Travel bloggers comprehensive tips for the best camping and campervan travel in New Zealand 4   Recently updated !


What are the best camping sites in new zealand?

That’s exactly what we’re here to answer and what I’m particularly excited about in this post is that you’ve got the combined travel expertise of a couple dozen travel bloggers to decide which camping site or campervan site is perfect for what you need whether you are looking for free camping in New Zealand or one of the pay sites.

First off we’ll run through the dozens of camping sites in New Zealand  that these bloggers have suggested, then way down below there are some specifics on the laws and regulations and camping in New Zealand, as well as some answers to some FAQs.

Enjoy!

North Island Camping Sites

People argue all the time whether the North Island or the South Island is better to visit, but you really can’t go wrong with either. If you are flying in from a foreign country, you are going to be landing at Auckland on the North Island, so we’ll start these road trip tips there in order to ascertain which of the New Zealand campgrounds you want to try.

One thing to note is since Auckland is by far the biggest city, if you are going to do RV camping in New Zealand or are looking for a campervan rental in New Zealand it might be easier there than in your other options, though I haven’t done any sort of cost analysis on that.

Makorori Beach Freedom Camping

The eastern cape of New Zealand’s north island is breathtakingly beautiful, and yet its relative inaccessibility means it’s still somewhat undiscovered by visitors to the country looking for good camping in New Zealand. The sun-soaked city of Gisborne is at the heart of the region and is home to many incredible beaches. One such beach offers a freedom camping opportunity like no other in New Zealand.

The Makorori beach car park offers rudimentary camping, with only the very basic facilities such as a flushing toilet and bins provided. But the seaside location and front-seat sunrise views make this a great spot for free camping in New Zealand. Note that you need to have a vehicle to camp here (tents are not permitted), and freedom camping is restricted to the Makorori car park only, which is located approximately halfway up the beach. Camping anywhere else in the vicinity of the beach is prohibited.

Makorori beach has been a popular surfing spot for years with the locals, and the word is just starting to get out. Sunrise in Makarori is the best time to catch a ride on the right-hand point break, so camping out at the beach is the ideal way to hit the surf early. And on a personal note, if you are going to surf, please have travel insurance!

But even if you’re not a surfer, it’s a beautiful spot and one that will introduce you perfectly to this rural and remote part of the country.

The beach is large, has plenty of room for families to play, and there are safe spaces for swimming away from the surfers. Just beware that rips are often present and there are no lifeguards on the beach. From Makorori you’ll be able to explore Gisborne, the surrounding coastline, and Tolaga Bay.

Tips by Nadine at Le Long Weekend. Follow her on Facebook here.

Best Camping and Campervan locations in New Zealand: Makorori Beach

The Magical Spirits Bay Campsite in Northland

As you emerge from the bushy growth and set eyes upon the Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) campsite, you are immediately greeted with a spectacular cliff the juts out from one of the small hills off to the side. The grass growing over this cliff makes it look like a gigantic moss-covered rock. Below it, horses happily graze on the soft grasses, frolicking around in the fenced area that surrounds one of the best New Zealand campgrounds. Ahead you will catch a glimpse of the bright aqua waters of a secluded beach that has a strangely rose aura. This is because of the tiny pink shells that cover the beach, lighting up the sand in the afternoon glow.

Spirits Bay was easily the most impressive New Zealand campgrounds we overnighted in during our 3-week North Island road trip. Though there aren’t many facilities, except for a pit toilet and some taps, the whole campsite makes up for it in magic. This freedom camping site is well worth the small cover charge of $15 (as of August 2019), set by local councils.

The Spirits Bay Campsite is located in the northernmost tip of New Zealand, north of Kaitaia and on the way to the Cape Reinga lighthouse. When driving from Kaitaia, head north on State Highway 1. Follow signposts from Waitiki Landing and turn onto Te Hapua Road (a gravel road) for 16 km and then onto Spirits Bay Road. Follow it to the end until you reach the Kapowairua campsite.

Tip from Crystal and Castaway with Crystal. Follow her on Facebook here.

New Zealand campgrounds: Spirits Bay

Spirits Bay Beach

Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui is a very popular seaside town and standing at the end of the peninsula is Mauao (The Mount) at 232 metres tall. Right at the foot of Mauao is the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park, which provides some of the best accomodation for a campervan in New Zealand.

