Free Camping in New Zealand

New Zealand is a beautiful country, filled with some of the kindest people in world. Kiwis come in three varieties here: the fruit, the bird, and the people. The best way to experience the land of the kiwis is by camping. Not only will camping across New Zealand allow you to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, but camping is also very budget friendly and will help you save heaps of money.

Types of Campsites

Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation (DOC) manages over 200 campsites across New Zealand. DOC campsites are great options, especially if you want to have amenities around. Prices for these campsites range from $8 – $18 per night, depending on the amount of facilities available. For a map of all the DOC campsites in NZ, click here.

Holiday Parks

Holiday Parks are another type of campsite that typically offer more facilities than DOC campsites. We’ve stayed at Holiday Parks with mineral hot springs, nightly movies, and huge heated swimming pools. Holiday Parks are a popular option for people with large caravans or RVs.

Freedom Camping

Finally, it’s time to talk about Freedom Camping. This is our preferred method of travel. Why (you might ask)? For a couple reasons:

  1. Do we freedom camp because we’re poor? Of course. One of the main benefits of freedom camping is the “free” part.
  2. Another huge benefit of freedom camping is that you often have the place to yourselves. Freedom camping allows you to experience some of the most pristine and untouched places of New Zealand.
  3. We like to do things the unconventional way. Often the best adventures are unplanned and spontaneous. We like to push ourselves outside our comfort zone a little bit, because that’s where you make the lasting memories.

Guide to Free Camping in New Zealand

Step 1 – Figure out where you want to go

Obviously, the first step in planning any trip is deciding where you want to go. I would recommend…literally any part of New Zealand. So far, I have yet to find the ugly armpit of this country. I’m starting to think it’s all pretty dang photogenic.

Step 2 – Find out if there are any restrictions

In New Zealand, freedom camping is permitted in quite a few places. According to the DOC, freedom camping is allowed on all public conservation land, except where it’s expressly prohibited. This link¬†shows all the current freedom camping restrictions in New Zealand.

Step 3 – Enjoy and be respectful!

The final step is to go out and have an adventure. However, remember to BE RESPECTFUL of the natural beauty around you. Many of the places that are now off limits to freedom camping are restricted because past campers have damaged the natural environment. Free camping in New Zealand is a privilege, so please be respectful. A simple guideline to follow is “Carry in, carry out. Leave no trace.”


Many areas in New Zealand allow freedom camping, but only if your vehicle is certified as self-contained. Self-containment is essentially a way for New Zealand officials to make sure that you are not damaging the environment while you are camping.

Don’t worry, your vehicle doesn’t need to be a massive motorhome with a full-service bathroom to be certified as self-contained. We’ve just finished getting a self-contained certificate for our Toyota Estima van. Check out our progress here and here.

If you’re wondering about self-containment requirements, check out the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association’s website. The NZMCA have a list of requirements in order to get the magic blue sticker of self-containment.

Well there you have it. A guide to free camping in New Zealand. Please reach out to us if you’ve got any questions about New Zealand camping or if you want to share pictures of your self-contained campervan. Now get out there and explore this amazing country!

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