Distance from SFO to Auckland: 10,560 km
Campvan mileage: 2561 km
4 internal flights within NZ including two grass field landings
8 boat passages
7 campervan nights
Though we would characterize New Zealand as a MTBing Mecca, it certainly has plenty of riding possibilities and it is worth bringing the bikes along. Air New Zealand has a pretty liberal policy on allowing bikes on board, so the addition of the bikes does not add cost to the air travel. We chose to rent a campervan in large part due to the need to carry the bikes around. The cost was similar or less than renting a typical minivan, but gave us the option to stay at Holiday Parks.
The trails themselves reflect the population of the country. With only 4 million people, there are not a lot of people to build and maintain trails. Other than in some particular locations, the trails are relatively primitive, which can be an advantage.
There are tons of people who tour New Zealand, particularly the South Island, on bikes. Generally, the roads don’t have much of a shoulder so in higher traffic areas, that becomes an issue (as far as we could tell, there are no four lane highways on the South Island). Personally, we would stick to some of the out of the way areas like the West Coast of the South Island if we were to do a bike tour
There are three ways that people seem to favor for traveling around New Zealand. Some people backpack, which usually means they take buses from town to town and stay in backpacking lodges. The backpackers lodging system is better developed than we have seen anywhere in the world. These lodges are literally everywhere, in towns and out. The costs, per person per night, seem to run from $10 to $15 USD, which seems quite reasonable. As you might imagine, the younger crowds favor backpacker lodging.
Campervans are also extremely popular. Depending on the time of year, costs can drop below $50/day US. Holiday Parks are often located near the downtown areas in smaller towns (most of the places to visit in NZ are pretty small), so it is not quite like the camping out that we think of in the States. It is much more of a roaming motel room. The cheaper campervans, like the one we rented, are very basic for cooking. We didn’t use the “kitchen” once. They work fine for sleeping but you do have to get out to use the facilities at the Holiday Park. You frequently see people spending the nights parked on the street, so, if you are willing to hold it through the night, this is a very affordable option. Otherwise, Holiday Parks run $18 to $25 US for two people for one night. This is cheap compared to the US.
Larger, more traditional style Class C “cab overs” are also available for significantly more $$$. Note that not many of the sites in the Holiday Parks have accommodations for the for an RV’s wastewater, so this would be something to pay close attention to.
Many folks also fly or drive between the towns and stay in motels and hotels. All ranges of styles of accommodations are available at prices that are similar to the US.
They speak English, though with a Scottish accent that can make the English to English translation hard at times. We are still not certain that our seats were actually called on our return flight from Auckland to SFO.
Food and Wine
Food is interesting in New Zealand. We didn’t find real high end restaurants, but we did find a lot of café level places doing very interesting things with the food and the ingredients. Breakfast was particularly notable as everyone seemed to be doing creative variations on the traditional items quite successfully. The eggs were particularly fresh.
The white wines from Marlborough are amazing. Of course, their Sauvignon Blanc is renowned as the best in the world. Pinot Gris looks to be their next big thing. We also had some excellent Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Some of the mid range Hawke’s Bay reds make for some quite reasonable table wines. There’s a real drive to make great Pinot Noir and they are a was off of doing this consistently. When they happen to make an acceptable one, the price is no bargain, even on the Californian standard.