For those of you who have purchased a car or campervan with the intention of sleeping in your vehicle as you travel around New Zealand, it is important that you are aware of Freedom Camping laws in New Zealand. In New Zealand there are free camping areas as well as many campgrounds and holiday parks that you can pay to stay at.
Freedom camping is the expression used in New Zealand to park up pretty much wherever you like, such as camping by the sea, a lake or river. Over the years various councils (governing bodies of a particular part of the country) have decided to ban freedom camping. This has mainly been due to the rubbish and human waste that is sometimes left on the ground. It is therefore important that you know where you can and cannot freedom camp around New Zealand to avoid getting any fines.
Handy websites include:
If you are confused at all about where to stay in an area, then pop in to the local i-SITE centre. These are visitor information centres that are all over the New Zealand and the knowledgeable staff should be able to provide you with advice and possibly maps that will clearly outline your camping options in that area.
If you do decide to freedom camp in New Zealand we recommend you consider the following:
- Make sure you have parked up in a safe area, away from busy roads or highways. Ideally you would be parked near to other freedom campers.
- Keep your car doors locked at all times and beware that tourists can be seen as an easy target for criminals so if the area doesn’t feel right, then trust your instincts and move on to a safer option. It is always a good idea to talk to locals for recommendations and advice on the area.
- Ideally you would make sure you are near to public toilets, but also be aware that this is where signage is likely to be displayed if freedom camping is not allowed in that area.
- Be aware of private property; do not camp on someone’s land without permission.
- Be very careful about your water source. Either buy bottled water from a local supermarket or make sure you boil it for a minimum of three minutes before you use it.
- Dispose of any water that you use, especially if it contains soap or detergents, well away from the source of the water (for example the local stream). It is better for this water to be poured in to soil then back in to the waterway.
- Leave no trace of your visit.
Parking up at campgrounds or holiday parks provides you with facilities to use and hopefully a clean and secure environment. There is usually the option to pay for powered or unpowered sites (depending on whether or not your campervan has the ability to use power), and if you have a tent you could pitch that. You can expect to pay anywhere between $10 and $35 per night.
Facilities that could be available include: toilets, showers, pool, small playground, tv room, kitchens, small convenience shop, rubbish bins and possibly a swimming pool or spa pool.
Handy websites include:
Department of Conservation Camping
There are around 250 public camping areas that are managed by the Department of Conservation or DOC as it is known in New Zealand. These campsites tend to operate on a trust basis and you will often be asked to leave a small fee in a box at the site. There are three standards of campsites from basic to standard through to serviced.
Basic campsites will often be free and will have a toilet. Water may be obtained from a local river, tank or lake and may or may not be suitable for drinking.
A standard campsite could also include basic cooking facilities and possibly a cold shower.
A serviced campsite will likely have hot showers, rubbish facilities and flush toilets.
Basic and standard campsites operate on a first in first served basis, while you can book to stay at a serviced campsite at any Department of Conservation office.
Handy Apps for Camping
Camping NZ App ($15.99)
Camping NZ App is available to download onto your iphone, ipad or android device. With it you will get an offline map that has the details of approx. 1,200 camping locations around New Zealand. This is perfect if you have limited access to the internet. The range of camping facilities will range from basic to fully serviced and you can read hundreds of reviews from fellow travellers.
Campermate is an app that provides locations of public toilets, rubbish bins, petrol stations, supermarkets and free wifi points around New Zealand. You can also get unique travel tips from other travellers.
AA Travel App (Free)
This app includes information about activities, accommodation, maps and traveller reviews.