Wild CampingIn a country where every corner brings something new and exciting, it’s not surprising that you will often find a campervan parked on a roadside, lakeside or beachside overlooking a stunning vista. You may even find them stopping overnight in such scenic locations. However, before you choose your camping spot it’s important to be aware of your responsibility to protect our country and to check if wild camping is permitted in your location.
We New Zealanders believe we live in the most beautiful country in the world and we’re committed to keeping it that way. New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people strongly believe in the concept of Kaitiakitanga or guardianship. They believe that this precious land and its abundant natural resources are gifts from the creator that has been protected by our forebears for the benefit of present and future generations. It is our responsibility to guard our land as our parents and grandparents have and to encourage visitors to do the same.
Our plea to visitors is to respect our most precious land. Take care to leave no sign of your visit. Recycle your waste where you can in a recycling bin or at a recycling centre, dispose of your rubbish in the bins provided, use the toilet in your campervan or a public toilet (not the bush or roadside), dump your waste water at a designated dump station, and camp only where camping is permitted.
The adverse impact these campers have had has lead the New Zealand Government to legislate wild camping (freedom camping). Local authorities can prohibit wild camping in specific areas and enforce the bans. People who wild camp in an area where camping is not permitted, damage the area, dispose of waste inappropriately, or refuse to move on if asked to by an enforcement officer can be issued with a NZ$200 instant fine. The penalties for wild camping are much larger if the offence is considered severe.
Local authorities are required to designate sites where wild camping is permitted. Most also require that your campervan is designed to have a minimal impact on the New Zealand environment.
Don't just assume you can wild camp anywhere - always ask someone who knows and check for "no overnight camping" signs. Visitor Information Centres (called i-SITES) located in most towns and cities are great sources of local information as are Department of Conservation (DOC) visitor centres. But you’ll find the most comprehensive source of information about where you can camp in New Zealand including free and wild camping sites on the Campable app (available on Apple app store and Google Play). This app provides up-to-date information about commercial and wild camping sites as well as where you can stay on private land for a small cost. Plus it includes information about facilities you'll need including dump stations. The app is a must-have accessory for your road trip. Remember, if you choose to wild camp, please don’t stray - only camp in the designated locations.
The "I Respect New Zealand" camping map will give you information about where you are PERMITTED to camp, not the BEST camping spots. You may be permitted to camp next to a busy highway adjacent to an industrial area but it may not be a pleasant experience! And it certainly won't be a "wilderness" experience.
As a Wilderness hirer, we recommend you use the free Campable app to find the best wild camping spots. Campable gives motorhome travellers a unique experience of New Zealand by allowing you to stay at private properties around the country (including working farms, vineyards, country resorts plus much more) and thus getting up close to Kiwi life.
The Campable app also gives you access to our insider’s guide to around 100 of the best camping locations around New Zealand. We call them ‘WilderNessts’. Our handpicked WilderNessts sites include our favourite freedom camping sites as well as a selection of Department of Conservation, regional council, and commercial campsites. They range from off-the-grid quiet scenic spots that are likely to have a few more people staying but are unique or special in some way. You can find out more about Campable and WilderNessts sites here.