Top tips for winter campervan travel in New Zealand | Apollo NZ
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Northland & Bay of Islands

Located at the northern tip of New Zealand's North Island, Northland is a land of contrasts, with ancient kauri forests, pristine beaches, and charming coastal towns. This region is not only the birthplace of the nation, with significant historical sites like the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, but it also boasts some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the country, including the famous Bay of Islands.

Northland's climate, known for being subtropical, means warm, humid summers and mild winters, making it a perfect destination year-round. The Northland weather encourages outdoor activities and exploration, whether you're soaking up the sun on the golden sands of Paihia, sailing through the turquoise waters of the Bay of Islands, or driving up to the iconic lighthouse at Cape Reinga.

Travelling by campervan offers the freedom to explore Northland's diverse attractions at your own pace. From the historic charm of Kerikeri to the Tutukaka Coast, known for its world-class diving spots, there’s something for everyone. Take your pick of great Northland holiday parks and campgrounds along the way, ensuring comfort and convenience as you discover the stunning landscapes of this captivating region. Whether you’re interested in Māori culture, keen on adventure sports, or simply in need of a peaceful retreat amidst stunning natural beauty, Northland provides an unforgettable backdrop for a memorable campervan journey.

 

Why explore Northland & Bay of Islands by campervan

Exploring Northland by campervan is the ideal way to truly connect with the region's abundant natural beauty and rich history. With the freedom of the open road, you can navigate the diverse landscapes at your leisure. Start your day with a sunrise at Paihia, have lunch in an ancient kauri forest, and end with a sunset at Ninety Mile Beach. 

The ability to spontaneously choose your destinations each day, without the need to stick to a fixed itinerary or check-in times, means you can immerse yourself fully in whatever captures your interest. Travelling by campervan not only offers all the comforts of home, including your kitchen and bed but also supports a self-sufficient way to travel. This is a big plus in Northland, where you might want to spend several days exploring more remote areas. Plus, having your own facilities means you're never too far from a hot meal or a comfortable night's sleep, no matter where your adventures in Northland take you.

 

Things to do in Northland & Bay of Islands

You certainly won’t be short of things to do in Northland and the Bay of Islands. This popular region is bursting with activities that cater to every interest and age group. Discover Kerikeri’s historic sites, including the oldest stone building in New Zealand. Relax in the laidback setting of Russell, a charming town with a rich history. Adventure seekers can enjoy kayaking along the coast or exploring the underwater world at Poor Knights Islands. For a more leisurely pace, indulge in wine tasting at local vineyards or simply unwind on the pristine beaches of the Bay of Islands. Every corner of Northland promises memorable experiences for all.

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Apollo Campervan branches

Auckland

Departing from Apollo Auckland, you’re perfectly positioned for a half-day drive to Northland & the Bay of Islands. This route ensures a seamless blend of scenic beauty and local culture, culminating in the stunning landscapes of Northland.

Christchurch

The drive from Apollo Christchurch to Northland & the Bay of Islands sets you up for a scenic multi-day journey across the South Island, including the picturesque ferry crossing at the Cook Strait, and into the North Island. 

Queenstown

Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore as much of New Zealand as possible? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and take your time heading northward over an epic 10-14 days taking in some of the great southern highlights along the way. 

Auckland City Skyline

Auckland

New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.

 

Christchurch City, New Zealand

Christchurch

 One of the world’s most unique destinations.

 

Queenstown

Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.

 

Helpful tips for visiting Northland & the Bay of Islands

 

Climate and seasons in Northland & the Bay of Islands

Northland and the Bay of Islands are renowned for their mild, subtropical climate, making them inviting destinations throughout the year. The warm Northland weather is perfect for enjoying the region's stunning coastal areas and rich cultural heritage.

