Driver Knowledge Tests

How to drive a campervan in New Zealand

As our closest neighbour, New Zealand is an attractive holiday for Aussies that don’t mind a short flight to a country that functions similarly, and where you can drive easily in spectacular scenery.

Envision yourself waking up in a campervan parked right next to the stunning Fiordland National Park, with the sun’s rays reflecting off peaceful lakes and the sound of native birdsong filling the air. The breathtaking scenery unfolding before you is so real it seems like it came from a movie.

You can’t help but grin as you pour yourself another cup of coffee, knowing that another day of campervan adventuring awaits you in this breathtaking nation. Your lifelong goal of fully experiencing New Zealand’s pristine natural beauty has finally come true.

A campervan vacation sounds great in theory, but you know firsthand how scary it can be to navigate strange towns and winding country roads. The whole point of being here is to pick the brain of someone who has been where you are now.

So that you can immerse yourself in New Zealand’s nature with a campervan rental experience, here we will reveal all our insider recommendations for effortlessly managing your campervan vacation.

Traffic regulations at a glance

They’re fundamentally the same as Australia (driving on the left, signs are mostly the same, etc, but with some minor differences.

The no parking line is a dashed yellow line next to the kerb.

The maximum speed is 100km/h except on a couple of motorway stretches where it’s 110km/h, but the previous government also reduced the open road speed to 80km/h on some key unexpected routes, like the Napier-Taupo Highway, which is also swarming with police during holiday periods. Be cautious!

And lastly, keep in mind that unless it’s totally hands-free, it’s absolutely forbidden to use a mobile phone while driving.

The importance of planning your route

As you can imagine, a big part of any campervan vacation is figuring out where you’re going. From Northland to Southland, New Zealand provides a plethora of campervan-friendly road adventures. Think about all the iconic landmarks you’d like to see, as well as the weather and time, when you’re planning out your trip.

That said, roads in New Zealand may be windier and narrower than you’re accustomed to, especially in the South Island. For that reason, taking frequent rests is highly recommended, particularly on lengthy trips. Keep in mind that the best part of a campervan vacation is that you can relax and savor every moment, so try to err on the cautious side instead of being too ambitious with your journey.

Selecting an appropriate campervan

To guarantee a comfortable journey, it is vital to choose the right campervan. The narrow, hilly roads of New Zealand can be a bit of a challenge for larger caravans. While there are passing lanes on major roads, you won’t find them on the provincial roads; remember to be courteous and pull to the left to let people pass.

Most caravans can be driven on a car licence, but a few specialist models that are over 6000kg GVM will need an MR licence.

New Zealand driving tips

There are clearly some differences between driving a standard car and a campervan in New Zealand. For example, you have to be extra careful around car parks due to the height (remember to check the barrier!) because you’re sitting higher; but you have superior visibility overall.

As you park and turn, keep in mind that your vehicle’s length and width are probably also not the ones you’re used to.

When operating a campervan, your most important concern should be the safety of everyone on board. A large campervan will have blind spots you don’t experience in a car. Set your mirrors for best visibility of the road next to you, and remember to check over your shoulder before changing lanes.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the ride! A campervan rental in New Zealand allows you to see the country at your leisure. From meandering along the breathtaking Northland coastline to the awe-inspiring South Island Alps, each day brings a fresh adventure.

Enjoy the picturesque scenery, chat with the welcoming residents, and make memories that will last a lifetime. That, after all, is the point of going on an RV adventure!

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

Posted in Advice