Why I loved my family campervan holiday to Rotorua so much

Britz campervan holiday to Rotorua review by Daniel Rutledge of Newshub.
Photo credit: supplied/THL

I've always wanted to go on a campervan holiday and recently, I finally did. I'm happy to say it was just as fun and convenient as I'd always imagined.

It's a particularly handy way to travel when you're doing so with young children. The ability to stop almost anywhere and have immediate access to a bed, toilet, kitchen and shower without leaving your vehicle is very liberating.

Any parent will attest to how our dearly beloved little ones can pick the worst times possible to launch a nuclear-level tantrum. Having a home on wheels to deal with that is so much better than a normal car, but it's also less troublesome than having it happen in a hotel - and definitely much, much better than on a plane.

As an Auckland-based family, Rotorua proved a fantastic destination for a campervan long weekend away that I can highly recommend.

The vehicle we went in was a Britz Discovery which has the equivalent of two double beds inside. They're nice and sizeable, too; being a little over 185cm tall I was worried the beds would keep me cramped up uncomfortably, but there was plenty of room.

Although Rotorua isn't a long drive, breaking it up with a stop at Lake Karapiro made the journey with our three-year-old much less of a struggle. That was where we first used the kitchen facilities onboard to have wonderful fresh French toast just the way we like it, with freshly made coffee of course, all while watching locals enjoying water sports on the lake.

Britz Discovery 4-berther by Lake Karapiro.
Lunch stop at Lake Karapiro. Photo credit: Newshub.

On our way home a few days later, having a campervan to drive around the entirety of Lake Rotorua was fantastic, too. Almost anywhere that looks like a good place to stop at you can - and we did, using the in-vehicle microwave to get nice hot snacks to go with our hot drinks and not having to worry about how far away the nearest restroom was.

In Rotorua, we stayed at the beautiful Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park, which is absolutely ideal. It boasts a nice selection of playgrounds, great facilities and everything you need to really elevate the campervan holiday experience.

There's a great sense of community amongst the guests that's nice to be a part of, too. As a first-timer with the campervan, we had a fair few questions about how to get the best out of it and while the staff were friendly and helpful as can be, other people in campervans were closer to us and very eager to help bring us up to speed.

Blue Lake, Rotorua.
Morning swim in Blue Lake. Photo credit: Newshub.

The Blue Lake itself is also stunning. It was a wonderful joy to wake up by splashing around with the ducks in its almost eerily still waters, gazing at the forest enveloping it.

I only wish we had more time to relax and enjoy that holiday park, and hope to return to it soon. But with only a few days in Rotorua and so much fun stuff to do there, we really did have a busy schedule packed with fun experiences.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that this is a city built on tourism and the folks running the tourist attractions there really, really know how to treat holidaymakers.

It's also nicknamed Rotovegas for a good reason - like Las Vegas, all kinds of super cool attractions have sprung up around the city that could only exist in a place that hosts massive volumes of tourists.

Yes, these are obvious observations, but they're facts that are easy to forget and it's only when you're on holiday there that gets so hammered home and you can properly remember just how well they cater to holidaymakers.

Skyline Rotorua luge.
Luge time! Photo credit: Newshub.

The Skyline Rotorua luge is just as much fun as I remember it as a child and since our fun afternoon there our three-year-old won't stop saying: "Luge, daddy, luge!"

He's a bit young for skydiving, zorbing, ziplining and the other activities I look forward to doing with him in years to come, but tandem rides on the luge were a great way to get that adrenaline cranking. His first ever gondola and chairlift rides were also a real thrill.

Speaking of thrilling, the Redwoods Treewalk is absolutely spectacular. What an awesome way to soak in the grand Californian redwoods of Whakarewarewa Forest. It's hard to say if it's better at night with all the amazing light art they have set up, or during the day when you can better drink in the natural majestic beauty of the forest.

Our three-year-old, however, doesn't fear heights enough yet and a few times tried to climb the fence, which made my blood run cold with fear. Word of advice: maybe take a harness or leash if you have a toddler up there to avoid suffering heart problems!

Lake view private pool at Polynesian Spa.
Lake view private pool at Polynesian Spa. Photo credit: Newshub.

A glorious way to relax after a day of those sorts of activities is with a lakeview private pool at the Polynesian Spa. It reminded me of the relaxing times I've spent soaking in onsen in Japan, which is one of my all-time favourite ways to pass time.

This is a really impressive complex with a broad range of different hot pools, all taking advantage of the area's amazing geothermal gifts offering both acidic and alkaline natural mineral springs water. There are multiple family pools and private pools of differing temperatures which you can take advantage of, right on up to luxury retreat day spa packages.

Of course, if you haven't checked them out for a while, marvelling at those natural geothermal wonders is a must while in Rotorua. It's such a special place we're lucky to have and I feel silly for not visiting it more often in my adult life.

Food-wise there's more great dining options in Rotorua than seems reasonable for a city of this size. We enjoyed the food and great service everywhere we ate, but if I had to recommend one place it would be Stratosfare. Located up Mount Ngongotaha as part of Skyline Rotorua, this restaurant offers fantastic food, superb service and a glorious, elevated view over all of Rotorua and the lake.

Dining options in Rotorua.
Clockwise from top left: The Bogan burger with chips and beer at Good Eastern Taphouse; Pan fried trevally with prawn saffron risotto and citrus salsa at Our House; Chocolate waffles with dark chocolate ganache, berry compote, kiwifruit and pear at Eastwood Cafe; Big breakfast at Eastwood Cafe; Duck breast in orange and honey glaze on kumara fritter with sautéed mushrooms at Stratosfare; Feijoa martini at Our House. Photo credit: Newshub.

Good Eastern Taphouse was also a standout - similar to the likes of Juke Joint in Auckland, it's great for both adult groups or families, serving great beer and great meals, with great service.

Hitting all these holiday spots in our home on wheels was a fabulous way to do it. Not everywhere has parking that caters for campervans, but most places do and those that don't are generally only a short walk away.

It's hard to think of ways to improve the service I got from Britz, but one thing I could suggest would be labels on the keyring. There were about 10 keys on that thing for different locks around the campervan and I almost always struggled to remember which one was which.

In general, though, it was a marvellous way to travel around New Zealand. For parents of younger kids who can cause anxiety when staying at hotels and other forms of accommodation, holidaying in a campervan or mobile home is something I can highly recommend.

It's just so bloody handy, it made for a family trip we loved and can't wait to do again soon. We're already planning a longer trip, spending longer at Rotorua and staying at other destinations around the North Island.

If you too hire a campervan for your own New Zealand holiday, don't forget to wave when you see others on the road. They almost always wave back and it's a cool community to be a part of, even just as a tourist.

Daniel and his family's holiday was provided by Britz parent company THL and Destination Rotorua. All COVID-19 safety regulations were adhered to during the trip