The camping holiday is not necessarily something for everyone. You are either for, or against the camping holiday.Indeed Mother Nature and her great outdoors brook no fence sitters, there is no room for neutral shades in a world of vibrantly coloured foliage, birds and bugs. If you are a fence sitter, or indeed someone for whom the idea of sleeping out under the stars causes your heart rate to quicken and the first quivers of a full blown panic attack to start at the base of your spine, look away now! Go do a cryptic crossword, take some rhubarb to your sullied pots, write a letter to your childhood pen pal or something else interminably dull and boring.This article is for the campers, the outdoorsman, the riverwaders and nature hikers. Those for whom the five stars found in resorts aren’t worth the millions you can see at night by the light of the fire. For whom a sleeping bag is just as comfortable a place to sleep as any queen sized mattress or four-poster bed. And what place better for it than New Zealand?

Be it the North Island or South you are guaranteed to find some of the world’s most beautiful, awe inspiring landscapes. Jagged, snow dusted mountain peaks, verdant green valleys, crystal clear, meandering rivers and deep lakes full of fish. We’ve scoured the length and breadth of New Zealand from Surville Cliffs in the North Cape to Slope Point in the south in search of some of the best campsites, caravan parks and camp grounds where you can pitch your tent. So come gentle readers, strap on your pair of sturdiest walking shoes, fill up your backpack with essentials and make sure your sleeping bag has been properly stuffed, because we’re going camping. 

The South Island



Tell me more: This beautiful one kilometer long beach is famous throughout the Tasman region for its golden sands and temperate, mild climates year round. Needless to say it is a very popular holiday destination for locals and international tourists alike. It is also the final destination ofthe Abel Tasman Coastal Walk, one of New Zealand’s great hikes.

Starting in the coastal town of Maharu, 54kms south,the track winds it way along the area’s beautiful coastline taking in places like Anchorage, Bark Bay and historical Awaroa Lodge over five not too stressful days. If you can’t face the idea of a five-day hike but still want to do a spot of nature walking there are plenty of day long or even shorter walks you can do from the Totaranui campsite. The campsite itself is within a minutes walk of the beach which gives the place its’ name and despite it housing over 850 people during the peak visiting times between December and February you’ll never feel penned in or crowded.

Lake Pearson


Tell me more: Set besides a high country lake in the Waimakariri Basin, the Lake Pearson sight is tiny compared to that at Totaranui or indeed many others, with only 20 or so tents at a time able to properly pitch up alongside one another. The lake though and the surrounding mountains look like something straight out of one of Tolkein’s fantasies, giant dark mossy peaks, jutting ruggedly out of the basin floor like errant, green coloured teeth. While the camp itself is nestled in a long the banks of a river, surrounded by mature willow trees. Very peaceful and serene. It’s also a wonderful spot to fish for rainbow trout and even the odd chinook salmon who have made it down from the Waimakariri River. This is also a popular site for birdwatching enthusiasts, keen to catch a glimpse of any number of unique birds. Definitely not the most easily accessible or the best-equipped campsite, but a great place to get yourself a little closer to nature. 

Lake Wanaka


Tell me more: A hugely popular spot year round for adrenalin junkies and nature hikers alike, this is a great base from which to explore the wider Queenstown area. Queenstown is known internationally as one of the great adrenalin sport spots in the world. Here you can endanger yourself personally in any number of different and diverse ways including jet boating, white water rafting, skydiving and of course, bungy jumping. Indeed Queenstown is almost devoted to these kinds of pursuits year round and you can also add great skiing and snowboarding to the list in the winter months. In summer the area around Diamond Lake makes for some lovely bush hiking, the lake is beautiful and there are some wonderful walks in that area ranging from anywhere between 40 mins to a full day taking in the rugged mountain tops. There are also a bunch of great climbs for those of you out there who are into their rock climbing.

Mavora Lakes


Tell me more: Just one of the hundreds of beautiful regions of rugged, untamed wilderness that brought the Middle Earth of J.R.R Tolkein to life in the Lord of the Rings movies. Mavora Lakes consist (as the plural of lake would suggest) of two bodies of water one to the north the other to the south nestled in amongst a breath taking landscape of mountains, lakes, forest and tussocky grassland. One of the best things about Mavora Lakes is the huge amount of activities available to the recreationist: hiking, four wheel driving, boating, fishing, mountain biking, motor biking and even horse riding if you’re into that sort of thing. The best campsite in the area is situated near the southern lake, nestled in amongst rock-topped mountains and a forest of old growth Beech trees. Mavora Lakes is a very popular spot in the peak months during the summer and as a result booking in advance is encouraged, if not insisted upon. Huts are available to rent out but if you’d rather sleep out under the stars you can pitch a tent there as well. 



