The New Zealand population relocates at this time of year. Particularly over the Christmas/New Year holiday period, hordes of kiwis vacate the cities and head to the beach – many of them for camping holidays in their motorhomes, caravans or tents.
Camping really is the typical New Zealand holiday. With no nasty creepy crawlies or snakes to worry about and a mild climate that makes living in a mobile home quite comfortable, Kiwis have taken to camping like the proverbial ducks to water. The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association has the largest membership of any recreational organisation in the country, and thanks to the high number of camping enthusiasts and plenty of unpopulated areas, we’re blessed with an abundance of camping grounds and campsites, offering everything from free camping areas with no facilities at all to upmarket camping grounds with plenty of amenities.
So, as a tourist, how do you know which camping options you should choose on your campervan rental holiday?
Where to stay on your New Zealand rental campervan holiday
1. Wild camping (also known as free or freedom camping) – New Zealand has long been known as a destination where you can park your motorhome in the wilderness and stay overnight. Unfortunately, thanks to irresponsible budget campers with no regard for others or the environment, rules have tightened somewhat, but there are still plenty of places in New Zealand where you can wild camp – just be sure to check with the local information centre to make sure the area is OK for wild camping, and don’t camp anywhere if there are signs saying you shouldn’t! Note that if you do want to wild camp, you’ll need to hire a certified self-contained campervan or motorhome.
If you’re travelling around New Zealand for a long period of time you could consider becoming a member of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (or if you’re from Australia and a member of the CMCA over there, check with them to see if they can organise you a reciprocal membership with the NZMCA). The NZMCA has a network of fantastic ‘park over properties’ (POPs), mostly based on private land, which offer the convenience of wild camping with a few more facilities and a bit of added security.
2. Basic campsites – We are very fortunate in New Zealand to have a large network of camping grounds run by the Department of Conservation. These campsites are on conservation land such as national parks. Many are quite idyllic with amazing views, and quite often you’ll find there aren’t many other travellers around so you might have the place to yourself. Facilities are usually quite limited (a basic toilet, limited washing facilities) so you’re better to hire a self-contained campervan if you intend to use DOC campsites. You’ll find similar campsites in some of our council-run regional parks.
3. Camping grounds and holiday parks – There are a huge number of commercial camping grounds in New Zealand, from chains such as Top 10 to independently-run camping grounds. The facilities they offer varies, but generally you can expect powered and unpowered campsites, toilet and bathroom facilities, kitchens, a games and/or TV room, a laundry and a shop of some sorts. Some of the larger camping grounds have amazing kids’ playgrounds and even swimming pools.
Which camping option to choose for your New Zealand campervan holiday
In our experience, we find most people like to combine their camping options – they might do a couple of nights wild camping, a few nights at a DOC campsite and a night at a campground every now and then to do laundry and have a chat to fellow travellers. Whatever option you choose, make sure the campervan you hire has the facilities you need. If you’re planning to stay mostly at a powered site in camping grounds, you can take electrical appliances and make full use of things like a microwave. If, however, you intend to wild camp, make sure your campervan is self contained with a toilet on board, and also has your cooking and heating needs covered. Choosing a campervan or motorhome
For more information about camping grounds in New Zealand, visit the fantastic map of all NZ campsites on the Rankers website. While you’re there, you can check out reviews of campervan rental companies, to make sure you’re hiring a campervan from a reputable campervan rental operator.