New Zealand, a land of majestic mountains, lush forests, and stunning beaches, offers an outdoor experience like no other. And what better way to immerse yourself in this natural wonderland than by camping under the starry skies?
The Campervan Culture in New Zealand
Roaming around the country in a campervan is as quintessentially Kiwi as a beachside BBQ. The freedom to park up in some of the world's most beautiful spots and call them home for a night or two is one of the many reasons why exploring New Zealand in a campervan has gained immense popularity.
Why Choose Camping in New Zealand
From Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites to private holiday parks and freedom camping spots, the variety of campsites in New Zealand caters to all types of travellers. Whether you prefer the buzz of a city campsite near Wellington or the solitude of a remote beachside spot on the Coromandel Peninsula, you'll find it here.
Campsites on the North Island
Uretiti Beach Campsite, Bream Bay
Starting our journey in the winterless north, Uretiti Beach Campsite is a favourite among locals and tourists alike. Nestled among sand dunes, this DOC campsite offers direct access to a stunning beach. It's perfect for swimming, fishing, or simply relaxing with a good book.
Whakapapa Holiday Park, Tongariro National Park
Next, head inland to the heart of the North Island. Whakapapa Holiday Park is an ideal base for those looking to tackle the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The campsite offers a range of facilities and accommodation options, with incredible views of Mount Ruapehu.
Tawharanui Regional Park, Auckland
Just north of Auckland lies Tawharanui Regional Park. This ecological sanctuary doubles as a stunning campsites North Island spot with access to beautiful beaches, rolling pastures, and native forest. The campsite is basic, and bookings are essential over the summer months.
Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) Campsite, Far North
At the very tip of the North Island, Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) Campsite is as remote as it gets. Managed by DOC, the campsite sits on a beautiful bay with a long sandy beach. This is an ideal spot for those seeking a tranquil retreat.
Top of the South Island Campsites
Start your South Island adventure at the top. The Marlborough Sounds area is home to numerous idyllic campsites South Island, such as Momorangi Bay and Kenepuru Head. These campsites offer beautiful waterfront spots perfect for boating, swimming, and fishing.
Momorangi Bay, Marlborough Sounds
Anchorage Bay, Abel Tasman National Park
Located within the Abel Tasman National Park, Anchorage Bay is a tranquil beachfront campsite accessible only by boat or on foot. Here you can explore the golden sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and native forests that make Abel Tasman a favourite among outdoor enthusiasts.
Twelve Mile Delta, Queenstown
Henry Creek, Fiordland National Park
Situated along the road to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, Henry Creek campsite provides campers with direct access to Lake Te Anau. Surrounded by stunning landscapes, this basic DOC campsite is an ideal spot to set up camp and explore the Fiordland region.
White Horse Hill, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
White Horse Hill campsite is located in the heart of the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, nestled amidst a breathtaking landscape of towering peaks and blue lakes. Facilities include toilets, cooking shelters, and tap water, with the bonus of the campsite being an International Dark Sky Reserve for stargazing.
Free Campsites and Responsible Freedom Camping
New Zealand is one of the few countries that still allows freedom camping - a form of camping which is typically free and done in more remote, undesignated areas.
What is Freedom Camping?
Freedom camping refers to camping in public places outside of recognised campgrounds. This could be by the side of a road, in a forest, or at a beach. It’s a fantastic way to truly immerse yourself in New Zealand’s beautiful natural surroundings.
Top Free Campsites in New Zealand
The country has a multitude of free campsites, often managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC campsites). Some popular free DOC sites include Mavora Lakes in the South Island, and Spirits Bay in the Far North of the North Island.
For a comprehensive list and location of free and paid DOC campsites, use the DOC Campsite Finder.
The Rules of Responsible Freedom Camping
While freedom camping allows for a unique camping experience, it comes with certain responsibilities to ensure the preservation of New Zealand's pristine environment.
Here are a few guidelines:
- Always camp at least 200m from water bodies to protect them from potential pollution.
- Carry a portable toilet or ensure your campervan has an on-board toilet. Many freedom camping spots only allow self-contained vehicles.
- Leave no trace. Carry out all rubbish, or use the rubbish bins provided at the campsite.
Luxury Camping in New Zealand: Glamping
In recent years, a new trend has emerged for those seeking the tranquility of camping but not wanting to forego the comforts of a hotel: glamorous camping, or as it's more commonly known, 'glamping'.
The Rise of Glamping
Glamping is a perfect way to combine the outdoor adventure of camping with a touch of luxury. Imagine staying in a beautifully appointed canvas tent, equipped with a comfy bed, cosy furniture, and sometimes even a hot tub!
Best Glamping Sites in New Zealand
New Zealand offers some truly unique glamping experiences. On the North Island, you can enjoy a luxury safari tent experience at 'Camp Kekerengu' set along the Kekerengu River in Marlborough.
In the South Island, why not try a unique geodesic dome at 'SkySphere' in Manakau, offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and coastline.
For a truly unique glamping experience, check out 'Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses' in Kaikoura, where you can stay in a luxurious treehouse set 30 feet above a native Manuka grove.
Planning Your Camping Trip in New Zealand
Whether you're a seasoned camper or a first-timer, planning is key to ensure a smooth and enjoyable camping experience in New Zealand.
Choosing the Right Campsite
Selecting the right campsite can make all the difference. Consider your preferences: Do you prefer a quiet, secluded location, or a campsite with facilities and nearby attractions? Are you looking for a family-friendly site or a romantic spot for two?
Booking Your Campsite
While many campsites in New Zealand operate on a first-come-first-served basis, it's recommended to book in advance, particularly during the peak summer season. This can be done online through the DOC website or the respective campsite's website.
Essential Camping Gear
Remember, New Zealand's weather can be changeable, so pack for all conditions. Don't forget your sunblock, insect repellent, warm clothing, and waterproof gear!
Exploring New Zealand by Campervan
Renting a campervan or motorhome offers the ultimate freedom to explore New Zealand's stunning landscapes at your own pace. Whether you're a couple looking for a cozy camper or a family needing a bit more space, there's a vehicle to suit every journey.
Why Choose a Campervan?
A campervan gives you flexibility. Stop when you want, stay as long as you like, and change your plans at will. In New Zealand, you're never far from a great camping spot, a stunning viewpoint, or a fun activity.
Choosing the Right Campervan
When selecting a campervan, consider the size, comfort, price, and whether it's self-contained. A self-contained vehicle has toilet and waste facilities onboard, allowing you to freedom camp in many places across the country.
Tips for Campervan Travel in New Zealand
Driving a campervan requires some adjustments if you're used to a car. Be mindful of your vehicle's size, especially on New Zealand's often narrow and winding roads. Always use designated campsites and respect the 'no camping' signs.
That's it, folks! You're now ready to explore the stunning campsites in New Zealand and enjoy the best of Kiwi outdoor living. Happy camping!