The 12 Best Places to Go Camping in New Zealand

orange hut and orange tent in a grassy field at sunset. There are mountains in the background and the field is above the cloud layer
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New Zealand is a naturally beautiful country with campsites near beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests (as well as cities, if that's what you're looking for!) Many travelers like to tour New Zealand by car or RV (called campervans in New Zealand) as this gives them the freedom to take detours to any number of scenic spots off the main highways. You'll find many remote camping spots that are suitable for self-contained vehicles with toilets on board, as well as more well-equipped holiday parks with full facilities closer to towns. If you're planning on visiting national parks or hiking through them on multi-day treks, Department of Conservation (DOC)-run campsites and huts are usually the only options, as private accommodation is prohibited or very limited on national parkland.

Camping in New Zealand is also a great way to save money, especially in a tent (campervans are quite pricey to rent and run). New Zealand is quite an expensive country to travel around, with the price of food, fuel, and accommodation higher than you might be used to at home. If you're on a budget and traveling during the warmer months, camping makes sense as a cost-saving measure. Plus, it's fun! Here are the best places to camp in New Zealand.

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Bream Bay

blue sky with swirling clouds above waves breaking on a golden sand beach with grass in foreground

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Located roughly halfway between Auckland and the popular Bay of Islands, and just south of Whangarei, Bream Bay is a 13-mile sweep of sand with various beaches along its length. A private campsite at Waipu Cove and a DOC-run one at Uretiti get very busy in the school summer holidays and book out months in advance, but if you come outside the peak season you're likely to find near-empty beaches. Swimming, surfing, fishing, and boating can all be enjoyed while camping at Bream Bay, and you can make trips into the towns of Waipu and Ruakaka for supplies.

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02 of 12

Coromandel Peninsula

aerial view of a white-sand beach with turquoise sea and a rocky headland with some houses

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The Coromandel Peninsula rises out of the north-eastern North Island and runs parallel to Auckland. The interior is covered with the mountains and forests of the Coromandel Forest Park, while the beaches around the edge draw visitors from around the country, but particularly Auckland. Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are very popular and can get crowded in peak season, but they shouldn't be missed. The towns of Thames, Coromandel, Whitianga, Pauanui, and Whangamata are good bases for exploring the peninsula, and have a number of well-equipped holiday parks.

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Karikari Peninsula

Aerial view of houses and trees on the Karikari Peninsula in New Zealand.
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The Karikari Peninsula in Northland's Far North is a great alternative to the more developed Bay of Islands to the south, and offers gorgeous arcs of white sand and warm waters reminiscent of a tropical Pacific island. Maitai Bay and Tokerau Beach are particularly sheltered and have a number of campgrounds along them. Like many beachside locations in Northland, the area is busy in the peak season of the school summer holidays but much less crowded at other times of year. Because of Northland's subtropical climate, the weather and the seas stay warm outside of midsummer.

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Kai Iwi Lakes

Water reeds reflected in Kai Iwi Lake, New Zealand. Dense forest on the shore of the lake is visible in the distance
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Northland's Kai Iwi Lakes, close to Dargaville, are among the most beautiful lakes in New Zealand. The three small lakes are believed to have formed millions of years ago. The white-sand beaches and shallow waters around the shore are ideal for kids to play in, and the nearby campsites make the Kai Iwi Lakes a popular summer holiday destination with locals. They're also not far from the sea, just separated by a narrow strip of land, so you can hike between the lake and the sea.

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volcano with reflection in a lake and grassland in between

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The conical volcanic peak of Mount Taranaki is at the heart of the southwestern North Island, and the surrounding Egmont National Park is one of just three national parks in the North Island (the other ten are in the South Island). Whether you're camping with kids or are a solo traveler looking for a mountain-climbing adventure, Taranaki is accessible but also very natural. The nearby city of New Plymouth is a handy base, where you can find well-equipped holiday parks. If you're into surfing or just looking for a scenic road trip in the area, Surf Highway 45 connects New Plymouth and Hawera. The highway also offers beachside camping spots.