  • Summer (December to February) in Northland are warm and humid, with temperatures usually ranging from 22°C to 26°C. This season is ideal for exploring the beautiful beaches, engaging in water sports, or simply enjoying the vibrant outdoor lifestyle with alfresco dining along the waterfront. Summer is also a popular time for tourists, so expect a lively atmosphere, especially in beach towns.

  • Autumn (March to May) sees slightly cooler temperatures and less humidity, making it a perfect time for hiking and outdoor activities without the intense heat of summer. The scenery remains lush, and the less crowded attractions allow for a more relaxed exploration of the region.

  • Winter (June to August) brings cooler weather, with daytime temperatures typically between 15°C and 18°C. The cooler days are ideal for visiting historical sites and museums or enjoying some of Northland’s renowned cultural festivals. Winter in Northland is generally mild, allowing for year-round outdoor activities.

  • Spring (September to November) revitalises the region with early blooms and warmer weather, gradually heating up towards summer. This is an excellent time to witness the vibrant flora and fauna as the landscapes burst into life, making it ideal for photography and nature walks.

 

 

 

What to pack?

Preparing for your campervan road trip in Northland and the Bay of Islands means packing smartly to fully enjoy the region's mild, subtropical climate and rich outdoor and cultural offerings. From sunbathing on pristine beaches to exploring historic sites and sailing in the bay, here’s what to bring:

  • Outdoor gear: The diverse environments, from the sandy beaches of the Bay of Islands to the forested walks of Cape Reinga, call for versatile outdoor apparel. Opt for lightweight, breathable clothing that will keep you comfortable during the warm days, and don’t forget a few layers for cooler evenings — perfect for cosy nights under the stars. Durable walking shoes are essential, whether you're planning to trek through the forests or stroll around the historic towns.

  • Campervan add-ons: Enhancing your campervan setup can significantly improve your travel experience. Consider packing a portable barbecue for enjoyable seaside grills. You may also like to hire extra camping chairs and a table when you book your Apollo campervan to create a comfortable outdoor living space wherever you park. These additions are perfect for relaxing after a day of adventure or for enjoying a meal with a view.

  • Sun protection: The Northland and Bay of Islands region enjoy plenty of sunshine, making thorough sun protection crucial. Include a high-SPF sunscreen, UV-protection sunglasses, and a broad-brimmed hat in your packing list. This will ensure you can safely indulge in the outdoor activities that the region is famous for, from kayaking across clear waters to lounging on the beach.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

 

 

Attractions and day trips in Northland

 

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are a must-visit for anyone interested in New Zealand's history. As the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, it offers a deep dive into the nation's past through engaging exhibits, guided tours, and cultural performances. The beautifully maintained grounds overlooking the Bay of Islands also provide a peaceful setting to reflect on New Zealand's foundational document.

Paihia

Paihia is the vibrant heart of the Bay of Islands, known for its lively waterfront filled with cafes, shops, and galleries. It's the perfect base for exploring the surrounding islands by ferry or enjoying water sports like kayaking and parasailing. The town's relaxed atmosphere and scenic beauty make it a favourite spot for both locals and tourists.

Russell

Once known as a rowdy 19th-century whaling port, Russell has transformed into a charming seaside town. It's rich with historic buildings like New Zealand’s oldest church, and its quaint streets, waterfront promenades, and excellent restaurants offer a picturesque step back in time.

Cape Reinga

At the northern tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga offers breathtaking views where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. This spiritually significant site for Māori is accessible via a scenic drive, with opportunities to see the iconic lighthouse and the famous pohutukawa tree that marks the 'leaping-off' point of spirits into the afterlife.

Ninety Mile Beach

Despite its name, Ninety Mile Beach is actually about 55 miles long and serves as one of the country’s most stunning natural highways. It’s perfect for a day of adventure, offering activities like sandboarding down massive dunes or just enjoying a leisurely drive along its vast, sandy stretch.