Full in the summer months, this campground has been around since the 1930s. There are plenty of spots to park your campervan, motorhome, tent or if you fancy you could hire a cabin. And if you grab the right spot, you can have great views of either Pilot bay or the ocean. This Holiday Park is fully equipment with shared kitchen, BBQ areas, bathrooms and laundry facilities. It pays to book earlier so you won’t be disappointed.

Activities are right at your doorstep. Start your morning with a gentle 40-minute stroll around the base of Mauao or if you are feeling more energetic why not walk (or run) up to the top. The views from up here are some of the best in the entire South Pacific. With the beach on one side, you can relax on the sand, swim or try your hand at surfing, there are a couple of surf schools along the main beach. To the other side is Pilot Bay, more popular with families with little ones. But also great for boat watching and fishing off the wharf. Right in the middle of the holiday park is the Mount Hot Pools with a variety of natural saltwater pools, this is a wonderful way to finish the day. There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants serving great food and town is only a 500m walk away.

To get to Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park, head towards Tauranga (city) and then follow the road signs to Mount Maunganui. Finally, drive towards Mauao, you can’t miss it, Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park is nestled at the bottom.

Tips by Scott at 4 Degrees of Destination. Follow him on Facebook here.

Best campervan site in New Zealand: Mount Maunganui

Mount Maunganui campground

Pouakai Hut

Most people think of the South Island when they think of mountains and hiking in New Zealand. But to me, there is one mountain (or rather a dormant volcano) on the North Island that trumps all of the others – Mount Taranaki! This perfectly symmetrical cone-shaped volcano looks like something straight out of a painting! The best way to enjoy the views are from a secluded camping spot at the Pouakai Hut!

Hiking and spending the night at the Pouakai Hut is one of my personal favourite unique experiences in New Zealand. It isn’t one of NZ’s Great Walks and therefore isn’t as well known by tourists. In fact, on both occasions when I visited this campsite, the majority of people there were actually Kiwis!

To get to the Pouakai Hut you must walk about 2-3 hours. The trail is well-maintained with a boardwalk and stairs in many sections. It is mostly shaded but can get muddy so be sure to wear waterproof boots! Once at the hut you have the choice between staying in the hut ($15 NZD per person and passes must be bought in advance from the DOC office) or camping! There are pit toilets and running water at the hut and campsite.

Once you reach the Pouakai Hut, be sure to do the short side-trip hike to the tarn. It is only another 20 minute walk or so and you’ll see amazing views of Mt Taranaki reflecting off this still lake!

Tip by Bailey of Destinationless Travel. Follow her on Instagram here.

New Zealand campgrounds: Pouakai Hut

Pouakai Hut Camping Site

My husband is from New Zealand and for all his trips growing up, they went camping all over the country enjoying the holiday parks wherever they went. When we went for a visit, his family took me camping on Elliot’s Bay on the North Island. It’s about three hours north of Auckland and it’s a really isolated and beautiful spot.

This New Zealand campground is a real hidden gem, not advertised or easily found online. We went to stay for two weeks and as someone who gets restless easily I was worried I’d get bored spending so much time in such an isolated area. The place turned out to be absolutely incredible with so much to do and explore!

With beachfront camping and stunning rock pools to explore there is so much to do and see just on the beach itself. The kids loved the rock pools and when the tide went out we could do some paddling. There is also a great surfing spot along the beach. If you enjoy fishing, the beach is also filled with fish and my in laws always catch their dinner that way. Campfires are allowed on this beach (which is rare in New Zealand) so we would spend the evenings toasting marshmallows.

There is also a great walk you can do over the hill, further north, which leads to a beach that is completely off the grid and can only be accessed by this walk. It’s an absolutely beautiful beach that you will get all to yourself unless someone else has done the walk.

Tips by Karen at Travel Mad Mum. Follow on Instagram here.

Best camping spots in New Zealand: Elliot's Bay

Elliot’s Bay

South Island Camping Sites

The South Island is generally thought of as the more naturally beautiful of the two by most tourists, and a far bit of locals as well. There are tons of surprising and cool things about the South Island but one thing is for sure — there are plenty of great spots to camp on the South Island or to use a campervan there as well.