Tell me more: This is definitely one for the camping surfers. Kaiteriteri, located near Nelson in the northern part of the South island is the holiday, beachside destination for people living in Canterbury. Consistently voted as one of the best beaches anywhere in New Zealand the beautiful coastline around Kaiteriteri is also home to one of the country’s best and most consistent breaks. Kaiteriteri also has the distinction of logging the most sunshine hours of anywhere else in the country, which is certainly conducive to the whole surfing/beach bum lifestyle the place tries to promote. However if surfing isn’t your thing there areplenty of other aquatic and non-aquatic activities that’ll keep you endlessly enthralled. The sheltered harbours and inlets along the Tasman region make for easy exploration with a skiff or you can even try your hand at kitesurfing. 

The North Island

Turihaua Point


Tell me more: Turihaua Point is a fantastic freedom camping site in the Gisborne area that’s open during the best time of the year: September to April. Located approximately 16km from the main Gisborne settlement, park your car or campervan right next to the water and enjoy the panoramic view of the beautiful Pacific Ocean. This area is great for fishing so if you’ve got your rod with you, drop in a line and see what you can catch. The area’s also a great place for swimming and diving, so make sure you grab your “togs” (as the Kiwis say) and jump into the wide blue water. Turihaua Point is one of the East-most parts of New Zealand, so you’ll be waking up to a new day and a new sun that only you and a few local residents will have seen first. As this is a freedom camping site, there are no amenities (which means no fees) so if you want to get in touch with nature, there’s no better place to go.

Uretiti Beach


Tell me more: If you want the whole camping experience, with a few extras included, the Uretiti Beach campsite is for you. Situated on the Uretiti Recreation Reserve, you won’t want to leave the peaceful surrounds, as you get back in touch with nature and your fellow campers. The walk to Bream Bay is so short; you won’t have time to burn your feet on the sand because you’ll already be at the water’s edge! While you’re there, get out your surfboard or just relax in the glistening rays reflected off the bustling waves. Only a 20min drive south, you can walk along the stunning coastal track at Mangawhai Heads. For a little more adventure, explore the nearby Waipu Caves, where you can go caving, climbing or bird and wildlife watching. Head back to the campsite to see the sun set along the beach, as you share a few stories around the campfire and drink to an awesome day.

Mokau Landing


Tell me more: Between the Te Urewera National Park and the Mokau Lake, lies the picturesque Mokau Landing. The pristine lake shimmers in the sunlight as couples, kids and families frolic in the beautiful water. Be prepared to share the lake with local wildlife from the nearby national park, as nature engulfs every aspect of your life. This grassy site is perfect for a range of different activities, with spacious land for family fun or a lazy afternoon in the sun. A brisk 1.5km walk to the Mokau Falls will leave you breathless (from the spectacular sight, not the walk) as you gaze upon the magnificent 37-metre waterfall. Back at the campsite, there’s a boat ramp, in case you wanted to go for a spin on the water or try your hand at fishing. Set up a campfire, throw back a few beers, share some laughs and enjoy the serenity of this hidden gem. This is the perfect destination for any traveller wanting to find a relaxing spot to unwind – make sure you get there early because there’s only a limited amount of tent sites. 

Te Punga


Tell me more: Located on the banks of the beautiful Whanganui River in Manawatu Te Punga Homestead is a cheap and very comfortable place to pitch a tent under the100 year old walnut tree and use it as a base for further exploration into the area. The majestic Whanganui offers plenty of activity options including kayaking, swimming and fishing. Indeed it is one of the main kayaking rivers in the country while the fishing is also fantastic along the rivers banks with huge rainbow trout and even eels out there for keen anglers. You can also take Jet Boat tours, which run for four hours out of the nearby township of Pipiriki, and some of the tour providers will even for a small fee run you up or down to either end of the river. There is also one of New Zealand’s Great Walks trails located in the region. The three to four day Matemateaonga Track is considering by some to be one of the country’s best tracks. It’s very remote and perhaps as a result doesn’t attract the same hordes of trampers that so many other of the popular walking tracks do, even during peak seasons. This walk follows an ancient Maori track deep into untouched, undamaged bush land and beautiful inland streams. An absolute must do for all hiking enthusiasts and absolutely beautiful. The homestead itself is a beautiful old heritage listed building, very rustic and quite basic, so you wont feel spoilt or pampered if you chose to stay there too. 

Hawkes Bay


Tell me more: Known as one of New Zealand’s warmest and driest regions, the areas around Hawkes Bay are hugely popular with campers, hikers and general outdoor enthusiasts year round. Due to the magnificent climate this area is the heartland of New Zealand’s red wine industry, producing Cabernet Sauvingnon and Shiraz of great complexity and weight. One of the most popular and highest recommended activities in this region then is the Classic Wine Trail which can be walked or driven, but in order to get the most out of it we’d recommend hiring a bicycle and packing a little lunch hamper. There are also some lovely forest trails one can walk around Ruahine and Kaweka Forest Parks and a wander down to the seaside will take in the colourfully named Cape Kidnapper. Or if you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, try rafting down the wild Mohaka river.