Traveling From the North Island to the South Island, New Zealand

The best way to experience New Zealand is to drive it, with periodic stops to hike, sight see, or shop. New Zealand is a rugged and large rural land, home to 4.3 million people and over 30 million sheep. Breathtaking scenery, exclusive flora and fauna, and captivating cities enhance the experience far beyond counting sheep, however. In addition, light traffic and good roads make driving something like a camper van in New Zealand thoroughly delicious.

Touring New Zealand by campervan allows an up-close experience of the countryside. Tourists can stop anywhere there is a motor camp and spend as much time as they like at each location. They also save money by buying groceries and cooking their own meals. New Zealand can be toured in short trips of a few days or in an extended, several-day-do-it-all vacation.

From the northern point of the North Island and following the west coast, motorists pass through Northland Forest Park, home to Kauri trees, the second largest species after California's Sequoia Redwoods. Driving to Auckland, New Zealands largest city, visitors enjoy several activities: museums and art galleries, parks and gardens, leisure and theme parks.

Leaving Auckland, the traveler should head south into the geothermal area near Rotorua. This active volcanic area features one of the largest boiling lakes in the world. Rotorua is also renamed as the heartland of Maori culture.

Backtracking somewhat to the west, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a must-see: inside a pitch black cave, the ceiling is lit up like a starry sky. Further south, the motorist arrives at Mount Egmont National Park. This peak served as a Mt. Fuji-substitute when filming the Tom Cruise movie, "The Last Samurai".

Travelers continue past dramatic scenery and arrive in Wellington, New Zealands capital. A recommended visit is Te Papa, the national museum. An engraved stone in the harbor area declares: "this is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb". Visitors will find plenty to do.

Before crossing to the South Island, travelers should visit, particularly if they are "Lord of the Rings" fans, Putangiura Pinnacles. A three-hour drive from Wellington, this is the setting for Dimholt Road in "Return of the King."

Next, motorists must cross the 12-mile Cook Strait to the South Island, which many consider even more scenic than the North Island. Fortunately, ferry services offer passage between Wellington and Picton. Ferries depart every 2 to 3 hours between 6am and 6pm and they are well-used to ferrying camper vans back and forth. There is also a night ferry, but one would miss the incredible views. The trip lasts about 3 hours.

An interesting first stop is Westport, an old mining town on the west coast. Visitors can tour a simulated underground mine or visit the rugged shore. The scenery along the coast is amazing, with such formations as Pancake Rocks and the Blowholes at Punakaiki. Further south is Franz Josef Glaciers – as close to sea-level as glaciers get.

Next, it is across the mountains into Queenstown. Among other things, Queenstown is the birthplace of bungee jumping! The city does not, however, lack for other activities and offers plenty to keep visitors busy. After Queenstown, the motorist should head northeast to visit New Zealands tallest mountain, Mt. Cook, and from there to Christchurch.

Christchurch is "The Garden City" with expansive parks and public gardens. Visitors will appreciate the cultural heritage, sports facilities, and fine shopping.

The drive from Christchurch back to Cook Strait will pass near Hanmer Springs and its relaxing thermal pools. Then, it is past Kaikoura, famous for its abundance of marine mammals. Following the Pacific coast through Blenheim, travelers return to Picton where a ferry-ride returns them to the North Island.

Source by Hugh McInnes

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