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Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Motorhome adventures with children - New Zealand South Is tour

Lachlan and Sophie stretch their legs on route to Milford Sound
Lachlan and Sophie stretch
their legs on route to Milford
Sound


After 2100km and 10 nights in New Zealand's South Island, with children, this time in a modern Apollo VW TDI LT46 diesel motorhome our family test team say they will go again.

Mom, Dad, Lachlan and Sophie flew into Christchurch on March 20 to collect an Apollo VW diesel motorhome.

Their $2300 experience brought a graceful $400 refund from Apollo Motorhome Holidays after troubles with the motorhome's drainage.

A kinked hose blockage in the system stopped the sink drain, the result was as Mom said "messy in a motorhome". The fix took a full day out of the holiday as the motorhome had to be driven well off the planned route to Dunedin for professional attention. Another frustration was that the "hot shower" was unpredictable and stayed that way for the whole trip.
The whole family had  to come
The whole family had to come


But as Dad, Mom, Lachlan (6) and baby Sophie (19 months) are part of our GoSee touring team they share the groups "no heavy work" if it can be avoided in our motorhomes/caravans and campervans attitude to onboard toilets and showers.

So with excellent Holiday Park facilities available the family took full advantage and made the compromise work. Generally our experience with public and Holiday Park facilities through the North and South Islands is good.

 Camp Kitchen, barbecue and lounge/TV facilities in better New Zealand Holiday Parks are first class by Australasian standards.

New Zealand Holiday Parks are clear leaders when Camp Kitchens are compared with their Australian equivalent. On the other hand Australia leads in the standard and presentation of cabins (Holiday Park motel/chalet units).

This is driven by the distinct cultural difference in the respective national approaches to the camping experience. In an interesting contradiction in current New Zealand marketing terms Kiwis "camp", Aussies "Holiday Park".

Our family touring team stayed at -

Christchurch - Top 10 Holiday Park - Meadow Park at the start and finish of the motorhome trip.

Queenstown - Top 10 Holiday Park "Creeksyde".

Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park.

Dunedin- Aaron Lodge Top 10 Holiday Parks & Motels.

Dad says the Christchurch Holiday park was - "amazing for kids and the Dunedin Holiday Park had a great kids area too".

"We found them safe for the kids, away from roads with great playgrounds and lots of other toys like the jumping pillow and bikes.

Mom says  - "Loved Dunedin for the family room, playground, pool and laundry.  The highlight though was the family bathroom, made life sooo much easier".

"Christchurch was good although it was a shame they were upgrading the playground when we were there". 

"Great pool and spa they also did movies for the kids although we did not take advantage of this".

"Te Anua had a great playground and fantastic camp kitchen and lovely clean laundries".
Finishing Chocolate from Dunedin Cadbury Factory
Finishing Chocolate from Dunedin Cadbury Factory


Children are the future of the caravan, camper, motorhome, cabin, campervan, camping and Recreational Vehicle industry. Children are kings in Holiday Parks.

Families fit the experience and the holiday option makes sense. Most Holiday Parks are set up perfectly for them. This means peace for parents and things to do for children.

It is well priced quality time together with comfort, privacy, space and convenience. Things to do include play centres, games rooms, bike tracks, basketball, tennis, mini-golf, movies, giant jumping pillows and outstanding pools and water recreation areas to make the day a playful experience.

Or the family can get into riding the waves at the many beachside Holiday Parks. Holiday Parks are about good times and affordable easy living. Cook for yourself and you add to the savings!

The social side of the caravan experience is a real plus. There are friends for the kids to play with so parents find time to chat.

Pre-dinner drinks around the barbecue are an evening event and "family friendly" comes without compromising. It is fun, safe and relaxed.

Caravan Parks are much more than just a powered campsite.

So it is no surprise that after their total South Island motorhome experience Mom, Dad, Lachlan and Sophie would definitely go motorhoming again.
Apollo night time setup
Apollo night time setup


A motorhome is about convenience for a family when travelling with children. 
The big pluses are - It is safe. It is comfortable. It's cost effective. It is flexible.

Everything is on hand. Meals and snacks can be prepared on the spot when needed and there is a togetherness about it that supports that hopeful cliche "quality time together". When it is time to sleep there are beds.

