Boasting beautiful untouched landscapes, ancient forests, and a diverse range of natural ecosystems; it’s no wonder North Island is on so many people’s bucket lists. If you’re making your way across the island, you’ll need somewhere to stay for a few nights — that’s where we come in!
We’ve pulled together a list of the ‘crème de la crème’ campsites in New Zealand’s North Island. If you’re looking for somewhere to pitch a tent, stay in a cabin or park your campervan — this list is for you! Save yourself time on research and avoid being disappointed by underwhelming campsites.
We’ve combed through the good and bad to narrow down only the very best places to stay. This is your new go-to list for the best New Zealand’s North Island campsites:
CAMPGROUND #1: Matauri Bay Holiday Park
Located just north of New Zealand’s famous Bay of Islands, Matauri Bay is a popular getaway for anyone who loves where the land meets the sea. Surfers love the uncrowded and outstanding breaks; swimmers enjoy peaceful beaches and crystal clear waters, and sightseers are blown away by incredible views of the headland and nearby landmarks.
Literally a stone’s throw away from one of the bay’s beautiful beaches is Matauri Bay Holiday Park. The park sits under the watchful gaze of the Rainbow Warrior Memorial — a monument to a sunken Greenpeace ship — and is around half an hour north of Kerikeri, the largest town in Northland.
The campsite has a number of useful facilities, including:
A communal kitchen (+ BBQ areas)
A small takeaway shop (open in the peak season)
Petrol and diesel pumps
Washing machines and dryers
Toilet and shower blocks
Fish cleaning and filleting station
What’s more? The campground offers both powered and unpowered areas for you to park your car, caravan or campervan. Plus — with a little over 100 sites in total for you to choose from — many grounds have beachside views! Or, if camping isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you might be more well-accommodated in a unit, ‘chalet’ or permanent onsite caravan.
Located in the Bay of Islands, Urupukapuka Island is a beautiful, secluded coastal island off the northern coast of New Zealand’s North Island; famous for its incredible fishing, diving and hiking spots. It is only accessible by boat or water taxi, which means that it remains relatively uncrowded and pristine, even in peak season.
Urupukapuka Bay Campsite is in a protected area with clean, flat waters — this makes it popular with campers who want to camp as close to the water as possible (we are talking less than 25 m from tent to shoreline) and particularly people who have their own boats.
It’s managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, so taking care to minimise your impact on the landscape is central to camping here. The campground has 60 sites in total, none of which have electricity or vehicle access — this is the type of campsite that you’ll have to leave your car or campervan behind, but boy is it worth it. The campsite is popular with loyal, returning campers for a reason.
Check out the Department of Conservation’s website to book your stay (you’ll want to book early).
CAMPGROUND #3: Matai Bay Campsite
This place puts the ‘North’ in North Island. Situated at the end of Karikari Peninsula, Matai Bay is a gorgeous hidden gem. The bay’s incredible waters are surrounded by lush hills covered in pohutukawa trees — protecting the landscape from harsh coastal winds and making the area the perfect place to snorkel or take out a boat.
A lack of online booking systems means that Matai Bay Campsite remains quiet most of the year: getting the best spot means getting there before everyone else. While booking ahead isn’t an option, the campsite does have a fee to stay there which helps cover the Department of Conservation’s expenses.
The campsite also has some old school amenities — so goodbye electricity, hello cold showers. More suited to campers who want an escape from modern life, there is still plenty to keep you occupied – including fishing, diving and bush walks (just keep away from the elevated parts of the headland as this is of cultural significance to the local Kiwi people).
Check out the campsite’s page by the Department of Conservation for more information.
CAMPGROUND #4: Opoutere Coastal Camping
Lush forests and white sands. That’s a pretty good summary of what you’ll find here.
Located around 2 hours from Auckland on the east coast of North Island, this campsite is located right on Opoutere Beach — a stretch of sand surrounded by the calm harbour waters and rock pools and walking tracks. The waters are popular with fishers who want to have a go out at catching some cockles and pipis in the harbour, as well as people who want to kayak on the calm harbour waters.
The campsite itself is very well-equipped, with the following amenities available:
A communal kitchen, including fridges, microwaves, boiling water and toasters
Free gas barbeques
Communal dining areas, both open and covered
Communal toilets and showers (a hot shower costs $1 per 5 minutes)
Recreation spaces for reading, watching movies and playing table tennis.
The campsite offers both powered and unpowered sites, so you can pitch a tent or stay in your campervan or caravan. All powered sites are located at the beachside-half of the campground, so you’ll pay a small premium for the views but are unlikely to regret it. If camping isn’t your thing, the campground also offers cabins with accommodation for 3-5 people. You can check out the campsites website for more specific information on pricing and accommodation options.
CAMPGROUND #5: CAMP WAIPU COVE
At around 2 hours from Auckland, this campground sits snugly within the Northlands of New Zealand’s North Island. The area is well known for its pristine waters and unspoiled, lush landscapes — so during your stay you’ll want to make the most of it. The local area has a few popular landmarks which are worth exploring, including:
Waipu Caves, which are famous for their glow-worms and incredible rock formations
Piroa Falls, a beautiful set of waterfalls with a pool that you can swim in after the short hike
Waipu Museum, a small but awarded collection of artefacts about the history of Scottish migration to the area
Mangawhai Cliff Walk, an easy walk along tracks and rocky beaches at low tide
The campground itself is only a few minutes walk from the local beach and has accommodation options for all types of campers: from unpowered tent sites, to cabins for hire, and powered sites for your caravan or campervan. As far as amenities go, this campground is well-equipped, with access to:
Large communal kitchens and free barbeque areas
Playgrounds for the kids and a multi-use tennis court
We hope we’ve inspired you to give New Zealand’s North Island a visit! There are loads of great places to check out all over the island, but if you want to stick a little closer to the city, we have a list of the best campgrounds in Auckland. If you’ve seen all that North Island has to offer (we doubt it!), then we also have guides to the best places to stay in Queenstown and the top campgrounds in Christchurch as well. Happy camping!
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.