Gore Bay: Hidden Gem of the South Island

Having passed the sign-posted turnoff to Gore Bay around 50 times, it was finally time to travel the 1.5 hours from Christchurch to go and check out this hidden gem!

Getting to Gore Bay

Gore Bay is a small village of mainly holiday homes, most of which are situated a stone’s throw from the ocean. It’s a beautiful spot to pause and admire some of New Zealand’s natural beauty.

From 1856, the bay was used by William ‘Ready Money’ Robinson as a gateway to his Cheviot farm. This mainly involved ferrying in goods and passengers from boats. These days, it’s just 21 kilometres off State Highway 1.

Note: If you are planning to stop at Gore Bay, here are no shops. So, make sure you stop in at Amberly or Cheviot for any supplies.

Cathedral Cliffs, Gore Bay
Cathedral Cliffs, Gore Bay

Cathedral Cliffs

The drive to Gore Bay is part of the Alpine Pacific Triangle. It boasts a great view from the top of the hill of the renowned Cathedral Cliffs.

It’s best to see the cliffs after lunch, rather than early in the morning. That’s when the sunlight works wonders!

Gore Bay
Gore Bay, North Canterbury

From the lookout, it’s just a short 2-minute drive down to the beautiful long beach.

Upon arriving, you get the feeling that time stands still. The beach is perfect for just strolling around, and the surf also seemed gentle.

At low tide, you can go boulder hopping on the Southern end of the beach and look for washed up Paua shells or sprats swimming about in the shore.

That may lead you to believe there are bigger fish to catch, however, I didn’t take my gear. So, you’ll have to find out for yourself!

Gore Bay Public Toilets

Being on the tourist trail, Gore Bay is very campervan friendly, with good public facilities such as a recycling station, public toilets and rubbish bins located on the southern end of the beach.

Gore Bay is a must-see for anyone with a little time up their sleeve in the North Canterbury region. Sure, it’s a little off the main highway but if you’re not in a rush then pack a picnic and make a day of it. You won’t be disappointed by this now confirmed, ‘little gem of the South Island’.

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Summer Road Trip: Christchurch to Coromandel, and back!

The ingredients for a great New Zealand summer road trip are simple. You need a reliable campervan, friends or family (or both) and great tunes. The weather needs to be fantastic, and the cicadas need to be loud. You’ll want to know where you’re going for the day, but not much past that. And you’ll want a barbecue and/or somewhere to get good food along the way.!

With all that in mind, we loaded up our campervan in Christchurch on Christmas Eve and set off. We were destined to visit Kaikoura, Whanganui, Coromandel and Nelson. If you know anything about New Zealand, that might seem ambitious. Here’s the story of how it unfolded!

Leaving Christchurch on a Summer Road Trip

We started the journey on Christmas eve. Going north from Christchurch there is always traffic, mainly due to a large number of shopping centres around the St Albans and Papanui area. However, once you hit Belfast, the traffic slowly but surely speeds up.

It’s funny, but as you physically increase your speed, your excitement gauge increases too. I think it’s the realisation that the road trip has just begun!

Surfing at Kaikoura on a Summer Road Trip

For me, the best part of this first trip is the stretch along the Kaikoura coast. I use a fairly simple decision-making process: Is there any swell? Yes: Surf  No: Dive. This time around, it was the surf.

After a quick bite to eat in Kaikoura it was time to carry on north. We got back on the road and drove for Picton to catch the ferry across Cook Strait to the North Island.

Picton, with its population of 2928 is a great little place. I hope they never move the Cook Strait ferry port, even if it would help the travel times! And who would want to miss out on the Marlborough Sounds?

Wellington to Whanganui

Cook Strait can be a bit rough, but this time the ferry crossing was totally uneventful. Arriving in Wellington, with traffic galore, it was time to blend into the motorway traffic. It’s a two and a half hour trip to Whanganui, a great city on the North Island’s western coast, with black sand beaches.

The city has many lookout points over the city and river, with the best being the Durie Hill Tower. This was built in 1919 and is high enough for most people to get a slight puff on by walking up.

There is plenty to see and do here, especially around Boxing Day each year. “Petrolheads” converge on the city for the Cemetery Circuit motorbike races. They’re also usually keen on the jet boat sprints at Upokongaro, about 15kms north of the city.