Kerikeri

Kerikeri is known for its fertile soils and beautiful orchards, but it's also rich in history. Highlights include the Stone Store and Kemp House, the oldest stone and wood buildings in New Zealand. The town also hosts vibrant markets and has a thriving arts scene, making it a delightful destination for culture and cuisine.

Mangonui

Mangonui is primarily known for its historic waterfront lined with heritage buildings that now house charming cafes and shops. This small fishing village is famous for its fish and chips, offering fresh seafood with a view. It’s an ideal spot for a relaxed day soaking up local flavours and sea breezes.

Whangarei

Whangarei, the northernmost city in New Zealand, offers a mix of cultural and natural attractions, including the acclaimed Whangarei Falls and the Town Basin marina filled with galleries and cafes. It's a great starting point for trips to the nearby beaches and lush native forests.

Tutukaka

Known as the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands, Tutukaka offers some of New Zealand’s best diving and snorkelling experiences. The marine reserve's clear waters are teeming with colourful sea life and are perfect for underwater adventures. Above water, Tutukaka’s coast is dotted with secluded bays and pristine beaches to explore.

 

Where to stay in Northland & The Bay of Islands with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Northland & the Bay of Islands, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:

Northland

Bay of Islands

 

 

Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Top tips for winter campervan travel in New Zealand.

Heading out on a winter road trip in New Zealand in a campervan is an experience like no other. The country's stunning vistas take on a whole new character, offering adventures that are both unique and exhilarating. 

In this handy guide, we'll take you through some essential tips for making your New Zealand winter road trip not just comfortable but truly unforgettable. 

From the must-have items for your campervan checklist to the best winter destinations in NZ, we've got you covered. Whether you're planning a NZ ski holiday or seeking the best places to visit in winter NZ, your journey is about to get a lot more exciting. So, grab a cuppa, and let's take a look at how to make your camper hire adventure the highlight of your winter.

 

Why you should take a winter campervan trip in New Zealand

Taking a winter road trip in NZ in an Apollo campervan is an invitation to witness a side of New Zealand that not everyone gets to see. As the cooler months roll in, the landscapes undergo a magical transformation, presenting a spectacle that's both quiet and majestic. 

Here's why a winter journey through New Zealand should be on your radar:

  • New Zealand in winter reveals a landscape that's utterly breathtaking. The snow-capped mountains, frosty mornings, and crisp air bring out a different kind of beauty. It all adds up to a more intimate and reflective travel experience. It's a time when the country's natural wonders feel like they're there just for you.

  • The drop in tourist numbers is a significant bonus. Make the most of the freedom to explore iconic spots without the usual hustle and bustle. The roads are less crowded, making your drive through New Zealand's scenic routes more relaxed and enjoyable. It's the perfect setting for those who prefer a more laid-back holiday, with plenty of opportunities to take in the views at your own pace.

  • For the thrill-seekers and adventure lovers, winter in New Zealand is a playground. The season is synonymous with exhilarating activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and even glacier hiking. Resorts like Queenstown and Wānaka become bustling hubs for winter sports, offering some of the best slopes in the Southern Hemisphere. Whether you're an experienced skier or trying it for the first time, the New Zealand skiing holiday experience is unmatched.

 

Our top 10 tips for winter campervan travel in New Zealand

Venturing through New Zealand in a campervan during winter offers a unique blend of challenges and rewards. To help you navigate this chilly but charming season, here are our top tips for a safe and enjoyable journey.

 

Check the weather forecast

Staying updated on the weather is a must for any New Zealand road trip. Winter can bring sudden shifts in conditions, so it's wise to be prepared. Packing additional layers, blankets, and a hot water bottle will keep you cosy inside your camper. Being well-prepared allows you to embrace the stunning winter landscapes without the discomfort of the cold.

 

Drive cautiously

Navigating New Zealand's roads in winter requires a careful approach, especially when conditions turn icy. Lowering your speed and allowing more space for braking are good practices. 

