What You Need to Know About Free Camping New Zealand

free camping New ZealandIf you’re thinking of touring New Zealand by campervan, you’ve likely considered freedom camping. Being able to pull up for the night next to a beautiful lake or remote beach is an incredibly appealing way of travelling…not to mention a lot lighter on the pocket.

But be aware…new laws surrounding free camping were introduced in New Zealand in 2011. While free camping is still permitted on public conservation land, many regions now have their own, specific by-laws in place, which either prohibit freedom camping altogether, or restrict it to vehicles with a self-containment certificate. And since parking up overnight in a restricted or prohibited area can result in a hefty fine, it pays to know the rules.

So, where can’t you camp?

The Department of Conservation has a comprehensive list of public conservation areas where freedom camping is no longer the go, or restricted to self-contained vehicles, on its website. Find the list here >>

Areas where freedom camping is banned or restricted will usually be signposted. Don’t, however, take this as gospel. Signs have been known to mysteriously disappear! Your best bet is to ask a local, or check with the nearest information centre or iSite.

If you do still choose to freedom camp, be a tidy traveller. Take all your rubbish with you, and leave the spot as you found it.

What’s a self-containment certificate?

It means that your vehicle is able to provide a minimum of three days of self-containment for water supply, greywater and septic waste. If you’re hiring a campervan with a toilet, shower and waste water facilities, it will likely have a self-containment certificate. Check with your rental company before booking, to make certain.

Alternatives to free camping New Zealand


Department of Conservation camping grounds
DOC provide a large number of camping sites across both islands. Facilities vary: the most basic offer just toilets (often of the long drop variety) and water, while serviced campsites provide showers, rubbish collection and laundry facilities. Fees range from free to $15 per adult, per night. Many of the campsites are in beautiful, scenic locations and are well worth seeking out.

Bookings can be made online or at a DOC visitor centre, or you can use the self-registration stands when you arrive.

Bookings are required for all serviced campsites and for some scenic and standard campsites in peak season (usually 1 October – 30 April). Find a full list of campsites here >>

Regional parks
Auckland region: There are 44 campsites throughout Auckland’s many regional parks. Like DOC sites, facilities are often basic, but the locations are more than worth it. Fees are usually between $6-$13 per adult per night. Many of the parks are popular with Kiwi campers during peak season, and particularly over the summer holidays (end of December through January), so you’ll need to book ahead. Find a full list of sites here >>

Wellington region: There are a few parks where camping is permitted. Find sites here >>

Top Ten Holiday Parks
4 and 5-star Qualmark-rated campsites, offering high quality facilities. Head to their website to find a full list of sites >>

Holiday Parks
Hundreds of campgrounds in great locations across both islands. Click here to visit their website >>

Another website well worth checking out is www.rankers.co.nz, which lists all freedom camping spots and paid camping spots across both islands.

Know a great camping spot you’d like to share with our readers? Leave a message on our Facebook page. And if we’ve inspired you to roll around New Zealand in a campervan, we can help. Check out our great range of campers here >>