So you’ve just landed in New Zealand, the most beautiful country on earth, and are wondering whether you can camp with your tent. Or maybe you want to know where the best place is to park your campervan overnight? This blog post will answer all of these questions and more. I will tell you what kind of vehicle is needed, where to go, how much it costs (if anything), and other tips that will help make your freedom camping trip one that will be remembered forever!
Freedom camping is allowed in New Zealand on almost all DOC land, with a few exceptions like Māori burial sites. In the councils’ bylaws, you can also find other designated areas for freedom camping. It will include information about how many vehicles or tents are allowed and when you should vacate the site the next morning.
I found that freedom camping is one of the most enjoyable aspects of traveling, as it allows you to be close to nature in a way that is unavailable when staying at hostels, hotels, or campsites. It may not be for everyone, and I recommend reading this full article before deciding if this will work for your trip to Aotearoa.
In New Zealand, there are many great places for freedom camping. My favorite spots have one thing in common. They have plenty of room, are remote, and have no strict rules about how long you can stay.
This is not a comprehensive list of every possible freedom camping spot in the country, but it should give you an idea of what to expect and which rules to follow.
Which rules apply while freedom camping in New Zealand?
- Stay on designated conservation land
- Or stay on designated council land
- Get a self-contained certificate for your vehicle
- Take your trash with you
- Use a public toilet or your own toilet
- Stay for no more than two consecutive nights in one spot
- Use a waste disposal station for greywater and to empty your toilet
- Be considerate of other campers and the environment
Which app can I use to locate freedom camping spots in New Zealand?
There are a few different apps available that can help you find places to camp for free. The WikiCamps app is the one I recommend using in New Zealand as they have mapped out thousands of free and paid campsites. It also has an easy-to-use interface with information about each spot, including cost, facilities, and pictures from other users.
Other useful New Zealand camping and freedom camping apps are:
- Camping map with all free and paid locations
- Full offline accessibility
- From freedom camping sites to full-facility holiday parks
- Full details and rules of each camping location
- Includes all public dump stations
- Shows all i-SITE and DOC visitor centres
- Includes even more point of interests, such as top ranked activities, free WiFi, supermarkets, post office, and more
- Over 2000 camping locations
- Camping map
- Full offline accessibility
- Full details of every free and paid camping locations
- Outdoor activities nearby
- Petrol stations, dumb stations, showers, laundromats, wifi, and more
- Safety alerts on roadside conditions
- Exclusive deals and discounts for holiday parks
- Book accommodation directly in the app
- Photos and details from users
- Also in Chinese, German and French
The New Zealand DOC Campfinder app contains locations of the 200+ department of conservation campsites organized by region.
- Free of charge
- Full NZ DOC campsite listing
- Organized by region
- Full offline accessibility
- Google maps navigation from app
- No battery drain
- Simple and easy to use
Is it safe to freedom camp in New Zealand?
While freedom camping in New Zealand is not allowed everywhere, and there are some rules you need to follow, it’s generally safe. It is a safe place compared to many other countries in the world. But please be aware of your surroundings and think carefully about the freedom camping spot you choose.
What kind of vehicle do I need for freedom camping in New Zealand?
You can use a campervan or sleepervan with a self-containment certificate to freedom camp in New Zealand. In some places, you are allowed to use your car or tent. But most spots are reserved for self-contained vehicles with a portable toilet, freshwater storage, wastewater storage, and a rubbish bin with a lid.
How can I obtain the self-containment certificate?
A plumber, gasfitter, or another qualified workshop can check if your vehicle meets the self-containment requirements after installing a toilet, freshwater storage, wastewater storage, and rubbish bin with a lid. If your vehicle passes, you will receive a warrant and a sticker which you can display on your vehicle window.
The exact requirements for a New Zealand Self-Contained Certificate are:
- Freshwater tanks of 12 liters per person. This equals a supply for three days.
- Greywater wastewater tank of 12 liters per person. This is sufficient for three consecutive days.
- Evacuation hose long enough to connect a sealed portable tank
- A sink that is connected via a watertight sealed wastewater tank
- A rubbish bin with a lid.
- Portable or fixed toilet with at least 3 liters per person for three days and usable inside the campervan or sleepervan.
If you have a three-person vehicle, you will need a 12 x 3-liter freshwater and wastewater tank.
Please be aware! You can get up to a $200 fine if you camp somewhere that is not permitted; you leave waste behind, damage the area, or camp without a self-contained certificate.
How do I know whether the campervan I am buying is self-contained?
The campervan you are buying needs to have a self-containment sticker, typically on the front left side of the vehicle. Ask for the warrant the seller or rental company received after inspection as well. Both documents are needed while traveling through New Zealand.
New Zealand freedom camping checklist
- Only camp on designated DOC or Council land;
- Have a self-contained certificate or only use spots where you can camp with a car or tent as well;
- Don’t camp on private property unless you have permission from the owner;
- Follow instructions from the bylaws, usually displayed on arrival;
- Carry out what you brought in (waste, greywater);
- Leave no trace;
- Respect other campers and people and animals living nearby;
- Use public toilets or your own built-in or portable one;
- Empty wastewater from sink and toilet at legal dump stations;
- Stay away from busy roads;
- Arrive early to secure a parking spot;
- If you want peace and quiet, choose freedom camping spots of the beaten track;
- Buy a pair of earplugs for noisy neighbors;
- Be careful with campfires and check local rules;
- Keep away from water sources while cleaning and washing;
- Don’t feed birds and other wildlife;
- Don’t get too close to wildlife;
- Take only pictures, leave nothing but footprints.
In 2019 I spend three months traveling through New Zealand in a self-contained vehicle. Because it is a popular tourist destination, vacant spots to stay for free were hard to find. Because summer had begun in the country, this might also be why many of these campsites were crowded and full. I managed to stay in some pretty awesome places though.
My top 3 freedom camping spots in New Zealand
- Kairakau Beach on the east coast of the North Island, very secluded and right on the beach. This was my absolute favorite freedom camping spot. Lots of privacy, public toilets, water supply, and stunning sunrise! Learn more about this site on Rankers.co.nz
- Cobb River Campsite in the heart of the Kahurangi National Park with stunning views, toilets, and water supply. Learn more about this site on Rankers.co.nz
- Clifton Road Reserve south of Hastings on the North Island. Large site with plenty of spots, water supply, and public toilets. Because of the spots between the trees, right at the beach, there was a lot of privacy. Learn more about this site on Rankers.co.nz