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New Zealand is the ideal country for a campervan vacation, and it's long been a popular holiday option for Kiwis and visitors alike. The country is blessed with a diverse topography, from the North Island's sub-tropical beaches and prehistoric fern forests, to the South Island's alpine peaks and glaciers. And it's small enough that you can hit most of the major hotspots with ease.


There are nearly as many campervan rental companies as there are campgrounds to park in. The most popular van model is the Toyota Hiace, good for two to four people and with convertible layouts for day and night. The kitchen space is fitted with a gas stove, sink, microwave, and small fridge. Companies such as Maui, Britz, and Apollo all have the Hiace on offer, as well as larger motorhomes, which are usually equipped with chemical toilets and showers.


Jucy Rentals offers its trademark purple and green "Cabana" van, with double bed and a kitchen/prep space accessible through the rear door, and Escape Rentals stands out from the crowd with its eye-catching fleet of 200 individually painted vans.

Spaceship Rentals specializes in what it calls the "Swiss army knife of campers," compact and efficiently designed vehicles with collapsible rear and side awnings. For something a little more old-school, Classic Campers hires out the retro VW Kombi camper model, with custom and updated features.


New Zealand has a vast network of campgrounds, ranging from full-service sites to remote grassy areas with rudimentary toilet facilities (or, sometimes, none at all).

Holiday parks are fully serviced operations with powered and unpowered campervan spots, tent sites, plus a few small cabins. You'll typically find a communal kitchen, BBQ, laundry, tv/game room, and sitting area. Sometimes there's a pool, tennis court, playground, and/or small shop for absolute essentials (like canned peaches!). There are also restrooms and showers on the grounds. In many parks, you can access the local wi-fi from within your van, for a fee.

Holiday Parks Association lists over 300 campgrounds throughout the country, with places like Cosy Cottage Thermal Kiwi Holiday Park in Rotorua, which keeps you close to the region's geothermal action and local Maori culture.

Top 10 Holiday Parks runs 49 sites, which are popular with families, as they usually have a playground, pool, and other hotel-style amenities. Its campground in Russell, in the far northern Bay of Islands, is a prime Top 10 location, close to both the town's charming historic center and the region's stunning beaches.

For more rugged overnight options, New Zealand's Department of Conservation runs its own list of 250 campgrounds. Though many offer minimal services, you'll be rewarded with gorgeous views, more breathing space, and thoroughly reasonable fees. (Sometimes there's no charge.) Try the DOC's Moke Lake campground, a scenic South Island spot; but get ready to set up camp in an unpowered site (no electricity hookup), with only toilets and sinks.

The DOC is also a great place to look for "freedom camping" spots. Free camping does not mean you can set up on any patch of land you find. Much of it is privately owned, and local councils have strict regulations to protect their land from misuse. In addition to the DOC site, the Camping Our Way website has regional information on freedom camping spots. Check out Monkey Island in Orepuki, South Island, a gorgeous, out-of-the-way site. Though it holds 6-10 spots, you may just have it all to yourself. And it's free! Unless you violate local bylaws. Don't do that.


Rental companies outfit each van with nearly everything you'll need: sheets, blankets, pillows, plates, cups, cutlery, and utensils—including corkscrew. You will be drinking a lot of good wine. For extra fees, you can rent lawn chairs, snow chains, a picnic table, GPS, first aid kit, even bicycles.

And with the limited space you'll have, it's best to pack light. In addition to your personal vacation essentials, don't forget flashlights, water bottles, a Swiss army knife, travel-size games like Scrabble and chess, lots of socks, and some quick-drying clothes.

As for stocking up on food, between the van's fridge, small stovetop, and BBQ spots at most sites, you can prepare simple feasts every day: quick pasta dishes, salads, soups, fresh fruit, sandwiches, grillables like sausages, burgers, or veggie patties. Basically anything except maybe that new tagine recipe you've been dying to try out. For convenient local grocery shopping, look for Countdown, New Zealand's largest grocery chain, and the smaller but ubiquitous Four Square.

Alison Burke Griffiths is a Sydney- and US-based writer and editor. You can email her at