New Zealand camping spots
Discover a diversity of campervan sites, from town to the country
Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater
New Zealanders have had a love affair with camping holidays for generations, and as a result you'll encounter a camping culture that is both welcoming and well organised. There are more than 800 vehicle-accessible campsites throughout the country, ranging from remote wilderness camping grounds to groomed inner-city holiday parks. Make the most of your Maui campervan hire by staying at different types of campsites on your travels.
Evolved from generations of camping grounds and caravan parks, New Zealand's holiday parks are amongst the world's best, combining comfortable built accommodation with spacious grounds for campers. Campervan sites are landscaped with lawn, hedging, shade trees and picnic tables, and supplied with power and water. Sites typically have hard, free-draining surfaces for easy drive-on and mud-free shoes. Communal facilities include bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, TV/internet lounges and barbecue areas. Games rooms, playgrounds and swimming pools are also common, with spa pools, go-karts, bike and kayak hire a bonus. Most are owner-operated, ensuring genuine hospitality, informed local advice and activity bookings.
Fees and bookings: A powered site for two people averages around $35–40 per night. Bookings are strongly advisable during summer holidays (Christmas to end January, and Easter) and major local events; otherwise you can normally just cruise on in. Around 250 of New Zealand's 400-odd holiday parks rally under the banner of the Holiday Parks Association, an excellent portal for research and bookings.
Department of Conservation (DOC) Campsites
If you like back-to-nature camping, you'll be wowed by the Department of Conservation's campsites in New Zealand national parks and scenic reserves. There are more than 200 campervan-friendly (and stunning) locations, some of which have power points, hot showers, rubbish collection and possibly laundry facilities and barbecues. Most DOC campgrounds, however, have much more basic facilities, with a toilet and water supply the absolute minimum. Many feature fire pits, cooking shelters and picnic tables.
Fees and bookings: DOC campsites range from free to $15 per person, with the priciest generally the most popular. These should be pre-booked in peak season (1 October–30 April) either online or at a DOC visitor centre. Others operate on a first-come, first-served basis, with payment made to the warden or popped into a self-registration box. Weekly campsite passes provide half-price camping at more than 100 DOC campsites nationwide.
Most local authorities – that's regional, city and district councils – manage campsites of one kind or another. These range from basic, nature camps in forest parks, to caravan parks in public domains, often adjacent to sports grounds, parks, or other recreation reserves.
Fees and bookings: With the exception of council-owned holiday parks, the majority of council campgrounds are cheap (around $10 per person per night) or even free, with some falling under the category of 'freedom camping'. To find council camps, check out Rankers.
'Freedom camping' refers to staying overnight in an area that is not a designated campsite, such as a riverside or beach reserve, or even a town car park. Only self-contained campers with onboard toilet, greywater and fresh water systems are allowed to freedom camp, so that includes Maui campervan hirers. The rules around such camping vary between regions – some have a blanket ban, while others encourage it with plenty of allocated sites. If you're not sure whether freedom camping is permitted, Assume nothing: ask a local (the i-SITE visitor centre, ideally). Just because there's a toilet, rubbish bin, or other campervans parked up, doesn't mean it's okay to stay. Abuse by freedom campers has seen a major crackdown on illegal camping, with fines frequently issued.
Fees and bookings: As the name suggests, this type of camping is almost always free, although some districts levy a small fee and a permit may be required. For general information on freedom camping, see Camping Our Way, and for individual site listings, see Rankers.
Hire a Maui Campervan from Auckland, Christchurch or Queenstown
Plan your New Zealand trip
Stay in Holiday Parks, DOC Campsites and other locations