Lake Pukaki Reserve

During our winter campervan trip, Lake Pukaki Reserve was by far a stand out. Not only was it situated alongside the beautiful Lake Pukaki, it also happens to be one of the best spots for free camping in New Zealand! You should also know that the Southern Alps area of Lake Pukaki as the setting for ‘Lake-town’ in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Lake Pukaki Reserve has room for around 40 to 50 vehicles, many with stunning lake views. The best spots fill up quickly so you want to get there early to get a great spot. However even arriving late, you still have the chance to enjoy the area and some of the most incredible sunset and sunrise views.

There are 4 clean, well-maintained drop toilets at the far end of the reserve, making it suitable for non-self contained vehicles also. Other than a couple of picnic tables, there are no other facilities, however most of the parks are on gravel which makes it easier during bad weather. It is an easy campsite to access, with the turn off on the main road along Lake Pukaki.

If you want to explore, there are walking tracks around the reserve, and easy access down to the lake as well. Or pull out your portable chairs and enjoy the view as the sun goes down, before enjoying your camp dinner together.

We highly recommend you take Braemer Road if you visiting Lake Pukaki before or after Lake Tekapo. This unsealed road is an easy drive for any type of vehicle and one of the most scenic drives during our entire South Island campervan trip. You will hardly pass another vehicle the whole way making it a great chance to stop for photos along the way. An absolute highlight!

Tip by Holly of Four Around the World. Follow on Facebook here.
campervan New Zealand: Lake Pukaki Reserve

Lake Pukaki Reserve

Mueller Hut

Mount Cook National Park just may be the prettiest spot in New Zealand. And to make it even better? The hikes in the area are actually incredibly accessible and the rewards are great. One of the best places in the park is Mueller Hut.
This New Zealand campground features views of Mount Cook, glaciers on all sides, views of Hooker Valley, avalanches on the mountain across from the hut, and a toilet with a million dollar view.
Mueller Hut is one of the most incredible places you can stay at in New Zealand but you’ll have to work for it. While it’s only around five miles round trip, it’s all uphill. You’ll climb the stairs on the Sealy Tarns hike and then continue on to Mueller Hut by scrambling over rocks. Make sure to book your stay at Mueller Hut before heading up as it’s often booked out a few weeks in advance in high season.

Tip by Where in the World is Nina. Follow her on Facebook here.

best camping and hiking spots in new zealand

Mueller Hut

Moke Lake Campground

One of the best parts about traveling New Zealand is finding spots to spend the night with epic views. It’s not hard, as this country is a compilation of jaw-dropping mountains and postcard-perfect beaches, and you could spend a lifetime camping in a new spot each night.

Not far from popular Queenstown is a small DOC campground that will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a postcard. A glassy lake is nestled into a valley between hills dotted with sheep and you’ll forget you’re just a 30-minute drive to one of the most popular cities in the country. There aren’t too many places to campervan in New Zealand better than this.

Forget about Instagramming your stay or streaming videos, as there is no cell service here. It makes for a great opportunity to disconnect, slow down, and enjoy the present moment. If you’re lucky, you might even get a sky full of stars once the sun goes down.

Go fishing or kayaking on the lake, or simply sit back with a book and enjoy this peaceful spot. Moke Lake is also the starting point for a 2-hour walk to nearby Lake Dispute. And if you want more actions, it’s just a short drive to Queenstown.

Getting to Moke Lake Campground is easy; just head west from Queenstown on Glenorchy Road and after about 6 kilometers, turn off onto Moke Lake Road, which will soon turn to gravel. Follow this for 7 more kilometers until you reach the lake and campground. Insider Tip: Before arriving, stock up with food (and wine!) because there are no places to restock nearby.

Tip by Katie and Ben at Two Wandering Soles. Follow them on Instagram here.

campervan New Zealand locations -- Moke Lake

Moke Lake

Artur’s Pass

Artur’s Pass is a stunning National Park and the perfect place to visit if you are anywhere near Christchurch. It is only 2 hours drive away and takes you deep into the mountains on the Southern Island, and all the way to the west coast if you keep driving.

It is quite an unusual geological feature because the road through the mountains, and the pass area itself, is a very wide and flat area between the surrounding mountain peaks. This also means it offers some great Kiwi camping areas that are easy to reach by car from the road. We stayed overnight in the Klondyke Shelter area just 8km south of town, but there are quite a few others in the area. Avalanche Shelter is right in town, and there are many others within 20-30km. All are first in first served. Just be aware that Kea birds are an issue in the area and that you should always be in attendance of your tent or camper. They will eat or steal anything not nailed down, even while you sleep.