North to Taupo

Continuing the summer road trip north via Taupo, this is the point where some envy kicks in. As you drive alongside Lake Taupo, people are cruising around in their boats. You’ll see people water skiing, wakeboarding, fishing and living their best life on the great lake. 

Lake Taupo from the indow on a Summer Road Trip

What I love about Taupo is that it has a great mix of tourism and local life in the hustle and bustle of the town. The town also provides Portaloos for travellers passing through during peak season.

Somewhere between Taupo and South Waikato, you’ll transition from the forests situated alongside the highways into the lush and flatter dairy farmland of Waikato. If there’s an exact point where it happens, Tokoroa is that place. While the forestry mill has been winding down over the last years, it’s still got a buzz about it. 

If it’s still there when you’re reading this, look for the little bakery just opposite the main bus stop in the main street. It seems to have prices that bakeries had 10 or 15 years ago, and the quality of the food is great. The place had plenty of locals flowing through it so it must be popular!

Summer Road Tripping on the Coromandel Peninsula

With a full stomach, it’s onto the great Coromandel, specifically Tairua where it epitomises Summer.  The Thames/Coromandel District Council have some great facilities for travelling New Zealand. I have never seen so many rubbish bins before in one place! So, thumbs up TCDC!

Rubbish bin on the Coromandel, Summer Road Trip

Note: We need to make an addition to the earlier list… Surf, sand, nature and ice creams are all essentials on a summer road trip!

The icing on the Tairua cake for me was the most amazing public BBQ’s I have ever seen! Situated in the Puanui Domain they are so clean and have an amazing view find them in your CamperMate app!

After the big drive, we spent the next week cruising around the Coromandel. You can visit and stay at some of the most amazing beaches. It’s incredible to see native bush right to the shoreline and very few people.

The other thing about the Coromandel that I found amazing, is that if you’re willing to go for a walk you can spend a day on a secluded beach and see just a handful of people.

Native Bush to the beach on a Summer Road Trip

Take a mask and snorkel along, and you can explore the sea life with a range of species on show. Go at low tide and you also increase the chances of seeing a crayfish, if you are in an exploratory and adventurous mood.

It was this point in the trip that I felt the most at home I have ever felt, carrying my mask and snorkel along a native bush track waiting for low tide to catch some kaimoana (seafood) for tea. My happy place!

Back to the South Island

After a week of road-tripping through this Kiwi playground, it was time to leave the Coromandel. On the way, we decided to stop at Mapua, near Nelson. This section of the trip flew by, as there were only a few days before I had to be in Christchurch.

Swimming Hole near Rocky River Road Summer Road Trip

However, a real highlight of this part is stopping at the brilliant swimming hole on the Motueka River. It’s at the end of the Rocky River Road, and you can look for it on the CamperMate app. There’s a cute little parking area, with a small walkway down to the river. 

On this day there had been some unusual snowfall on the mountains resulting in a colder than usual river temperature. This meant a refreshing swim, which I can totally recommend!

There’s trout in the river too, so you might want to purchase a 24-hour licence from Fish and Game to try your luck. While I took my mask in for a swim I didn’t see any fish. But further along the river there were plenty of serious-looking fly fishermen, so I’m guessing there’s plenty in there!

Summer Road Trip Complete

Time usually flies by on a summer road trip, and this was no different. We made our way back down the Kaikoura coast, and back into Christchurch. Covering so much distance never felt better, and you never mind arriving home!

Have you got a roadtrip suggestion you’d like to tell us about? Get in touch! We’d love to share your story with other travellers!

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Okarito: Long Weekend off the Beaten Track

Okarito Trig Walkway
The view from the top of the Trig walkway (45-min walk)

A major change that I’ve seen in the last few years has been the increase in holiday homes available for rent on one of the many websites such as holidayhouses.co.nz, book-a-bach and Airbnb. This provides a great opportunity to stay in bach’s off the beaten track that you wouldn’t probably normally get to experience. One of those places is Okarito.


For the Easter long weekend, we found one such bach in Okarito, a small coastal village around 27kms from Franz Josef that consists of around 30 permanent residents.

The village is located right next to a lagoon which is the largest unmodified wetland in New Zealand.

