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any advice for 1st time motor home driving south island?

Adelaide, Australia
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59 posts
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any advice for 1st time motor home driving south island?

hi. early december this year i will be taking the family on a motor home tour of south island.

i have watched videos, looked at many photos and read forums on our chosen path and planned activities.

one of my concerns is, i have never driven a motor home before (we have booked the britz renegade - so you have a reference to the size of the vehicle i will be driving) and i am aware of the ever changing road conditions in NZ, especially in places like Arthur's pass.

after looking at many pics of small landslides, car and truck slides/roll-overs, single lane bridge crossings etc, i want to make sure i do everything in my control to keep my family safe (as well as not be a hazard to other road users).

do any experienced larger vehicle drivers have any advice for south island? generally we will be driving;

Christchurch to Arthur's pass (staying 2 nights)

Arthur's pass - Fox Glacier (1 night)

Fox Glacier - Queenstown (10 nights, with Milford sound 5 day walk! =D )

Q'town - Lake Tekapo (1 night)

Lake Tekapo - Christchurch.

i have made this itinerary realising fox glacier to Queenstown will be pretty much a full days drive, and have planned it to be an early start, relaxed drive, with plenty of stops/breaks etc.

does it sound ok?

thanks, and sorry for the long post!

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1. Re: any advice for 1st time motor home driving south island?


For some time I have been replying to those seeking information on a motor home holiday in OZ and NZ. I’ve taken the time to prepare my thoughts, beliefs and feelings on the subject. So here goes.

Motor home “holidays” are for those who enjoy the experience, in the same vein as there are those who enjoy self flagellation, solo round the world yachting and competing in ultra marathons. To each their own I say so long as they don’t interfere with me. Unfortunately driving a motor home does interfere with me if I’m amongst the unfortunates stuck behind one on a narrow twisty road and obviously their increased carbon footprint affects us all. The saving grace is when you see one stuck in the entry to a multilevel car park, broken down at the side of the road, broken into by the local crims when parked in a “free parking area”, or filling up at the servo.

Motor homes are more expensive than a rental car holiday and accommodation in motels/B&Bs/Hotels/on site cabins/hotels and even some resorts in Australia and NZ once the true costs are taken into account.

These direct costs include but are not limited to:

1. Rental.

2. Insurance.

3. Fuel (remember this is a truck with the aerodynamics of a house brick).

4. Site Fees.

5. Possible divorce proceeding for married or de-facto couples.

The human cost include but are not limited to:

1. The joy of truck driving, often in a foreign land on the “wrong side of the road”.

2. The wonders of living, travelling and sleeping in a space smaller than most kitchens.

3. The amenity of carrying your excrement with you.

4. The challenge of emptying the cassette containing the excrement.

5. The lottery of renting a motor home where not only the mechanicals are working (the bits that let you go, stop and steer) but also the peripherals such as heating, toilets, showers, cookers, fridges etc. The probability of having all of these disparate bits working at the same time fly in the face of both Murphey’s and Sod’s laws.

6. Point 5. from above.

7. The triumph of measuring the success of your trip by the length of the caterpillar train of happy motorists held up behind the mobile chicane you are driving.


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2. Re: any advice for 1st time motor home driving south island?

It sounds pretty sensible. You might want to consider only going as far as Wanaka from Fox. In December, you won't have much concern about frost or tire chains. New Zealand roads are well maintained and have very little traffic. But do keep an eye out for vehicles behind you and pull over at a safe outlet to let them pass.

Are you keen on doing lots of hiking in Arthur's Pass? It's about all to be done there and not sure why it would require 2 nights. If you decide to forego a night there, I would suggest making your way to Punakaiki. I thought the best portion of the West Coast was between Westport and Greymouth. The road is right along the coast and the rainforest is awesome. A detour would be well worth it.

New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island
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3. Re: any advice for 1st time motor home driving south island?

Yep, Dec always makes good suggestions :)

and yep, I also wonder about Arthur's Pass and missing Wanaka!

To maximise your time and increase the scenic highlights, this is my version;

drive to Arthur's Pass

drive to Punakaiki

drive to Fox

drive to Wanaka

drive to Queenstown - 4 day stay and 5 days Milford Track

drive to Aoraki/Mt Cook

drive to Chch

hope this helps, safe travels :)

Adelaide, Australia
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59 posts
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4. Re: any advice for 1st time motor home driving south island?

ozrcflyer,yes firstly, thanks for taking the time to write such detailed - and positive reply.

im' aware of the costs, vehicle dimensions, sanitary requirements etc.

i also realise a motor home isn't a race car. if i wanted a faster vehicle i simply would have hired one. you're right, each to their own, and some people do it this way for the experience.

i have travelled extensively in Australia, usually doing it the hotel/motel way. for us as a family, its time for something different. we want to see New Zealand, not just have our eyes glued to the road because of our speed. (i made that mistake touring Tasmania on road bikes).

regular road side stops/pullovers are planned and accepted as part of this way of travelling. seeing as im an avid photographer, it actually fits in well. it also allows other happy road users such as yourself to pass.


Sunshine Coast, Qld
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5. Re: any advice for 1st time motor home driving south island?

We too travelled in a campervan last time in nz and had no problems driving a large vehicle and found the roads to be very quiet compared to here. I would recommend that you pay the extra insurance to have no excess and to make sure it covers the bulk head and under carriage, as some companies excluded these. You will be stopping frequently to photograph the magnificent scenery and to visit the sites, so allow extra time because its a slower trip in a camper. I never had traffic banked up behind as we travelled around but it is good to be aware of this as it must be an issue with the locals. Another tip is to unpack all your belongings into the van and leave your luggage with the hire company. They normally offer this for free. We also asked for extra towels which came in handy. We're returning in April and doing the alternative ( i.e. car/hotel option ) which will give me a good comparison for future travellers.

Adelaide, Australia
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59 posts
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6. Re: any advice for 1st time motor home driving south island?

hmm...yes dec, i see your point on 2 nights at arthurs pass. im going to check out Punakaiki and Wanaka. thanks! :)

7. Re: any advice for 1st time motor home driving south island?

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