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Where Can I Camp?

​​Discover the joys of New Zealand camping, from town to the country.

New Zealanders have had a love affair with camping holidays for generations, and as a result you’ll encounter a camping culture that is welcoming and well organised. There are more than 800 vehicle-accessible campsites throughout the country, ranging from remote wilderness camps to groomed inner-city holiday parks. Here is what you can expect.

1. Holiday parksWaihi Top 10 Holiday Park

Evolved from generations of camping grounds and caravan parks, New Zealand’s holiday parks are amongst the world’s best, combining comfortable built accommodation with spacious grounds for campers. Campervan sites are landscaped with lawn, hedging, shade trees and picnic tables as well as power and water. Sites typically have hard, free-draining surfaces for easy drive-on and mud-free shoes. Communal facilities include bathrooms, kitchens, laundry, TV/internet lounges and barbecue areas. Games rooms, playgrounds and swimming pools are also common, with spa pools, go-karts, and bike & kayak hire a bonus. Most are owner-operated, ensuring genuine hospitality, local advice and activity bookings.


A powered site for two people averages around $35-39. Bookings are strongly advisable during summer holidays (Christmas to end January, and Easter) and major local events; otherwise you can just cruise on in. Around 250 of New Zealand’s 400-odd holiday parks rally under the banner of the Holiday Parks Association, an excellent portal for research and bookings.

2. Department of Conservation (DOC) Campsites

If you like back-to-nature camping, you’ll be wowed by the Department of Conservation’s campsites in New Zealand national parks and scenic reserves. There are more than 200 campervan friendly (and stunning) locations, a few of which feature power points, hot showers, rubbish collection and possibly laundry facilities and barbecues. Most DOC campsites, however, have much more basic facilities, with a toilet and water supply the absolute minimum. Many feature fire pits, cooking shelters and picnic tables.


DOC campsites range from free to $15 per person, with the priciest generally the most popular. These should be pre-booked in peak season (1 October–30 April) either online or at a DOC visitor centre. Others operate on a first-come, first-served basis, with payment made to the warden or popped into a self-registration box. Weekly campsite passes provide half-price camping at more than 100 DOC campsites nationwide.

3. Council campsites

Most local authorities – that’s regional, city and district councils– manage campsites of one kind or another. These range from basic, nature camps in forest parks, to campgrounds in public domains, often adjacent to sports grounds, parks, or other recreation reserves.


With the exception of council-owned holiday parks, the majority of council campsites are cheap (around $10 per person per night) or even free, with some falling under the category of ‘freedom camping’. To find council camps, check out Rankers.

4. Freedom camping

‘Freedom camping’ refers to staying overnight in an area that is not a designated campsite, such as a riverside or beach reserve, or even a town car park. Only self-contained campers with onboard toilet, grey and fresh water systems are allowed to freedom camp, so that includes Britz travellers. The rules around such camping vary between regions, with some banning it altogether, while others encourage it with plenty of designated sites. If you’re not sure whether it’s legal, assume nothing: ask a local (the i-SITE, ideally). Just because there’s a toilet, rubbish bin, or other campervans parked up, doesn’t mean it’s legal to stay there. Abuse by freedom campers has seen a major crackdown on illegal camping, with fines frequently issued.


As the name suggests, this type of camping is almost always free, although some districts levy a small fee and a permit may be required. For general information on freedom camping, see Camping Our Way, and for individual site listings, see Rankers.


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Posted by:
Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater @BennettnSlater
Posted on:
Holiday parks, DOC Campsites, Council Campsites, Freedom Camping
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