On that subject not all motorhomes or caravans are completely child friendly. The Apollo VW fell short in the sleeping arrangements for little people. There are plenty of beds for four adults but for her own safety toddler Sophie slept with mum between her and a potential fall throughout the trip.

Sophie was safe. But mum struggled to get enough sleep.

Supermarket shopping keeps budget cost down and motorhomes can be driven to the supermarket and loaded straight from the shopping cart.

It is important not to over supply the fridge and to load it with family health in mind. The means that meat and fish products should never be stored where they can taint other items.

Wrap and freeze is best and check at least daily that the fridge is doing its job. Most will be electric and gas. They will run off the mains power and the vehicle battery/batteries when travelling.
Apollo night setup with cushion at front to prevent toddler falling out
Apollo night setup with cushion at front to prevent toddler falling out


Modern motorhomes have an auto system which switches between power sources. It pays to know how it works so ask the nice motorhome hire people to explain. This will also introduce newcomers to how the hotwater system operates. It is auto too, until it plays up.

Buying smaller amounts, often, keeps the food fresh and the family happy and healthy. For adults the basic test of a good fridge is that a long-neck wine/water bottle will fit in the bottom fridge door rack. Most modern motorhome and caravan fridges have adjustable racks. 

Bedding should be warm, light and easily stowed. The most powerful heating and cooling you can get is an essential and the motorhome must have full ventilation.

Condensation and smells need to be dealt with in all seasons. 

In wet weather family sanity can depend on a dry motorhome. If the motorhome has a wind-out awning it will provide extra family space during the day. 

Take care if the wind comes up. Awnings are like a yacht sail they generate lots of lift. 

We never leave an awning out at night regardless of whether it is pegged on poles or not. 

Stowage space can be a challenge in motorhomes, campervans and caravans so think essentials and add a few luxuries.

Big, hard suitcases and wheelie travel bags are a no go. It is best not to take them or leave them with the hirer in a secure lock-up.
Scenery on way to Milford Sound
Scenery on way to Milford Sound


Overall the Apollo VW handled well and came through as easy to drive in all conditions. There is a learning curve. 

Motorhomes are big and mirror assisted parking requires care, but skills develop quickly with a responsive design and this motorhome from Apollo is one which responds well.

Dad's comments from the South Island as he got into motorhomes for the first time capture the best of the motorhome learning experience -

"The motorhome is great. Took a little to get use to, and corner speed signs now take on a whole new meaning. The engine is very quick and cheap on fuel. 

A little challenging at times with young kids though, but that was expected".

"Queenstown and Milford Sound were amazing. The trip to Milford, 120kms, is the best 120kms I have ever driven. Would have been great on a motorbike - except for the moss on the road. 

Milford Sound gets around 6-7 meters of rain a year and is one of the wettest places on the planet! We had perfect blue skys and our cruise had 10 people, including the four of us.
Parking at Milford Sound was easy but remember there is no Petrol Station
Parking at Milford Sound was easy but remember there is no Petrol Station


"One source I was talking with said there are approx 35,000 motorhomes on the South island. I would believe it, they are everywhere.

"Tomorrow - Lachie (Lachlan) and I are going on a boys day out tour of Doubtful Sound". We go from Manapouri across Lake Manapouri to Manapouri power station by boat.

"Then from the power station (at west arm) across the pass by bus on a dirt track to Deep Cove. The scenery is fantastic. Deep Cove is an arm of Doubtful Sound. Then by boat to tour Doubtful Sound".

Mom, Dad, Lachlan and Sophie flew into Christchurch on March 20 and collected the Apollo VW diesel motorhome at 4pm after an introduction to motorhoming briefing. They returned the motorhome at noon on March 30 in Christchurch 10 nights later.

They travelled to Queenstown from Christchurch to Rangitata via Hwy 1.

From the touring log book which Lachlan helped keep up -

Rangitata to Fairlie via Hwy 79 – stopped for a break and to let the slower cars I couldn’t pass safely get away.

Fairlie to Lake Tekapo via Hwy 8 – stopped for lunch.

Tekapo to just before Cromwell via Hwy 8.

Then followed the number 6 and then 6A into Queenstown.

This was a long day driving and for Mom the kids and me with the constant winding road from Rangitata onwards. I would recommend breaking it up into two trips.
Driving from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown
Driving from Lake Tekapo to Queenstown


This is the route plotted using the GoSeeNewZealand Trip Planner from Christchurch to Queenstown via Lake Tekapo.

