One of the beautiful things about a New Zealand campervan or motorhome holiday is that in many places you are able to ‘freedom camp’ – that is, camp in the wild without staying in an actual camping ground. There are many idyllic spots where you can pull off the road and stay overnight – and there’s something quite special about finding your own spot. There’s a little bit of pioneer in all of us!
The indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, believe in the concept of Kaitiakitanga, or guardianship. It’s our responsibility to guard the land and our precious natural resources and protect them for future generations. Unfortunately, a few inconsiderate campers, many of them low-budget travellers with cars or campervans that don’t have toilets or waste water storage, have used the bush as a toilet, left rubbish behind and generally disrespected our beautiful countryside. This has led local authorities to crack down on freedom camping in many areas of New Zealand. The Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand is working hard with local authorities and the campervan rental industry to ensure that campervan travellers will continue to have opportunities to experience freedom camping, while protecting the environment. They’ve set up the Camping Our Way website, designed to provide you with all the information you need to camp in the right places and help us preserve New Zealand’s unique environment. Local authorities in New Zealand are required to designate areas for freedom camping, and there are many places in New Zealand which offer great opportunities to park your campervan in the wilderness.
Frequently asked questions about freedom camping
Can you freedom camp in any campervan?
If you do want to freedom camp, you’ll need to make sure that the campervan or motorhome you hire is fully self contained. Basically this means that your campervan should have no adverse effects on the environment and present no hazard to public health. It must meet the sanitary and ablutionary needs of the occupants for a minimum of three days without discharging any waste or requiring any services.
Where can you freedom camp?
Don’t assume you can set up camp anywhere you like! Follow the guidelines of the Camping Our Way website and “assume nothing – always ask a local”. You’ll find information on freedom camping at i-sites (visitor information centres) and Department of Conservation (DOC) visitor centres, scattered throughout New Zealand. We also recommend you have a look at the “I Respect New Zealand” map. This is a fantastic resource which includes information about freedom camping as well as other camping options.