What You Need to Know About Freedom Camping in New Zealand
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What You Need to Know About Freedom Camping in New Zealand

It’s the dream right: parking up among the
stunning scenery of New Zealand in your car or campervan to camp for the night? Well,
that isn’t always the reality of a campervan trip in New Zealand. In order to keep New
Zealand beautiful, there are restrictions on where you can camp for free, more commonly
known as freedom camping. So to set the record straight, here’s everything you need to know
about freedom camping in New Zealand, coming right up…
What’s up guys! We’re Robin and Laura, the team behind BackpackerGuide.NZ, helping you
plan an epic trip to New Zealand. In today’s video, we’re gonna go through where
exactly can you camp for free in New Zealand. We’ll talk about what type of vehicle you’ll
need for freedom camping, how to find out where you can camp, the penalties for freedom
camping in restricted areas, as well as some awesome alternative camping options.
Plus, stick around until the end of this video because we’re also going to share with you
10 best free campsites in New Zealand! And by the way, we bring out new videos about
New Zealand every single day! So click or tap the subscribe button for more helpful
New Zealand travel tips. And with that, let’s get on with this guide
to freedom camping! Let’s start with self-contained vehicles.
The easiest way to talk about where you can freedom camp in New Zealand is to talk about
whether you have a self-contained vehicle or not. A self-contained vehicle is a vehicle
that meets the Caravan Self Contained Certificate standard. The vehicle must have a Self containment
NZS 5465 certification and the appropriate blue sticker to show this.
The standard for a self-contained vehicle must include a toilet, fresh water storage
for at least three days, waste water storage for at least three days, and a rubbish bin
with a lid. Check out the description below for a link
to an article and a video going really in-depth into what a self-contained camervan is and
how you can get one. Now that you know what a self-contained vehicle
is, let’s talk about where you can freedom camp with a self-contained campervan.
If you do have a self-contained vehicle, then you are generally allowed to camp on district
council land and Department of Conservation land, commonly known as DOC land. However,
each council and sections of DOC land have their own set of rules about freedom camping.
For instance, some councils will not allow freedom camping with 1km of the town or you
may only be allowed to stay in a car park for one night.
We recommend that when planning to freedom camp in a particular town or area in New Zealand,
simply Google freedom camping in Taupo, for instance, and look on the council’s website
for reliable information. Council website address usually ends in .govt.nz. You can
also ask in information centres. But to make your life easier, we have a whole bunch of
articles on BackpackerGuide.NZ on where to you can freedom camp around New Zealand, which
we keep up-to-date especially for you guys. We’ll link to a few below.
To get up-to-date information on where there are restrictions or where freedom camping
is prohibited on DOC land, we’ll give you the specific link in the description below
as well. Next up, where can you freedom camp in a non
self-contained vehicle? If you are camping in a tent, car or campervan
without a self-containment certificate, then you need to stay in designated sites that
allow freedom camping for non self-contained vehicles. These are usually free campsites
or parking areas with a toilet block nearby. Travelling in a non self-contained vehicle
definitely restricts the amount of places that you can camp for free around New Zealand
compared to having a self-contained campervan, as you can’t just park up on public land or
DOC land and expect it to be Ok. Like we suggested before, because every area
has different rules, take a look at district council websites, search on the DOC website
for free campsites, and give Backpacker Guide a browse for free campsites as well.
But if you run out of options, you can always rely on paid campsites and holiday parks which
we’ll talk about at the end of this video. So, what are the penalties for illegal freedom
camping? Council officers and DOC rangers patrol areas
that a prone to illegal freedom camping, especially in the high season and during the mornings
and evenings. So what if you are caught illegally freedom camping in NZ?
While some officers or rangers may politely tell you to move on, you could be given an
instant 200 NZ dollar fine for one of the following reasons…
camping or preparing to camp where you are not allowed to
damage to an area you are camping in dumping any waste or rubbish
refusing to leave an area when told to do so
camping in an area only for self-contained vehicles when you are camping in a vehicle
or tent that is not certified self-contained And, refusing to give information to the officer
or ranger In relation to the above, you could also be
fined 5,000 NZ dollars if you behave illegally toward the officer or ranger. You could also
get a court fine of up to 10,000 NZ dollars if you dump waste onto public land, such as
dumping a waste water tank from a campervan. Again, in our video about self-contained campervans
we’ll tell you where you can dump your waste water.
How do you pay your fine for freedom camping? When you receive a fine for freedom camping,
instructions on how to pay will be on the notice. However, if you do not pay your fine,
you will receive another notice to pay the fine plus an extra cost to be paid within
28 days. Refusal to pay could mean you have to go to court and if you were using a rental
vehicle, then the rental company can charge the fine to your credit card. Custom Officers
at the airport can refuse you from leaving New Zealand if you have outstanding fines
to pay. It’s pretty scary stuff but all of this can
be avoided if you do some research on where you can freedom camp legally before you hit
the road. But we’ve done the research for you, so you
can just follow the tips in this video and BackpackerGuide.NZ.
What are your alternative camping options? So if you find yourself in an area where there
are freedom camping restrictions or there are no appropriate freedom camping sites,
then where else can you camp? It’s likely that you will have to pay to camp in a campsite
or holiday park. You can camp in DOC campsites. The DOC manages
over 200 campsites around New Zealand, some of which are accessible by camping vehicles
while others are on hiking trails. They have basic facilities and range in price from 0
to 15 NZ dollars per person per night. You can also camp in holiday parks. Holiday
parks have a lot more facilities and even the option to have a powered site so you can
plug in campervans to a power supply. Expect to pay between 20 to 50 NZ dollars for two
people in a tent site or powered site. For more information on what facilities you
can expect in New Zealand campsites and holiday parks, check out the link to the difference
between holiday parks and campsites in the description.
So there are our tips on freedom camping in New Zealand, but as promised, here are 10
awesome free campsites. Better yet, you can access them with a vehicle.
Number 1. The Waikare River Mouth. This campsite in the Hawke’s Bay region of the North Island
has great views of the river and access to a beach.
2. Greyneys Shelter Campsite in the Arthur’s Pass National Park in the South Island is
a great base for hiking. Number 3. Robin Hood Bay in Marlborough on
the South Island has amazing views but get in there quick because there are only 10 spots.
4. Lake Pearson is another free campsite near Arthur’s Pass which is a great place for wildlife
spotting. And 5. Probably one of the most isolated free
campsites for vehicles is on the shores of Lake Monowai in the Fiordland National Park.
6. Te Pakau in the Gisborne region on the North Island is a great riverside campsite
with access to walks. 7. Mangatutu Hot Springs in Hawke’s Bay has
a free campsite and free hot pools but it has a gravel road and ford to cross so it’s
generally not suitable for motorhomes. 8. Lake Tennyson near Hanmer Springs in the
South Island is an awesome place for mountain biking and hiking. However, the road is not
suitable for vans over 7m. 9. Thicket Burn is another free campsite in
the Fiordland National Park near Lake Hauroko which is we love for hiking an jet boat tours.
And finally, number 10. There is a small campsite suitable for cars on the Lindis Pass, one
of the main routes through the South Island, called the Lindis Pass Historic Hotel.
So that’s it for our guide to freedom camping in New Zealand. We hope it has answered all
your questions on where you can camp for free but if you do have any more questions or know
any good freedom camping spots, then stick them in the comments below and help each other
out. Also, if you found this video in anyway useful,
give it a thumbs up and don’t forget to subscribe for more New Zealand tips and activity ideas
through NZ’s Biggest Gap Year where we’re challenging ourselves to 365 activities in
365 days. Until next time, have fun on the road!