When we diverted for repairs to the motorhome to Dunedin we departed from Te Anau and drove to Dunedin. We had intended to stay at one of the bush camps (which are all very pretty bush setting along Lake Anau) along the road to Milford Sound near Te Anau Downs.

We passed up this to drive to Dunedin via the Southern "Scenic" Route from Te Anua via Blackmount and Riverton to Invercargill. We would have liked to see Stewart Island off Bluff but did not have time.

As a result we ended up spending an unplanned extra day and a half in Dunedin, of which half a day was spent at the motorhome repairs Dunedin Motor Homes & Accessories Unit 8, Strathallan Estate Strathallan St Dunedin. They were extremely helpful and polite. The kids had fun with the repairman which took their attention away from waiting.

From Dunedin we went back to Christchurch along the coast on Hwy 1 through Waikouaiti, Palmerston and at Oamura we visited the Moeraki Boulders (Giants Marbles). We had a walk coffee and lunch before travelling on through Waimate, Timaru, Temuka, Ashburton and Rakaia to Christchurch.
Stopped for morning tea beside Lake Wakatipu
Stopped for morning tea beside Lake Wakatipu


Lachlan had a great time on the road making friends in every Holiday Park. This is a real advantage of that environment and the park facilities support this.

The six-year-old will be given his own inexpensive camera next trip to support his interest in keeping a daily travel log of camping experiences.

Outings with Dad worked for both and "grumble" Lachlan even kept up with schoolwork he missed while he was getting an education on the road. It was pre-prepared for him by his school.

Family attention, cuddles, drawing, food and soft toys kept Sophie happy as she travelled.

New Zealand Tourism is heavily committed to motorhomes and campervans. Some New Zealand motorhome and campervan companies have moved strongly on Qualmark and Greenglobe certification and are at world best practice levels.
Lachie and the Natural moss garden on  rockwall Wilmot Pass
Lachie and the Natural moss garden on rockwall Wilmot Pass


United Vehicle Rentals is the first rental vehicle operator in the world to achieve Green Globe 21 Certification and in April 2003 United Vehicle Rentals was the first motorhome company to receive New Zealand tourism's official quality standard, 'Qualmark'.

United Vehicle Rentals Managing Director, Kay Howe, says United's product and service has earned it an enviable international reputation from industry partners and hirers.

Green Globe 21 is based on Agenda 21 and principals for Sustainable Development endorsed by 182 Heads of State at the United Nations Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992.

It provides companies, communities and consumers with a path to sustainable development within the travel and tourism industry worldwide.

"We see it as our responsibility to minimise the impact our business and our vehicles have on the environment in New Zealand and globally, and to encourage our clients likewise", Kay Howe says.

Editor's Note - Also See -

Motorhome adventures in North and South Island of New Zealand - Part 1 Practical motorhoming

For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia and Go See New Zealand Directory
Email: garth@contact.com.au
2km tunnel down into Manapouri Power Station
2km tunnel down into Manapouri Power Station
Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound
Doubtful Sound catamaran
Doubtful Sound catamaran
Lake Manapouri catamaran shuttle
Lake Manapouri catamaran shuttle
Looking down into Deep Cove from Wilmot Pass
Looking down into Deep Cove from Wilmot Pass
Looking back at Lake Wakatipu just outside of Queenstown
Looking back at Lake Wakatipu just outside of Queenstown
Having fun Queenstown to TeAnau
Having fun Queenstown to TeAnau
kingston Explorer and Motorhome Sth-Queenstown
kingston Explorer and Motorhome Sth-Queenstown
Mitai Village Maori
Mitai Village Maori
Moeraki Boulders Oamaru South Is
Moeraki Boulders Oamaru South Is
New camera. 35mm zoom
New camera. 35mm zoom
Parked for lunch at Lake Tekapo
Parked for lunch at Lake Tekapo


United Campervans
A family business committed to the global environment delivers excellence in product and service. 
Depots in Auckland & Christchurch.
United Campervans
Email Us
Our Website

Alpha Campervans
Division of United Vehicle Rentals, practises United's philosophy of excellence & environmental awareness coupled with friendly,  efficient customer service.
Depots in Auckland & Christchurch.
Alpha Campervans
Email Us
Our Website


Apollo Motorhome Holidays
Apollo Motorhome Holidays

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