A Compact Guide To Campsites In New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most picturesque countries in the world. The country is renowned for its breathtaking water and landmass that are all worth exploring. It’s nicknamed the ‘Middle Earth,’ having hosted movies such as Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. 

As such, your New Zealand trip won’t be complete without staying in public or private campsites to enjoy the beach, hike the trails, and get ready for your next adventure.      

If you happen to be traveling to the country soon, taking a campervan and making as many stops as you can is the best route to take. Consider this guide in exploring the best campsites in New Zealand. 

Can You Camp Anywhere in New Zealand?  

Before seeking recreational vehicles or performing a campervan comparison to get the best deal, it’s essential to know where tourists are allowed to camp. No matter how tempting it may be to stop at a scenic place and pitch a tent, the government only allows specific areas where campers can converge. 

Campsites in the land of the Maoris are classified into the following:  

  • Holiday parks: Also known as campgrounds, commercial campsites are the perfect sites for when you have a campervan and a tent. Amenities differ from one facility to another, and fees are also dependent on the utilities offered. (1)
  • Department of Conservation-run campsites: Consider DOC-managed grounds if you don’t want to spend too much on your camping trip. This government agency operates more than 250 campsites in New Zealand’s most scenic spots. These areas are open to all tourists. (1)

You may choose any of these campsites depending on your needs or who you’re with. For example, if you’re camping with family or kids, it’s not enough to pack must-have items for camping. Choose a campsite with the most amenities to ensure their comfort. 

tents and caravans by a lake in New Zealand

The DOC has the following campsite classifications:   

  1. Serviced – which may be the campsite equivalent of five-star hotel accommodation.
  2. Scenic – As the name implies, these campsites may only have primary and extra amenities, and they’re perfect for campers who want the best views.
  3. Great Walk– Apart from basic facilities, these campsites are best for hiking enthusiasts. The DOC says over 60 of these campsites exist in the country.
  4. Standard- While tourists can book the first three campsite types in advance, standard camping grounds are first-come, first-serve. These sites provide limited features.
  5. Basic– This is perfect for adventurers who don’t mind not having the most comfortable accommodation. 
  6. Backcountry– This campsite offers minor amenities, although it has toilets and possibly cooking tools. (2) 

What Is Freedom Camping?

Freedom camping doesn’t mean you can park your campervan, pitch your tent and do the things you want. As with any other country, tourists are required to comply with the Freedom Camping Act—which sets limitations on where campers should be and what they can do within authorized campsites. All jurisdictions have designated areas where tourists are expected to pay NZ$10 maximum per person to access basic amenities. (3)  

What Tourists Should Be Looking At Before Going To A Campsite    

Under the act, travelers must have a certified self-contained campervan. This means your vehicle must have toilet facilities with proper wastewater management systems before you’re allowed to camp in places without public toilets. If you have a regular car, freedom camping may only be possible on grounds with toilets. (3) 

Spending time in unauthorized campsites entails hefty costs. New Zealand’s camping laws also require campers to maintain cleanliness and order within camping grounds. Sites have signs indicating where you should or shouldn’t be staying. 

new zealand printed caravan in a forest

Places of Interest For New Zealand Campers

You can get complete information from online sources such as this New Zealand travel guide and the country’s tourist websites. If you love to hike the mountains, frolic on the beach, or admire the view from afar, include these attractive spots in your New Zealand travel bucket list:  

  • Bream Bay: A scenic coastline straddled between Auckland and the Bay of Islands, you can access this spot while pitched in a private or DOC-run campsite.
  • Coromandel Peninsula: Holiday parks dot several areas that lead to this site, where, apart from the beaches, tourists can also view the Coromandel Forest Park.
  • Kakari Peninsula: If you’re staying in a campground along Maitai Bay and Tokerau Beach, head on to this site to enjoy the pristine waters.
  • Kai Iwi Lakes: Getting to this spot provides you with a great view of the lake and nearby beach.
  • Mount Taranaki: Located in the North Island, tourists can access this natural wonder through the New Plymouth City, where holiday parks abound.
  • Abel Tasman National Park: Hiking inside the park for a few days allows visitors a breathtaking view of the beaches and forests located in the area. (4)   

The Bottom Line 

There are numerous reasons New Zealand should be your next destination. Whether a beach bum, a hiking expert, or an adventurer, a visit to the country will satisfy your cravings. 

Before setting foot on the island, though, remember to gather factual information about the destinations to explore and the laws you need to comply with for a flawless travel experience.    


  1. “Camping”, Source: https://www.newzealand.com/int/camping/
  2. “Department of Conservation Campsites”, Source: https://www.newzealand.com/int/feature/department-of-conservation-campsites/
  3. “Best tips for free camping in New Zealand”, Source: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/free-camping-new-zealand
  4. “The 12 Best Places to Go Camping in New Zealand”, Source: https://www.tripsavvy.com/best-places-for-camping-new-zealand-5113994

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