Campervan in New Zealand

Many months earlier when I started planning a trip to New Zealand I mulled about a plan of renting a camper van to travel the country. I read online how easy it is to freedom camp in your van if you have a self contained model. It is a romantic ideal but I had a few people warn me about safety. I also don’t do well with not knowing in advance where I am going to sleep for the night. I decided to enjoy New Zealand by car instead.

As it came closer to my New Zealand trip I still had very little of my itinerary booked besides a plane ticket in and out of the country and a couple nights traveling with my aunt. For the rest of my trip I considered taking the bus around South Island since I am told it is cheap and easy. The problem is I really crave my freedom to visit where I want and when I want and not be limited by the bus route. I am also not thrilled with the idea of unpacking and repacking almost daily and continuing to damage my shoulders by wearing all my belongings on my back.

After meeting with a friend in Melbourne Australia I am once more encouraged on the campervan idea. So many people successfully manage campervan life all the time; plus I already had opposite road driving experience during my time in Australia. I had decided to rent a campervan.

When it came to booking campervans I found a number of websites that do rentals. Some have multiple drop off points with no one-way penalty and some requiring a roundtrip to return. I thought about renting the van for South Island only and renting a car on the North Island. When I finally tried to book, I found many places and models were already sold out (15 days out). Perhaps this is one of those things best booked in way in advance. Finally I found a good match: price is average (a little bit of an upgrade to what I originally wanted) and I decide to use it for both North Island and South, using the ferry to take it across islands. Once I book my changeable ferry ticket I am all set.

I will book some hotels along the way to break it up but I’ll be mostly sleeping and living in a van (down by the river sometimes) for the next couple weeks.

I still have some anxiety about campsites being fully booked but one thing I have learned during my travels is that I can pretty much handle anything as long as I remain calm. I am just going to take that advice and live one day at a time.

pillow, comforter, sheets and towels included

I spend extra on the GPS which periodically stops working….more on that later.

Adelaide, South Australia

I leave Victor Harbor and head north towards Adelaide. The drive seems to start off fine but soon I see areas off into the distance with what I think is dark cloud cover but I find out is actually smoke clouds. I double check the news to see that I am not taking myself into harms way; it appears I am not at this time.

I drive down two lane curvy roads past many wineries. I am feeling disappointing I did not include this region, McLaren Vale, in my travel plans. It is a beautiful area and I am sure the wines aren’t too terrible either. I’ll be sure to try some of the region’s wines later in my travels.

I finally arrive in Adelaide. It is a nice quiet city. The downtown isn’t too large and I don’t find it too hard to navigate around. I do get a little confused on where to drop off my rental car but I eventually figure that out. I am a couple hours late in my return which could trigger me to have to pay for an additional day. Fortunately I am given a reprieve. Adelaide already seems like it has a small-town friendly presence.

Prior to dropping off my rental car I left my bags off already at the hotel at luggage storage. Now I have an opportunity to wander and walk back to my hotel.

I find some street shopping where I walk around and browse. There is also an outdoor seating area where I grab a beer and get something to eat.

My hotel is close to a shopping street. It is quiet this evening but it gets busier the next day with shoppers getting in last minute Christmas shopping.

I wake up early and go out to breakfast and get some delicious pancakes at The Original Pancake Kitchen. I think my hotel normally has breakfast included but the hotel restaurant is under renovations.

After breakfast I go back to the hotel to sort through and pack my bag since I have a flight tomorrow. I am back to living out of my bag again. It was nice to have a week reprieve of having to stress about correctly packing everything into my bag.

In the afternoon I meet up with a new friend I made in September while traveling to Egypt. Adelaide is her hometown. We grab some coffees and she gives me a tour of the town. She shows me her beautiful university and we take a walk in a lovely park. It is nice to catch up.

We stop for sushi and also have time for a glass of wine on a terrace.

I love meeting good people on my travels. Sometimes it is hard for me to come out of my shell and talk to new people but I am rewarded when I do.