Okarito Lagoon View from Trig Walkway
View of the 3-mile lagoon from Trig walkway

The 12 square km lagoon feels as though it’s the heart and soul of the village and provides fishing and kayaking opportunities, in addition to a few beautiful Department of Conservation walks you can do in the area. The two images below are from the top of the Trig walk, where you can see the village and the lagoon.

Kayak hire and coffee

There’s a local company that rents out kayaks for $50 per person for 2 hours or $60 for 4 hours. This will give you an opportunity to explore the lagoon, and you can also head up the little rivers and streams that feed into the lagoon. 

Okarito Airstrip
Okarito even has it’s own airstrip!

It’s a good idea to hire the kayak when for an incoming tide (which will make for an easier paddle). You can then spend a few hours exploring and come back when the tide is slack or outgoing.

Ask in the shop and they’ll let you know the best options. They also make coffees here and are the only shop in Okarito. You would expect that the coffee would be expensive as they’re the only option but no, standard pricing that you would expect in any town!

I would recommend taking a bicycle along if you can. It gives you options for getting around. For example, just a 15 minute bike ride out of town, the Pakihi walk is nice and takes around 30 minutes. Watch out for wildlife!

Fishing at Okarito
Fishing at Okarito

Fishing at Okarito

You’ll also want to take your fishing rod. You can catch Trout, Salmon, Rig and Kahawai in the lagoon or at the river mouth.

There’s another cheaper option to stay in Okarito, and that’s the community campground. This costs $12.50 per adult per night, and children camp for free. The camp also has a bunch of facilities such as a shower, BBQ and laundry facilities.

If you’re staying here in a tent, remember that it can rain a lot on the West Coast. Be prepared!

Okarito community campground

I didn’t know about Okarito prior to Easter. It was fantastic to be able to discover a small town like this! The locals are all very friendly and there’s a bunch of outdoor activities to do.

If you are looking for an adventure off the beaten track, then Okarito should definitely be on your ‘to-do’ list.

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Whale Watching in Kaikoura: A Day Trip

When you meet a tourist visiting New Zealand and they’ve been to Kaikoura, there’s a pretty high chance that they’ve done either the Whale Watch tour, or Swimming with the Dolphins, or both.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Kaikoura over the years but have always considered it to be just for tourists. Last weekend I decided to see what the fuss was about. We booked the 6.45 Whale Watch trip, assuming that it would be less windy at dawn.

Booking the whale watching tour

Whale Watching in Kaikoura

We arrived at the office just near the railway station and as you can see the sea was pretty flat! There is, however, a constant seasickness warning for the whale watching trip, shown on the board at the reception desk.

We paid the fare plus the add on for optional sea sickness tablets and proceeded to the waiting area.

That is where you are shown the 5-minute safety video, which tells you what to do in an emergency. It’s always nice to know there is a plan!

Whale Watching in Kaikoura

We then piled onto the bus for departure to South Bay, an 8-minute drive away to the South Bay Marine where the boats are waiting.

Our local guide on the day, Rangi, is part of the family who set up the Whale Watching Tours in 1987.

Boarding the boat

As we had our two boys with us aged 4 and 5, we were ushered up to the front to board the boat first. They also mentioned on the loudspeaker during the tip for everyone to be careful of the two boys when viewing the whales. We really appreciated the extra effort!

Whale Watching in Kaikoura

Rangi mentioned that the best place to avoid seasickness was at the back of the Whale Watch boat. So, we filed in and went straight to the back.

The boat was nice and clean and complete with plenty of seasickness bags in the front pocket. Perhaps this was a sign of things to come?

Heading out to watch whales

We headed out of South Bay toward the open ocean. The trip was a little bumpy as the announcer informed us about the species of whales we would likely see (Humpback and Sperm whales). They also shared information about the  Hikurangi trench.

Whale Watching in Kaikoura - Listening for Whales

After about 15 minutes we arrived at the first stop, where they put down a listening device to try and pick up the sound of nearby whales. Exciting stuff!

They soon announced that we’d picked up a sound of a nearby whale! Everyone had to go back inside as quickly as possible so the boat could get moving.

On the way, I overheard there is a 95% success rate with seeing whales when you go out on a Kaikoura Whale Watch trip.

After around 5 minutes ride we stopped and everyone piled out onto the lower deck to see their first glimpse of a whale.

