Freedom Camping - The Inside Word to Getting Wild and Free in New Zealand

Freedom camping, or ‘wild camping’, gives visitors and locals the ability to see New Zealand in its raw, rough-hewn form.Wild camping means we have the privilege of visiting secret coves, discovering secluded spots and relishing solitude in parts of the country that few are able to appreciate – that is, if we follow the rules.

New Zealand is a particularly beautiful and an equally unique country, however, if you’re planning on a freedom camping adventure here, there are a few things you should school up on in advance.

Free Camping in South Island, New Zealand

1. Make sure you choose an appropriate campervan for your New Zealand trip

Free camping requires a certified self-contained motorhome, equipped with a shower and toilet. In order to legally freedom camp in New Zealand, the motorhome rental you choose must meet your ablutionary and sanitary needs for a minimum of three days without requiring any external services or discharging any waste.

The great thing about self-contained motorhomes is that you don’t need to find a place with facilities like bathrooms or kitchens that, due to camping restrictions, can be very crowded at peak times. This, however, does not mean that you have to avoid staying in designated camping grounds or holiday parks – for a small fee they’re a great option to recharge your battery and
meet other campers.

You can download our free WildernessNZ app on your mobile device to help easily locate wild campsites and holiday parks, along with dump stations, public toilets, gas stations, supermarkets and more. You can find it on the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

Self-contained Campervan Sign

2. Don’t assume ‘freedom camping’ means you can camp anywhere you like

You may have found the perfect spot to spend the night in your motorhome, but if it’s not on the list of places you’re allowed to free camp, it is illegal to stay there.

In the past, New Zealand has been abused by visitors ‘wild camping’ without a self-contained camper, mistreating the landscape and disposing of their waste in our native bush. This has led to the New Zealand government putting bans on camping in specific areas and giving those who break the rules an instant fine of NZ$200. So, for the good of the landscape, and your wallet, double-check your map or our WildernessNZ app before making a final decision.

3. Safety first

Remember, when you’re freedom camping you’re on your own. Take all of the precautionary measures you need to before departing, such as charging all necessary electronics, filling up water supplies and emptying wastewater before heading off.

Make sure you have a fully charged phone to get in touch in case of an emergency and enough supplies to last you for your trip. Dehydrated food may not sound appetising right now, however, when you need it you’ll thank yourself for being well prepared.

4. Be aware of the environment

A campfire definitely springs to mind when we think of wild camping, however, portable fuel stoves, like the ones in self-contained motorhomes, are less harmful to the environment and
more efficient than fires. If you do want to light a fire, be sure it’s legal in the area you’re in and it’s small enough to control. Once you’re finished, douse it with water before you continue on to your next stop in your New Zealand adventure.

Other environmentally friendly freedom camping tips:

  • Keep rubbish in a bag in your motorhome and dispose of it only when you come across a rubbish bin.
  • Keep our native bush clean, our wildlife safe and only empty your wastewater at one of the designated dump stations

5. Leave no trace

We’re happy for you to enjoy New Zealand and its stunning scenery, as long as you respect it, and us. Both visitors and locals alike are charged with the responsibility of Kaitiakitanga (guardianship of the land).

Help protect our environment by following the rules and in turn, you will preserve our forests and our native animals for everyone’s enjoyment in years to come.

We are travellers too, which is why we have lots of information to share from personal experiences of wild camping. Contact us to enquire about freedom camping for your upcoming trip to New Zealand.

Wilderness HQ

Wilderness HQ Author

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