Responsible camping is camping in a tent, campervan or motor vehicle on public land, and generally means minimal or no facilities.
It’s a popular choice for many travellers in New Zealand, however whilst it may be free of charge, it’s not free of responsibility.
Many visitors come to New Zealand to experience pure, clean and untouched environments. Responsible camping allows you to enjoy the landscape and surrounds in its purest form, and its success depends on campers respecting and minimising the impact on the area they are camping in.
A famous quote by Chief Seattle states “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints” – follow this mantra and you’ll be on your way to an enjoyable responsible camping holiday.
The basic rules are you must not camp on private property and in most cases, campers must have their own toilets, fresh water and waste systems. Leaving behind litter and human waste is not permitted or accepted at any location. Camping in prohibited areas and the illegal dumping of waste can results in hefty fines.
Personal security should also be considered. Whilst New Zealand is a safe place compared to many other countries, be aware of your surroundings and think carefully before camping in secluded areas. Double check weather conditions and plan for unexpected events – always have plenty of supplies and if possible leave your details and travel plans with a contact.
There are over 500 responsible camping locations in New Zealand. Each district has different rules and regulations around where responsible camping (and parking of campervans) is permitted and where it is not.
The best place to find information about where you can camp is from those who know the area. Have a chat to the locals; call into a Visitor Information Centre or even a holiday park. The following are also excellent resources for pre-planning:
The impact of this type of camping on the environment, as well as safety concerns, mean that Tourism New Zealand does not recommend this kind of camping in New Zealand. Please see our comprehensive Holiday Parks listings for ideas on where to camp. On board toilets can only be legally emptied from motorhomes into Dump Stations, which are normally found in holiday parks.