Where to go camping in New Zealand
As the adventure capital of the world, there is a wealth of awe-inspiring camping in New Zealand. From campsites near cascading glaciers, active volcanoes, secluded geothermal springs and private beaches, you don't have to worry about where to camp in New Zealand – just put a blindfold on, spin around three times and place a pin on the map, you'll inevitably find something great.
1. Whakapapa Holiday Park, Tongariro National Park
This idyllic spot for camping in New Zealand's North Island is nestled in a beech forest within Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s oldest national park and the fourth oldest in the world. It’s also a dual cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage site.
Pack your hiking gear and explore the nearby Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Tongariro Northern Circuit hiking trails and be awe-struck by the area’s three mighty active volcanoes: Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings). Learn more about some of the best hiking spots in New Zealand >.
For families interested in camping in New Zealand, Tongariro National Park is a great option as it is easily accessible by road and has a variety of different landscapes, from beech forests and tussock plains to alpine crossings. Be sure to check the weather forecast and be safe if you take on any hikes, as the weather can shift within a heartbeat almost anywhere in New Zealand, but nowhere more than in its alpine regions.
2. Te Anau Holiday Park, Te Anau
One of the most famous spots for camping in New Zealand's South Island, this jewel is located on the shore of the crystal-blue Lake Te Anau and is surrounded by the majestic Kepler mountains, this tranquil campsite is a snapshot of paradise.
Take in the quiet, wild beauty of this spectacular site and explore the nearby glow-worm caves, the cascading Oneroa Falls and the neighbouring Fiordland National Park, home to majestic Milford and Doubtful Sound.
3. Hot Water Beach, Te Rata Bay
Located near Rotorua, New Zealand’s geothermal hotspot, Hot Water Beach at Te Rata Bay is a secluded natural hot spring with a small camping ground of just 30 tent sites and is a great destination for those seeking some off-the-beaten-track camping.
It’s accessible only by boat or a half-day hike along the Tarawera Trail. Here you can bathe in the hot, clean water while taking in the breathtaking volcanic backdrop and surrounding bushland. A Department of Conservation facility, you can book ahead via Whakarewarewa.
4. Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park, Franz Josef
This quaint, rural camping ground is the ideal base for exploring New Zealand’s dramatic Glacier Country.
Activities within ten minutes of camp include touring the Franz Josef glacier, soaking in the hot pools, helicopter rides, tandem skydiving, visiting the wildlife centre, whitewater rafting, horseriding, ice-climbing, kayaking, off-road quad biking, cycling and hiking.
Keen to take you camping to the next level? In 2015 the Lorrimers packed up their belongings and began a trip around Australia that hasn't stopped. Check out their story below.
5. Aroha Island (North Island)
Situated near the tip of the North Island, Aroha Island is a natural haven with a rich diversity of native flora and fauna.
Learn about the site’s rich cultural history, swim or kayak along the private, tranquil beach, explore the seven hectares of mangroves and native bush or take a night walk to spot the rare North Island Brown Kiwi birds in their natural habitat. Popular tourist destinations Bay of Islands and Kerikeri are just a stone’s throw away and perfect for day trips.
6. Totaranui Camping Ground, Abel Tasman National Park (South Island)
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, renowned for its golden beaches, granite cliffs and calm, azure water. New Zealand camping at its best, this stretch of paradise feels cut off from city life, so switch off your devices and tune into nature this summer.
Run by the Department of Conservation, the Totaranui Campground is one of the best places to camp along the 51km track due to its beachfront location. Here, you can relax on the beach, swim, kayak, dive, fish, catch water taxis or explore the abundance of nearby hikes.
7. Westland District
Situated on the South Island's west coast, there is no surprise that the Westland District is one of the most popular destinations for camping in New Zealand. Free camping sites have been set up by the council to help manage the amount of rubbish being previously left by overnight campers, but these areas do fill up quickly so we recommend seeking out commercial camping sites that rely on the support of campers to sustain their businesses.
For those more adventurous campers, the Westland District is a hiker's paradise. Home to the Franz Josef Glacier, Mount Aspiring National Park, and Westland Tai Poutini National Park, you could spend your entire life exploring this section of New Zealand and barely scrape the surface.
A three-hour drive north of Auckland, Whananaki makes up some of the best camping in New Zealand's North Island. The Whananaki Walkway, a 9-kilometre one-way hike is a stunning coastal track, while the shorter Whananaki Coastal Track is great for getting the younger ones involved in hiking.
This is a sleepy, sunny spot that has calm waters at Tauwhara Bay as well as ocean swell at Kings and Barrons beaches. This place is a little like heading back in time, with a nice slow pace and crystal clear waters that will wash away your worries.
9. Castle Hill
Just over an hour's drive west of Christchurch is Castle Hill, a stunning place to go camping in New Zealand, especially with young ones in tow or just for a quick weekend escape.
The rocks of Castle Hill are world-famous for hikers, campers, boulderers and skiers alike. Known also as Kura Tawhiti, Maori lived in this area prior to Europeans. A 1983 discovery of a 15th/16th-century backpack made out of a drawstring bag – complete with plaited shoulder straps, a wooden frame, and padding – makes us at Kathmandu a little giddy that tested, expert-led gear has been produced in New Zealand not just over our 30-year history but for at least hundreds of years.
One of only 14 areas in the South Island to have a topuni (a cloak of dog fur which symbolises strong 'mana' or legal authority) conveyed on it in a 1997 deal made between the government and the iwi, Castle Hill is a culturally important destination and so needs to treated with respect when camping.