When you think about New Zealand’s South Island, there’s no doubt that stunning mountains, starry skies, and spectacular fjords are what come to mind. The South Island is a nature lover’s paradise – and that’s why camping or travelling in a campervan is the perfect way to explore the stunning outdoors here.
There are plenty of options for camping and outdoor accommodation in the South Island – whether it’s pitching a tent, staying in a deluxe cabin, or pulling up and sleeping in your campervan. Because exploring the South Island in this way is so popular, there is certainly no shortage of options for places to stay. In fact, there are so many it can become almost overwhelming to choose! We have narrowed it down for you, with five of the South Island’s best campgrounds listed below.
There’s plenty to see and do in Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand. Whether it’s the place you are starting or ending your trip, or you are stopping through during your exploration of the rest of the country, you will appreciate having a comfortable and practical place to stay when you’re in the garden city.
If lots of facilities and a convenient location is what you’re after, Christchurch TOP 10 Holiday Park will tick all the right boxes. Located about halfway between the airport and the city, you can’t get a more convenient location for camping in Christchurch. You’ll find everything from hot showers, power connections, BBQ areas, a heated pool, free WIFI, dump stations, and much more!
You can take your pick from all accommodation styles – from cabins and self-contained rooms, to powered and unpowered tent and campervan sites. There is plenty of space available, but we recommend booking in advance if you’re travelling in peak season.
For the ultimate outdoor experience, camp at Lake Pukaki Freedom Campground, where you will feel a million miles away from civilization, in the best way possible. The campground is located less than 4 hours away from Christchurch, at the south bank of Lake Pukaki.
This stunning lake naturally glows a shade of turquoise blue, backing right onto the Mount Cook region, meaning you’ll have a clear view of the distant mountain range. It’s a real delight to take a tip in the cool water during the day, then settle in to watch the mountain horizon turn a shade of pink as the sun goes down. At night, you can witness the sparkling universe as you stargaze at some of the clearest skies in the world!
This campsite is a freedom camping site – meaning it’s completely free to stay at! However, you do need to be in a certified self-contained vehicle in order to stay here. There are no amenities at this campground other than a small drop toilet, so make sure you are prepared with all the water and supplies you need.
There’s no need to book or check in here, simply arrive and choose your place to set up camp. It can get quite busy with other campervans in peak season, so the earlier you get there, the better position you’ll be able to secure.
Purakaunui Bay Campsite
Southeast, New Zealand
Head to the South Island’s lesser-explored region, to the southeast point of the island. Here, you’ll find rugged coastlines, rocky cliffs, and stunning sandy beaches. Purakaunui Bay in the Catlins region is an ideal place to stay, located under 2 hours from the South Island’s second largest city, Dunedin, and close to other amazing destinations such as Nugget Point Lighthouse.
If you want to sleep by the beach with the sound of waves crashing onto the shore, you will love staying at Purakaunui Bay Campsite. This campsite has an amazing view of sheer cliff faces on the beach, which fur seals regularly come to the shores to play on.
Purakaunui Bay campsite is run by the Department of Conservation, so there is a small fee to stay here, and it’s based off a first-come first-served availability system. There 40 non-powered/tent sites on a scenic grassy area, with basic facilities including long-drop toilets, and water on tap.
Fire pit/place for campfires (except in fire bans)
40 non-powered/tent sites
Dog access (on a leash only)
Queenstown Holiday Park Creeksyde
Queenstown, New Zealand
No trip to the South Island would be complete without visiting New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown. This stunning lakeside town attracts visitors from far and wide, and for good reason. The mountain backdrop surrounding the town make it naturally stunning, plus there is plenty to do here from world-class dining, a buzzing nightlife, and every adrenaline activity you could imagine.
Stay at Queenstown Holiday Park Creeksyde for an ideal place to base yourself during your Queenstown adventures. This peaceful and serene campground is just a 5-minute walk out of the heart of Queenstown, providing quiet sites away from all the hustle and bustle.
Here you will find both powered and unpowered sites, kitchen, lounges, laundries, WIFI, sauna, and spa, plus the knowledgeable staff at reception can assist you in booking all your Queenstown activities.
If you’re route takes you across the west coast of the South Island, there’s no doubt a stop at Franz Josef Glacier will be on your list. The 12km long glacier offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience a dynamic glacial environment, in a temperate semitropical environment, and both easy round-walks or fully guided glacier treks.
If you’re looking for an affordable yet fully equipped place to stay during your trip, check out Orange Sheep Caravan Park. This campground is perfectly located, within the subtropical rainforest of Franz Josef, and just 5 minutes’ walk of several good restaurants and bars.
For a budget-friendly price, your stay will also allow you access to the grounds’ hot showers, BBQ, kitchen, free unlimited WIFI, drinking water, dump station, and more!
