Volkswagen California Ocean Review: What goes on in Vegas…

Las Vegas is the bright lights, big Sin City, in Nevada in the good ‘ol US of A. It’s a place of adventure (of sorts), gaming, shows and comes packed full of stories that you cannot talk about, “What goes on in Vegas…” well, you know the rest. A little further south, and a lot closer to home, lies Rotovegas, a local moniker for one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist traps, Rotorua. It too has shows and gaming, it too offers a raft of adventures and it too has a wide range of stories that are often best left there. However, since I have just returned from an excellent family trip to Rotovegas in the Volkswagen California Ocean Kombi, here’s the tale of our experience that I’m more than happy to regale.


Having its roots heavily set in the incredibly iconic VW Type 2 Kombi, a Camper that was unveiled back in the ’50s and was the poster child for Californian hippy throughout the ’60s, the sixth generation T6, retains much of the style, feel and freedom of yesteryear but offers the ultra-modern creature comforts and driveability that, let’s be honest, you’d really hope for.


With exterior dimensions that hover around 5m long, 2m wide and 2m tall, the California is certainly not as svelte as the original but with parking sensors, reversing cameras, 4Motion all-wheel drive and responsive power steering, this increased size is by no means daunting. There’s more room inside too and the VW have used it wisely. Despite packing for what seemed like every eventuality, we barely made a dent in the California’s vast array of stowage and storage areas—they are quite literally everywhere.


We had been given the California Ocean model in white and blue two-tone paint and complete with white and chrome wheels, it’s splendid looking, especially in the sun and beside water, I’ll get to that soon. We set off southwards from Auckland mid-afternoon on the Friday and it wasn’t long before we hit heavy traffic, a delay that cost us around an hour, but time we used wisely, with I spy and turning up the tunes on the infotainment system.



Once free and clear of the snarl-ups, I engaged the California’s Adaptive Cruise Control and simply relaxed, letting the electronics work their distance maintaining magic and keeping the 2L/7-speed DSG gearbox powertrain combination in check.


Upon arrival in Rotorua, we headed straight to the pizza joint for takeaways and set up camp beside the big lake, Freedom camping was on the agenda for our first night of adventure. Within the space of a few minutes, the electric pop-top roof went up and the cabin seats were laid down, exposing two double bed sleeping areas and once the window shutters were drawn, we settled in for the night.


Despite being comfortable, I have to admit to having a restless night. Who knew that the Rotorua lakefront area would be so popular and quite noisy into the early hours, Note to self, choose a more secluded area next time.


Next morning we were up early to watch the sunrise over the lake before setting off to play. Zorbing, luging, local markets, steam pits, luncheon, coffee and a bit of shopping—phew. Unlike myself, the California moved from event to event, location to location without a care or a worry, manoeuvring around the city with a fair share of admiring glances and even slotting neatly into parking lot spaces.



For our Saturday night’s accommodation, we checked in to the Top 10 Holiday Park, a far more civilised location that offered mains power, a hot pool, an expansive kitchen (not that we needed it) and showers, something that apparently we did.


Again, within a matter of minutes, our campsite territory was erected but this time we unfolded the awning, took out the outdoor table and chairs, cooked up some delicious spag bol on the California’s gas cooker and opened up an ice cold beer (or two) from the Kombi’s fridge. As the night fell (along with the temperature) we headed inside the camper and sparked up the auxiliary heater, becoming seriously warm and toasty in no time at all.


Following a well deserved night’s rest, and ‘cheatingly’ making a coffee from the holiday park’s kettle, I quietly consumed the life-giving elixir beside our mobile motel and ruminated.


We really do live in a glorious part of the world and there are plenty of destinations in New Zealand that my family and I have yet to discover. But, probably like many Kiwi families, we tend to race from our home to (often) a non-discript hotel or motel, drop our bags and then enjoy the chosen destination.



The Volkswagen California allowed us to begin the break the moment we left the house. Regardless of our actual destination, the journey became part of the holiday, the sense of vacation freedom at the turn of Kombi’s key and (providing you are respectful to the countryside), the California opens up some of the most epic vista’s you could ever wish to wake up beside.


The VW California is big enough to accommodate a raft of homely essentials (and non-essentials too), comfortable enough to sleep a small family without any annoyance, versatile enough to live off the grid and away from civilisation in, (for a certain period at least) and yet small enough to merge in and conform when required.


So now you know ‘what goes on in Rotovegas’, wonder if we should head to Nevada next?


Words: Dave McLeod


Win your very own VW California Experience
Thanks to Volkswagen NZ and Verve


With summer on the horizon and vacations on your mind, Volkswagen NZ and Verve are giving you and the family the chance to win a weekend getaway with the amazing California Kombi—the perfect way to experience our beautiful country.

Simply go to the ‘Win’ section of vervemagazine.co.nz and under ‘Comments’ tell us ‘How many people does the VW California Sleep?’

Hint: Answer can be found on volkswagen.co.nz/new-cars/california/* T&C’s apply. 


c 1. Entry is open to New Zealand residents over the age of 25 currently residing in Zealand only. Employees (and their immediate families) of the promoters or its affiliated dealerships, participating outlets, companies and agencies associated with this promotion are ineligible. 2. Limit of one entry per person. 3. Prize is not redeemable for cash. Volkswagen shall not be liable for any loss, damage or injury suffered or sustained (including but not limited to direct or consequential loss or loss arising from negligence) arising directly or indirectly in connection with the prize. 4. There is 1 x prize to give away to one winner. Winner must be 25 years of age or older and hold a valid New Zealand driver’s license. A full tank of fuel is included. Any campsite fees or road tolls are payable by the voucher holder. Freedom camping is prohibited. 5. The Volkswagen California will not be available during public holidays or between 21 December 2018 and 6 January 2019. 6. Entries close on 30 November 2018. 7. The winner will be notified within seven days following the prize draw and the prize must be redeemed within six months of notification. 8. The fulfilment of the prize will be decided upon through joint communication by the winner and Volkswagen New Zealand. Date of voucher fulfilment is subject to availability.