Best Campsites in New Zealand to Check Out
Last Updated on November 8, 2023
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If you’re planning on exploring more of New Zealand in the coming months, make sure you take a road trip and spend some time in the best campsites in New Zealand.
This country has some of the most beautiful campsites in the world and now is the time to take advantage of that and explore them for ourselves.
From the South Island to the North, my New Zealand camping guide has got you covered!
These amazing campsites in New Zealand are some of the best campsites in the world.
Whether you’re tent camping in New Zealand, or just looking for campervan sites, New Zealand will not let you down.
They range from government-owned to private-owned and some are the gateway to some of the best things to do in New Zealand!
Table of Contents
Map of the Best Campsites in New Zealand
Here’s my ultimate New Zealand camping map – with this you’ll be able to find the best camping sites in New Zealand for you!
🧳 MUST-HAVE: Before you head out on your trip, make sure you have travel insurance. My #1 recommendation is SafetyWing!
16 of the Best Campsites in New Zealand
1. Ross Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
Suggested by Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family
Beachfront campsite… you can’t get much better than that. Just south of Hokitika is the wild West Coast beach, in the old gold mining town of Ross.
It’s close to all the Hokitika attractions, has some old historical buildings and mining areas to explore and is less than 90 minutes from the incredible tourist hot spot of Franz Josef Glacier (easily doable as a day trip)
The Ross Beach Top 10 Holiday Park is a modern campsite, based on converted shipping containers. The communal kitchen in fact is made of one, as are the cabin and motel type facilities.
If you do grab a container room with kitchen facilities, take advantage of the super fast induction cooktops and even your own bbq on your doorstep.
If you’re happy to stay off grid, you can park your campervan in a beachfront spot, or charge up at a powered spot for no extra charge. Campers can camp on the lush grass near the facilities.
We love all the hedging around the campsite that makes the areas feel really private. We also love the incredible sunsets these West Coast campsites provide.
Watching the sun go down over the water is surely on your bucket list. And if you’re really lucky, on a clear day you can see the majestic Mt Cook from here.
2. Moke Lake
Suggested by Delilah Hart from Our Travel Mix
Moke Lake is my favourite campsite in New Zealand.
It is located just 20 minutes from Queenstown Township, which makes it a perfect location to explore the town and the nearby Queenstown vineyards.
The unique thing about Moke Lake is its horseshoe shape. Viewing the lake from the campsite, you can see the three characteristic hills.
Visiting this spot is one of the best things to do in Queenstown at sunrise. You can see the sun’s rays casting a golden glow over the hills.
The Moke Lake Loop Track is an easy walk around the horseshoe-shaped mountain. The loop should take around two hours to complete.
The track will bring you around then lake, up to a viewpoint where you can view the lake from a different perspective. You can also cycle the track.
During the warmer months, you’ll find visitors swimming in the lake. The refreshing water is a great way to wake yourself up in the morning!
Apart from the views, one of my favourite things about Moke Lake is that it isn’t as busy as other campsites in the tourist hostpot of Queenstown.
The campsite is never overcrowded. Adults cost $15 NZD per night, while children five years and up are $7.50 NZD per night.
If you’re thinking of spending some time backpacking and camping in this beautiful country, my advice is fly down, pick up some tents for sale in Queenstown New Zealand, and head here first.
3. Lake Okareka Doc Campsite in Rotorua
Suggested by Alex of Weekend Getaways NZ
Living in Auckland, we love going to Rotorua for a weekend getaway. It’s only a 3-hour drive from Auckland and packed with natural wonders and adventure.
Our favourite campsite in Rotorua is managed by the Department of Conservation and lies right on the shores of Lake Okareka.
It takes about 10 minutes to drive to the city centre but it feels like worlds away from the hustle and bustle.
There’s nothing more romantic than to eat dinner on the beach, the stars reflecting on the water’s surface.
At night, the walkway that leads into the campsite comes to live with hundreds of glowworms. Take the kids on a short and safe night safari to find the tiny lights in the bush, they will love it!
The campsite is only small and has about 20 sites to either park your camper or pitch your tent.
The Lake Okareka campsite is nicer if you bring a tent as you get to pitch it on the grass, away from the car park and as close to the water as you like. In a camper, you’re bound to the gravel section.
Being managed by the DOC, it means the campsite has no fancy facilities and availability is on first-come-first-serve. A ranger comes by every evening to collect the nighty fee.
There are two long drop toilets, a sink to empty your dishwashing water as well as a shelter with benches and tables.
You’ll have to bring along all cooking equipment and crockery and it’s best to fill your chilly bin with ice before arriving at the campsite.