Equipping your campervan with snow chains is important to help enhance traction and safety on snowy or icy roads. These can be hired with your Apollo campervan. It's also a good idea to get comfortable with using these chains before you hit the road. 

If your adventure includes the ski fields, remember that campervans may need to be parked at designated areas, as direct access via entry roads is often restricted from June to October. Additionally, be aware of specific locations where campervans might not be permitted during the winter months, and plan your route accordingly.

 

Choose the right campervan

When it's time to choose the best campervan for your winter road trip in NZ, it's all about matching your needs with the right set of wheels. Winter travel has its own set of demands, so here's how to make sure your campervan hire ticks all the boxes:

  • Storage for your gear: Winter trips often mean bringing along more stuff – think skis, snowboards, extra blankets, and all those warm layers. You'll want a campervan with plenty of storage space to keep everything organised and accessible. No one likes a cluttered living space, especially when it's your home on the road.

  • Self-contained comforts: There's a special kind of joy in having your own little bathroom and kitchen with you, especially when it's cold outside. An onboard shower and toilet not only make your winter travels more pleasant but are also essential for freedom camping. It's about having those home comforts, no matter where you park for the night.

  • Heating options: Different campervans can come with different heating systems – electric, gas, or diesel. Electric heaters will need a power hookup, which is fine for campsite stays but not ideal for off-grid adventures. Gas and diesel heaters can keep you warm anywhere, but it's good to know how they work and what they need. For example, diesel heaters are super-efficient and great for keeping the chill at bay, while gas heaters give you that cosy warmth without needing a power connection.

 

Stock up on essentials

Getting ready for a winter road trip in NZ means making sure you've got all the essentials packed in your campervan. It's not just about having enough snacks for the road (though we all know how important those are!), it's also about being prepared for anything the journey might throw at you. Here's a quick checklist to make sure you're all set:

  • Food and water: Stock up on enough food and water to last you a few days, just in case you find yourself in a remote spot or get held up by unexpected weather. Think non-perishable items that are easy to cook in your campervan kitchen.

  • Emergency supplies: A well-stocked first aid kit is a must, along with essentials like a flashlight, extra batteries, and a multi-tool. These can be lifesavers in unexpected situations.

  • Warmth and comfort: Extra layers of clothing, thermal wear, and waterproof outer layers will help keep you warm and dry, whether you're inside the campervan or out exploring. A good quality, warm sleeping bag is also a must-have for those frosty nights.

  • Navigation tools: While digital maps are great, having physical maps or pre-downloaded maps as backups can be a lifesaver, especially in remote areas where signals might be spotty. We recommend downloading the thl Roadtrip app before you begin your road trip. This handy app is packed full of everything you’ll need to prepare for and enjoy your campervan road trip. Download on the App Store or Google Play.  

  • Entertainment: Don't forget to pack some books, games, or even a portable speaker for those cosy evenings in. It's all about making your campervan feel like a home away from home.

 

Plan your route

Mapping out your journey is a crucial part of preparing for your winter road trip in NZ. The winter season can bring a few surprises, from road closures to unexpected weather changes, so it pays to be prepared. Here's how to ensure your route planning is on point:

  • Stay informed: Before you set off, check out the latest updates on road conditions, closures, and detours. Websites and local news channels are great resources for the most current information.

  • Backup plans: Having alternative routes in mind can save you a lot of hassle if you encounter any roadblocks or delays. It's always better to have a plan B (and even a plan C) just in case.

  • Local insights: Don't underestimate the value of local knowledge. Chatting with locals or other travellers can give you insights into the best routes and hidden gems that might not be on your map.

  • Flexible travel itinerary: While it's great to have a plan, being flexible can make your trip even more enjoyable. Sometimes, the best experiences come from those unplanned detours and spontaneous decisions.


