New Zealand Road Trip Route

Our two month campervan road trip of New Zealand is over and we had a great time. The New Zealand road trip route took us from Tauranga, North Island to Fiordland in the South and back. We drove over 6200km and saw countless beautiful sights.

Freedom camping near the beach in Hawkes Bay
Freedom camping near Napier, Hawkes Bay

Planning Our New Zealand Road Trip Route

Small as New Zealand is – equivalent to Colorado – there’s a lot to see and do. Before we hopped in the van, we didn’t have much of a plan besides seeing as much as we could. We bookmarked Lonely Planet, read people’s blogs, and used Google Maps to decide where to go and what to do.

Once we started driving, we only knew where we were going next. Then, as the days progressed, we booked two things weeks in advance: the Doubtful Sound overnight cruise, and the Kaikoura Coastal Walk. Everything else we booked a day or two in advance or last minute.

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Exploring New Zealand by Campervan

After more than five years of life aboard a sailboat, Brian and I are accustomed to living in a confined space. That’s probably why we adjusted pretty quickly to van life. We had fun exploring New Zealand by campervan. If you’re keen to do the same, read on for some tips and highlights.

Toyota Hiace campervan parked at beach campsite
Our van parked at the Kina Beach campsite on The Tasman

Buying a Campervan

It is remarkably easy to buy a campervan in New Zealand. Registering it was simple too – the seller gave us a couple of pieces of paper to take to the post office, we filled them out and got our new registration. Easy. Insurance isn’t even required here because they have limited liabilities. We got it just in case. Guess you can’t take the North Americans out of us even after five years away.

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Touring Around Hiva Oa

I learned recently through a podcast that Antarctica gets four times the number of visitors as The Marquesas Islands. The Marquesas are among the least visited places in the world, and we are so happy to be among the lucky few. It’s remote and difficult to get to: it took us a month, but intrepid visitors to this archipelago are in for a treat. We recently spent a week in Hiva Oa, the second biggest island in the Marquesas. With our friends on Pelican, we rented a car and spent some time touring around Hiva Oa.

About Hiva Oa

Near one of our favorite places, Tahuata, Hiva Oa offers less fun on the water, but has its charms. It’s 124 square miles, second only to Nuku Hiva, with over 2200 people.

The main anchorage is in a snug harbor with a dock full of fishing boats and dark muddy water. Called Atuona after the nearby town, this anchorage is great for provisioning and as a base for touring Hiva Oa.

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Driving in Bonaire

Although a relatively small island, Bonaire is worth taking the time to explore. I recommend renting a car or pickup truck as there is no public transit and it is too big and hot to walk or cycle. In our three months in Bonaire, we shared a pickup with friends from another boat. The truck was perfect on the rough roads and to transport dive tanks for shore diving. It’s not just the roads that make driving in Bonaire an interesting experience.

The Good Parts of Driving in Bonaire

Unlike other Caribbean islands, you don’t need to pay for a driver’s license in Bonaire. This is a plus because it saves you money and a trip to the police station. Seriously. In Grenada and Dominica you have to get a license at the police station to rent a car, and some places they sell it to you at the rental agent. In Bonaire, it’s much easier as there’s no license to buy!

Another plus about driving in Bonaire is the flat terrain. And the drivers are pretty polite. You don’t get honked at as much as back home. Plus, they drive on the same – right – side of the road just as we are used to back home. So for the most part, driving in Bonaire is a good experience. Here’s what makes it interesting.

Van driving in Bonaire
Our rental truck had room for scuba gear for 4 of us!
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Off Road Driving in Iceland

Our Road Trip

We got a camper van with 4 wheel drive for one important reason: to leave the ring road, Iceland’s main drag, for some adventures! Some of our most fun times included off road driving in Iceland.

Nothing against Iceland’s Ring Road: it takes you to the country’s most well-known spots, including waterfalls and hot springs. But. We want to go off-the-beaten path, to parks that are harder to get to. So we have a 4WD and we are using it!

Camper van with 4WD Iceland
Our campervan in Iceland

Off Road Driving in Iceland Video

This was us crossing a river yesterday. We had fun! I am not going to lie, we were a little bit hesitant at first, me more than Brian, but we made it through that river twice.

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