There are no showers on-site. There’s really no need, though, as you have a giant bathtub called Lake Okareka right in front of you!
If you love camping for its original purpose, to immerse in nature without any fancy amenities, you will absolutely adore the DOC campsite Lake Okareka in Rotorua!
4. Te Pukatea Bay Campsite
Suggested by Lee-Ann from Be Free With Lee.
The stunning Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island is home to many incredible campsites but there is one that outshines the rest – Te Pukatea Bay.
Located about 3.5 hours walk from Marahau or a 2-hour kayak trip. It’s a remote location without driving access. The remoteness and tucked-away feel make this campsite particularly special.
You will be left alone in paradise!
The campsite is run by the Department of Conservation and has a maximum of 7 tent sites.
The facilities are not out of this world, just 2 basic long drops and water that needs to be boiled but it’s no issue when you wake up to the sound of calm water moving across golden sand.
If you are after a few more luxuries such as a flushing toilet and fresh drinking water then a trip to Anchorage bay is where you can find it.
This bay is extremely popular but only a 15 minute walk away, meaning you have everything you need within distance.
My favourite way to access Te Pukatea Bay is by kayaking. But there are other ways to get there including hiking or catching a water taxi.
Some water taxi companies might drop you off directly in Te Pukatea Bay but this is rare. The closest water taxi spot is in Anchorage Bay which is a 15-minute walk away via a well-marked track.
This is a good place to grab the freshwater I was talking about and if you have time try the Pit Head Loop Track to see a remarkable view down the Northern section of the park.
5. Glentanner Holiday Park near Mount Cook
Suggested by Meg Atteberry of Fox in the Forest
There’s no country more beautiful than New Zealand. The best way to see the country is to visit New Zealand by campervan.
As you stop along the different areas, you’ll be blown away at just how stunning this country is.
One must-see stop is the Mount Cook area and there’s no better place to set up camp than the Glentanner Holiday Park.
Unlike its neighboring DOC sites, this Mount Cook campsite offers up plenty of amenities.
If you’ve been roughing it at New Zealand DOC campsites, you’ll love the easy access to laundry, more private sites, communal kitchen, showers and more.
The best part about this special spot is that you’re just a few minutes down the road from some of the best hikes in New Zealand. Mount Cook, or Aoraki, is the tallest mountain in New Zealand.
This beautiful alpine landscape is home to world-famous walks and treks.
Not to mention the glacial Lake Punakaiki is a must-visit on any New Zealand road trip itinerary (especially if you stop to dine at a nearby Punakaiki restaurant).
Sprinkle a little luxury into your camping holiday in New Zealand with a stay at Glentanner Holiday Park near Mt Cook National Park.
You’ll not only have access to must-have amenities, but you’ll also be at the doorstep of one of New Zealand’s most beautiful landscapes.
🗺 TOUR RECOMMENDATION: Looking to do a tour to discover the best of New Zealand? Join a Haka tour and see some of the most beautiful spots NZ has to offer!
6. Flaxmill Bay
Suggested by Keith Erskine from Travellin’ Lite
Flaxmill Bay campground is a comfortable 180-kilometre drive from Auckland. It is located on the eastern side of the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island.
The nearby bay itself is a beautiful, pristine area that is suitable for swimming, kayaking and boating. It doesn’t get overly crowded, even during busy periods like Christmas and Easter.
If you need to restock on essentials, it is a short ferry ride across to the town of Whitianga.
Like many campgrounds in New Zealand, Flaxmill Bay caters for all styles of accommodation; from generous, grassed, powered sites to cottages and holiday houses.
These are some of the best long bay motor camp & cabins Coromandel has to offer.
The amenities are modern, well-appointed and clean with the entire campground being maintained to a high standard by the owners and staff.
The great thing about Flaxmill Bay is its location; it is a short distance to beautiful beaches such as Hahei Beach, Hot Water Beach and Cooks Beach.
In fact, Flaxmill Bay makes for a great Cooks Beach campsite option.
If you’re looking to burn off some calories, then join a kayak paddle to Cathedral Cove. It gets its name from the natural archway carved into the cliff by the elements.
Remember the movie “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”? Well, that’s Cathedral Cove. Along the way you will see dolphins, turtles and birds.
If you’re very lucky, you may get to see a family of Orca that live around the area.
My favourite is the 3-kilometre return walk up to the Shakespeare Cliff Lookout. There are some steep sections, but the views from the open area at the top are well worth the effort.
From the campsite near by there’s a quaint café called the Eggcentric Café and Restaurant. It’s more than just a café, as it showcases some of the best works from local artists.