Stay connected

Keeping in touch and ensuring you have a way to communicate is super important on your New Zealand road trip, especially when you're cruising around in your campervan. Here's how to stay connected, even when you're off the beaten path:

  • Power up: A fully charged cell phone is your lifeline. Pack a portable charger or power bank to keep your phone juiced up, especially on those long stretches between stops.

  • Share your plans: Let your friends or family know your travel itinerary. A quick message to share your daily plans or any changes can keep everyone at ease.

  • Regular check-ins: Especially if you're venturing into more remote areas with unreliable reception, make it a point to check in regularly. Find spots along your route where you can get a signal and touch base.

  • Emergency contacts: Have a list of emergency contacts, including local authorities and roadside assistance, saved in your phone. It's also a good idea to have them written down somewhere in your campervan, just in case.

 

Choose campsites wisely

Finding the right spot to park your campervan each night is a big part of the adventure. To make sure your nights are as comfy as your days are fun, here's what to look for in a winter campsite:

  • Creature comforts: After a day of exploring, there's nothing like a hot shower to warm up. Look for campsites with power hookups, hot showers, and maybe even laundry facilities to make your winter camping experience a bit more like home.

  • Winter availability: Not all campsites are open in the colder months, so it's a good idea to do a bit of research and planning ahead of time. Checking availability and booking your spots in advance can save you from the hassle of a last-minute scramble.

  • Strategic locations: Choosing campsites that are close to your planned activities or attractions can cut down on driving time and allow you to spend more time enjoying the sights and experiences.

  • Safety first: Especially in winter, make sure the campsites you choose are safe and well-maintained. A little research on reviews or asking for recommendations can go a long way.

 

Stay warm and dry

Staying snug and dry is key to enjoying your New Zealand winter road trip to the fullest. Here's how to keep the chill at bay and ensure your campervan remains a cosy retreat:

  • Layer up: Invest in some good-quality thermal clothing that'll keep you warm from the inside out. Topping these off with waterproof outer layers means you can face the elements without a shiver, whether you're out exploring or setting up camp.

  • Ventilation is vital: Keeping your campervan aired out might seem counterintuitive in the cold, but regular ventilation is crucial to prevent condensation and moisture buildup inside. A little fresh air circulating through can make the space more comfortable and prevent dampness from settling in.

 

Embrace winter activities

Getting stuck into some of the great winter activities that New Zealand offers can turn your campervan journey into an epic adventure. Here's how to make the most of the season:

  • Hit the slopes: Whether you're into skiing, snowboarding, or just a good old-fashioned snowball fight, New Zealand's winter wonderland is your playground. The country's renowned ski fields offer something for every level, from beginner to pro.

  • Scenic explorations: Don't miss out on the breathtaking winter trails. Whether it's a frosty morning walk or a guided tour, the landscapes are spectacular.

  • Warm-up: After a day in the cold, there's nothing like soaking in a soothing hot pool. It's the perfect way to relax and warm up.

  • Local flavours: Winter is also a great time to explore the local cuisine. Cosy up in cafes and restaurants and enjoy some hearty meals that'll warm you from the inside out. Even better, stock up on local produce and artisan goods and create some campervan cuisine. 

 

Be flexible and adaptable

Winter in New Zealand can be full of surprises, and a flexible approach to your campervan adventure can lead to some of the most memorable experiences. The weather might throw a curveball your way, or you might stumble upon a hidden gem that wasn't on your radar. Being prepared to adjust your plans on the fly allows you to embrace the unique spontaneity that winter travel offers. After all, it's the unexpected moments that often become the highlights of our travels.

 

Ready to explore New Zealand in a campervan this winter? 

A winter campervan road trip in New Zealand is simply unbeatable. And with a bit of smart planning – from selecting the ideal campervan to packing the right gear – it’s one you’ll never forget.

Feeling inspired to start planning your winter travel itinerary? Apollo Campervans has the perfect range of motorhomes and campervans to suit your needs. Book your cosy campervan online now and set off on a memorable trip through New Zealand's breathtaking winter scenery.

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