Camp for FREE in New Zealand

Camp for FREE in New Zealand

November 26, 2015

Check out the view from my window! Isn’t it amazing? Most people would pay a lot of money to stay somewhere with a view like this but for me this view was FREE! Now that I have your attention let me explain how to camp for free in New Zealand.

What is free camping?

South Island Camping

South Island Camping

Also known as freedom camping, ‘free camping’ refers to staying in an area that is not a designated campsite with camping facilities. You could find yourself staying near a quite riverside or beach reserve or maybe even a town car park. This sort of camping is not illegal in NZ but it does not mean you can park ‘anywhere’ and stay for free either.

Don’t ever assume that you can camp in a certain location because what you thought was a free camp may turn out to be an illegal spot and land you with an expensive fine to pay! When you pick up your vehicle, talk to the motorhome company about your planned route and where you might be able to legally free camp. If you get somewhere and you are unsure, check with a local or better still visit the local i-SITE visitor centre to ask where the free spots are. There are also a number of free or inexpensive apps you can download that give you lots of valuable information and free camp locations.

Can everyone free camp?

Not exactly – Only campers that are self-contained with a toilet, greywater and fresh water systems in their motorhome are allowed to freedom camp. Ask us for more information about what the best options are if you want to hire a motorhome or campervan for your New Zealand Holiday. At this point I should add that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of holiday parks in New Zealand that offer very affordable paid powered & unpowered sites too for those nights when you can’t locate a free camp or you need to recharge the batteries in your vehicle (you can’t free camp every night unfortunately!). Just contact the Just New Zealand team for more info about these.

Camping Out in NZ

Camping Out

Rules for free camping

  • Don’t leave a trace of your visit. Unfortunately some people have treated many public spots poorly in the past, forcing local councils to make such places ‘No Camping’ zones. So don’t spoil it for others. Clean up after yourself.
  • Do not use the bush or waterways as a toilet. Pretty self explanatory! Use your motorhome toilet or public toilets. Enough said right?
  • Obey the signs – if it says No Camping then it means don’t camp there. There is no bigger holiday ‘downer’ than being handed an on the spot fine.
  • Don’t have a bath in the lakes – Keep soap, toothpaste, detergents etc out of the waterways.
  • Use approved dump stations – Read the instructions and take care disposing of motorhome waste. It gets a bit messy if you stuff this part up! If you don’t even want to face this prospect, there are Express Packs that can be pre purchased! These packs, which amongst other advantages, allow you to leave the waste water in the vehicle and quickly leave the country! Talk to us about your options!

Best things about camping in New Zealand

Roam free – No other method of travel offers such freedom. Hiring a motorhome or campervan gives travellers the flexibility of travelling at your own pace and in whatever direction your mood takes you.

Britz Campervan

Britz Campervan

Wake up to a new view each daySee the real New Zealand out the window of your motorhome. Each stop you make gives travellers the opportunity to explore the landscape. Whether it’s a basic council camp, scenic reserve or a town car park, you will find plenty of designated freedom camping spots in NZ. Consider checking out the Rankers website which lists nearly all of the free camp spots in New Zealand. For an app, you could try Campermate. It lists public toilet locations, rubbish bins, campsites, free wifi, supermarkets and much more!

Be Social – Camping holidays that I remember as a kid bring back fond memories of meeting new people and making new friends. Some things never change! Campsites are famous for their communal spirit. There is something about sitting outside on your camp chair, chugging a beer that makes striking up a conversation with a stranger somewhat easier. Share travel stories, exchange Instagram accounts, add new facebook friends. It’s awesome!

Free camping is a journey and promises travellers a chance to slow down and relax. So whether you are waking up in the New Zealand wilderness, beside a vine yard, at the top of a lookout or in the heart of small kiwi town – free camping is an experience to be embraced by all. Have you been on a New Zealand motorhome holiday? Tell us what you liked most about it in the comments. We would love to hear all about your trip.

Posted by

Vanessa Carey

Vanessa is a travel writer on a mission to explore every inch of New Zealand. Her ideal holiday would include at least one scenic flight, a bit of adventure and eating out every night! No one should cook on their holidays! Favourite NZ place to visit: Queenstown.

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