There’s no need to need to book a site here, just turn up with cash and use the self check in form. You can learn more about the site and get directions on their website.
Free hot showers
Unlimited Free WiFi
Small Kitchen and BBQ areas
Tenting (on gravel) is possible
Sleeping in cars is possible
Discount vouchers for Hot Pools & Helicopter flights
Moeraki Boulders Kiwi Holiday Park
Hampden, New Zealand
Moeraki Boulders Kiwi Holiday Park offers a one-of-a-kind Kiwi beach camping experience with an abundance of character. Unlike the industrial holiday parks found in many tourist destinations throughout New Zealand, this camping ground offers a more authentic and personal touch.
Located in a scenic reserve with beach access, campers can enjoy extensive bird and marine life, as well as star gazing at night. The beautiful Hampden Beach, a favourite spot for generations of insiders, offers safe swimming and kayaking opportunities, while the bay’s excellent fishing is not to be missed. Visitors may even get lucky enough to spot the endemic Hector’s dolphin in the bay.
A leisurely 25-minute stroll along the beach will take you to the ancient and mystic Moeraki Boulders, which was definitely worth the trip. Adventurers can also visit the lighthouse, about 8 km away, where they can see the beautiful coast, Yellow-eyed penguin, and seal colony. And with no tourist crowds to contend with, peace and quiet are guaranteed.
As you make your way to the Moeraki Boulders, why not take a rest and stay awhile at the Moeraki Boulders Holiday Park? A unique and memorable camping experience awaits! Book your stay today.
Fully-equipped camp kitchen
Disabled toilet and shower
Trampoline, pole tennis, play boat, outdoor games
Tennis courts & skate ramp
Punakaiki Beach Camp
Punakaiki, New Zealand
Located in a picturesque beachside setting adjoining the Paparoa National Park, Punakaiki Beach Camp offers the perfect base to explore the stunning limestone gorges, bushwalks, and beaches nearby. With easy access from both Westport and Greymouth, this camp is an ideal spot for both an overnight stop and an extended stay.
Besides the beach and Paparoa National Park, you can stay in their riverside cabins or cliff-view campsites while exploring the many nearby wild wonders on the wild west coast. With Paparoa Track Shuttle Service, you can even access the nearby Paparoa Track and make the most out of your stay.
While the 15-minute walk to the famous Pancake Rocks is a must-do, you will find plenty of other exciting outdoor activities to indulge in. Whether it’s kayaking on the river at high tide, exploring the wilderness, or gazing at the sunset while surrounded by nature, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
With a wee shop, nearby Punakaiki Pub, cafes and the famous Pancake Rocks, you will find everything they need for a wonderful stay at Punakaiki Beach Camp. Book your stay today!
EV fast charging
Paparoa track services
Communal kitchen/dining areas
Drying room and laundry facilities
Shower and toilet facilities
Milford Sound Lodge
Milford Sound, New Zealand
Slow down, breathe deeply, and stay a while at Milford Sound Lodge, located on the doorstep of one of New Zealand’s most iconic natural landmarks, Milford Sound. Situated in one of the wildest places on the South Island, the lodge offers unparalleled access to Fiordland’s rushing rivers, towering peaks, and stunning waterfalls.
You can choose from a collection of secluded and stylish chalets or opt for the nearby rainforest campervan site for a self-drive adventure. Whether celebrating conquering the famous Milford Track or finding sanctuary after a day exploring Fiordland and Milford Sound, visitors will discover one of the finest accommodation experiences, complete with a front-row seat to Fiordland’s breathtaking natural beauty.
As the only accommodation in Milford Sound, Milford Sound Lodge offers a rare opportunity to stay within the grounds of a World Heritage site. Don’t miss your chance to soak in the stunning surroundings and discover the adventure that awaits here. Book your stay today.
Pelorus Bridge Campground
Marlborough, New Zealand
Located in one of the last stands of river flat forest in Marlborough and halfway between Blenheim and Nelson, Pelorus Bridge Campground offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in New Zealand’s beautiful forest and river scenery.
As one of the best DOC campsites in the area, this scenic reserve is the perfect starting point for easy walks through forest glades. From short and easy walks suitable for kids to more adventurous tracks leading to breathtaking waterfalls and rock pools, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
You can also take advantage of the reserve’s enchanting location, which was chosen as a filming location for scenes from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Visitors can swap barrels for kayaks and float down the river themselves, with guided kayak tours offering stops at waterfalls, streams, and the filming location itself. And with a river perfect for swimming, there’s no better place to relax and unwind in Marlborough.
Excited for your stay? Book today to experience the wonder of the Pelorus Bridge Campground.
Tent & powered sites
Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Get a quote on a campervan out of Christchurch and start exploring New Zealand’s incredible South Island soon!
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.