When my castmate and friend, Gabriel Macht, suggested that I camper van through New Zealand, I paused ever so slightly (thinking “Could I campervan? Should I campervan? Am I a campervanning girl?”) before saying yes. Which quickly evolved into a resounding yes. This would be an ode to the road trips I took with my dad, the years of being a girl scout under the helm of my mom as troop leader, and my gravitational pull towards what is said to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Turns out it really is. With a landscape that ranges from stunning lakes, welcoming wine country, glaciers, forest, farmland and beaches, New Zealand is undoubtedly spectacular.
With ten days camper-vanning through the South Island, and a 4 day side trip to the magical island of Waiheke off the coast of the North Island, I share with you my love letter to all things Kiwi.
A stunning place to arrive, filled with endless adventure and standout restaurants such as Botswana Butcher and Vudu Restaurant and Larder. This was purely the starting point for the RV adventure, but in one day I relished the kindness of the people and the beauty of the land.
Less touristy, and equally as beautiful as Queenstown is Lake Wanaka, where I delved in to some fly fishing, and tucked in to see a film at Cinema Paradiso (a precious and quirky little theater that serves fresh baked cookies for you to enjoy while seated on a hodge podge of sofas). A gem of a town where you quickly settle in and feel like a local.
Franz Josef Glacier & Seal Colony
Along the northern coast of the South island, you’ll want to sign up for a hike of Franz Josef glacier. Clamp some crampons onto your shoes and take in one of the most exceptional glaciers in the world – The Māori name for the glacier is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere (‘The tears of Hinehukatere’). According to Māori legend, Hinehukatere persuaded her lover to climb the mountain with her. Being a less experienced climber, he fell to his death, and the glacier was formed by the endless tears of Hinehukatere. Māori myth aside, the hike is adapted for all levels, and for those looking to take it all in from the top, helicopter flights are readily available. Once you’ve finished your hike, continue up the photo worthy coastline to seal colonies, where you see handsome fellas like these within arms’ reach.
This region was a definite win for me, with their beautiful wineries (Hans Herzog & Kim Crawford were standouts), and proximity to Havvelock, home of the green lip mussels, which are (I kid you not), as big as your hand. Cozy up to a local winery, sipping Sauvignon Blanc, and then head back to any number of local Havvelock restaurants for a bowl of mussels and fresh baked bread. A respite from the constant adventure of the road trip, and nice way to settle into bucolic bliss.
Kaikoura & Akaroa
When given the chance to swim in the open sea with pods of hundreds of dolphins, don’t be scared. Just say yes. It is magical and other worldly, and you become acutely aware of how intuitive, engaging, and playful these beautiful creatures are. It was an unforgettable experience. Further down the Southern coast, you’ll find the small French town of Akaroa, which greets you with its beautiful seaside charm, cobblestone streets, and spots like Ma Maison to indulge in a cassoulet and bottle of their house plonk.
After ten days in a campervan, maybe you’ll want to end your trip with something a bit more spacious, as I did. Just a quick flight from Christchurch into Auckland, and a 30 minute ferry ride to the island of Waiheke, and you find yourself in a sleepy little beach island, peppered with wineries, quaint shops, and the nicest people you’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. The standout was Mudbrick Winery. Rent a “bach” (vacation home) on the beach, as I did, and run out to the sea for a swim. If you’re as lucky as I was you will sink your hands in the sand to skip stones, and realize what you’re holding are live clams. My inadvertent catch of the day was quickly cooked into linguine with fresh parsley and white wine sauce for a perfect farewell dinner to beautiful New Zealand.