Camping in New Zealand

Whether you rent a caravan or grab your tent and find a beautiful space near the beach – New Zealand is the camping capital of the world where it is allowed to set up your camping equipment freely or visit one of the official camping sites. New Zealand will offer you many camping opportunities during your travel, this activity is not only loved by tourists who love the outdoors and saving money, but it is also a hobby to many locals as well. Sitting around a campfire, barbequing as well as stargazing is probably one of the greatest perks camping has to offer.

Places to camp in New Zealand

You will be able to find stunning camping grounds wherever you go, no matter if you choose the North or the South Island.

If you have chosen to start with the North Island head to Gisborne where you will be able to freedom camp in one of the beautiful beaches, nothing can be better than falling asleep under the stars and waking up with a refreshing swim in the ocean. We recommend free camping in Hot Water Beach which is known for the natural hot springs. Alternatively, you can choose to set up your caravan or a tent in one of the official camping grounds which will provide you with lavatories.

We also recommend – The Magical Spirits Bay Campsite, seaside town of Mount Maunganui and Kuaotunu beach in Coromandel.

If the South Island is your choice, visit Lake Pukaki Reserve, it has official camping grounds with running water and lavatories. You can either enjoy a day at the beach or go for one of the hiking trails nearby.

Don’t miss an opportunity to stay at the Mueller hut at the Mount Cook National Park. The famous red hut gets fully booked fast, even though you have to do some serious exercise to get there. The hike to the Mueller Hut is 5.6 km long and it starts with a 2000 step staircase which will lead you to the main trail.

Where I can freedom camp in New Zealand

Freedom camping in New Zealand allows you to park or set up your tent almost anywhere, although in recent years the rules of freedom camping have become slightly stricter. Although freedom camping gives you free parking and camping possibilities it has limited or no access to running water or lavatories.

We recommend the Wairau diversion reserve it offers lavatory although no running water. Bear in mind that this site will not allow tents and it can only be accessed by a caravan.

Another amazing finding is Gillespies Beach on South Island. You can either go park your caravan or set up your tent right next to the beach.

If you wish to experience some peace and quiet and run away from the city, drive down to the Abel Tasman National Park where you will find the Totaranui Beach. This secluded area has no bars or restaurants, even though it is hard to access it will truly be worth it once you get there.

Drive to the Okains Bay where you can freedom camp as well as use the services of the nearby camping sites which offer clean drinking water, showers, and lavatories. This location is close to the city as well as many hiking routes.

Freedom camping penalties

During recent years New Zealand government has implemented new rules for Freedom camping. There are over 500 freedom camping location around New Zealand and most of them have the same simple rules to follow:

Don’t leave any waste behind you and make sure that the camping grounds are left clean;

use the specially designated lavatories as well as waste disposal stations;

-although free camping allows you to park and set up freely, some areas can be prohibited, make sure to do research before heading to the designated camping area;

Those who do not camp responsibly or damage the environment can receive some serious penalties from $200-5000 or even up to $10,000 fines for major damage to the environment.

-You are allowed to freedom camp in-cars, vans, caravans, campervans, RVs, motorhomes as well as mobile homes.

-You are not allowed to camp on private land, leave or dispose of rubbish or any other waste in non-designated areas.

You will be given 28 days to pay your fine if you miss the deadline it may result in court or additional penalties.

How safe is camping in New Zealand?

New Zealand is one of the safest countries in the world with low crime rates, no dangerous animals, as well as positive social acceptance. It is a great travel destination and a place to settle down. Although New Zealand is ranked to be one of the safest countries in the world we still recommend some basic safety precautions while traveling and camping. Make sure to keep your personal valuables close, take care of the environment and your personal safety.

We recommend camping on official camping sites which will not only provide clean drinking water, electricity and many other essential services it will also allow you to be surrounded by other campers. However, if you choose to freedom camp there is a slightly higher chance of a vehicle or personal items theft if you leave it unattended.

Personal safety, as well as the safety of the environment, has to be considered while camping. Simple mistakes as leaving an unattended campfire or a cigarette can lead to a devastating forest fire which can result in loss of endangered animal species as well as protected flora.

Before you head out to your next camping adventure make sure to educate yourself on general rules of camping in New Zealand, to keep yourself as well as the beautiful nature of New Zealand safe.