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New Zealand Road Trip in a Land Rover Defender

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Our trip to New Zealand was very spontaneous, as we hadn’t planned to visit Australia or New Zealand on our world tour until a $70 fare to Sydney popped up and David and I turned to each other with the same look: “How could we not?” We initially planned to spend 4 days in Australia and 6 days in New Zealand, but shortly after touching down in Sydney the wettest weather the city had seen in two years blew in and promised non-stop rain for the next 4 days. So, we decided to move up our flight and spend 8 nights in New Zealand where the weather promised to be better.

In June the temperatures in New Zealand are starting to dip since it’s approaching their winter, but we figured we could pop by a store when we arrived to pick up a few warm things. We ended up having fantastic weather which was a blessing since we decided it was best to do a camping road trip around the northern island.

David and I have long dreamed of two things: 1) road tripping around New Zealand, and 2) owning a Land Rover Defender. So when I came across Trekker Adventures while researching our New Zealand trip I was thrilled by the chance to try out one of these iconic vehicles.

Driving the Land Rover was even more fun than expected and since the vehicle came outfitted with a pop-up tent and all the necessary supplies all we needed to do was pick up some groceries before hitting the road. 100% Pure New Zealand’s website was an incredible resource as we hurried to pull our trip together as they have tons of amazing itineraries to choose from depending on your interests and length of stay. We combined the Hawke’s Bay To Wellington Wine Trail Itinerary with several recommendations from my friend Christine to create a plan for our 5 days and 4 night road trip around the north island.

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A few observations from our New Zealand road trip:

  1. Do not skip the Coromandel Peninsula! The lush hills, jagged cliffs and incredible views in all directions make this spot a must for any NZ road trip. We loved staying right on the beach at Long Bay Motor Camp and taking in the most beautiful sunset views and the next morning be sure to drive into town and enjoy a delicious breakfast in one of the many cute cafes in Coromandel town!
  2. The sky is New Zealand’s best feature. Sure, most people travel to New Zealand for their incredible landscapes, but I say go for their skies! Each morning and evening the entire expanse would turn pink – sometimes with vibrant streaks or orange. I think the photos speak for themselves!
  3. Consider how much daylight you’ll have when plotting your route. In June we only had 8.5 hours of sunlight each day and unfortunately that took us by surprise. When you have to pitch camp each night and then pack things up the next morning you’ll either have to do the setup/teardown in the dark or spend precious daylight hours performing these tasks. I’d recommend visiting NZ from November-April for longer days during their summertime. (Though you’ll also have more crowds.)
  4. Download the Campermate App for finding campsites. This app was indispensable part of our trip! We planned some campsites ahead of time and on other days we just waited to see how far we could drive before selecting a spot to camp for the night. As I said before, Long Bay Motor Camp was our favorite place to spend the night, but I also think Vinegar Hill is a really epic place to camp. (Confession!) We drove to the Vinegar Hill site on our third night, but it was late and the site was completely empty so we spooked ourselves and ended up driving for another two hours and staying at a motel.
  5. The wine is amazing and really affordable. We stopped at Craggy Range Winery outside of Napier for a tasting and loved the property and the wines! We stocked up during our visit so we could enjoy wine around the campfire in the evenings and especially loved their sauvignon blanc.
  6. Don’t forget to chat with the locals. We found kiwis to be wonderfully friendly so make sure that in addition to connecting with nature and taking in the beautiful countryside scenery you spend some time in town to meet locals. While stopping in Greytown, we loved chatting with a couple who were selling bratwursts to raise money for their daughters summer program in Germany (they own a shetland pony that is a local celebrity) as well as watching a rugby game at packed pub in Palmerson North. (Especially fun because New Zealand won!)

There’s so much more to see in New Zealand. We know we’ll be back someday to tour the South Island as well!

xx, SF

New Zealand Packing List:

Sailor Shirt (Red) // Indigo Summer Pants // Cognac Wrap Heels // Refined Rain Boots // Straw Boater Hat

All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com

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  1. September 2, 2018 / 2:47 pm

    Beautiful pictures, and now I’m really wondering how I could squeeze in Coromandel in my upcoming trip!
    I was wondering how you liked the top tent in New Zealand. Would you recommend it and Trekker Adventures as a company? How long did it take you to set up and take down each day? Did it leak, and were you able to stay warm?

    • Stacie
      September 4, 2018 / 4:20 pm

      We LOVED the top tent and would highly recommend Trekker Adventures. It took about 30-40 minutes to set up our entire camp each night and the top tent was really easy. We visited in June (their winter) and it didn’t rain (therefore were no leaks) and were sufficiently warm in the tent. A really fantastic way to experience New Zealand! xx Stacie

  2. Emily L
    April 5, 2019 / 11:39 am

    Hello! We are planning a trip this coming November and are still deciding what type of vehicle we want to rent. We have always been interested in renting a Defender and I was curious where you changed your clothes and how easy/difficult that was? Also keeping your clothes organized. We’ve rented a campervan before but it had enough standing room inside to change. Thanks!

    • Stacie
      April 5, 2019 / 2:44 pm

      Hi Emily! You can’t fully stand up in the camping tent, but I didn’t find that to be a problem. New Zealand has a great app for finding campsites and it will tell you about amenities/shower availability at each site, so you can always pick a spot with the amenities your looking for. (Some campsites even have full kitchens! But we were happy with our camp stove.:) I kept my luggage in the back seat, and found it easy enough to keep things organized. xx SF

  3. Victor Janin
    August 11, 2019 / 1:02 pm

    Hi Stacie!

    First of all thank you for your blog post, it was very insightful when researching about Trekker Adventures.
    As Emily from the previous comment me and my wife plan to book a Jepp with Trekker Adventures in November.
    My main question is, can you sleep anywhere? Probably not anywhere anywhere, but can you find an open field (not a private property) and stay there for the night?

    Victor & Valentina

  4. Jean-Michel
    January 14, 2020 / 8:56 pm


    Great blog and beautiful pictures.
    What did you ended up packing for this travel ? Bed linen, pillows, inflatable mattress?

    • Stacie
      January 17, 2020 / 10:58 pm

      Hi Jean-Michel,

      Most everything is provided except for pillows, linens, and food. (There’s a mattress built into the top up tent and they provide a camping stove, utensils, table, chairs etc.) It was well kitted out but if you have specific items you can’t travel without make sure to contact the owner before renting. Have so much fun! x SF

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