Freedom Camping in New Zealand
Top Freedom Camp Sites to Visit in a Campervan Rental
Camping is a popular activity in New Zealand, both for locals and visitors. There is a range of camping facilities through out the country, from swish commercial campgrounds, to remote but beautiful Department of Conservation sites. The practice of freedom camping has been restricted in recent years, and many regions have bylaws preventing it. There are fines if you are caught staying overnight in the wrong place. Don't risk it! The good news is that with a little planning, you can stay for free, or very little, in some beautiful parts of New Zealand. Below is a small selection of free camp sites in the North Island where you can just park your campervan or motorhome rental and enjoy nature's beauty at its finest.
Kaiaua and Miranda are towns on the Seabird Coast, about a half-hour drive from Thames
, and approximately an hour from Auckland Airport
, so are good options if you need to be handy for flights. Each have a camping site: Boat Club Reserve
(Kaiaua) and Rays Rest Reserve
(Miranda). Boat Club Reserve offers free overnight parking for both non self-contained and self-contained vehicles while Rays Rest Reserve only offers free overnight parking for self-contained vehicles and allows a maximum of two nights stay. Get the chance to catch a glorious sunrise over the water while staying in your campervan rental. Kaiaua is famous for fresh fish and chips . For a dose of bird life, Rays Rest Reserve is a great spot.
is located in Kawerau, in the Bay of Plenty. Kawerau is a useful town for travellers, being around an hour's drive from Tauranga
. Prideaux Park is just a short walk to town, Kawerau
's free hot pools, and the i-SITE. There's access to power and the dump station. The Kawerau i-SITE will ask you for a $25 bond for the power but don't fret! Your $25 will be returned as soon as you return the power key. For the first three nights, the power site is free. You can also get the dump station key at the i-SITE.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) allows camping on most of their sites, usually free, and on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to have a breathtaking camping trip, the Makino campsiteis the perfect place to visit. It is in the Manawatu region, around three hours drive from Wellington, or an hour and a half from Palmerston North Airport. Park your campervan in this area of large grassy clearing that has around 16 campsites. Try bungy jumping across the road at Mokai Gravity Canyon or visit its café, bridge swing, and flying fox. When you're traveling with children, remember to take extra precautions as the Makino Campsite has high cliffs within the area.
Another fantastic DOC campground is at the other end of the North Island. Tapotupotu is New Zealand's most northern campground, just a five minute drive from Cape Reinga. There's a surf beach, a lagoon, and a block with toilets and cold showers. Tapotupotu is around three and a half hour's drive from Whangerei. For more places, use the DOC website: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/camping/.