With or without surfboard - the best way to explore New Zealand is with a van. However the rough coastal weather is nothing for the faint-hearted.
We are relaxing on our sofa, feet outstretched. Our gaze wanders over the ocean and waves. The sun is already setting low, soon the last surfers will leave the water. A whistle in the background disrupts the silence. I get up and take the kettle from the stove and pour the hot water in our tea cups. The steam has covered the windows and as I rub them free I see a surfer, shivering from the cold and trying to free himself out of his wetsuit. I don’t envy him at that moment. We are parked at Manu Bay in Raglan - the same named surfspot has become world-famous thanks to the Surf movie classic “The Endless Summer” by Bruce Browns. And to this day, this almost endless breaking lefthander is still on the list of global top-ten waves. Raglan may be the most popular but of course it is not the only surfing hot spot in New Zealand.
On the Surf-Highway
A country in the middle of the pacific ocean - so it doesn't come as a surprise, that there is a Surf-Highway. The road winds its way along the coast, passing green hills sprinkled white with sheep. On the way to some surfspots we climb over fences and walk through lush pastures. The beautiful landscape is almost too cheesy. But as soon as you enter the water the harsh reality hits you in the face. The tough weather is nothing for the faint-hearted and often you have to hurdle over rocks to get to the perfect waves.
If you're up for the challenge you will be rewarded. Due to it exposed position New Zealand has a unbelievable variety of surfspots. From fast monster-breaks over classic pointbreaks to mellow longboard waves. Also the line up is very laidback - it's not uncommen that the locals will share their insider knowledge with you.
New Zealand is all about nature. If you're travelling with a van, you have the luxury to sleep at the most beautiful spots. Pure freedom. Almost: Only if you have a toilet in your closet and collect your waste water, you are allowed to wild camp away from camping grounds. Keep in mind the weather situation changes rapidly in New Zealand, a precise weather forecast is almost impossible. Therefore we would recommend to surfers to chose a location, that has several surf spots nearby. In the ideal case they also face different swell-directions.
Even if your unlucky with the waves, there are plenty of alternatives in this outdoor paradise. The Tongarori National Park is only one of the nature highlights, that was used as a film set for the Lord of the Rings epos. Mountainbike-fans will find a fantastic park near Rotorua - and if you don't mind the smell of sulphur you should visit the Thermal Wonderland. However more pleasant for the senses is the wine area of Marlborough. There it's best to park the campervan and do a winery tour through the vineyards with the bicycle.
For two and a half month we lived in our house on four wheels. The waves set the pace and often we zigzag through the country to be at the right place at the right time. We saw so much, but not everything. Time is an important factor in New Zealand - one should simply have enough of it.