It also is a great weekend venue for live folk music.
Next time you’re in New Zealand, make sure Flaxmill Bay is on your itinerary. Here is a Coromandel road trip guide to help you get the most out of your next visit.
7. Red Beach Campsite in the City
Suggested by Maureen Spencer from So Many Places! So Little Time!
Sometimes you need a campsite in a city. Maybe you are arriving or departing from the city, or maybe there are places to go and things to see that are on your must-do list in that city.
Campsites in major cities can be hard to find.
In Auckland, about 30 to 40 minutes’ drive from the city, heading north, or 45 minutes to an hour from Auckland Airport heading north, is the Red Beach Top 10 Holiday Park.
This Red Beach motor camp has an interesting history dating back to the early 1900s.
It was originally covered in pine trees, ferns, and an apple orchard and was called Pinewoods Motor Park right up until 2019.
It has about 60 powered and nonpowered camping sites for tents (and for anyone RVing in New Zealand), about 6 cabins, and surrounding the park are about 250 private baches (beach cottages).
Gardens are located up the hill and around the cliff edges, with some dating back to the mid-1900s. They give the park a very unique character.
The park has all the usual facilities you require such as a kitchen and dining area, barbeques, laundry facilities, children’s playground, security gates, and immaculately clean bathroom and shower facilities.
Red Beach (named after the color of the shells on the beach) is a couple of minutes walk away and there is access via a steep set of steps down a cliff to the camp’s own private beach.
The township of Orewa is about 10 minutes drive away and has become quite a restaurant and cafe hub.
From Orewa you can look out across the Hauraki Gulf towards Great Barrier Island which, we hope, is on your must-visit list while you’re in New Zealand.
Red Beach Top 10 Holiday Park is an ideal place to stay if you’re looking for the best campsites in New Zealand in the city!
8. Mount Holdsworth, Wairarapa
Suggested by Anita Hendrieka
One of the best campsites New Zealand has is in one of the lesser-known regions within the North Island.
The Wairarapa holds some of the best nature walks, wineries and beaches within New Zealand.
One of the most notable New Zealand camping sites within the region is Mt Holdsworth, which is tucked at the bottom of the Tararuas, with access to some incredible walks and longer hikes.
The Mt Holdsworth campsite has everything you need for Mt Holdsworth camping – toilets, BBQs and picnic tables are all available.
If you’ve ever visited the Cathedral Reserve camping grounds near Sydney, these are very similar. There’s also a river not far from the campsite so you can take a dip in the fresh mountain water!
One of the best hikes to do is to Rocky lookout. It takes about an hour to walk up there and when you reach the top you are blessed with one of the best views of the Tararua’s and the Wairarapa.
You can also opt to do the hike to Powell Hut which takes 5-6 hours and gives you a more panoramic view.
If you don’t want to hike in just one day and enjoy the scenery a little more, you can also stay in the hut ($15 pp).
There are plenty of great things to do in the Wairarapa which is why I recommend a stay at Mt Holdsworth – one of the best campsites in New Zealand!
9. The Lake Waikaremoana Holiday Park
Suggested by Rohan from Travels of a Bookpacker
When it comes to camping, New Zealand is a paradise. There are so many options from parking for self-contained vehicles to fully serviced cabins and amazing glamping options.
The Lake Waikaremoana Holiday Park has something for everyone including tent sites, powered campervan sites, cabins and even chalets.
It’s one of the best campsites in New Zealand; the North Island location couldn’t be more perfect with stunning lakefront views and native bush surrounding it.
The area is a real hidden gem and is much quieter than many other top tourist spots in New Zealand due to the long gravel road leading to and around the lake.
The road is fine for 2WD cars and vans but expect to go slow. The views along the way and the tranquillity of the campground make it all worth it though.
You can base yourself here for a day or two relaxing, fishing or enjoying some of the many walks in the area through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful and untouched native bush.
It is the start of the 3-4 day walking track around the entire lake which is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
There are also several shorter walks to stunning waterfalls, smaller lakes and ancient trees which take from 15 minutes to a full day.
10. Kingston Freedom Camping on Lake Wakatipu
Suggested by Zach and Julie from Ruhls of the Road
If you’re looking for the best campsites in New Zealand, South Island is the place to be. It’s full of absolutely amazing sites and things to do.
On top of all of the amazing sites, New Zealand is a camper’s paradise.
There are many beautiful freedom camping sites all across the country, where campers can stay for free! One of these sites stands out among the rest: Kingston on Lake Wakatipu.
Kingston is a town located right on the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu, and this epic freedom campsite is located just a few miles north of town.