Being in a National Park, of course, means that there are lots of great hikes to do in the area. We did some shorter hikes – Arthur’s Pass Walking Track from in town, and along Bealy’s Spur to a small hut above the valley below. But, for those wanting longer excursions, there are also lots on offer there – which the locals call “tramps”.

In winter, the locals love to come up this valley to the ski areas just outside the National Park, which are not overly developed but still offer great skiing. Some examples include Porters and Mount Cheeseman.

Tip by Roger at Expert World Travel. Follow him on Twitter here.

Best Travel Hikes in New Zealand, Arthurs Pass

Arthurs Pass

Wairau Diversion Reserve

Wairau Diversion Reserve is one of my favourite camping sites in New Zealand – which is some accolade in a country packed with great camping locations. Wairau Diversion Reserve is a scenic, seafront freedom camping site just a short drive from Picton and the Inter-Island ferry.

To reach the site you must exit the main highway and drive along a gravel road, through long stretches of lush vineyards to reach the pretty campsite which is located under a copse of tall pine trees. There is a single drop toilet, no water and you must be traveling in a self-contained campervan to stay here.

No tents are allowed. The free camping spot is only metres from the expansive, deserted beach which is perfect for beachcombing and sunset walks. Plus, judging by the number of sea birds when we visited, it must also be a perfect spot for fishing. We enjoyed a fantastic sunset and sunrise at Wairau Diversion and strolled the quiet beach at night to enjoy an incredible star-filled sky.

Tips by Sinead at Map Made Memories. Follow her on Facebook here.

campervan New Zealand: Waiau Diversion

Waiau Diversion Beach

Purakaunui Bay

About the site:

As with most Department of Conservation campsites, amenities are very basic. There is are no fixed spots, just find a place you like best and park your campervan and set up your tent.

The campsite is very popular with surfers as you can peddle out directly from the camp spot. It was one of our favorite campsite during our 6 week road trip.

How to get there:

It is not difficult to get to the campsite but you do have to drive a gravel road. If you come from the direction of Oweka, take a left after crossing the bridge and another left at the sign Purakaunui Bay. The road turns to gravel here and after following it for 5 km you’ll arrive at the campsite.

Things to do in the area:

There are loads of things to do close to this campsite. Follow the Southern Scenic Route and you will come across Purakaunui Falls, Cathedral Cave, Jack’s Blowhole and windswept Nugget Point.

Tip by Lotte of Phenomenal Globe. Follow on Instagram here.

best camping and campervan sites in New Zealand: Purakaunui Bay

Purakaunui Bay

Gillespies Beach

Gillespies Beach is an extra special place to stay on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The beach is home to a little campsite with room for both tents and one of the best spots for a campervan in New Zealand. The site is essentially just a car park with toilets, but if you’re lucky enough to get a spot, it means you can say right next to the beach and go to sleep to the sound of the waves.

The secluded beach is the perfect sunset spot, and when you turn your back on the sea, you can see Mount Cook and the surrounding mountains. It’s also just a fifteen-minute drive from the spectacular Lake Matheson where on a clear day you can see the mountain perfectly reflected in the water. It’s one of the most breathtaking sights we saw in New Zealand..

Gillespie Beach is a 25-min drive from Fox Glacier town and is reached via an unsealed track, which is challenging to navigate in a campervan for New Zealand. Be warned that your car/van hire insurance might not cover driving on such a road! Read more about our New Zealand trip in our one-month itinerary post.

Tip by Bridges & Balloons. Follow them on Instagram here.

Best Camping Spots and campervan New Zealand: Gillespies Beach

Gillespies Beach

Punakaiki Beach Camp

Punakaiki Beach Camp is a camp with incredible views between the beach, river and National Park. Its remote location and impressive surroundings make you feel like you are in Paradise.

The campground is on the beachfront in the village of Punakaiki. There are large powered and non-powered sites, as well as cosy cabins. Native bush, enormous limestone cliffs and the roaring ocean surround the campground.