Capturing the moment

It’s amazing to see how many people are taking photos with their smartphones rather than DSLR’s. The quality of cameras in iPhones are pretty amazing these days! I do wonder how many smartphones are sitting at the bottom of the ocean off Kaikoura though.

Whale Watching in Kaikoura - A whale dives for the deep
The moment the whale started his descent back down into the deep ocean, which we’d all come to see. 

Despite being a little cloudy from lack of sleep, and a little seasick, the sight of a whale up close was a pretty cool experience and a great connection with nature.

We even got to watch the whale start his dive back to the deep. I tried to capture that iconic moment. As usual, things are harder than they seem on a boat!

That wasn’t all, however. As we were heading back, we made a stop off amongst a massive family of dolphins. This was a real bonus to seeing the whale!

Whale Watching in Kaikoura - a large pod of dolphins are spotted!

Just to top it off, we even saw an albatross gliding around as we cruised back to Kaikoura. Arriving back at around 10.30 am, it was time to catch the bus back to the ‘whale way station’.

I have to say, the Whale Watch trip was a total success, having seen the whale, dolphins and an albatross. That is why this trip is so well known experience for many tourists!

Whether you choose the Whale Watch or Swimming with the Dolphins tour, I believe Kaikoura is a must for anyone visiting the South Island.

Blog post by Adam Hutchinson

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Akaroa Harbour Kayaking and Snorkelling Day Trip

Akaroa Harbour Wainui Bay Boat Ramp

Launching at Wainui in Akaroa Harbour

We launched on the opposite side of the harbour from Akaroa, at the Wainui boat ramp. As we got ready, we had a great view of a cruise ship headed out toward the harbour entrance.

Wainui also has an awesome freedom camping area where you can stay for a maximum of three nights. We were only on a day trip, but for those looking for the site can find it on the CamperMate app.

Akaroa Harbour kayaking
The water was pretty clear and you could see the bottom at around 4-5 metres. Sadly, no treasure to be found.

Checking out the caves

I’ve been snorkelling and fishing over at Wainui before, but have never been around the coast, so this was a first.

Once we set off and paddled around some corners, we found small caves nestled in the cliffs. They’re not the type that you would find pirate treasure in, but a few good boat lengths at least.

We left at low tide, and the caves were a little more exposed. If you’re doing this trip be wary of a southerly swell rolling through. When that happens, this part of Akaroa Harbour is the last place I would want to be!

Akaroa Harbour cave

Mat Wight Bay

Padding on, we reached Mat Wight Bay, a quiet stony beach that is sheltered from the wind. 

By the way, the double sea kayak in the photos is my new toy, and I am absolutely loving it. Like a lounge suite that you are keeping wrapped in plastic, it’s getting some red carpet treatment.

You may notice it resting on our life jackets and a wetsuit to avoid any scratches!

Snorkelling for Akaroa Harbour Paua

Akaroa Harbour kayaking

Akaroa Harbour was pretty calm still and the low tide had only passed about an hour or so earlier. So, I got the snorkel and went looking for some Paua for our tea.

When snorkelling, I only go as deep as my breath will allow, and I don’t like to take more than one from one group.

While 10 might be the maximum per-person (aside from some areas like Kaikoura, where it is 6) you really don’t need to take any more than what you need. I like making a Paua soup from 6.

Akaroa Harbour paua snorkelling

You might like to download the free NZ Fishing Rules app to find out how many you can take in your region.

Paddling back

On the return trip, the Southerly swell came in a bit and we were riding some quik little waves. It got a little hairy, to be honest! Controlling the rudder at the back can be a little difficult when you’re being pushed along by the wave, rather than by your paddles.

Luckily we managed to surf and paddle back to the boat ramp without any incidents. We made the journey back to Christchurch in about an hour and a half. That’s what we’d call a perfect Akaroa Harbour day trip!

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Hanmer Springs: A Weekend Trip

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Hanmer Springs is just short of a two-hour drive from Christchurch and is popular among both tourists and Cantabrians keen for a romantic getaway. It’s like a miniature Queenstown, with access to a couple of ski fields, mountain biking trails and that festive spirit in the air, all year round.

Freedom Camping in Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs Freedom Camping

If you’re arriving in your campervan, you’ll see plenty of ‘No Freedom Camping’ signs around the town. Don’t feel discriminated against!

Like Queenstown, Hanmer Springs was one of the towns which were a hotbed for freedom camping.

