“Welcome to Noo Ziland,” the lovely Maori airport official welcomed us as we stepped off the plane into Kiwi Country. I was charmed.

Our time in New Zealand marked the nearing end of our world travels – three weeks in a camper van exploring the north and south islands. I am hopping with excitement to finally witness New Zealand’s beauty.

The idea of camping, however, has never fired me with much enthusiasm. On this trip, we discover I am a truly lousy camper.

Our first night on a campsite, I unplug the power of our neighbour’s camper van, plunging the family inside into darkness. Night two is, regrettably, even more shameful.

Returning to our van from the showers, I pull open the door and start to clamber into the wrong van. Of course, the owners are lying on the bed at eye level as I wrenched open the door. I mumble my apologies and hastily back away. Oops.

Hitting the open road 

I may be a crappy camper but I adore New Zealand and our time in the van. We can go where we want, when we want, for as long as we want – it’s heaven.

The nicest thing is spotting a beautiful lake or beach, pulling up and grabbing a spot of lunch al fresco, surrounded by the beauty of nature.

New Zealand’s north island is a delight of green, rolling countryside and wildflower-filled meadows. Tiny birds dart in and out of hedgerows like something from a Disney movie.

No two days are the same from the rugged beauty of Bay of Islands, mesmerising iridescent glowworm canopies in Waitomo and thermal springs in Rotorua.

“This is nothing. Just wait until you see the south island,” folks keep telling me. Turns out, they’re right. The north island is gorgeous, but wowzers, the south island is mind-blowing!

South island’s stunning scenery

Have you seen the show ‘West World’? The premise is an entire world, created solely as a playground for humans. This is how New Zealand’s south island makes me feel.

Each landscape is as impressive, and unbelievable, as a movie set. Every twist and turn of the road presents a new landscape – each more stunning and dramatic than the last.

From red rocky outcrops and volcanic terrain, to snow-capped mountains, glacier country and crystal clear turquoise lakes. Sometimes we turn a corner and I laugh out loud the view is so insane.

 Starry skies at Lake Tekapo

One of the trickiest things about sleeping in a van are bathroom visits in the middle of the night, necessitating a dark schlep across the campsite to the toilet block.

The first time I staggered out the van at 2am cursing my tiny bladder, I looked up to see thousands of stars twinkling brightly in the clear night’s sky. It took my breath away.

Between the lack of pollution and some scientific stuff I don’t understand, stargazing on south island is mind-blowing. I got a sore neck on those midnight bathroom-visits from peering upwards – just heavenly.

Stars over New Zealand’s Lake Tekapo

Our last night we stop at Tekapo Lake, dubbed New Zealand’s ‘bluest’. This is big talk as we have seen some pretty amazing water in a million shades of blue so far. And not just lakes – seas, waterfalls and rivers too.

Tekapo Lake lives up to the hype as a show-stopper. During the day, the glacier-fed lake is pure turquoise, slowly turning to rose gold at dusk as it reflects the changing colour of the surrounding mountains.

The next morning, it has morphed into a shimmery silver and for about the millionth time on this trip, I marvel at the beauty of nature.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

New Zealand is easily the most jaw-droppingly beautiful place I’ve ever visited. Real, unadulterated bucket-list beauty. If you can, please go.

Next blog post, we’re back to Blighty where it’s time for us to start cracking on with our ‘new’ reality. Hopefully the sun will be shining as our arrival coincides with British spring (…or perhaps this is wishful thinking!)

19 Comments on Campsite calamities in New Zealand

  1. Danik
    May 6, 2017 at 7:05 pm (4 months ago)

    Great read on your camping experience and welcome to Blighty. Loving the instagram photos. 🙂

    • Claire Thompson
      May 7, 2017 at 8:09 am (4 months ago)

      Thanks so much, Danik. Now just need a litttttle more sunshine and we’re good!

  2. Jennifer
    May 7, 2017 at 1:19 am (4 months ago)

    Lol – I would totally walk into somebody’s camper too. But I think it would be worth the risk to see New Zealand at your own pace. There is so much to see that you can’t get to by bus.

    • Claire Thompson
      May 7, 2017 at 8:10 am (4 months ago)

      Haha glad to hear you *might* do the same thing too. Totally agree, you need your own set of wheels (bike, camper or car) to get the best out of NZ’s glorious scenery.

  3. Elisa
    May 7, 2017 at 8:18 pm (4 months ago)

    I also spent 4 weeks in NZ in a camper van but smaller than yours. I don’t like the camping thing but like you, I must admit it is very convenient for NZ and it gives you lot of freedom. Cool that you enjoyed NZ!

    • Claire Thompson
      May 11, 2017 at 11:32 am (3 months ago)

      Four weeks is a good effort! Great for freedom to explore – and I loved alfresco cooking and dining a la van too!

  4. Elena Nemets
    May 8, 2017 at 9:40 am (4 months ago)

    I would love to go in a camping van across Australia and New Zealand sometimes (just need enough vacations…).

    • Claire Thompson
      May 11, 2017 at 11:31 am (3 months ago)

      Hope you can make it one day. I’ll have a word with your boss for you…;)

  5. Castaway with Crystal
    May 8, 2017 at 12:42 pm (4 months ago)

    I did a van road trip around the North Island last September and I really can’t get over how beautiful that country is. NZ is something else, really…

    • Claire Thompson
      May 11, 2017 at 11:31 am (3 months ago)

      North Island is fab. Kind of like beautiful english countryside – but injected with steroids to make it SUPER green and rolling!!

  6. Nathan
    May 8, 2017 at 1:53 pm (4 months ago)

    I am dying to get to New Zealand and your photos are making it even worse. I’ve never done a trip by camper van but it looks like it could be fun. I think it would be a big adventure.

    • Claire Thompson
      May 11, 2017 at 11:30 am (3 months ago)

      SO much fun. We’d never done the camper van thing before either but it was fab. The best of the great outdoors, but with a bit of indoors to escape from the mozzies!!

  7. Sam
    May 8, 2017 at 7:12 pm (4 months ago)

    I’m from New Zealand! Glad to hear you enjoyed it, it’s beautiful here. Great photos as well

    • Claire Thompson
      May 11, 2017 at 11:27 am (3 months ago)

      You are lucky, lucky lucky! WHAT a special place!!

  8. Edith & Juan
    May 9, 2017 at 3:13 am (4 months ago)

    The stars and Lake Tekapo look absolutely amazing! What a fun trip to make on a camper van! New Zealand is definitely on our radar.

    • Claire Thompson
      May 11, 2017 at 11:26 am (3 months ago)

      Hard to even put into words the beauty of Lake Tekapo’s starry skies! I hope you can get there – it’s an amazing experience.

  9. Carmen Edelson
    May 9, 2017 at 9:23 pm (3 months ago)

    I absolutely love road trips but have never tried using a campervan.. or just camping! It’s definitely something I’d consider when I’m in NZ. Your photos are incredible, thanks for sharing your experiences 🙂

    • Claire Thompson
      May 11, 2017 at 11:25 am (3 months ago)

      I really recommend the campervan experience – just try not to get in the wrong van like I did 😉 Glad you like the pics – thank you! x

  10. Lara Dunning
    May 10, 2017 at 4:34 am (3 months ago)

    I love camping and cruising around NZ in a campervan sounds like a blast! It’d be great to have the freedom to travel where you wanted and not worry about lodging. Love seeing your photos. NZ is on my list!


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