Punakaiki Beach Camp is an excellent base for exploring the wonders of the Wild, West Coast of New Zealand. Just minutes from the campground is the start of the Pororari River walk and tramps into the adjoining Paparoa National Park. Here you feel like you have entered a prehistoric world. It is a short distance to the Paparoa Track, the newest New Zealand Great Walks, one of the great hikes in New Zealand.

There are limestone gorges and caves to explore, unspoilt beaches and the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. For water lovers, there is fishing, surfing or canoeing. Alternatively, you can relax on the beach listening to the ocean crashing.

One of the best things about Punakaiki Beach Camp is the nightly ritual of witnessing the sunset into the ocean. It truly is one of the best camping spots in New Zealand.

Facilities include a kitchen, bathroom with hot showers, laundry, dump station and wifi.

Getting There – Punakaiki Beach Camp is 1-hour drive from Westport and 45 minutes drive from Greymouth. There are public buses that drop off at Punakaiki bus stop at the Pancake Rocks Blowholes. The camp is an easy downhill walk 700 metres north. The entrance is in Owen Street, just off State Highway 6.

Tip by Travel Bugs World. Follow them on Facebook here.

Best campervan sites in New Zealand

Punakaiki Beach Camp

Okains Bay

Okains Bay is the perfect hideaway spot, just 30 minutes from the french settlement of Akaroa, and 90 minutes from Christchurch, the South Islands largest city.  If you are looking for a New Zealand campground away from the hustle and bustle of city beaches such as Sumner and New Brighton, then this spot will help you feel a million miles away. It is truly one of the great camping sites in New Zealand.

How to get here

From Christchurch City, head on State Highway 75, south, following the signs for Akaroa.  Just after the township of Duvauchelle, take a left onto Okains Bay Road and follow it up over the hill, right down to the beach.  Don’t forget to look around at the top of the hill. The views over Banks Peninsula are stunning.

Okains Bay Campsite

The campsite is located right on the beach, protected by forest trees.  There are two kitchen and toilet blocks, perfect for the 50 tent sites available.  They have great children’s facilities, including a climbing frame, flying fox (which my kids love) slide and swings.

Do note, there is water available, but you must boil it for at least 3 minutes prior to drinking.  Hot showers are available on a coin operated system. There is a small store in Okains Bay, a few kilometres from the campsite, however you will need to head to Akaroa (30 mins) for access to supermarkets, cafes and restaurants.

Things to do

Okains Bay has a sheltered beach, with an estuary at one end, and some great rocks to climb at the other.  The bay is perfect for kayaking and is safe for swimming. You can also walk over to Little Okains Bay for great coastal views.

Once you have finished relaxing, pop over to Akaroa to swim with dolphins, hire a paddleboard or kayak, or jump on a jet boat.  If you’re looking for another secluded beach, Le Bons Bay is a beautiful one to explore.

Tip by Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family: Active Family Travel Specialists in New Zealand. Follow them on Instagram here.

Best camping sites in New Zealand: Okains Bay

Lonely beautiful views of Okains Bay

Totaranui Beach, Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park is most famous for the multi-day Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of the most iconic hikes in New Zealand. For those of us who aren’t keen on hiking for days while lugging everything along, Totaranui Beach is a great option. You can drive straight to the beach (it’s one of the main entry points to the national park) and from there you can do short walks to stunning beaches on either side.

I highly recommend walking to Goat Bay and stopping off at Skinner Point for a great view of Totaranui Beach. Or you could just hang out at the beach and relax in the camping ground, which spreads out along the road in front of the beach.

Camping there is fairly basic (you’ll need a tent or a vehicle for your free camping in New Zealand here) and there aren’t any cafes or restaurants nearby, but that’s part of its charm.

Getting to Totaranui Beach is a bit of a hassle. First, you’ll need to drive over the hill to Takaka and then along a winding gravel road to the beach (it takes 2.5 hours from Nelson). You can also take a water taxi if you don’t feel like driving.

Tip from See the South Island.