    Don't suppose I inspired this vid did I? I made a comment a few days ago on one of your other vids about freedom camping fines… and low and behind here is a vid about freedom camping, haha

  • laurie M haysom

    Lake Pearson in Arthur's pass is being upgraded now and will not be a free campsite when it reopens I was there its closed now for last month so you will need to take it off your top 10 free campsites of nz

  • Unofficial Bucket List Family

    Very good info!!! We have a few freedom camping around here in Bay of Plenty!!! Beautiful places to wake up in the morning!!!

  • Natalia Fraczek

    Another usefull video! Thanks. Booking a campervan is our next step that takes us closer to NZ dream, as we finally booked the tickets!!!!!

  • Kiwionwing morton

    Great info for fast tourists

    But i have been freedom camping for 4 month's now. Only twice was officially camping places. One morning at 1.30am Invercargill police awoke me seeing if i was ok.

    People do not have the time to go to court.
    But the freedom camp sticker is local body regulation not central government law.

    As i don't wish to cause trouble with park officers or retta meter maids

    Don't park in or near tourist place's

  • New Zealand

    As a native maori i tell tourists to get a Tino Rangatiratanga flag and put on back window, keep some of my nawty whanau away. Keep Safe and enjoy Our Country of AOTEAROA

  • Subham Agarwal

    Hey can you help me in planning my itinerary for newzealand trip …. I am planning a 17 day tour of north and South Island …. 6 day campervan north island and 11 motorbike South Island …. would love your inputs

  • Marc Burns

    For two people traveling for 18 days to both north and south island would you recommend freedom camping or hotels? How much could you expect to save by freedom camping versus staying in a hotel? Thanks!

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