Zealand: GO. – New Zealand
Motorhome South Island New Zealand
Reviewed January 17, 2010
My partner and I decided to travel around the South Island of New Zealand over Xmas and New Year 2010 and, as we’d never motorhomed before, thought this was the best way to get around.
We hired the vehicle through an agent – New Zealand Motorhomes (.com) -and found them very good. The vehicle was through Freedom and was labeled ‘Tui’. We didn’t have any problems with the 2-3 berth vehicle and found it powerful enough to take on the mountainous/hilly/windy roads. Make sure you get the right size vehicle for your needs – ask a lot of questions, particularly if you have kids. We got the 2-3 berth because the 2 berths apparently don’t have a full size double bed.
I’m pretty tiny and my partner is average sized but he felt cramped in the back of the van. Next time, we probably would go for a vehicle that had a side sliding door. The motorhome was diesel which is about the same price as petrol here in Australia (NZ$1.20). Petrol in NZ was around NZ$1.70.
Everything was provided in the motorhome – we didn’t have to purchase anything except food.
I’d strongly suggest that, after picking up the vehicle, you drive only a short distance and get the van organised – that means do your grocery shopping, put things where you have easy access to them, store away everything you won’t need for a while, and I’d suggest if possible that you leave the bed always made – this made life very easy for us because if we felt like stopping and snoozing, we did or if we arrived late in a new town or area, we weren’t trying to make the bed late at night, tired and cranky. We also didn’t use the toilet, but we did the shower. (All this may be difficult if you have kids.)
When travelling in the South Island of New Zealand, there are a few things you need to know.
It’s cold most of the time so pack accordingly. You will absolutely get four seasons in one day with the weather highly unpredictable. I’d suggest that you check the New Zealand weather bureau for current temperatures before packing. The South Island gets strong Antarctic winds. (You might want to actually check an atlas so you refresh your mind as to where exactly New Zealand is – you might be surprised at just how close to the Antarctic area the South Island really is!)
The ocean water and river water in mid-summer was freezing – imagine what it would be like in winter! HOWEVER, on all activities that we pursued such as white water rafting, swimming with seals, etc, the wetsuits provided were fantastic and I didn’t feel cold in the body at all, but I’d suggest you buy a pair of gloves and wear them! My hands went blue! (Don’t let this put you off though, as we had a truly great time on all activities.)
All tourist activities are weather-dependent so you will find your itinerary never goes to plan. The New Zealand tourism industry has it absolutely right in this area – we had no problems getting refunds, or changing activity times, or in fact cancelling an activity if necessary. Most companies do not charge your credit card until the day of the activity.
Be courteous on the road and pull over if you have a vehicle or two behind you. The roads are usually one lane each way, with no shoulders, so drive carefully and remember there are local people driving around New Zealand as well.
Plan your itinerary based on driving an average of 80 km per hour. Don’t plan to drive any more than 400kms in a day – it’s very draining and really takes away from the experience.
I found New Zealanders easy to get along with, their sense of humour very dry (which I loved) and they were all very keen to make sure you had a good experience in their country. We didn’t experience any rude locals.
Also, during summer, the South Island has very long days, getting dark around 9.30pm. It was great as it enabled us to see and do much more.
Highlights of our trip
* Surprisingly, we had great fun on the Queenstown Luge – we are very competitive people and loved scooting down the mountain five times, trying to beat each other. Very much like go-karting. Try it! I was very surprised.
* Swimming with seals with Seal Swim Kaikoura – the seals were very active, coming right up to look in our masks; it wasn’t threatening at all, just very playful. The operator moved us four times to ensure we got the very best experience.
* White Water Rafting with Rangitatu Rafts – really great team who only go out once a day so you don’t feel part of a ’get in get out’ experience.
* Owen River Pub outside Murchison on the way to Moteuka – stumbled on this very small pub, fantastic meals, Asian influence, in the middle of nowhere.
* Nevis Arc – what can I say – worth every cent for the thrill! Did it twice!
* Queenstown Paragliding with GForce – beautiful day in Queenstown so views were fantastic during descent.
* Arthur’s Pass is just stunning.
* Onsen Hot Pools – go in winter when snow is around; don’t do candlelight in summer until after 10pm when it is dark; we did it at 9pm and it was daylight – but beautiful setting if you just want to relax.
* Segway-ing around Queenstown – this is a more sedate activity but lots of fun – Segway on Q.
* Colour of water at Lake Tekapo and other glacial waters – just stunning!
* Fox Glacier – stunning!
* Queenstown – yes, very touristy, but such a beautiful setting – I would love to return during ski season.
* Mussels in Havelock – these were absolutely top grade mussels but spoiled by the very basic flavouring. We asked for the Thai style and got loads of coconut milk with barely perceptible chilli, ginger etc.
* Air Milford – we had a great experience going out on a small plane where we all had windows – the view was fantastic. However, it was the busiest of days and on the way back, they piled us into a much bigger plane and my partner was furious not to have a view (he’s a photographer and wanted to take photos). When we complained via email, only asking for a refund of my partner’s return flight, we were told that all he had to do was move to a window seat (ummm, all seats were occupied) and were offered another flight over when we return. Yep – as if we can ever take that up!
* Shotover Jet Boat – this was great but not as exciting as I would have expected. They also put through a lot of people in one day. Not complaining about the service, location, boat, driver – all fine – just surprised that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.
Have a great trip to New Zealand – we did – and why not stop over in Australia while you’re there!
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Written by CREDIT