Unfortunately, a few were irresponsible and ruined it for the many. So the council had to do something about it. Hence there are a lot of signs around the place.

Hanmer Springs Freedom Camping

There is a freedom campsite in Hanmer Springs, suitable for certified self-contained vehicles. The site is on Department of Conservation managed land, rather than council land.

The site is located just off Jollies Pass Road. Head past the sign for Hanmer Forest, and look for a small Pawson’s Road sign. It’s small and basic, with only a handful of spaces available.

It will pay to check if the site is open in advance, as the D.O.C. run trials from time to time. The easiest way is to check on your free CamperMate app!

Hanmer Springs Hot Pools

Hanmer Springs Pools

So, what is there to do in Hanmer? Hands down, the most popular activity is relaxing in the thermal pools, right in the middle of town. If you’re visiting, you have to try it.

It’s a little pricey at $22/adult but after a days skiing, mountain biking or hiking, the pinch doesn’t feel all that bad. There’s a bunch of pools to choose from ranging from 28 degrees up to about 38 or so degrees.

Getting there in the morning is recommended, as the hot pools get very busy from about 12pm. Since the pools open at 10 am, you can find a not-so-busy period.

Hanmer Springs

You shouldn’t have an issue finding a park for your campervan in Hanmer Springs. It will probably be very busy directly outside the pools. If so, just head up Conical Hill Road until you find a park and walk back down into town. You shouldn’t have to walk for more than 3 or 4 minutes.

Food Options

So, you’ve finished your dip in the hot pools before the lunchtime crowd and now you’re looking for somewhere to eat. There are plenty of options from cafes, takeaways, supermarket and my recommendation, the bakery about 100 metres up from the Four Square supermarket.

Hanmer Springs food

For a busy town, the prices were very reasonable. And, if you don’t mind standing in line for 10 minutes, definitely go for one of the bakery pies or rolls!

Conical Hill Walk

On the same road as the bakery (walking away from the town), you’ll find the Conical Hill walk. Because Hanmer Springs has an alpine climate, you need to take a jacket in case the temperature changes.

Hanmer Springs View

This is an easy 20-minute bush walk that meanders through the trees and ends with a nice view over the town. I’ll admit that I cheated and this photo is from half way up. So, just imagine a view twice as good as this!

Hanmer Springs is a great town, with lots of charm. You can easily have a great weekend either in winter or summer, campervan or self-drive.

Blog post by Adam Hutchinson

Heaphy Track: Exploring By Bike

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The Department of Conservation had recently extended the season for mountain biking the Heaphy Track. I made a plan to use a late-November long weekend, and go and check it out.

Packing for the trip

The Heaphy Track is about 79km long. You can do it north-south or south-north. It’s one of NZ’s most popular walking tracks in the Kahurangi National Park, north-west of the South Island.

Gear packed  for the Heaphy Track
Packed for the Heaphy Track!

Packing was saved for the day before and consisted of some essentials. Sandfly repellent, sunscreen, tyre repair kits, EPIRB, a sleeping bag, and as many snacks packed in as possible!

We chose to do the North-South route. There are multiple options for getting to the start of the track.

Our group was 10 guys from Christchurch, so we drove vehicles and met car re-locators in Motueka. They came with us to the start of the Heaphy Track (near Browns Hut).

Setting off on the Heaphy Track

We took about 15 minutes to get all our bikes and gear sorted. And we set off for the first stage, a climb to the Perry Saddle Hut at around 3 pm.

Perry Saddle Hut on the Heaphy Track
Perry Saddle Hut

The first leg was a grind. The good thing is that you’re excited about starting the track. So, in my opinion, it’s the best time to get the hard work out of the way.

We probably should have left a little earlier, as some of the group had issues with their bikes along the way. They ended up arriving in the dark, which wasn’t ideal!

The next day is when the real fun started. It was a mellow start across a tussocky plateau with some pretty sweet views, like the one below. We had a bit of cloud in the morning so it wasn’t until lunchtime where we could start to experience really great views. Just take a look at the photos!

View from high on the Heaphy Track

James Mackay Hut

One of the best moments of the Heaphy Track trip was having lunch at the James Mackay Hut, and being able to see the Heaphy River Mouth about 35kms away which is where we were staying that night.

