Van life is not so bad. It sounds weird to admit, but we both actually love it. There is something simple and comforting about having everything you need in the seat beside you and the van behind you. We don’t stress about accommodation or how many miles we need to travel that day, we simply explore until we are ready to settle in, find a campsite nearby, and can be tucked in to bed before the sun sets. It is the epitome of wandering, and it is awesome.
For our type of campervan, there are generally two types of campsites to choose from — the first is usually called a “holiday park” and is the type of place I previously described with hot showers, a kitchen and a lounge area. They typically consist of a non-scenic lot that has been partitioned out into little grassy cubicles. We’ve found that these cost anywhere from $25 USD per night up to $45 for popular areas or sites with more amenities.
The second type of campsite is what is called a DOC site, “DOC” standing for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. These sites are government run and you pay a small per-person fee (approximately $5 to $9 USD per person per night) on an honor system in order to stay. These places have no frills. They usually have a drop toilet (which is a fancy name for a permanent port-a-potty), running water (which may or may not be drinkable) and that’s it. The tradeoff is that you get to sleep in your own little spot in nature and wake up in the most gorgeous scenic locations.
I know what you are thinking – “No hot shower? – No way!”. But I promise you, from someone who loves a hot shower (ask my dad who used to turn off the hot water heater when I took too long), the small sacrifice of showering at the local gym is well, well worth it. Here are a few pictures; I’ll let you decide:
Purakaunui Bay – Our campsite was on a cliff overlooking a beach cove, where I enjoyed my coffee at sunrise while watching sea lions surf the waves below.
Cascade Creek – A grassy campsite on a creek in Fiordland National Park. We weren’t planning on stopping here, but we pulled in just to see and decided it was too beautiful to leave. We enjoyed a dinner of ramen and buttered bread in the afternoon sunshine.
Moke Lake – After a twenty minute drive through farmland and sheep in the road, we were pleasantly surprised to turn a corner and find that this lakeside campsite was almost empty. We stayed two nights here on our own personal waterfront property and as you can see, Christopher made some friends.
We thought that we’d be ready to pay the extra money to stay in a real bed in an Airbnb by now, but we both agree if we had a choice tonight between a real bed in an Airbnb and our little campervan, we’d choose our campervan home. That might change in another week or two, but for now we are loving every minute of it. Now off to more exploring!
Love from New Zealand,
Cathleen & Christopher