This New Zealand campsite is enormous, with more than enough room for many van lifers and campers to come and stay for the night.
On top of the size, there are great accommodations here also, including toilets, picnic tables, and trash cans. Overall it’s some of the best free camping South Island has to offer!
Of course the very best reason to stay at Kingston is the view. Lake Wakatipu is a stunning lake, and at the Kingston freedom campsite you’ll be able to park right next to the water!
You can even hop in and go for a swim if you need to cool down on a hot day in the New Zealand sun.
All in all, the Kingston freedom campsite is one of the best places to camp throughout New Zealand.
The site is free, has awesome accommodations, is very centrally located in New Zealand’s South Island, and has one of the more epic views of any other of the best campsites in New Zealand.
All this adds up to an absolutely fantastic site!
11. Kidds Bush Reserve, Hunter Valley
Suggested by James from The Travel Scribes
The Milky Way twinkling above you, the lake glistening before you and not a soul stirring?
It’s the kind of camping adventure many of us yearn for, and it’s something you can easily find at Kidds Bush Reserve campsite.
Perched on the edge of Lake Hawea on New Zealand’s South Island, this campsite is definitely a little off the beaten track.
With most travellers and campervanners converging on the nearby Lake Wanaka campsites before they make their way up the West Coast, Lake Hawea definitely isn’t as popular a spot.
Kidd’s Bush is a 6 km drive off the main stretch of tarred road and is only accessible for smaller campers.
This means that this secluded campsite is definitely for those looking for a bit more solitude.
You know you’re on to something special the moment you turn off Highway 6 and follow the humble signage for Kidd’s Bush.
The “no large campervans allowed” sign looms large as you bump along the rutted dirt road, stopping every few minutes for a flock of sheep to glide on past.
When you arrive you’re greeted by a quiet campsite with only a few small campers and tents pitched, all facing the large, impressive Lake Hawea.
While camping in New Zealand South Island can get a little over-complicated at other sites, it’s the simplicity of this campsite that makes it feel like the ‘golden days’ of camping.
Large grounds, a lake fit for trout fishing and nothing bar 3 well-maintained toilets and two cold water sinks to rinse off your dishes after a leisurely meal.
While it does suffer from sandflies (where doesn’t in this region?), Kidd’s Bush makes up for it by being a solid, simple site perfect to get back to your roots.
If you’re not stargazing at night then you’re waking up each morning to the simple pleasures of birdsong and the sun peeking out from above the lake.
Cost: 8 NZD for adults and 4 NZD for children per night.
12. Tapotupotu Bay
Suggested by Masha from Fingertip Travels
If you’re not free camping New Zealand North Island and want somewhere beautiful, historic and with excellent facilities, make sure to visit Tapotupotu Bay.
It’s New Zealand’s northernmost campsite, and was for me one of the best campsites in New Zealand.
Surrounded by the steep woodlands of Northland, it’s situated in a sheltered cove with a lagoon. The camping spots are located on a grassy hill just above a sandy beach with turquoise waters.
Tapotupotu Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand, and we spent a whole day exploring the beach and relaxing in the shade of some lovely full trees that dot the campsite.
The lagoon snakes inward past the campsite, and you can tell the direction of the tide by the current going in or out of the lagoon. The Bay is sheltered from some of the ferocious north wind.
A stunning 3 hour coastal walk that starts at the campsite takes you straight to Cape Reinga.
There, you can watch the Pacific Ocean collide with the Tasman Sea, as well as see the 800 year old pohutakawa tree from which the spirits depart.
It’s a challenging there-and-back day hike, after which we cooled off by swimming in Tapotupotu Bay. The campsite is also part of the four day Te Paki Coastal Track.
Tapotupotu Bay Campsite has 45 non powered or tent sites, clean drop toilets, running water for washing up, and cold showers.
Make sure you bring your own drinking water and food, carry out your trash, and leave no trace. I found the facilities excellent: they were everything I needed for traveling in a van.
This is truly one of the best campgrounds Northland has to offer.
For more information on van camping in New Zealand, please check out my van camping guide to New Zealand here.
13. Lake Wanaka
Suggested by Anne and Clemens from Travellers Archive
Lake Wanaka is the fourth largest inland lake in New Zealand and is located in the west of the Otago region on the country’s South Island.
The Maori name Wanaka is probably derived from the term Oanaka, which means “place of the anaka”.
With an area of 192 km², the lake in the continental region of the South Island is the fourth largest lake in New Zealand and the third largest in the South Island.
It reaches its largest extent in the north-south direction with about 42 kilometers. Lake Wanaka is a true paradise.