Why was that so cool? Well, it’s 90% downhill, so it’s a stunning single track cruise down to your next destination. You’ll also be cruising alongside the Heaphy River (below).

The Heaphy Hut

The Heaphy River seen from the Heaphy Track
The Heaphy River

The Heaphy Hut would have to be one of the most stunning DOC huts I have stayed at.

It’s situated at the river mouth, so you get the best of the fresh water (swimming, trout) and ocean (Kahawai, wild waves) worlds.

Note: There is a marine reserve at the river mouth, so please be aware of the rules.

The river is perfect for swimming in after the bike ride. There are trout in there, too. I had my rod with a Toby lure but didn’t have any luck. They were even following it!

Heaphy River Mouth on the Heaphy Track
Heaphy River Mouth on the Heaphy Track

The Final Stretch

The next day was also amazing, a flat ride along the coast. We loved having the bikes, but you can see why hikers also love the Heaphy Track.

We struck it on a day where the surf was clean and the sun was out. We even had a pod of dolphins following alongside our group!

However, by this point in the trip, my iPhone had run out of battery so I couldn’t get any photos!

Heaphy River Mouth on the Heaphy Track
The view of the hut from the river mouth.

We made it to our pick-up point and headed for home. On reflection, I’m really glad we chose to bike in the direction we did. It means a hard slog, followed by an epic downhill ride.

If you get the chance I definitely recommend either biking or walking the Heaphy Track!

Freedom Camping Fine Guarantee Terms and Conditions

CamperMate’s goal is to provide our users with the most trustworthy freedom camping app available. We think you should be able to explore our beautiful country without having to worry about Freedom Camping Fines.

CamperMate Freedom Camping Fine Guarantee

To put our money where our mouth is, we’ve set aside a fund to pay CamperMate app users’ Freedom Camping Fines. So that you can understand the process, here are some simple guidelines.

We will pay your Freedom Camping Fine directly to the local council or relevant enforcement authority within 10 working days provided that:

  • You received an Infringement Notice because you relied on materially incorrect information on our App;
  • You notify us at info@campermate.co.nz within 48 hours from when you are deemed (under the Act) to have been served the Infringement Notice.
  • Your correspondence includes all of the following information:
    • an image of the Infringement Notice that we can read (either a scan or photo)
    • the name of the campsite
    • a screenshot of the incorrect information provided on the App that you relied on
    • a brief explanation of which information in the app that you relied on. Please include how it resulted in an Infringement Notice being issued to you.
    • we receive your information within 48 hours from when you are deemed (under the Act) to have been served the Infringement Notice.
    • you had the latest version of the App installed at the date and time of the infringement offence. Having the latest version of the app installed will ensure that the data you’re viewing is up to date. You can check that your app is up to date by clicking here.

Please note

If you do not meet all of the criteria above, we won’t be able to pay your Freedom Camping Fine!
Also, if possible, please provide:

  • The enforcement officer’s name
  • Enough detail on the Infringement Notice to clearly set out the nature of the infringement and that you relied on information available on our App

We will not be able, nor be liable, to reimburse you for any Freedom Camping Fine that has already been paid. This includes where it has been charged or debited from your credit card or another account, by a Rental Company. This is because we would be unable to query or dispute the Infringement Notice before the Freedom Camping Fine has been paid.

However, if you send a request with the above information, we will see what we can do for you!

PLEASE NOTE: This Freedom Camping Fine Guarantee applies to individual users of the CamperMate app only. It is not available for companies (including any Rental Company).


Terms used but not defined herein shall have the meaning given to them in the Act.

Act means the Freedom Camping Act 2011;

“The app” means our CamperMate App;

Infringement Notice means an infringement notice issued under the Act that sets out the Freedom Camping Fine;

Freedom Camping Fine means a fine payable under an Infringement Notice.

… under section 20(1)(a) or section 20(1)(c) of the Act for freedom camping or preparing to freedom camp in a local authority area in breach of any prohibition or restriction in a bylaw made by a local authority under section 11 of the Act that applies to that area; or

under sections 20(1)(g) or 20(1)(j)of the Act for freedom camping or preparing to freedom camp on conservation land in breach of any prohibition or restriction in a freedom camping notice that applies to that land, but for no other prohibited or restricted activity;

New Zealand Freedom Camping Act 2011

Fund means the amount set aside by CamperMate as a company specifically for valid claims.

