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.
Price guide: Paid campground
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.
Visit the Christchurch TOP 10 Holiday Park website to learn more and make a booking.
Price guide: Free campground
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.
Price guide: Low-cost campground
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.
Price guide: Paid campground
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.
You’ll be sure to enjoy your stay at Queenstown Holiday Park & Motels Creeksyde. Learn more and make a booking.
Price guide: Low-cost campground
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.
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!
Learn more about New Zealand’s best campgrounds so you can spend less time researching and more time exploring this beautiful country!