Neither Gareth nor I had been to Gore before and knew relatively nothing about the place, but having driven through it on the way down, it seemed like a pleasant looking town. The A&P Showgrounds on Bury Street also had rave reviews on the CamperMate app, so we were looking forward to paying a visit.
Neither of us could have predicted we would have still been there three months later, but as it turned out, circumstance and a generous dose of warm Southern hospitality have entrenched Gore and its people firmly in our hearts.
Motorhome Friendly Town
Gore is the southern-most Motorhome Friendly Town in New Zealand and lives up to its title. Weary travellers are spoilt for choice as to where they can stay in both self-contained and non-self-contained vehicles. But for us, the shining star was the A&P Showgrounds. You could not possibly want any more from a place to stay!
For $5 a night unpowered or $10 with power, you get enormous, immaculately kept grounds with plenty of showers and toilets and even laundry washing and drying facilities. Even when the grounds were fully booked for the recent annual Gold Guitar Awards, there was plenty of room for everyone.
The caretaker, Bevin Roy, never stops working to ensure the place is beautiful and well-groomed and goes out of his way to make sure guests are enjoying their stay; as does Inca, the adorable Red Setter, who is never far from his side. Those who are travelling with dogs will enjoy the space, with plenty of places to take a leisurely stroll and paddocks to run around.
Yet another bonus of this lovely place is that there is no limit to the number of nights you can stay. Just ask Brian and Evelyn, the cheery couple in the maroon bus—they’ve been here almost two years—who help to take care of the grounds.
This was just as well for us. In fact, it was nothing short of a lifesaver when our beloved pooch, Minnie, fell ill a few days into our stay. Initially, it was thought she had a heart failure and we came horribly close to losing her. Over the weeks that followed, we visited the vet clinic every few days, putting her through different tests and trialling new medications until Cassie from VetSouth suspected she had hypothyroidism. She was right, and after struggling with ill health for more than half of her 10 years, our Minnie now has a new lease of life. It’s so wonderful to be able to have her accompany us on long walks now, and we still haven’t got over the delightful novelty of seeing her running and jumping after all these years.
Now that Minnie was on her way back to health, there was just one problem. We had grown so fond of Gore and the many wonderful people we had met, we didn’t want to leave. Even as winter approached and many other travellers made their way north, we couldn’t drag ourselves away from our glorious surroundings. It really is the place and the campground with everything. So we’re still here! And you know what? It’s not that cold here. When you live in a van, it’s pretty easy to heat such as small space and we’re snug as bugs even when the temperatures are below zero and there’s snow on the ground. Compared to a lot of the country, we found that Gore gets a lot less rain too.
Almost everything in Gore is within easy walking distance from both the Showgrounds and the Town & Country Club directly opposite, which also offers overnight parking. Most days we leave the van behind and prefer to walk everywhere, taking in all the landmarks along the way, such as the old Creamota factory from bygone days and the clock tower on Main Street, not forgetting the picturesque Mataura River.
The area is a picture in autumn and winter and there are plenty of places to go and enjoy the scenery. We enjoy grabbing a spot of lunch and eating it in the Public Gardens in the centre of town, watching all the colourful birds in the aviary. Minnie’s favourite is Bannerman Park in the middle of town—a pretty place to wander for both people and dogs with the added drawcard of a deer farm at the entrance.
A real must-see, however, is the stunning Dolamore Park and the neighbouring Croydon Bush Reserve up in the hills just out of town. A fantastic reserve with tramping tracks galore and a beautifully maintained campground, including a kids’ adventure playground and a barbecue area, this is a popular place for campers and motorhomes.
Unfortunately, dogs aren’t permitted anywhere here, so we were unable to stay but still spent an enjoyable day doing several of the bushwalks. It’s a bit of a hike to Popplewell’s Lookout but is well worth the effort, especially on a clear day.
We never expected anything from Gore, yet we got so much more than we ever anticipated. Most people think of places such as Queenstown and Franz Josef as ‘the’ winter destination but not us. The warm heart of this Southern town has well and truly won us over.
5 best eateries in Gore
Gore doesn’t just stand out from the crowd for its warm hospitality. There’s plenty of amazing food to warm you from the inside out. Whether you’re after a quick bite to eat or something a bit more upmarket, there’s something for everyone. Here are our favourites:
- Hot chips from South Gore Dairy: Think there’s nothing special about hot chips? Wait until you try these! South Gore Dairy is more than just a dairy; it’s where the locals line up to get their fast food fix. There’s nothing better than a steaming bag of freshly cooked hot chips on a cold day, and these are the best we’ve ever had.
- Capri Cafe: There are several cafes on Main Street but this one is our favourite. It’s been treating locals and visitors alike to delicious home-cooked food for more than 20 years and is always packed. The staff are lovely, they have a great variety for everyone, and the food is excellent value for money. Give their famous oyster soup a try.
- Gore RSA: Easy to spot from its eye-catching murals, the RSA is a hugely popular place to eat. The bar and restaurant may be huge but it’s certainly not lacking when it comes to a warm and welcoming atmosphere. With a large range of excellent quality meals to choose from and reasonable prices, you can’t go wrong here.
- A pie and a pasty from Oven Fresh Bakery: Again, if you think there’s nothing unusual about these, you’re mistaken. People queue out of the door day in, day out for the delicious pies and goodies from Oven Fresh on Main Street. These guys make the best pasties you’ve ever eaten out of Cornwall.
- Hokonui Moonshine Museum: What better way is there to warm the cockles of your heart than with a wee dram of Old Hokonui Moonshine? This unique museum celebrates the district’s thriving moonshine heritage, which originated in the 1800s. The $5 entry fee includes a sample of locally produced (and legal) honey moonshine.