Where you can camp in New Zealand

Where CAN you camp in New Zealand? Here's some information on the different types of camping available, and what you can and can't do when camping in NZ.

There are many different types of camping in New Zealand. This article provides information on the three main types of public camping spots available in New Zealand, rules for camping at each and average camping prices.

1. Campgrounds and holiday parks

Campgrounds or Holiday Parks are commercial operations that provide a safe and well-equipped camping experience. You will usually find tent sites as well as powered and unpowered van/motorhome sites, and sometimes cabins or ‘units’. A tent site may be a specific marked patch of grass or a ‘take what you can find’ arrangement where you can pitch your tent anywhere. The cost of your tent or van space will include the use of the campground facilities.

Price range: Anywhere between NZD$10 and $40 per site.

Facilities you may find at campgrounds & holiday parks:

  • A recreation room or communal lounge
  • Communal kitchen
  • Bathrooms/showers (sometimes coin operated)
  • Playground
  • Shop with basic food and camping items
  • Pay phones
  • Laundry facilities (usually coin operated)
  • Swimming pool or spa
  • Rubbish and/or recycling facilities

At a campground or holiday park you must always:

  • Check in at reception on arrival
  • Pay for each night that you stay
  • Respect the campground rules and other campers
  • Dispose of your rubbish on site, or take it with you
  • Use the supplied motorhome dumping facilities (if applicable)

2. Department of Conservation campsites

The Department of Conservation (DOC) manages over 250 public camping areas on conservation land throughout New Zealand. Located in some of New Zealand’s most beautiful regions, these campsites usually don’t have an on-site manager and are operated on a trust basis. Tents, vans, motorhomes and caravans are all welcome on DOC conservation campsites. Facilities are typically minimal and basic, but fees are very reasonable - sometimes free. There are three grades of DOC campsites and the level of facilities and the cost will vary accordingly.

Price range: Between NZD$0 and $19 per person, per night depending on the type of campsite.

Facilities you may find at a DOC campsite
There are three types of DOC campsite, each offering different facilities.

Basic Campsite:

  • Basic toilets
  • Water from a tank, stream or lake

Standard Campsite:

  • Basic toilets
  • Water from a tap, stream or lake
  • Wood barbecues / fireplaces
  • Cold showers
  • Picnic tables
  • Cooking shelter
  • Rubbish bins

Serviced Campsite:

  • Flush toilets
  • Tap water
  • Kitchen / cooking benches
  • Hot showers
  • Rubbish bins & rubbish collection
  • Laundry facilities
  • Barbecues/fireplaces
  • Picnic tables

At a DOC conservation campsite you must always:

  • Dispose of your rubbish correctly, or take it with you
  • Camp only in designated areas
  • Pay the required camp fees in the fee box
  • Light fires only where permitted, and ensure it is completely extinguished before you leave
  • Keep detergents, soap, toothpaste etc. out of waterways
  • Use toilets provided
  • If travelling by motorhome, only use dump stations to dispose of waste
  • Respect other campers
  • Respect the natural environment and native plants and animals

Bookings: Basic and Standard campsites don't need to be booked in advanced. They tend to operate on a first-in, first-served basis.

All Serviced campsites can be booked in advanced, but don't always need to be. Campsite bookings should be made at the nearest DOC office.

All campsites that are on a Great Walk Track must be booked in advance. These campsites will be classified as 'Great Walk Campsites'.

Note: DOC also manages campsites and back country huts along NZ's many hiking and walking trails. These are not the same as DOC's conservation campsites described above.

3. Freedom camping or 'free' camping

It is a widespread misconception that you can ‘free camp’ anywhere you want to in New Zealand.

Much of the great paddocks, fields, reserves and farmland you see are privately owned and cannot, therefore, be camped on without permission from the land owner.

In addition, many of the public spots that appear good for camping have been treated poorly by campers in the past, prompting local councils to make such spaces ‘No Camping’ zones.

However, there are some areas where you can pull over, park your motorhome or set up your tent and camp for the night, free of charge.

A good place to start is at the Freedom Camping website, where you can find regional information on freedom camping spots. Whilst travelling, stop at local information centres or Department of Conservation offices to ask where you are allowed to camp.

Price range: Nothing - unless you are in breach of a local bylaw and are charged accordingly by the local council or the New Zealand police.

Facilities you may find at a Freedom Camping spot:

  • Public toilets
  • Picnic tables
  • Rubbish bins

When Freedom Camping in New Zealand you must always:

  • Use public toilets; do not use the bush or waterways as a toilet
  • Leave no trace of your visit
  • Dispose of all rubbish responsibly, or take it with you
  • Respect private property; don’t camp on someone’s land
  • Respect ‘No Camping’ signs; they are there for a reason
  • Keep detergents, soap, toothpaste etc. out of waterways
  • Only use approved dump stations to dispose of motorhome waste

New Zealand is a popular holiday destination for its clean, green landscapes and natural environment. Help keep New Zealand this way by being a responsible and tidy camper.