Rental Company means the holder of a rental service licence under the Land Transport Act 1998 or any other company or person that is the owner of the vehicle that is the subject of the Infringement Notice.

we, us, our, etc., means CamperMate.

If you have any questions, please contact us via email, or during business hours phone 0800 839 797

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Christchurch to West Coast Weekend Trip

For our Canterbury Anniversary long weekend, we decided to travel from Christchurch to the West Coast. It’s a classic South Island long weekend trip, and we’d rented a bach 30 km south of Fox Glacier.

If there’s one thing that can be expected before the start of any long weekend is the exodus of local leaving Christchurch at 4pm. It seems that almost everyone is doing a mad dash to beat the traffic and get away early, with bags packed and heading into the outdoors! With Canterbury being so diverse, most of us carry a wide range of gear. We are no different, with surfcasting rods, flyfishing rods, hunting gear, and all sorts of clothing combinations on board!

Castle Hill Rocks, near Christchurch on the way to the West Coast
Castle Hill Rocks – The blue sky combined with the green grass produced a pretty good result from the iPhone camera!

Castle Hill Rocks

It was going to be a late arrival regardless but we decided to pull into Castle Hill near Arthurs Pass.

Castle Hill is a collection of distinctive limestone boulders. They’re not only amazing to look at, as there are also some rock climbing/bouldering possibilities here.

I’d recently got a new iPhone, and wanted to explore the slow-motion filming, and to also check the quality of the photos it took.

After checking out the rocks, we were back on track to continue our journey over to the West Coast. One thing I love about this drive from Christchurch to the West Coast is that moment you can see the sea.

I can see the West Coast sea… sometimes

If you’re on the way via Christchurch and Arthurs Pass, watch out as you reach the coast just north of Hokitika. If it’s a clear enough day, you’ll see what I mean.

The swell rolling into the coast gets pretty big, thanks to the nature of the Tasman Ocean. As a result, the waves seem to smash onto the land with incredible force. It’s certainly a wild part of New Zealand.

Franz Josef Glacier, as seen on our Christchurch to West Coast trip.
Franz Josef Glacier

We made good time along the West Coast road, so we could reach the next big landmark with lots of daylight to spare.

The Franz Josef Glacier is a 10 km body of frozen water and rock that comes from the Southern Alps.

It is one of the must-see things over this way, and gets around 250,000 visitors per year. Sadly, due to the planet warming up, it’s retreating pretty fast.

We continued the drive south toward our destination, a remote place just south of Bruce Bay. It was getting quite dark by this time, so there were plenty of possums and even a deer on the road. Surely a good sign of things to come!

Fishing and hunting on the West Coast

The next morning we got up at 5.30 am and made our way into the bush for a look around. Within 30 minutes we saw a deer 10 metres away! It’s great to see these massive animals up so close and in the wild. You don’t even mind when you miss out!

Brown Trout caught on the way from Christchurch to West Coast
Check out this brown trout which was caught near a river mouth south of Bruce Bay!

We tried a spot of fishing, first surf-casting in the sea without success, so we turned to flyfishing for trout, which was far more productive.

We spent the rest of the day fishing or hunting and just looking around. As you can see from the background in the photos, there’s a lot to explore and dense bush to get into.

That’s what I love about the West Coast. I,t’s so remote and there’s plenty of opportunities to explore. It’s also close enough to Christchurch to make a trip like this doable!

If you are interested in fishing in the rivers over here, make sure you get the right fishing licence. They are easily available from the Fish and Game website, or from a local fishing shop.

We chilled out and lit a fire on the beach using the abundance of driftwood around. We were careful to make a good gap between our little fire and the other driftwood. You don’t want to have a fire get out of control over here, so make sure there’s nothing else that can catch and cause an emergency!

A West Coast driftwood fire
West Coast Driftwood Fire

Lake Paringa to Haast

We continued onto Lake Paringa, about 25 minutes drive south, then onto Haast. The weather was a bit patchy and stayed like that for the rest of the day.

The West Coast is an exposed coastline, and the weather can change very quickly. One minute it can be sunny, the next you’re in a torrential downpour. The next day, it was stunning without a breath of wind. So, you will need to pack accordingly!

