The Long Drive Home

With the wind having died away the following morning (refer previous blog) it was now safe to make our way out of French Pass  with no fear of being blown over the edge and down one of the steep banks that flank this very narrow road. Not long after we got underway the heavens decided to leak liquid sunshine at first with only a few drops, then a bit later someone tipped out the swimming pool from upstairs drenching the road. It was at this point that Sarah and I decided that with the weather really beginning to turn and having already had the motorhome stuck twice in muddy campgrounds that sadly it was time to depart the South Island.

The road from French Pass to the State Highway is only 70 kms but with the rain and the narrowness of the first 22kms (mostly gravel road) it’s a 90 minute drive. Thankfully we met no traffic on any of the tight corners and it was a fairly easy drive. I cannot imagine driving this road at Christmas it would be a nightmare trying to find somewhere to pull over with lots of other vehicles on the road.

Taking the scenic route into Picton from Havelock along the coast  and deciding to avoid going through Blenheim, we would have stopped to take photos at any one of a number of great photo spots if the rain had held off. However we had no luck in this area pressing on through the rain. What I didn’t realise was just how windy the road was on this scenic route and it probably would have been just as quick to drive through Blenheim.

Reaching the lookout above Picton the rain finally stopped giving us the chance to stop for a couple of photos it was here that I thought I would jump online and book our ferry crossing. Firing up the laptop I tried to get onto the Bluebridge site but there wasn’t enough signal to connect so Sarah suggested that we just drive down there and book.

Arriving at the Bluebridge Terminal (photos taken from Google) I went in to book for the 2pm crossing. The reason we had chosen Bluebridge is that when we crossed in January the fare was much cheaper than the Interislander so it was the obvious choice. Once at the counter I was told that the 2pm ferry was delayed and would not be sailing till around 4pm as they were still catching up from the disruption caused by the wind the previous day.

I was cheeky enough to ask if they knew if their competitors were running to schedule as they had a 2.15 sailing. The person behind the counter diplomatically answered that perhaps I should go and ask them although he believed that they were sailing to schedule.


It was a really bad day for me remembering to take photo’s and I had to lift this from Google as well, so sorry for the quality of photos.

Anyway the lady at the counter of the Interislander was really helpful and armed with our NZMCA membership card we secured a booking on the 2.15pm sailing which was running to schedule. It turned out that the crossing was $297.00 which was $2 more than it cost us to cross with Bluebridge in January.

With a while to kill before check in time at the ferry terminal we decided to have a quick explore of Picton. The first thing we discovered is that although there must be thousands of motorhomes coming through this town every week the town is anything but motorhome friendly when it comes to parking.

There are a couple of designated areas where they want motorhomes to park but yet again the parking spaces are barely big enough for a car let alone a 9 metre motorhome I find it hard to believe that a town that must generate a significant amount of it’s income from the tourist trade wouldn’t do more to accommodate larger vehicles.

While we ate lunch in the Marina carpark we spotted the ferry coming into the terminal taking the chance to snap a couple of photos of it turning around, so it comes into the wharf backwards. The Interislander ferries are drive on at the rear in Picton and drive off the front in Wellington, so since the vehicles had driven on at the front in Wellington it needed to turn around so the vehicles could drive off.

Lining up to get on the ferry it was good to see the weather clearing and with the swell metre showing light conditions for the crossing I was not as anxious as I was crossing the first time when I had no idea what the sea conditions held for us. It was also interesting how few motorhomes there where compared to the January crossing.

Not just fewer motorhomes but fewer everything with the top deck of the ferry almost completely clear of vehicles as you can see in the above photos. Then in terms of people the ship felt almost deserted with us having this viewing window at the rear of the ship almost to ourselves for the whole crossing.

So just a few days short of four months we said goodbye to the South Island and the adventures it had given us. We both promised ourselves that there was no way we would wait another 27 years to return. There is so much that we saw but also so much we didn’t, that another trip is already in the planning.

As we steamed up the sound on the way to Wellington we passed the Bluebridge ferry that was meant to leave at 2 pm heading into Picton so very thankful that there was no phone signal when I went to make that booking earlier.

An hour into the journey the ferry exits the sounds and it’s not long after this that a sea mist closed in around the ship and that was the last view of the South Island. As you can see the water was really flat so thankfully it was going to be a very smooth crossing. When you turn green on the end of the wharf you learn to appreciate these things.

With the sun getting lower in the sky and the sea mist surrounding the boat I was able to take these shots as it got closer to sunset. It was really quite serene other than the fact you couldn’t see land anywhere.

Night Motorway

Another photo stolen from the web. One of the things that really surprised both of us was arriving into Wellington after the sun had set we would have thought that the lighting on the motorway would continue a decent way up the road. But after a few kilometres of driving there were no more street lights. This being the first time I had driven the motorhome at night I found it quite disconcerting especially with the concrete barriers hugging the left hand side of the road with all the road works for Transmission Gully.

Plimmerton - NZMCA - Wellington

Cellphone Signal

Good Strong Signal

Walking/Cycling Tracks

A walking and cycle track start from just outside the camp entrance with a short walk under the railway lines to the waterfront or the cycle trail that follows SH1 North

Proximity to Attractions

With the beach nearby and Wellington central and all it has to offer a short train ride away the camp is reasonably well located.

