Maui Campervan 8 Day Road Trip – Christhurch to Marlborough
So that we could get a head start on our ‘South Island Road Trip,’ we flew from Auckland to Christchurch early in the morning.
A complimentary shuttle from Christchurch Airport to Maui’s adjacent facility was supplied, as well as a training on how to operate our “home on wheels” for the next eight days.
The ‘Platinum Beach’ Motorhome was the best option for us since it offered lots of room for us to relax, as well as a permanent bed in the back, central galley and toilet/shower, and dining area in the front. We decided to use the upper bed for case storage and all of our photographic gear….. Let’s go on a road trip!
Christchurch to Kaikoura – Day 1 of the South Island Road Trip
From Christchurch, we drove to Kaikoura (181 kilometres, around 2 hours 30 minutes). The view along the Kaikoura coastline, with beautiful skies and crashing waves, was spectacular. At one of the many seal colonies dotting this coastline, we decided to take a break and see the residents up up and personal.
We continued on our way to Kaikoura, which was our next destination.
We arrived at Kaikoura about midday and checked in for our two-and-a-half-hour boat tour with Whalewatch Kaikoura to see whales and other marine wildlife. Following a brief movie and explanation about the life of whales, there will be a safety briefing on board the boat. We took a bus to South Bay, where we joined the whale watch boat before venturing out into the deep water canyons in search of these big and spectacular beasts. We were not disappointed when we saw two Sperm whales.
As the whales prepared to plunge to the ocean below, everyone waited with bated breath for the renowned flick of the tail, a mesmerising sight and a memory that would last a lifetime.
On our way back to South Bay, we encountered a big pod of resident dusky dolphins as well as a plethora of wildlife.
We had scheduled a late afternoon fishing trip with local fishing expert “Tomo” of Kaikoura Fishing Tours, along with other like-minded visitors, in order to enjoy fresh seafood for our first evening meal.
Tomo operates a 10 metre fishing boat outfitted with all of the latest equipment and onboard technologies to locate and capture fish. We cruised out to sea for approximately 15 minutes before Tomo, our captain, circled a small area and dropped two crayfish pots to be recovered on our way back. From there, it was on to the fishing areas, where we lowered our prey to the bottom with baited hooks, and the fish bites were quick, with a couple of the other fishos already having boated their first Red Cod. Over the following hour, we caught enough fish for everyone onboard, including my favourite Blue Cod. The staff prepared our fish for the pan by filleting it. When we returned, we checked the craypots and were each rewarded with a crayfish.
We selected to stay at the Alpine Holiday Park, which has an excellent range of amenities, a swimming pool, a flat grassland covered site with wonderful mountain and rural views, and is only a short walk from town. Our first evening dinner in the campervan was fresh grilled crayfish and a fantastic Marlborough Pinot Gris.
We had an early start on Day 2 by driving to South Bay to meet up with Albatross Encounters for their 6 a.m. cruise to observe Kaikoura’s extraordinary range of pelagic (ocean-going) birds. With everyone on board and an array of cameras and lenses, we sailed out of the port onto open sea, where the skipper had noticed a commercial fisherman working along the coast, which seemed like a good area to observe our first bird sightings. The captain dropped some tempting morsels into the water, which appeared to signal a variety of bird species to join us. Within a few feet of the boat, we were surrounded by Shearwaters, Petrels, and the sighting of the majestic Albatross as he soared in to join us. All you could hear were birds squawking and shutters clicking on everyone’s cameras.
After saying goodbye to Kaikoura, we headed to Picton. Driving down the shore, those who missed the chance to catch and pull a craypot will find the renowned “Nins Bin,” a trailer constantly positioned along the roadside and where they sell freshly caught and cooked crayfish so that you can just enjoy it.
Ohau Stream, located 27 kilometres north of Kaikoura, is a favourite spot for visitors and residents alike to get a glimpse of juvenile fur seal pups as they make their way up the stream to play. After approximately 10 minutes of walking, we arrived to a tiny waterfall and pool, where we spotted a large group of seal pups having a good time.