Totaranui Beach, Abel Tasman National Park

View overlooking Totaranui Beach

Marfells Beach

After traveling 6 weeks through this great island country, one place became our all time favourite New Zealand campgrounds ever: Marfells Beach on the South Island! 
Marfells beach is located half an hour east from Blenheim, just behind the Lake Grassmere salines. The campsite is rather remotely located but not difficult to find – even though it’s good 6 miles off the main road, making it perfect for backcountry camping in New Zealand. Needless to say that there isn’t a bus circulating, so it’s either hitch-hiking or driving out there, with your own vehicle. The campsite is very basic and does not provide a dump station – nor hot or freshwater. It’s also advised to stock up on gas and food as there isn’t any store around. 
The campsite is very basic but it offers one of the most stunning ocean views, wild flowers, shallow waters, seaside hikes, star-gazing and bird watching opportunities. As the campsite is a narrow stretch along the coast, it almost guarantees beach front pits, but be prepared because this is for tent camping in New Zealand.
One of the best activities at Marfells beach is the half day hike to Cape Campbell. The Lighthouse at the Cape Campbell runs since 1870 and is one of the oldest in New Zealand. The hike itself lasts around 4 hours and should be only done during low tides – during high tides parts of the track might be inaccessible. 
Tip from Salut from Paris. Check out their FB page here.
best campervan sites in New Zealand: Marfells Beach

View from Marfells Beach

Bendigo Picnic Area

On the South Island, in Central Otago and bordering Lake Dunstan, is a great spot for free camping in New Zealand in the Bendigo Picnic Area. If you’re driving between Queenstown and Wanaka, Mt. Cook, or the East Coast it’s one of the best free places to make an overnight stop for campervans that are not self-contained. (We were in a Jucy Cabana van and ended up at the site two separate times.) In addition to conveniences like flush toilets and trash bins, the park boasts a scenic view of the lake and even some hiking treks across the road. It is one of my favorite places for a campervan New Zealand experience.

While Bendigo is not a huge draw in itself, it’s conveniently on the way between popular destinations. Just a short drive away is the Cromwell Heritage Precinct, a cute little area where you can do some historic sightseeing and shopping. Cromwell also has gas, restaurants, cafes with internet, and a visitor center.

If you arrive to Bendigo earlier in the day, you’ll be more likely to find a spot with scenic views. The site is essentially a series of long parking lots and by evening it fills with vehicles parked side-by-side. Also note there is a three night minimum stay, but this is a spot you want hit when camping New Zealand.

Tip by Intentional Travelers. Check out their Instagram here.

best camping and campervan New Zealand: Bendigo Picnic Area

view from Bendigo Picnic Area

Routeburn Flats on the Routeburn Track, Mount Aspiring National Park

You can’t throw a tent peg in New Zealand without it landing somewhere with spectacular views. We’d argue though that some of the best camping spots in New Zealand have to be earned. Routeburn Flats, on the South Island’s epic Routeburn Track, is one of them.

The Routeburn Track is one of NZ’s Great Walks: a world-class, multi-day hike through the incredible alpine landscapes of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland national parks.

There are two hike-in/hike-out camping sites on the trail, and for us, Routeburn Flats is the showstopper. It’s around two hours’ fairly easy hiking from the Routeburn Shelter car park, a 1.5 hour drive from Queenstown. So a night at the Flats is easily achievable, whether you’re trekking the 32-kilometre Routeburn Track end to end, or seeking a short immersion in its magical surrounds.

Fifteen campsites scatter the grassy, open space of Routeburn Flats. Backed by bushland, they face out onto a breathtaking amphitheatre of snow-topped mountain peaks. Facilities are basic: shelters with a table, sink and running water, and a drop toilet set back among the trees. You need to carry everything in and out, and book ahead through the DOC in season.

The hike from the carpark to the Flats is a stunning introduction to the track, serving up mountain-and-valley vistas, stretches of serene beech forest, waterfalls, and swing bridges across the ice-blue flow of the Route Burn.

If you’re still feeling energetic after pitching your tent*, you could hit the trail again and hike up to Routeburn Falls. Or simply do as we did, and settle in to watch the sunset over the mountains, and the night sky erupt with stars. Camping perfection.

*Aim for a campsite away from the river’s edge. Like many places in NZ, sandflies are known to camp here too.

Tips from Danielle and John at www.twofortheworld.com. Follow them on Instagram here.

Best Camping and campervan Spots in New Zealand: Routeburn Flats

Routeburn Flats

Maori Beach Campsite on Stewart Island

Stewart Island is even more south than the South Island, but we’ll include this tip there to see that fabulous, and really undeveloped part of this great country.

