Camping in New Zealand


mt cook, new zealand, doc campingWe spent nearly five weeks cycle touring in New Zealand on the south island and most nights we camped in our Blacks Octane 3 tent.

As we found in Australia, they have camping sorted here down under: utterly spotless facilities, and brilliant service. If you should visit New Zealand do not shy away from the idea of camping as it’s just so easy and good value, with stunning facilities.

Campsites are lead by the TOP 10 Holiday Park, which is around 48 site scattered around New Zealand. Along with all the other campsites most have spots for caravans, motorhomes, tents and small chalets and motels. And these campsites also have internet access, wifi, for you to kill your time with in kiosk format.

Then there is the Departments of Conservation (DoC) campsites, which are just brilliant way to camp in New Zealand. Should it be while you are cycle touring, hiking/tramping or even driving your way around New Zealand.

Best of all they are mostly located away from it all, you have to make your way to them down a gravel road right into the forest. Where DoC have made a clearing in the trees for you to camp in. These sites varies on what they have for you, some the basic clearing in amongst the trees to a more like a “normal” campsite.

Like :
Toilets, long drop to a normal toilet block.
Water, collected rain water to water from the mains.
Campsite, a clearing in the trees to allotted plots.
Shelters, from the simple shelter to a block with toilets and kitchen.
Fees, from free (read below) to NZ$6 per person.
Fireplace, some where fire was prohibited to fire pits.
Garbage, from bring in take out to a recycling bank.

All the DoC campsites we stayed at were run by the honestly box system. You filled in a from, put your money into an envelope, dropped it into a box and attached a little tag to your tent. Though at the Craigieburn Forest DoC the honesty box was gone so we couldn’t pay.

With most “normal” campsites they are based near a town, close to shops and road. The DoC campsite are different they are right in there, away from it all, with stunning views and sand flies. The best way to describe is wild camping but legal, if understand what I mean.

Places we stayed at :

Craigieburn Forest DoC graffiti Craigieburn Forest DoC, between Poters and Arthurs Pass had a nice little shelter that we used to cook in while we enjoyed reading the graffiti. Not that I approve of graffiti but it is hard to dislike when it is this good.

Lake Mavora DoC, we cycled from Walter Peak along some wonderful views and scenery on some rough gravel roads to this campsite. Only to find out when we arrived back in the UK that we had been metres away from a LoTR filming location.

Mt Cook, White Horse Hill, DoC, great views of Mt Cook getting there, slept listing to the glaciers rumbling in the night. They had a big massive shelter with benches and kitchen tables (no cooking facilities) and clean running water.

Domain campsites are sites run by the local city/town council. From pretty basic plots to site with hot showers etc. A few of the Domain camps we stayed at were linked with the local sport ground. So the showers are nice, big and warm, though do be prepared to have a few NZ$2 coins with you to pay for the showers. With big kitchens, with cookers, microwave ovens along with come basic cooking utensils. These kitchens had a dual function as the local “salles de fetes” as the French call them, where you could have your wedding party etc.

The biggest problem with Domain campsites are that they are rather hard to find since they are not often sign posted. So do ask around, as we did in Kumara at the local shop, and got directed to what looked a disused rugby ground with a public toilet. Like the Top 10 campsites some of them might have small dorms and cabins for you to rent if the weather is a bit too extreme to pitch your tent.

Again TravellingTwo have me beat with a great post about camping in New Zealand.


  1. Thanks for sharing this post – I’m currently in the planning stages for a trip to NZ with my girlfriend later this year. I’m liking the idea of camping a lot more now. In the UK a campsite can cost more than £20 a night – this sounds a lot cheaper as well as wilder & freer…


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