Camping in New Zealand

Tenting in TiraumeaNew Zealanders love the outdoors and as a result you’re never far from a campground.

It’s normally no trouble at all to find at least one campsite within an easy day’s ride, although things are difficult for wild camping aficionados, with most land fenced and plenty of ‘no camping’ signs in the most beautiful spots.

For this reason you’re almost always likely to end up  at an official campsite. What kind of campsite you’ll find is an entirely different matter. One day you might arrive at a very basic site run by the local municipality for a few dollars. The next day could bring a fully-serviced caravan park with luxurious extras like hot springs. In towns and cities, you can often pitch your tent on the back lawn of the local hostel. Just stop by and ask if camping isn’t advertised.

Camping prices are also spread over a wide range. Some are free such as domain campgrounds and a few run by the Department of Conservation (check their site for a nice guide to DOC campsites or pick up a leaflet at a NZ tourist bureau). At the other end of the scale, you might pay NZ$20 per person in a resort town or at a posh private campground.

Budget NZ$10-12/pp for a tent site on average. The nice thing for solo cyclists is that campsite fees are usually charged per person and not by site, making camping a very economical way to go for anyone on their own.

Domain Camping – What’s That?

Just about every town and village in New Zealand has a domain – a grassy patch of land for recreation. For the passing cyclist, this is somewhere you can often pitch your tent. Facilities tend towards the rustic end of the scale but prices are low. You might pay nothing at all or for a small charge (around NZ$5) you can occasionally strike lucky with a hot shower and electricity. The hardest thing about domain camping is finding out where they are. They aren’t always signed. Ask at information bureaus or the local shop. The more off the beaten track you are, the more likely you are to find them.

What will you find? Even at the free end of the scale there should always be some source of water (usually from a tap but sometimes from a nearby river) and either pit or flushing toilets. Once you start paying a few dollars, you’ll find showers, often operated with a coin or token, laundry facilities and a kitchen.

The kitchen may not be fully stocked with cooking utensils, pots and pans so bring your own supplies, just in case. In all but the cheapest spots you’ll find a cooker. There will always be a fridge, a sink and often a microwave, a toaster and a kettle. Sometimes you’ll find free tea and coffee.

The most expensive campsites like those run by the Top 10 chain will have extras like a swimming pool, a playground for kids, a games room and internet access. Occasionally these campsites focus on caravan traffic, however, and refuse to take tents!

If you don’t want to pitch a tent, campgrounds also tend to offer cabins and dorm beds – a good option if the rain is pouring down outside. These run about the same price per person as a bed in a backpacker’s dorm – from NZ$15-25 per person. You may have to provide your own linen for the cabins or rent it for a small additional fee.

This map gives a good overview of campsites in New Zealand, including some free sites.


  1. Andrew dryburgh
    4th January 2013 at 3:18 am #

    Hi, do you know where I can get list of Domain campsites for both North and South islands?
    Thank you

    • Margaret Linn
      11th November 2015 at 11:12 am #

      A good place in the South Island, Dipton area

      Camp Taringatura

      Combined hosts Nathan and Rachele, Kiwi and Aussie Hospitality. German language is no problem.

  2. KF
    4th January 2014 at 12:30 am #

    I’m currently cycling in NZ, and I wouldn’t recommend freedom camping, especially in remote areas. Something that’s become a bit of a problem in NZ (but that NZ tries to keep hushed up) is attacks on tourists. Pay the $20 a night (especially if travelling solo) and stay at a decent campground for (a bit more) peace of mind.

    • Conor
      25th February 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      Are you able to specify where or the nature of the attacks?
      Im plannin on a christhpchurch to queenstown route in mrach and had my heart set on some free camping. Thanks

      • friedel
        25th February 2014 at 7:57 pm #

        Maybe KF will reply, but from our perspective I wouldn’t worry about it. There have – in the past – also been attacks in campgrounds but I would classify these as isolated incidents. Bad people exist everywhere (and you might meet them even if you stay at home) but in our experience the good far out weighs the bad. Just use your common sense and you will more than likely be fine.

  3. Craig
    2nd March 2015 at 12:13 pm #

    There is a great app for android phones called
    Camping NZ. It currently has a VW kombi on the
    front cover. It is a fantastic resource for finding places to
    stay in NZ. I have just come back from a trip
    and it was invaluable. Of course no good if you
    don’t have a phone or bandwidth.

  4. Abel Roche
    22nd March 2015 at 11:18 am #

    We sometimes allow people to camp on our land at 157 Old Coach Road in the Tasman Distric .
    Email me if you would like to stay.
    [email protected]

  5. Margaret Linn
    11th November 2015 at 10:42 am #

    New owners, Nathan and Rachele. Try the Kiwi/Aussie hospitality. You cannot beat it.

    There are lots of things to do for the travelling: walking, hiking, bird watching, swimming at the Dipton Stream in water holes and the big Oreti River – both of which are right at your door step. Local guides can assist you with fly fishing.
    The Camp itself has a 260 m2 pleasant feel main hall comfortably seating 150 guests. There is a piano, microphone and amplifier to use (please apply for, before day of arrival).

    The hall has a large serving window and 2 doors connecting our commodious kitchen area and walk-in storage room with everything you need: offering 2 spacious fridges, three ovens, 6 sinks, many cupboards with pots, pans, cutlery, glasses, cups, saucers, plates etc.. There are also washing machines and a dryer for your convenience.

    There is plenty of room for indoor activities! There are Couches to sit back with people from all walks of life, Countries and Cultures. Play games and make music – warm yourself and cozy up by the fire.
    Camp Taringatura holidays are the best!

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