Nearest Supplies/Town

New World is just a couple of kms down the road and restaurants in Plimmerton a short walk away

Ground Surface

Flat level gravel surface free from puddles and mud.

Proximity to Water/Dump Station

Right there onsite in the middle of the camp

Outlook from Camp

A bit of an industrial area surrounding the camp but pleasant views of farmland in the distance.

Noise during Day and Night

With a train line behind the camp and SH1 across the road it's a little noisy

Overall Rating:

A handy location close to Wellington central trains and supermarket nearby. Better than it first appears on arrival.

We did however arrive safe and sound at the NZMCA camp in Plimmerton without any issues and even managed to park in the exact same spot we had parked 4 months previously. The fact that there were a lot less vehicles there probably helped with that.


The following morning we caught up with some friends we had met a few times on the road, Renee and Geoff who live locally. They popped down to say hello with Renee sharing some lovely scones that she had baked that morning. I think one of the things I have enjoyed the most on this holiday is the chance to make friends with people like these who have similar interests and are happy to share their camping experiences with fellow travelers.

That night after having been stuck in the motorhome all day due to never ending rain. We donned our rain coats to take the short walk from the camp into Plimmerton, with the view to have a Pizza (Sarah has been hanging out for one). However the pizza restaurant didn’t pass her inspection of the menu, so we decided to try the Taj Indian ordering Chicken Vindaloo and Lamb Rogan Josh with Nan breads. The food was 11 out of 10 and if we lived here we would certainly become regulars, highly recommended.

The following morning it was time to start the trip home, we had noticed the Dethleffs motorhome pull in the previous night and as we were using the dump station and filling up with water Bernie came over and reintroduced himself (we had met him and his wife Bev. in Christchurch) we had a bit of a chat and then time to move on. I do love the name of their van Deyleffthome a great play on the makers name.

The plan was to drive most of way to Auckland in one day. We did consider stopping at Taupo and breaking the journey in half but knowing that Otorohanga had a hard stand area and with all the rain that had fallen over the previous few days, we didn’t want to get stuck anywhere. So we chose to drive on making for a shorter trip the following day.

Otorohanga - NZMCA

Cellphone Signal

Good signal

Walking/Cycling Tracks

No cycle or walking tracks nearby but it's a pretty town with an easy walk or cycle into the town centre.

Nearest Supplies/Town

The town centre has all major stores and a decent industrial area with a number of business that might be able to help if you had any issues.

Proximity to Attractions

The world famous Kiwi House is only a short walk/drive away from the camp and the Waitomo caves are also nearby.

Proximity to Water/Dump Station

No water or dump station at the camp but both of these are available in town

Outlook from Camp

A pleasant semi rural setting with a few houses also overlooking the camp.

Noise during Day and Night

Fairly quiet although we did get woken a couple of times with trains thundering along the nearby rail line.

Ground Surface

A large camp with plenty of level space. A big grassed area for summer and a smaller hard stand area for winter and the fewer campers on the road.

Overall Rating:

What we have come to expect from NZMCA camps you feel like you are coming home. Just think though they should all have onsite water.

As you can see the camp was really quiet with only one other van joining us that evening. It’s certainly something we have noticed since the beginning of May are the reduced number of travelers. Our arms are no longer tired from all the waving to other motorhomers

Welcome back to Auckland! Oh how I missed these traffic jams, not! I don’t think anything could have brought it home to me more than getting to the edges of Auckland and getting stuck in a traffic jam that stretched for kilometres and it wasn’t even peak hour this was 1pm. Certainly makes me think fondly of our time in the South Island.

Even though we are now home for a short period of time there are a number of experiences that we had in the South Island that I still need to write about so over the next couple of weeks I will publish these blogs.  We might appear to jump from one end of the island to the other but it’s just me catching up.

blog photo

I hope you have all enjoyed reading what I have published so far. I have certainly loved writing about our travels and sharing the memories via this blog will give me things to look back on over the years to come.
Click here to read all camp ground ratings done so far
Click here to visit the interactive map of were we have been

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5 thoughts on “The Long Drive Home

  1. We have enjoyed reading about your travels down South, in fact spent 10 weeks there our selves over summer. It was good to see your views on places we had been too, and even better to rediscover new areas which we hadn’t visited. Like you, we want to return again soon, there is so much to see and do.

    1. Many thanks for the comments Jenny and Robin it’s was great to be able to share our experiences and even better that people enjoyed reading about what we did. But it’s not finished yet with more to explore and write about

  2. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog. I have really enjoyed reading it. We have been down to the SI in our motorhome a couple of times. Next time, hopefully, there will be no time limit and we can wander around at our leisure.

    1. Many thanks for the comments Ruthena it has been a pleasure writing the blog and being able to share the journey. But it’s not over yet the blog will continue and I hope when you do get back to the South Island that you have just as good a time as we did

  3. well done, John and Sarah. Have enjoyed your blogs and shall look forward to more of the same, but in the meantime it’s lovely to have you back home.

Please feel free to make comments they will help future posts