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Green hills by Lake Taupo with dense clusters of trees
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Lake Taupo is the biggest lake in New Zealand, and is actually the caldera of the enormous Taupo Volcano. The central North Island, where Taupo is located, is very geothermally active, and there are many interesting parks where you can see geysers, mud pools, sulfurous pools, and geothermal terraces. This inland area gets quite cold in the winter, but if you're camping in a van, the Lake Taupo area can be a good year-round destination because of the presence of geothermal hot springs. The lovely De Bretts Spa Resort has upmarket camping with some of the nicest campsite bathrooms you're ever likely to use as well as access to the attached hot springs.

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Abel Tasman National Park

curving Totaranui Beach with tree covered mountains just beyond the sand of the beach
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New Zealand's smallest national park, Abel Tasman, is also one of its most popular. It's located in the northwest of the South Island and has a great climate, beautiful golden beaches, forest, and numerous DOC campsites within its boundaries. Its compact size also means you can see a lot of it in a relatively short time.

Many visitors to the Abel Tasman National Park come to do the Coast Track, a three to five-day hike along the coast that requires camping at gorgeous beach-side camps. Water taxis also shuttle visitors to and from the gateway towns around the national park, so you don't have to be doing a multi-day hike to be able to camp within the park.

If you're traveling in a campervan or want a few more facilities. the gateway towns of Kaiteriteri, Marahau, and Pohara have well-equipped campsites you can drive to. There are limited roads through the park itself, but one goes to the DOC-run Totaranui Campground in the north of the park.

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Nelson Lakes National Park

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The Nelson Lakes National Park in the upper South Island marks the start of the Southern Alps mountain chain that form the "backbone" of the island. There are 16 lakes within the park, and although most of them require multi-day treks to get to, Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa are on the edges of the park and accessible by road. The small village of St. Arnaud is a good base if you're camping in a tent or campervan as there are a number of DOC-run campgrounds and facilities in the village. To stay deeper within the park you'll need to hike in and stay at DOC-run campsites or trekking huts.

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Queen Charlotte Sound

forested mountainous headlands surrounded by blue sea

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The Marlborough Sounds in the north of the South Island are comprised of four sounds (sunken river valleys): Queen Charlotte, Pelorus, Kenepuru, and Mahau Sounds. The forest-covered mountains of the sounds are especially popular with boating enthusiasts and kayakers, as there are endless hidden bays and sheltered coves. Hiking is also an ideal way of seeing the region, as road access along the various arms and branches of the sounds is limited.

While there are camping options throughout the Marlborough Sounds, Queen Charlotte Sound is a particularly good camping destination thanks to the presence of the Queen Charlotte Track. This multi-day hiking or mountain biking trail isn't on national parkland but the DOC does operate most of the campsites in the area. If you want to wake up to native birdsong beside beaches and hike or bike through mountainous terrain at sea level, head to Queen Charlotte Sound.

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Hanmer Springs

buildings and trees across a town surrounded by mountains with blue sky

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The popular resort town of Hanmer Springs is about a 90-minute drive north of Christchurch, on the edge of the mountains. It's a year-round destination thanks to the nearby hiking trails, white-water rafting adventures, and of course the natural hot springs complex that is refreshing in summer and warming in winter. Although the town is surrounded by mountains, it's on open flat land and there are large, well-equipped holiday parks around the edges. Don't worry about the camp showers though: you'll probably be spending more time at the hot springs.

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turquoise river surrounded by rocks and trees with a swing bridge in distance

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The West Coast town of Hokitika isn't the largest in the area but it is one of the most attractive and convenient for exploring this part of the South Island. Artists and creatives especially love the driftwood-strewn beach, and the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Aoraki Mount Cook, can sometimes be seen from there. The must-visit, inland Hokitika Gorge is a dazzling shade of turquoise because of the glacial flour suspended within it.

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Mackenzie Country

blue tent in golden grassland with river and mountains in background

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If camping out under a sky full of stars is on your camping bucket list, don't miss the Mackenzie Country, in western Canterbury. The area is classified as an International Dark Sky Reserve, one of eight in the world, and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. Travelers tend to stay around the villages of Twizel, Tekapo, or Mount Cook Village, but if you're camping there are other more remote options. Tekapo Springs is particularly delightful as you can stay in the outdoor hot pools after dark and relax on a floating hammock to enjoy the celestial view.