It’s one of the most picturesque lakes that we have ever seen and definitely the quietest and most chilled place to camp.
Depending on what you look for when camping in South Island, you’ll definitely find the most perfect Wanaka camp sites here.
There are plenty of Lake Wanaka campground areas with electricity hooks and cabins. However, there are also Wanaka freedom camping spots for everyone who wants to be in proper nature.
Our favourite spot among the 13 holiday parks has definitely been the Glendhu Bay Lakeside Holiday Park.
This South Island holiday park is right on the shores of Lake Wanaka and, thus, offers the best view over the surrounding landscape.
From here it takes an easy 15-minute drive to Wanaka town and the Mount Aspiring National Park. Prices range from 13 to 20 NZD.
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14. Purakaunui Bay
Suggested by Ryan from The Nutty Trekkers
Picture a deserted beach, surrounded by towering cliffs with yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions inhabiting the lonely rocks breaking through the ocean.
Then imagine walking up to a van of die-hard surfers heading out to catch some epic waves, just as the sunrises.
All of this is what you get when you camp at Purakaunui Bay, one of the best DOC campsites South Island has to offer.
After one night here you’ll understand why the director chose this site for the last scene of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”.
Located deep into Catlins Forest Park on the southern tip of the South Island, this DOC campsite can definitely be considered off-the-beaten-path.
The campsite itself is a handful of grassy dunes, only a few meters from the beach, and is first come first serve, probably because it’s one of the best campervan sites in New Zealand!
The $8/pp/night is a bargain for the jaw-dropping scenery and was by far our favorite campsite during our 2-month campervan tour of New Zealand.
You feel a part of an exclusive group of adventurers, as they are rarely more than 10 campers or tents set up each night.
Socialization is easy, especially when playful sea lions cause a ruckus on the beach. Falling asleep to the crashing waves is meditative and feels like something out of the novel.
A truly special place to spend a night in New Zealand.
15. Lake Alexandrina / Lake McGregor
Suggested by See the South Island
If you’re searching for some of the free camping Lake Tekapo might offer but want something more scenic, look no further than the Lake Alexandrina and Lake McGregor Campsites.
To get there you’ll drive down the very scenic Godley Peaks Road, where you’ll see lupins if you time your visit right (December is best for that).
You’ll also pass by the turnoff to Mount John Observatory, which you should definitely visit.
It should only take around 15 minutes to drive to these lakes from the main town, but you’ll likely spend longer enjoying the views.
If you want to stretch your legs a bit, I highly recommend hiking the Tekapo Peninsula Walkway, then refueling with some delicious local food from the nearby places to eat in Tekapo.
Lake Alexandrina and Lake McGregor are a lot more barebones, in terms of tourist infrastructure, than nearby Lake Tekapo.
But if you’re looking for lake campsites that are somewhere quiet and beautiful they’d be a great option.
There are some short walks nearby, including a track which takes you above Lake Alexandrina for amazing views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.
I’ve also seen some amazing photos of these lakes in winter – if you’re exploring this region in the cooler months you’ll be in for a treat!
16. Lake Pukaki Reserve
Suggested by Holly from Four Around The World
The most memorable part of our 2.5-week campervan journey around the best campsites in New Zealand’s stunning South Island was our time spent inland in the Mackenzie District.
If you want stunning turquoise lake views while you camp, you can’t pass up the chance to stay at Lake Pukaki Reserve.
This Pukaki holiday park freedom campsite has space for around 50 vehicles, and due to the incredible position beside the lake, it is a very popular spot, even in the cooler weather.
Arrive earlier in the day if you want one of the campsites with the best views, but even if you come later, it’s a quick walk down to the waterfront.
The campsite itself has clean, well-maintained drop-toilets, several picnic tables and bench seats plus rubbish bins making it suitable for anyone who is not travelling via a self-contained vehicle.
Enjoy watching the sunset over the mountains and the lake in the evening as you enjoy a drink or dine outdoors.
We stayed at Lake Pukaki following our night spent in the equally beautiful Lake Tekapo and they are both essential stops for your New Zealand road trip!
Although with no free camping in Lake Tekapo campsites, Lake Pukaki Reserve is an absolute gem!
Frequently Asked Questions
Most of the best campsites in New Zealand are either very low cost to use ($8-10NZD per person per night) or are free to use!
Absolutely! There are plenty of designated campsites for all kinds of camping, and the New Zealand scenery is the perfect accompaniment to camping.
It depends on what your favourite camping style is! But the top ten campsites are definitely on this list.
There are plenty of incredible places to visit in New Zealand – let me know below which one is your first pick!
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