There’s an awesome DOC campsite at Paringa that’s worth staying at if you’re on the Christchurch to West Coast trip. Of course, it also fits in well with the reverse route. It’s only $6 per night per person and you’re right on the lake edge.

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After a few days of hunting, fishing and exploring around Haast it was time to head back to Christchurch and back into the grind of it all. If you’re planning a trip in the South Island, make sure you add a drive along the West Coast and explore this awesome area. You might also like to check out these other posts on previous West Coast trips: A quick trip down the West CoastAmethyst Hot SpringsFishing in Haast [mc4wp_form] Blog post by Adam Hutchinson

Haast Fishing Trip: A CamperMate Cruise

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I recently took a weekend break and headed away for a bit of quiet time in one of the few areas of New Zealand still without cell phone reception… Haast, on the wild West Coast!

publicly accessible water tap tekapo
This publicly accessible tap provides clean tap water at a rest area. There are a couple of picnic tables here also. A great place to restock your water bottles on a hot day.

I can understand if this doesn’t sound like your ideal break! But, after spending so much time connected by way of smartphone, I could think of nothing better than a leisurely road trip. Especially when it would include a spot of fishing. 

On the way

Leaving Christchurch on Friday lunchtime, there was a sense of urgency in the air. Like myself, others were also escaping the city for the long weekend. This resulted in a bit more care needed on the road.

It was a hot day with an army of Cicadas lining State Highway 1. After an hour or so, I realised this was a great opportunity to hunt out some more points of interest (POI’s). I found some good new water sources that hadn’t been added by others through the app.

crown range lookout
The drive from Queenstown to Haast via Wanaka is one of my favourites, as you find yourself driving over the Crown Range.

Time got away on me a little while collecting other POI’s, so I arrived in Queenstown late in the evening. There I met up with my fellow fishermen.

lake hawea
Past the beautiful Lake Hawea (this photo was taken with my iPhone 5 and a filter added on Instagram) but ‘in the flesh’ it looks amazing still!)

Queenstown to Haast

We prepared for leaving early the next morning, bound for Jacksons Bay, 25 minutes drive south of Haast. This route would take us over the Crown Range, past Cardrona, and through Wanaka. From there, it’s a beautiful drive north past Lake Hawea, and the stunning Blue Pools Walk and Devil’s Bath.

We eventually reached Haast where, as mentioned earlier, cell phone coverage on any of the networks was non-existent!

Relief and panic set over me at the same time. This would soon give way and I could sit back and enjoy the time here… as soon as mosquito repellant was applied!

Haast’s Mosquitoes

Haast is somewhat renowned for its mosquitoes! I highly recommend you stock up on repellent, and make sure to secure your sleeping area! The buzzing mob will find any hole and have your campervan or tent singing in no time.

haast beach

Before dinner, we took a quick look at the beach to see what the conditions were like for the fishing trip the next day. Luckily, it looked amazing!

After some sleep, we got up to start the 25-minute trip south from Haast to Jackson Bay at 6 am. Here, we were greeted at the Jackson Bay Wharf by bigger and hungrier mosquitoes. This prompted us all to apply more repellant!

The public toilet at Jackson Bay was an adventure, with so many mosquitoes trying to find a piece of skin! It was a case of getting out to sea as quickly as possible to avoid the swarming gangs.

jackson bay wharf, haast
Jackson’s Bay Wharf

And so the fishing trip began! We were heading out about 13kms and to a depth of 350 metres to fish for Bass, Groper (aka Hapuka).

We had heard that the tuna were also running. They do for about 3 months a year along the coast near Haast. As always with fishing, there were no guarantees. The conditions were looking great though, so we were hopeful!

It took some time to reach the sweet spots, where we put our rods out. We managed to catch a few tuna, a big Blue Cod and a couple of Bass, cousin to the Groper.

calm day off haast

The conditions were uncommonly good for this stretch of coastline which normally consists of heavy seas. It was so flat in fact, that the skipper said he hadn’t experienced anything like it for years.


If you get the chance, I would strongly recommend taking a trip to Haast and carrying on to Jackson Bay. You’ll find lots of other campervans along this stretch of coastline.

It will be no mystery why once you get there.

Remember to pack the mosquito repellent!

Adam and friends stayed at Wilderness Accommodation which had clean and tidy facilities at a great price, and showers that were a great temperature also.