A Curious New Zealand
Travel Guide

Free Camping

Below is a list of free campsites in NZ along with a few locations for free overnight parking for self contained vehicles. Many of the campsites are run by the Department of Conservation (DOC), they also run campsites where nominal fees apply. Please note that facilities at free DOC sites are minimal - basic toilets (flush if you're lucky), water supply may be from a stream or a tap - boil all drinking water. Access to sites may be via gravel road. We recommend you take your own toilet paper, torch, gas supply for cooking/boiling water, and/or your own drinking water. We also recommend that you visit i-SITES or DOC offices in the relevant areas to double check that sites are still operational, especially after bad weather.

Reids Farm Recreation Reserve in Taupo Freedom Camping near Lake Whakamaru Rays Rest, Miranda

Please leave only footprints, be prepared to take your rubbish away, and leave the campsites clean and tidy for others to enjoy. Also please dispose of your waste responsibly, if you don't have a toilet in your vehicle please stay somewhere with toilet facilities. Toitu te whenua - leave the land undisturbed.

Further information:

Freedom camping
information from DOC.

Rankers have reviews for many of the free camping sites below.

Blog posts about holiday parks where we've stayed and paid.

What's New? Whangarei Town Basin; DOC's 10 most popular and 10 least used campsites via NZ Herald

North Island


Forest Pools campsite, 55km south east of Kaitaia (DOC)
Single night camping only, 12 tent sites.

Raetea North Side campsite, Raetea Reserve, 18km south east of Kaitaia (DOC)
Insect repellent recommended by DOC.


Whangarei Town Basin, access via Dent Street
Certified, self contained vehicles can overnight for free in the Whangarei Town Basin.

Auckland area

The only DOC campsites are in the Hauraki Gulf Islands area (not free). For low cost camping options see Auckland Council.

Kaiaua & Miranda

Boat Club Reserve, Kaiaua - Free overnight parking for vehicles (non self contained as well as self contained).

Rays Rest Reserve, Miranda - Free overnight parking for self contained vehicles only, maximum 2 night stay.


All DOC campsites in the Coromandel area charge from $10 per adult per night.

Bay of Plenty

Free camping sites for self contained vehicles in the Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty areas.

All DOC campsites in the Bay of Plenty area charge from $6 per adult per night.


Oparau Roadhouse, 4370 State Highway 31, Kawhia Road, Oparau
Phone: 07 871 0683
Pitch your tent for free or park your van for free ($5 charge if you require power). There are no kitchen or shower facilities but you can use the public toilets in the Roadhouse (open 6.30am - 8.30pm seven days).

Piropiro campsite, between Te Kuiti and Mangakino (DOC)
DOC site, noted as a good hunting base.

South Waikato
Self contained vehicles can park for up to two nights for free in designated areas in the South Waikato, eg. Tokoroa Memorial Sportsground and Glenshea Park in Putaruru. Permits can be purchased for longer stays in additional locations that have public toilets. See Freedom Camping in the South Waikato.

Rotorua/Taupo area

Kawerau - Freedom camping in Kawerau.

Freedom camping in and near Taupo
Information about the very popular Reid's Farm Recreation Reserve, and Ferry Road freedom camping areas in downtown Taupo. Plus other free camping options in the Taupo, Turangi and Mangakino area.

Kaimanawa Forest Park
There are 7 free DOC campsites in the Kaimanawa Forest Park.

Ruatiti Domain near Raetihi
There is free camping at Ruatiti Domain but donations are appreciated for upkeep. BBQ, toilet and picnic facilities.

Te Urewera (East Coast)

Okahu Road campsite, Whirinaki Forest Park
There are two free DOC campsites on Okahu Road.

Sanctuary campsite, Minginui Conservation area (DOC)
There are three tent sites next to Minginui Stream. Note that DOC advise no dogs are allowed as there are kiwis in the area.

Other free DOC campsites in the area - Orangihikoia campsite, Te Taita O Makoro campsite, Rosie Bay and Te Pakau.

Gisborne & East Cape

Gisborne District Council issue permits for freedom camping, from $10 for 2 nights - $60 for 28 nights.

Boulders campsite, Te Waiti Valley (DOC)
Careful driving needed to reach the campsite, 16 tent sites.

Whitikau campsite, between Opotiki and Motu (DOC)
Listed as a remote campsite.

Hawkes Bay

Glenfalls campsite, Waitara Road, one hour north of Taupo (DOC)
Camp by the river with the cows at Glenfalls.

Mangatutu Hot Springs campsite, Kaweka Forest Park
A gravel road takes you to the Mangatutu Hot Springs and DOC campsite. (Rankers reviews).

Hastings District
Reserves in the Hastings District that allow certified self contained vehicles to stay overnight for a maximum of two nights.

Waikare River Mouth campsite, Waikare Road (DOC)
Camp beside the Waikare River and walk to the beach from Waikare River Mouth campsite.

(Additional free DOC sites in the area, sturdy vehicles may be required).


There are no DOC campsites free or otherwise in the Taranaki area. The official Taranaki tourism site has freedom camping information. There are some cheap camping options in South Taranaki including Waitotara Beach (Wai-inu Beach), from $5 per night.


Makino Scenic Reserve, Mokai Road, Taihape (DOC)
There are 16 tent sites, opposite Mokai Gravity Canyon.