In the water, the puppies learn to interact with one another, swim, forage, and defend themselves against predators, all while increasing their muscular strength and coordination. They have fun in the water with twigs and leaves, chasing one other and generally showing their curiosity in everything around them. (April through September is the best time of year to see).
When we arrived in Picton, we selected to stay at the Top 10 Holiday Park, which is about 1 km from the town centre and has fantastic amenities. Our evening meal was yesterday’s catch from our fishing expedition, pan-fried with lemon pepper and fresh salad, and complemented with yet another wonderful Marlborough Pinot Gris.
We boarded Pictons ‘Dolphin Watch’ boat for a three-hour excursion into the Queen Charlotte Sounds in search of dolphins after waking up to ideal weather. They eluded us for a time as we drove into various hidden bays and coves, passing through kiwi baches and lodges dotting the beach and surrounded by breathtaking beauty. Finally, we spotted our first pod of Bottlenose dolphins as they swam beneath our bow, occasionally leaping. A couple of our other passengers elected to swim with them, but we prefered to stay dry and observe from the deck. We were soon joined by a second small pod of common dolphins… Our morning had turned out to be a triumph.
We opted to take a guided wine trip with ‘Marlborough Travel’, which offers tastings at various premium vineyards, because Marlborough is known for its superior wine production area with over 80 wineries. What a fantastic insight into the region’s local producers, as well as the opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow travellers over lunch and a few laughs along the way. A fantastic way to end our afternoon in Marlborough.
We began our exploration of Blenheim by visiting the Marlborough Museum in Brayshaw Park, which has an interesting collection of artefacts that reflect the narrative of Marlborough and the history of winemaking in the region.
The ‘Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre,‘ which showcases Sir Peter Jackson’s personal collection of WWI aircraft and artefacts, was the next visit. This is an outstanding representation of a historical past with stunning displays and lights. Even if you have no interest in aeroplanes or combat history, the displays were fantastic.
Next door is an interesting collection of classic cars from the 1950s to the 1980s, and although Ruth shared some of my enthusiasm for this, to ensure our house on wheels remained a happy place, we went to ‘Makana Confections,‘ where we watched the making of hand made chocolates and sampled some lovely free samples before purchasing a selection of our favourites for the coming days.
We had reserved an overnight stay at a prefered Maui Campervans Winery hideaway, ‘Forrest Winery.’
It was a chance to relax with a wine tasting of Forrest wines followed by a lovely cheese plate after parking the campervan in the middle of the vineyard and putting up our outside table and chairs.
The staff gave us with a gourmet basket packed of local delicacies and goods, including lamb rack, veggies, cheeses, pickles, and a bottle of chosen Forrest wine to match, as part of the ‘Maui Haven’ package.
We had heard of a neighbouring English-style pub suitably titled the “Cork & Keg,” so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check it out. We were greeted warmly by the staff and were able to joke with the nice locals and fellow travellers. The Cork & Keg serves terrific pub food, which we drank down with yet another Marlborough Pinot Gris.
…… a really calm evening in a great setting.
(Images: Cork & Keg)
We woke again to clear skies and sweeping views of the Forrest Wines vineyard with the stunning Wither Hills as a backdrop. Along with another couple we had the chance to meet the owner/winemaker John Forrest who gave us an interesting tour around the vineyard, explained the processes of winemaking, blending and some early morning tastings from the barrel.
Leaving the Forrest vineyard behind, we decided to head for Pelorous Bridge (Approx 60 Kms) taking the opportunity to relax in this scenic reserve with its forest and river scenery, watching some ‘Outward Bounds’ participants warming up after a kayak on the river.
We decided to return to Havelock to the ‘Slip Inn,’ which lies on the waters edge of the Marina, to sample some local green mussels…. We chose the ‘The Mussel Kilo,’ steamed with white wine, garlic butter, and herbs, from the extensive menu. They were fantastic, and I probably ate the most of them.
