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New Zealand - Favorite Winter RV Travel Destination


There I was, sitting in my office, gazing through the window at the falling snow, daydreaming of warmer days. Ever so slowly, an idea began to take form. Why not leave the cold, dreary winter behind, and head for warmer climes? But where would I go?

The southern hemisphere seemed a good option and is anyway a favorite winter travel destination of mine. Being something of a smart cookie, I immediately realized that I had to narrow the choice down a bit, or I might have a problem getting an airplane ticket. A quick Internet airline check (I find that Travelocity has great last minute deals, by the way) and I reached a brilliant decision . . .

HOKITIKA RIVER, South Island, New Zealand


I called my wife and told her to pack us a couple of bags and to meet me at the airport. She's used to my antics, but this seemed a bit more spontaneous than usual.

"Where are we going" she asked."To the jewel of the South Pacific" was my reply. No need to elaborate. Everybody knows that New Zealand is the jewel of the South Pacific. It is also a great RV travel destination, and a pretty exotic destination at that. And summer officially starts on 1st December!

Just about 15 hours later, our Singapore Airlines 747 touched down in Christchurch, situated on northern South Island, a beautiful garden city seemingly transported directly from England.

Customs was a breeze (make sure you don't have any fruit or other foodstuffs with you or you're liable for a steep fine), and we headed directly to the Maui campervan (that's what they call RVs down here) depot. After a brief and friendly introduction to the vehicle and the city (New Zealanders are notoriously friendly) and a quick and delicious cappuccino in one of the city's vibrant cafes, we were ready to hit the road.

New Zealand is a land of contrasts. From modern, dynamic, sophisticated cities to pristine natural wonders, this is above all a land of tranquility and beauty.

Few places on earth rival the natural splendors of New Zealand. Packed into an area about the size of Great Britain or Colorado, the unpolluted air, the clear, pristine pools and streams, the natural wonders and the myriad of outdoor and sporting activities make it the ideal vacation destination. Especially at this time of year, as the cold December winter of North America and Europe become a distant memory in this (mostly) sun basked paradise of the southern hemisphere.

The majority of the New Zealand population is of English, Irish and Scottish descent, so the main spoken language in the country is English - although their accent may take a bit of getting used to. Approximately 15% of the population is of Polynesian descent, mainly originating from the Maori, who reached New Zealand about the year 800 AD Both English and Maori are official languages of New Zealand.

Formerly a British colony, the country became an independent dominion in 1907. Since the mid 1980s, New Zealand has been transformed from an agrarian economy dependent almost completely on the British market to a more industrialized, free market economy capable of competing globally.

New Zealand is a classic vacation destination for all tastes. From ultra- sophisticated, luxurious vacations to great backpacking holidays, and anything in-between, New Zealand has it all.

Based on their simplicity of style, casual elegance and unbeatable reliability, New Zealanders have mastered the art of meeting the varied demands of travelers, ensuring you nothing less than a wonderful vacation.

New Zealand has two international airports. The main airport is located in bustling Auckland, but we flew in on Singapore Airlines, landing in the delightful English-style city of Christchurch, on the South Island.

The two main islands that make up New Zealand are remarkably different, despite their close proximity.

The South Island's main geophysical feature is the Southern Alpine Mountain Range, that runs down the length of the Island. This range gives the South Island its diversity. The northern part of the South Island is the sunniest part of New Zealand, while the west is probably one of the wettest locations in the world. The east is very similar to the English countryside and the center of the island is mountainous and perennially snow capped.

The small city of Queenstown that lies close to the southern tip of South Island is New Zealand's second most popular tourist destination. This town is the main location for skiing and other typical New Zealand action adventures such as Bungee Jumping and Jet boating.

The city is also very close to the popular Milford and Routeburn hiking trails, as well as to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, two majestic fiords that offer absolutely stunning scenery - one of the main reasons that many people visit New Zealand, and definitely shouldn't be missed.

Only a short ferry ride separate North Island from South Island. North Island has a warmer climate and also all of the countries volcanoes. Most of the thermal activity, such as geysers, thermal rivers and boiling mud pools, are located on North Island as well.

New Zealand's North Island is characterized not only by the geothermal activities, but also by its many fine beaches, which only get better the further north you go. The regular rainfall and volcanic soil ensure that North Island is very green and lush. One of the North Island's highlights is the city of Napier, an entire town designed in the Art Deco architectural style of the 1920s and 30s. The city was destroyed in a severe earthquake in 1931, and completely rebuilt in the Art Deco style. Nowhere else in the world can you see such a variety of buildings in this classical style in such a concentrated area. Napier's Art Deco is unique, due to its Maori motifs and the buildings of Louis Hay, a renowned admirer of the great Frank Lloyd Wright.

Enhanced by palms and the angular Norfolk Island pines which are its trademark, and bounded by fertile fruit and grape growing plains, dramatic hills and the shores of the South Pacific, beautiful Napier is the center of the Hawke's Bay region.

No article on New Zealand can be complete without a few words describing its well known trademark - New Zealand sheep, which you see just about everywhere you go. New Zealand is home to some 45 million sheep, which outnumber the human population by a factor of 11 to 1. Considered the finest wool producer in the world, New Zealand's wool output is second only to that of Australia. But visitors to this wondrous, beautiful country be warned - two weeks just won't cut it - while the country is not much larger than the state of Colorado, if you want to justify your flight time and to visit both islands, you could it in a month, but six weeks is much better.

