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Travel Reviews


New Zealand: A Caravan Experience

New Zealand is a haven for scenery and wine lovers who enjoy the RV (or "caravan") experience.

Americans call road travel by recreational vehicle "RVing." New Zealanders ("Kiwis") call it "caravanning." Hiring a caravan in New Zealand is more popular than in the U.S., where most RVers own their vehicles, and renting is not too common. But in New Zealand (NZ), tourists find hiring a caravan as easy as renting a car. Caravan parks are everywhere and ubiquitous: they are an inexpensive way to see the gorgeous scenery and the numerous wine regions from the North Island to the South Island. And for those who are into outdoor adventures, caravans are nearly ideal – especially in cooler weather.

Click on Flash slide controls to manually move through slides. A static slideshow of all photography can be found HERE.

Imagine a day like this one: Cooked breakfast in the caravan, with panoramic views of the famed Tongariro volcanoes Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. A mid-morning hike to get spectacular shots of the local topology and emerald-tinged alpine lakes. A drive to the next wine region on the list – Hawkes Bay, with ever-changing scenery en-route. Lunch at a local winery. Wine tastings at five other wineries, all with outstanding offerings. Check-in at a caravan park on the beach. A late afternoon walk on the beach. A relaxing glass of local wine in the caravan while cooking a gourmet dinner of pan-seared NZ scallops, together with beach-bluff views and sounds of the Pacific. To top it all, freshly sliced local golden kiwis drizzled with Rotorua honey, and a nod off into dreams of what the next day will bring – warmth of the caravan.

Our travelogue takes place in the NZ springtime, late October and the majority of November. There are advantages to traveling at this time – it is before the high season, so there is no requirement to make advance reservations at caravan parks that tend to fill up fast once the late spring-early summer season begins. Spontaneity of schedule and a pick of caravan spots are best achieved when not having to meet a paid reservation. If you and your travel partner don’t feel like moving on to the next destination until after you take another day cruise in the sounds – then so be it. In the NZ spring, photographers will appreciate the greenery mixed with leftover mountain snow in their shots. A map of our caravan path over the four-week period is on Page 15 of the review.

Day 1-4

We landed in Auckland, on the North Island (NI), on October 22. Caravan hire is easiest in the major cities, such as Auckland or Christchurch on the South Island (SI). Many travelers choose to pick up at one city and drop off at another. Our plan involved seeing both islands over four weeks and flying out of Christchurch. Auckland deserves at least a few days of sightseeing. We stayed in a downtown hotel near the harbor in Auckland, taking in self-guided walking tours of the city and dining at excellent restaurants. Several hotels have perched harbor or city views.

Auckland Skyline At night, the Auckland skyline lights up in festive color, marked by the famous Sky Tower, a structure similar to Seattle’s Space Needle. Unusually inclement spring weather brought rain and clouds during our stay – so a harbor sailing cruise was out and photography was limited. But we did take in two musts: a long lunch at the rotating restaurant atop the Sky Tower, and a half-day guided excursion to the local wine country ("Kumeu - Northwest Auckland"). The wine tour company we chose (there are several) was a one-man shop run by independent NZ wine writer Phil Parker (no relation to Robert). Phil not only bestowed us personal attention, as we were his only tourists that day, but he gave us a deal on his recently published NZ wine guide, The Mad Keen Wine Buff’s Road Trip. (Educational and entertaining throughout our trip!) Phil took us to see some of the countryside and west coastal area (Kumeu and Huapai to Muriwai). Kumeu and Huapei feature such notable NZ winery establishments as Soljans Estate and Nobilo, the second largest winemaker in NZ. Muriwai is a marvel for its black volcanic sand beaches, which are quite common on NZ’s west coastal areas. The Sky Tower restaurant offers 360-degree views of the harbor and inland expanse, and with exceptional food and wine, we allowed for several relaxing, rotating hours. Food choices at top Auckland restaurants run the gamut, from Asian-inspired fusion cuisine, to NZ lamb and beef. Wines from most regions are available to try; we especially enjoyed a locally produced Pinotage with grapes from Gisborne (NI), and a Pinot Noir from Central Otago on the SI. Auckland Photography.

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