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What I find awesome about travelling around New Zealand in a campervan is that you don’t have to travel far to find an awesome place to camp. There’s also a range to suit any budget, from freedom camping sites to fully catered, and everything in between. One of those in between campsites is the Rakaia Huts campground, located on the banks of the Rakaia River and is one of the low cost campgrounds on the CamperMate app. It’s only about an hour or so from Christchurch and while it might be a little off the main highway, it’s a good place to come and explore. On-site managers Gary and Roslyn have created a very friendly vibe here and it almost seems like a big revolving happy family, which we were lucky enough to drop into for one night in our Britz 4 berth campervan. We left Christchurch right in the thick of the weekend traffic, Friday 5pm. The new highway can take you out via Lincoln where you can shave 10 minutes or so off your travelling time. The roads out this way don’t see the amount of traffic as the Hornby route, so for driving in a campervan it’s ideal.
Upon arrival we were greeted by Roslyn and after setting up went and met Gary and other campers in the kitchen. Everyone is on a first name basis here, very cool! The cost for staying here is $15 night/2 adults (powered) or $10 night/2 adults (non-powered). The Rakaia Huts is actually a little town, so we went for a walk and bought some honey from a locals honesty box. Upon returning Gary invited us for a trip to the river mouth (about 1km away) on his quad bike which was a nice little adventure before we made tracks to the next campsite, Peel Forest inland from Geraldine.
Peel Forest Campsite is an awesome Department of Conservation campsite that is a little more expensive than the normal D.O.C. campsite but at $15 per night per adult comes equipped with a lot more facilities than your normal campground such as power, an awesome kitchen and hot showers. You pay at the camp office which is about 3 kms before the actual campsite. It closes at 7.30pm, if you don’t make it there before it closes the manager will drop by in the morning (though you’ll need to have cash then). Below is the kitchen and shower block.
Aside from the hot showers, what I like most about this campsite is the amount of walks and fun things to do in the area. The Rangitata River is just a 5 minute walk from the campsite (take your gumboots as there’s a stream you have to cross to get there) which I’m told has trout and salmon however, unfortunately while we did try, we cannot confirm this 😉
We woke up in the morning to a beautiful sunrise and some Pukeko rummaging around the Chestnut trees in the campsite. It does get a little wet here, so it closes over Winter but opens again at Labour weekend. If you do arrive and the campsite is closed, there’s another parking area which they’ll let you park on, just ask at the camps store about it.
Before heading back to Christchurch, we checked out one of the stunning Department of Conservation forest walks on the Rangitata Gorge Road. I’ve never seen the Fantails so plentiful as I’ve seen them here. It’s an awesome spot, if you have some time to spare in South Canterbury, it’s definitely worth taking the time and spending a night in either of these campsites.
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