Maori Beach is one of the most beautiful beach spots for camping in New Zealand. To experience the serenity and relax on this stunning stretch of white sand you’ll need to get yourself over to Stewart Island by taking a ferry or a flight from Bluff. You can only get to Maori Beach by walking and is the first stop on the Rakiura Track, one of New Zealand’s great walks.

The campsite has space for six tents and needs to be booked via the Department of Conservation website although it usually isn’t booked out as most people continue on to the hut. The site costs $6 per person for the night, so not free camping in New Zealand, but not a bad price at all. There is also a shelter for cooking, freshwater and a long drop toilet.

Kiwi have been known to wander the area at night and it’s no uncommon to see dolphins playing in the bay. This beach makes the perfect peaceful camping spot and you can choose to turn back the way you came to get back to town or continue a further two days along the loop of the Rakiura Track.

Tip by Rohan of Travels of a Bookpacker. Follow along on Facebook here.

best camping and campervan sites in New Zealand - Maori Beach Campsite on Stewart Island

Maori Beach Campsite on Stewart Island

FAQs for Camping in New Zealand

Is Camping in New Zealand Safe?

New Zealand is one of the safest countries on Earth in every respect. Like any other place, you obviously need to be aware of your surroundings, but as long as you aren’t irresponsible, you shouldn’t have any troubles, even if you are backcountry camping in NZ.

Is Camping Illegal in New Zealand?

Most people asking about this are in essence asking whether freedom camping is legal is illegal in NZ. To put the record straight, freedom camping is perfectly legal in New Zealand. The sites we have listed above in these tips are some of the best sites in the country, but you aren’t limited to those, as long as you follow the rules:

  • Any person has the right to park overnight in any public space;
  • Anyone parking in a public space overnight is bound by the same laws as occupying public land at any other time. i.e. respect for the environment (including not causing damage or littering or improperly disposing of waste) and respect for the rights of others (not being a nuisance, etc);
  • Local councils have certain powers to restrict or prohibit freedom camping in specific areas, although this can only be done for very particular reasons.

Is there an app for camping new zealand?

There is indeed. Download the free Campermate app to find campsites, toilets and waste stations. It also includes lots of other helpful information such as tips from other travelers and areas with WiFi access.

Download for Apple here and for Android here.

Here are some campervan rental options for New Zealand:

Mad Campers

Escape Campervans

Jucy Rentals

Britz Rentals

What camping tips do you have for NZ?

  • To make sure you aren’t running afoul of the local regulations, contact the local council or Visitor Information Center and ask them which areas have been specifically designated as prohibited from overnight stays under the Freedom Camping Act. They should be able to give you a map or list. If they cannot provide you with this information then you can assume that you can freedom camp in virtually any spot in the district.
  • If you are not in a self-contained vehicle (i.e. you do not have toilet and washing facilities with appropriate storage for fresh water and waste), or you are in a tent, stay in campgrounds as often as possible. These are not expensive, usually have excellent amenities and are often in some of the best locations in their area. Indeed, we’ve give you a great list of them in this very post! If you aren’t comfortable with the concept, obviously New Zealand has plenty of other reasonable accommodation options, though admittedly they aren’t nearly as cheap as these we’ve given you.
  • Whatever sort of vehicle you are in, dispose of waste responsibly. Use garbage bins for general waste and use dump stations for toilet and water waste.
  • Be responsible in your choice of location. Don’t choose somewhere where you being there is likely to disrupt the environment or cause damage to flora or fauna.
  • Carefully tidy up when you leave the site — you are a visitor there, please be respectful and make the locals appreciate all of us wanting to do the same in the future.
  • If you are staying in New Zealand for any length of time and will be doing a lot of traveling in a motorhome or caravan, consider joining the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association. This association has a huge range of benefits for members, a vast knowledge base about everything to do with this type of travel and a large pool of friendly members who will help you on your travels. Learn more about the NZMCA on their website on their website.

Enjoy your camping or campervan trip to New Zealand — it is one of my favorite countries and this is one of the best ways to road trip around and enjoy its entirety. While you are there, enjoy some of the great foods of New Zealand as well — like campsites (and wineries, I need to do more about those next), there are plenty of great food options in this amazing place.


About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “Travel bloggers comprehensive tips for the best camping and campervan travel in New Zealand