Piripiri campsite, Pohangina Valley (DOC)
There are 4 tent sites, next to the Pohangina River.

Other DOC free sites - Coal Creek, Kawhatau (restricted access) and Simpsons Domain.

Manawatu District Council - Londons Ford and Bartletts Ford are free camping areas - toilets are long drops. There is a charge to camp at Vinegar Hill ($15 for two adults & 2 children), and Totara Reserve Regional Park - onsite caretaker will advise fee.

Waikawa campsite, Tararua Forest Park
Rankers reviews for the DOC campsite 9km north of Otaki.

Free camping is available at South Wairarapa District Council sites including Ngawi camping area and North Tora camping area. (Council are considering charging a small fee from 2014).

South Island


Marlborough District Council camping information.

Freedom camping information from Nelson City Council.

Cobb River campsite, Kahurangi National Park, Upper Takaka (DOC)
There are 20 tent sites at the Cobb River DOC campsite (restricted access for some vehicles).

Kawatiri campsite, northwest of St Arnaud (DOC)
There are 10 tent sites at the old Kawatiri Railway Station DOC campsite (disabled access toilet).

Robin Hood Bay, Port Underwood Road, Blenheim (DOC)
Set up camp next to the beach at Robin Hood Bay.

Okiwi Bay campsite, 100km south of Blenheim/28km north of Kaikoura (DOC)
There are 6 tent sites at Okiwi Bay (wheelchair accessible).

Coldwater Stream and Mill Flat are other free DOC camping sites but they aren't accessible to most vehicles.


Freedom camping in the Waimakariri for self contained vehicles - Cust Domain and Kaiapoi Club car park.

Motunau Beach (located between Cheviot and Kaiapoi)
Camp near the river mouth. Note: As per the comment below this is not a free camp but there are toilets and clean water (no power), family sites are $10 per night. The road to Motunau was included in the list of "Top 10 NZ Roads", it sounds like a detour worth taking.

Grey River campsite, 20 kms west of Amberley (DOC)
Camp next to Grey River, note access issues - 10 sites. (Loch Katrine is 81 kms northwest of Amberley, suitable 4WDs).

Greyneys campsite, 6 kms from Arthur's Pass Village (DOC)
Walking tracks will take you to waterfalls at Greyney's. Also see Klondyke Corner, 8kms from Arthur's Pass Village.

Andrews Shelter campsite, Arthur's Pass National Park (DOC)
Noted as a popular spot for trampers - 20 tent sites.

Hawdon Shelter campsite, 24 kms south of Arthur's Pass Village (DOC)
Walk along the Hawdon River - 20 sites.

Lake Pearson campsite, 35 kms south of Arthur's Pass Village (DOC)
Camp beside Lake Pearson - 20 tent sites.

Deer Valley campsite, Lewis Pass (DOC)
Deer Valley is near Maruia Springs - 10 sites.

Freedom camping in Aoraki/Mount Cook area for self contained vehicles.

Ahuriri Bridge campsite, north of Omarama (DOC)
Camp next to Ahuriri River - 30 sites.

Temple campsite, 50km northwest of Twizel (DOC)
A large flat camping area with 30 tent sites.

West Coast

Gillespies Beach campsite, 21 kms from Fox Glacier (DOC)
Close to an old gold mining settlement - 8 sites.

Dunedin and Central Otago

Freedom camping information from Dunedin City Council.

St Bathans Domain, St Bathans Recreation Reserve (DOC)
There are 9 tent sites at the DOC campsite in St Bathans. (Raise a glass with the ghosts in 'Supernatural St Bathans').

Homestead campsite, St Bathans area (DOC)
Noted as an isolated campsite - 20 tent sites.

Danseys Pass campsite, 16 kms north of Naseby (DOC)
Camp by a creek on one of the 6 tent sites.

Lindis Pass Historic Hotel campsite (DOC)
Camp among the remains of the Lindis Pass Hotel - 6 tent sites.

Freedom camping sites in Central Otago, locations for self contained vehicles include Bendigo and Lowburn Harbour.


Freedom camping sites in Southland including Weirs Beach and Monkey Island.

Thicket Burn campsite, 25km west of Clifden (DOC)
There are 20 tent sites at Thicket Burn, it's located 5km from New Zealand's deepest lake - Lake Hauroko.

Comments to date: 5. Page 1 of 1.

Lisa Halligan

9:37am on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

south island free campsites be great

Vancouver - Grant

1:20pm on Friday, January 9th, 2015

We freedom camped in a decalled Self-Contained RV right on the edge of Lake Taupo not far from the Marina. There are two parking lots. Only one has the sign for Freedom Camping.

Admin:  Thanks Grant, the sites are on Ferry Road I believe. I've amended the Taupo information above to include those and other sites listed on Great Lake Taupo's website about freedom camping.


1:11pm on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Thanks Jeremy, I added a link to DOC in there.


10:49am on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Dickeys Flat campground has been taken over by DOC and is no longer free. still a great site

Terry Donaldson

4:31pm on Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Just to advise that your comment on Motunau Beach being a "Free Camp" is wrong. The Motunau Beach Ratepayers have maintained the area and charge $10 per night for a family site. No power on site but clean water and toilets are in the camp area.

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