We returned to Blenheim through Picton via the ‘Queen Charlotte Scenic Route,’ which is well-known for its spectacular landscape (Approx 65 Kms) It’s not a quick route, and with all of the scenic breaks, it took us nearly 2 hours to get there, but the vistas are beautiful, and it’s well worth the journey. Tonight’s dinner: succulent meatballs in a creamy pasta sauce with mashed potatoes.
‘Molesworth Tours’ 4×4 gurus Geoff and Lee Swift were ready to take us on an epic journey across New Zealand’s high country and the country’s highest road/track.
Geoff promised us that the views were only going to get better as we climbed the steep gravel roads, and we couldn’t stop snapping photos as we drew closer to the horizon.
As we neared the summit of Blackbirch Ridge, which sits at an elevation of 5,300 feet above sea level, we stopped for a cup of coffee and some home-cooked food prepared by Lee the night before. From the mountains to the sea, we took it all in. We had a wonderful time and want to do it again.
Geoff and Lee graciously offered to let us spend the night on their farm once our exciting journey was over. A wonderful day was had by everyone thanks to our charming and amusing Kiwi hosts.
A Day in Blenheim, New Zealand on the South Island’s Road Trip
Blenheim’s Marlborough Farmers Market is open on Sundays, and we were eager to check it out. Among the offerings are fresh local vegetables, gourmet sauces and pickles, a variety of artisan items, tasty snacks, and coffee, as well as plenty of places to meet people and take in the sights and sounds of the neighbourhood.
We strolled through Queens Park and down the gorgeous river that runs through Blenheim’s municipality, stopping at cafés and eateries along the way.
For the rest of the day, we cruised through Marlborough’s vineyards, pausing for lunch and another Pinot Gris at Wither Hills winery
We went to Rarangi Beach, just north of Blenheim, for the night because we wanted to enjoy a magnificent sunrise and since numerous people recommended it….. Our first overnight liberation camp!
We were up before sunrise on our last morning of the trip, with a plunger coffee in hand, waiting for the sun to rise over the horizon. We struck into a conversation with a local couple and their three-legged puppy who had also arrived to see the dawn, which did not disappoint and reassured us that we had camped in the ideal position.
Breakfast with our new friends and pooch included more coffee and baked pastries.
Our drive back to Christchurch brought us through ever-changing landscape, from the vineyards of Marlborough with their rows of grapes, through farmed pastureland, and finally to the stunning coastal panorama as we drove along the Kaikoura coastline again. with the snow-capped Kaikoura hills as a background
We pulled over on a gorgeous area on the water’s edge and combed through what food we had left, resulting in a highly colourful and wonderful omelette from the components. We cleaned up our mobile home, packed the last of our belongings, and embarked on the final stage of our journey back to Christchurch….. What an amazing week we had, with so many things we saw and so many things we didn’t have enough time for…… We certainly have some more must-dos for our future South Island road trip.
Book Your New Zealand Road Trip with: Maui rentals
Exploring New Zealand by campervan is a typical Kiwi trip where you don’t have to worry about your schedule or what gear to carry because most rental camper vans come equipped with all of the necessary. Seating outside the camp, tables, towels, blankets, tea towels, cutlery, pots, pans, plates… Everything you need to make your campervan a home away from home, including a BBQ, so you can stay in campsites or freedom camps and cook a lot of your own meals, saving you money on hotels and pricey restaurant meals. You really can’t beat unwinding at the end of the day in front of some beautiful picturesque New Zealand scenery.
Selecting a Camper Van Maui can assist you find the appropriate model that matches your needs, from two travellers to a large family party, to suit your demands and budget.
There are various New Zealand campervan pick-up and drop-off places, ranging from Auckland and Wellington in the North Island to Christchurch and Queenstown on the South Island, as well as a few additional suitable locations in between