RVing in New Zealand

This South pacific island paradise is a RVer's dream destination. All your RVing needs are well catered for - take note, though, New Zealand follows the great British tradition (remember, independence was only in 1907, even though H.R.H. Elizabeth II is still head of state) and New Zealanders drive on the left hand side of the road. This can be a bit of a traumatic experience, but luckily it only takes a day or so of driving to get used to it.

There are many RV rental companies you can choose from (my favorite is Maui, with their all inclusive deals. They are also very good in Australia and South Africa), and camper parks are on the most part cheap, clean, pleasant and plentiful.

My Favorite Scenic Destinations

If you've decided to dedicate a month (or more) to a full scale tour of what is arguably the most beautiful country in the world, here are my favorite, must visit and highly recommended highlights. I visited the places on this list during the month of my visit, and they all meet certain criteria: breathtaking scenery, pleasant climate and, as is usual for New Zealand, pristine environment. 6 weeks would have been better, of course, and we would have had a more leisurely trip, but if you like jaw-dropping scenic vistas, New Zealand is the place to visit. And be sure to check out my list of seven favorite spots.

1. Fiordland National Park

Situated in New Zealand's Southland region, Fiordland National Park is New Zealand's largest national park, and indeed one of the largest national parks in the world.

In a country abounding with natural, stunning scenic attractions, Fiordland is home to what is undoubtedly the cream of the crop. Situated near the popular tourist destination of Queenstown, a very convenient stopover point whether you're RVing or staying in a hotel or motel, Fiordland has a myriad of New Zealand's most stunning natural attractions: Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, two majestic fiords which must not be missed and can be viewed from the air or from the sea. Other scenic attractions include the famous Routeburn and Milford tracks - Milford is considered the finest walk in the world - the Sutherland Falls, one of thousands of stunning waterfalls in the park and Mitre Peak which rises a staggering 1 mile straight out of the ocean. Fiordland is one of the wettest places in the world. It is almost always rainy, even in summer. It is remarkably pleasant to hike the Milford and Routeburn tracks in the rain and on a fine day the landscape is absolutely breathtaking.

2. Abel Tasman National Park

Situated in the northwest corner of South Island, Abel Tasman is New Zealand's smallest national park. Named after Abel Janszoon Tasman, a 17th century Dutch seafarer, explorer and merchant, the park is renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, and world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track. It also has a mild climate and is a good place to visit at any time of the year. The Park is shrouded by lush rain forest vegetation, and the Manuka, a type of Tea Tree, is especially abundant..

3. Queenstown

Summer days in Queenstown (summer in New Zealand is officially from 1st December to 1st March) are long and can be as action packed or leisurely as you like. The midsummer sun rises as early as 5 AM, while dusk rolls in at about 10 PM. Situated to the south of South Island, Queenstown is more of a picturesque, old time mountain village than a city. The town offers many outdoor activities such as the New Zealand inventions of Bungee jumping and jet boating, as well as other action activities as white water rafting and skiing.

This city is the country's second most popular tourist destination, and is well worth a visit even if extreme sports are not really you're thing.

4. Rotorua

Situated in Central North Island, Rotorua is the heartland of New Zealand's Maori culture. Rotorua is also famous for its geothermal activity. The area contains many geothermal reserves such as Waimangu, Waiotapu and Whakarewarewa, all situated in beautiful natural surroundings. The reserves also boast great examples of geysers, boiling pools, hot springs and more. The area also host abundant lakes suitable for swimming and trekking and 4X4 trails.

5. Bay Of Islands

With 144 islands and bays, this subtropical region, located at the northwestern tip of North Island, is home one of the best maritime parks in New Zealand The Bay of Islands region has a bounty of marine life, including whales, penguins, dolphins and many more.

The region attracts visitors from around the world, including fishermen, golfers and marine enthusiasts as well as regular tourists who just want to enjoy the subtropical climate and beautiful beaches.

6. Mount Cook National Park

Mount Cook National Park is situated Canterbury region near the town of Twizel, in the center of South Island. Aoraki/Mount Cook village lies within the park. The area was formally named a national park in October 1953 and consists of reserves that were established as early as 1887 to protect the area's significant vegetation and landscape.

Basically a snow covered, rocky environment, the park has three of New Zealand's highest mountain peaks - Mt. Cook, Mt. Tasman and Mt. Sefton. The park is also home to the world's longest ski run, down Tasman Glacier, and many scenic walks and guided treks are available.

7. Westland National Park

Famous for its two unique glaciers, the Franz Joseph Glacier and Fox Glacier, Westland National Park's shares its eastern boundary with Mt Cook National Park.

Situated in the center of South Island on its West Coast, the park was created in 1960 to protect an area of high mountains and glaciers, and was then extended in 1982 with the lowlands and coastal areas of South Okarito and South Waikukupa.

An area of magnificent primeval vistas - snow-capped mountains, glaciers, forests, tussock grasslands, coast, lakes, rivers and wetlands, the park extends from the highest peaks of the southern alps to the remote beaches of wild West Coast.

The fantastic scenic landscape has been declared a World Heritage site, and is part of the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area.

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