She has evening plans so I stroll the town in the evening. As the night goes on the streets get lively. I see groups of young men traveling about in what seems like stag nights and birthday celebrations.

I think about seeing a movie but end up going back to my hotel to make sure I am prepared for my next journey.

I wake up next day to smell of smoke that has penetrated my hotel room. I start to really notice the fires now.

View from my hotel window. It is hard to tell but it is smoky.

My friend has to work today but is able to meet me for breakfast and coffee since I have some time to kill before my flight. I am so glad I met her months earlier in Egypt.

Now on to Melbourne where I am spending the week, including Christmas.

The Heat is On, Australia style

Victor Harbor, South Australia

I am leaving Coonawarra after my semi-successful wine and camping time there.

I am heading to the caves nearby at Naracoorte Caves National Park, a world heritage site with a very old fossil history.

Mother nature has other plans for me. Naracoorte Caves is closed due to wildfire risk.

It is starting to get scary in Australia. Thus far this is the closest I’ve been to the fire risk but soon I will be heading to Melbourne and Sydney where the fires are much worse nearby.

Here is the current map:

December 2019 fire map. I am currently in South Australia.

I do see a roadside kangaroo.

Since the caves are closed I decide to move forward to my next destination for the night, Victor Harbor.

I make a pit stop along the way and notice some nice art and mosaics.

Today is another day of watching the tempatures slowly rise as I travel on. At one point it gets to 48 C (118 F). I believe this is the hottest I have ever felt. Thank goodness the air conditioning in my rental car works.

Victor Harbor

After I arrive to Victor Harbor the temperature starts to lower quickly by almost 30 F and the wind starts to pick up.

I am staying at the Hotel Victor, a hotel right by the water.

Temperature when I arrive.

I chose Victor Harbor as a stop on my way to my final destination of Adelaide. It is advertised as a charming old-style town. There is supposed to be Horse Drawn Tram but it seems I again am visiting off season since it is not in operation during my visit. The wind is too strong so I avoid trying to view wildlife, which seems to be the biggest attraction in the area. (see video below)

I do walk down by the water and appreciate the views and birds.

The wind gets stronger. I try to capture it in the video below.

I head to dinner at Nino’s of Victor Harbor. I am happy I can order a side of vegetables. It sometimes is so hard to eat healthier on the road so I do the little bit I can.

I only stay the night so don’t have much time to visit some of the other town’s attractions like the nearby Granite Island. Perhaps I’ll be able to visit again someday.

More Great Ocean Road Australia

I have just left my wildlife retreat. Currently (December 2019) Australia is experiencing an outbreak of fires. I start actively watching for news updates because the fires escalate day by day. I may need to alter travel plans or even leave the country.

Today I am heading to an airbnb in Port Fairy Victoria. I am staying in an adorable cottage for the night and stopping at some sights along the way.

Gibson’s steps

My first stop of the day is Gibson’s steps.

The steps provide a pathway down to a beautiful beach. Today the Gibson steps are closed due to storm damage and erosion. I just soak up the view up top instead.

Great Ocean walk

From the parking lot I notice a trail marker for the Great Ocean Walk. I read later that that it is an 100k scenic walk along the coast. Today I only walk a little bit of the trail since I hadn’t prepared for a long hike.

12 Apostles

I head back to my car for the short drive to the twelve apostles, a collection of limestone rocks off the coast.

I plan to head to the next rock formation down the road, Loch Ard Gorge, but I see a sign for a cheese and food trail and suddenly decide it is more important to follow that trail then to stop at any other roadside wonders.

12 Apostles Food Artisans

I follow the road with the food trail signs until I get to the first stop Apostle Whey Cheese. I skip the chocolate stop (Gorge Chocolates). I know you must be thinking there something wrong with me but I prefer a block of cheese over a chocolate bar 99% of the time.

I partake in a cheese sampler, tour the grounds and purchase to cheese to go.

I also pick up an official copy of the food map.

