Free Camping in New Zealand
Camping in New Zealand is an extremely popular activity for New Zealanders and overseas visitors, as many camping grounds are located in some of the most beautiful and scenic areas of the country. Tents, caravans, campervans and motorhomes are pitched and parked in campsites and holiday parks throughout the year.
Freedom camping or free camping is the practice of putting up tents or parking up campervans in areas not designated for camping. Most laybys and picnic areas are not able to be used for freedom camping in New Zealand due to local council rules and signage, however there are some layby and picnic areas that do not have council restrictions. Free camping typically means that freedom campers cannot access facilities such as clean drinking water, toilets (either flushing or long drop) and waste disposal facilities. Free camping appeals to campers, especially those on a tight budget because it offers the ultimate in 'cheap camping'. In New Zealand, freedom campers tend to use laybys, picnic areas and very remote spots.
Unfortunately, free camping is having an increasingly negative effect on New Zealand's clean, green environment due to the increasing numbers of freedom campers - some of whom create litter problems, dispose of human waste inadequately and discharge grey water outside of dump stations. Free campers tend not to be popular with local residents.
The Free Camping Alternative
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of designated camp grounds and holiday parks in New Zealand, which cater for tents, campervans and motorhomes and offer unpowered and powered sites at very reasonable prices. Some campsites, particularly those in more remote areas that do not have access roads suitable for campervans or motorhomes, cater solely for tent users – which some campers prefer – and they're even cheaper! Camping places are situated in most beauty spots – so whenever you visit a lake, mountain, river, beach, forest or any other scenic area, you're almost guaranteed to find a legitimate camping ground close by.
Some of the advantages of using even the most basic of campgrounds over free camping sites can include:
- Better safety and security for you and your belongings
- Access to water
- Toilet and washing facilities
- Fire pits and safe barbecuing areas.
Free Camping Best Practice
Freedom camping is not illegal in New Zealand, but local bye-laws can specifically restrict it in certain areas and free campers not complying with notices can be fined. If you do end up free camping in New Zealand, do try to follow the following guidelines:
- Make sure you park your campervan or pitch your tent in a safe area, well away from traffic.
- If possible, try to camp near to a public toilet block, where you can use the toilets and sinks (sometimes showers).
- Keep your car or campervan doors locked at night.
- Portable fuel stoves are less harmful to the environment and are more efficient than fires. Lighting wood fires in freedom camping areas is not very common and is not looked upon as very safe or environmentally respectful when done by freedom campers.
- Improper disposal of toilet waste can contaminate water, damage the environment and is culturally offensive. Use disposal facilities where provided or bury waste in a shallow hole at least 50 metres away from waterways.
- When cleaning and washing, take the water and wash well away from the water source. As soaps and detergents are harmful to water life, drain used water into the soil to allow it to be filtered.
- If you suspect water to be contaminated, either boil it for at least three minutes, or filter it, or chemically treat it.
- Litter is unattractive, harmful to wildlife and pollutes water. Try to reduce the amount of rubbish you produce and take all your litter with you.
- Camp carefully and respect the environment and other visitors – leave no trace of your visit, nothing but footprints as the old adage goes.
Camping In New Zealand
There are many different types of campsites available for campers in New Zealand catering to users of tents, campervans and motorhomes. They are easy to find when you're out on the road, but you can also find campsites and holiday parks in New Zealand using the New Zealand Tourism Guide directory online.