New Zealand is the perfect place to plan a camping road trip. From it’s epic scenery to the wonderful wildlife, this country has a lot to offer and is easily traveled with a car or camper van. Last winter, we traveled New Zealand for 2 months sleeping in our car and stayed in some beautiful campsites.
Camping in New Zealand
There are three types of campsites in New Zealand :
Doc Campsites: These campsites belong to the Department of Conservation. There are more than 200 DOC sites all over the country, and they usually cost between $0 and $21 per person per night depending on the type of camp it is. You can easily find a brochure with all the campsites locations in a tourist information center.
Free campsites: These campsites are usually just a grassy field and a pit toilet, but are totally free of charge. They work on a first come first served basis.
Holiday parks: Holiday parks are the most expensive type of camping sites, but they also provide more services. They usually provide toilets, hot showers, kitchen and laundry facilities. They cost around $25 per person per night, but you can find some cheaper ones.
We spent most of our time in DOC campgrounds because of the price obviously, but also because most of them are in quiet areas and offer breathtaking views. All the campgrounds listed in this post are accessible to non-self-contained and self-contained vehicles. Below I talk about ten of my favorites, including what facilities and activities are available at each.
Top 10 New Zealand campsites under $15
♦ SOUTH ISLAND
This DOC campsite is located 70 km south of Fox Glacier. It’s a scenic campsite beside a lake with 12 unpowered tent sites and is easily accessible with a car, a van or motorhome. This campground is $13 per person per night and has clean flush toilets, a sink and drinking water. Activities at the camp include boating, fishing and swimming in the lake.
Moray Terrace – Fortrose campsite
Fortrose is a small town on the Caitlins Coast. Their free camp is a lovely grassy area near the sea and is a great stop on the way to the south. There are toilets and rubbish bins, and you are allowed to camp in the designated area for a maximum of 2 nights in any 30 day period. The Fortrose Cliffs located 2kms away from the camp are definitely worth a visit.
Albert Town Campground
Located less than 10km away from Wanaka, this grassy field is a great option for those traveling on a budget. For only $10 per person per night, you’ll have access to toilets, a sink, rubbish bins, tables and plenty of space to pitch your tent under the trees. Camping is also allowed in a car or motorhome.
Lumsden is a lovely town located on the way to Queenstown. The campground is actually parking on either side of the train platform. There is public toilets, a sink, bins, a playground, a library where you can get free wifi and charge your phone, a Four Square and some nice cafes. This campsite is free and is by far the best free camp we stayed at. In summer, you can go to the local swimming pool and use their shower facilities for a small fee.
Clifden Historic Bridge
Clifden has a small campsite by the historic bridge. This camp offers amazing views on the surrounding mountains. It is free of charge, provides toilets and a fresh water tap.You can go for a swim in the river or go for a walk across the lovely bridge.
Twelve Mile Delta
Twelve Mile Delta is a massive 100 sites campground located 20 minutes drive out of Queenstown. It’s a popular picnicking and fishing spot. For only $13 per person per night, this campground is reasonably priced for the area and provides toilets and picnic tables. The surroundings offer amazing views and easy access to one of the Lord Of The Rings film locations. From there you can hike to Bob’s Cove in one hour – which I totally recommend!
♦ NORTH ISLAND
A 15 minutes drive out of Rotorua will take you to this quiet DOC campground. The facilities include pit toilets, a shelter for cooking, and water from the stream. A hiking trail leads through the forest to the next beach site. For only $13 per night, this campground can get quickly crowded in the summer months.
Mclaren Falls Park
This lovely park near Tauranga contains a series of camping areas. The park provides toilets, HOT SHOWERS (which is amazing for the price!), rubbish bins and sinks to wash your dishes. It’s a very quiet place, and the facilities are clean. There are many short walks around, and also a 10 minutes hike at night to see the glowworms. For only $10 per person per night, this camp is definitely worth a visit.
Reids Farm Campsite
This free camp close to Taupo is a very popular venue among travelers. You can camp in a car (self-contained or not) or in a tent. Located right on the Waikato River, this campground provides basic toilets and recycling bins. It’s a good spot to go to the beautiful Huka Falls.
This beautiful spot right within nature offers plenty of room for cars, vans or tents. This camp is easily accessible and provides a basic cooking shelter. There is also a short hike to a lovely swimming hole. The only negative about this campground is the one and only pit toilet.
Road tripping New Zealand really is an amazing adventure. I hope this post will help you plan your great adventure in this beautiful country. Did you stay in any of these campsites? Let me know in the comments below!
Please note: all prices in this post are in New Zealand Dollars.
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