I head off to the next location but stop to look at some cows on the way.

I am heading to a brewery nearby, Sow and Piglets Production Brewery. From the website it appears that they sell sausages and such to eat. Beer samples and sausages sound good to me. When I arrive I find the brewery is closed for tastings. I must have arrived off season. If I want to try the beers I have to go to their microbrewery location in town.

Instead I head to the town of Timboon. My first stop is Timboon Railway Shed Distillery. It is a whisky distillery and restaurant. I try a couple whisky samples and then sit down for a late lunch.

Slow cooked beef over potato cake

I finally try a sow & piglet beer.

Right around the corner is an ice cream shop. I head over to Timboon Fine Ice Cream where they have some unique and fun flavors (at least to this American).

I order one scoop of Orange & Cardamon and one scoop of Rhubarb & raspberry. I really love the flavors.

After my ice cream I head back on the road. I plan to go straight to my Airbnb but I drive by Cheese World and I cannot help stopping.

They have Meredith Dairy in stock. I first learned about Meredith Dairy in central Florida where a local cheese monger sells the marinated goat cheese feta. It probably is one of the best cheeses I have ever tasted. Meredith Dairy cheese is produced in Victoria; in fact I emailed the farm to see if they gave tours before my trip and sadly they do not. In the USA we import the feta but some of their other products are new to me. I pick up some cheese to take back to my cottage tonight.

I check out the cheese store’s wine collection which is unfortunately heavy on the not so great wines we can already try in the USA. Luckily I already have some bottles I purchased a couple days prior.

I head to my cottage in Port Fairy to rest for the evening. It is an adorable cottage named Elizabeth Margaret Brady Cottage built in 1860.

There is charming bedroom and a cozy living room with a working gas fireplace that I use that evening.

The cottage can hold a small family. There is an attached area with another bedroom and bathroom. It is a pretty large place all to myself. There is also a washer on sight. I am happy to be able to do laundry.

additional bedroom and mini kitchen

There is complementary wine. I can add it to my wine and cheese tasting for the evening.

I prepare some snacks and a cheese plate and relax by the fire for a evening. Today has been a great day.

Great Ocean Road Australia

I have my rental car ready and I am heading out along the coast for a road trip. In my research I found that a drive down Great Ocean road is a must. A road trip along great ocean road is the plan. I am starting from Melbourne (or Lancefield – guesthouse location) and will ultimately end up in Adelaide where I will return my rental car.

I drove near Hanging Rock yesterday so I am not a total novice to driving on “the wrong side of the road” but I admit I am a little nervous on driving on curvy cliff-side roads in traffic. I will drive slowly and cautiously. Hopefully locals won’t want to kill me for backing up traffic.

My little car seems to do well. Things do get a little curvy at some points but I make it through ok.

As soon as I reach the coast I am rewarded with beautiful views. My first stop is in Torquay for some lunch. I originally planned for lunch at another restaurant in another town but I discovered the restaurant I originally wanted to dine at is closed for the day. I instead stop at Fishos for some fish and chips.

Torquay

It takes me longer than usual to order because I have never had any of the types of fish on the menu. I ask the cashier lots of questions to get an idea of the different fish types and how to compare them to fish I know. I settle on one finally and of course order it fried – because fried. I like the nice little outdoor area. The weather is perfect.

Weirdo birds that just lay in the grass like this. Must be nesting.

I am parked across the street at a park that overlooks the water. I walk along the trail, taking in the views. I notice many birds along the way.

I drive on but stop on my way to Lorne to get some spectacular views of the coast.

Lorne

I stop at Lorne to take some pictures. I enjoy the shale-like flat rocks and watching surfers at the beach. It looks like a nice area. I would have liked to spend a night here and explore a little more.

Lorne Beach

Again I am on my way and stop at another lookout.

I slowly move away from the coast as I head to my final destination for the day north of the Great Otway National Park. Oh how I wish I scheduled more days on this drive. There are so many areas I would have loved to explore more….