New Zealand’s South Island is packed with postcard-worthy scenery, from snowy mountains and pristine lakes to beautiful beaches, you could not find a better place to road trip.

If you’re keen to avoid the crowds to take in the landscape and nature of this very special place, we recommend checking out some of the lesser known and more secluded spots, with the added bonus that many of these beautiful spots are free or very low cost – perfect if you’re on a budget.

From remote forests to beautiful spots by the water, we’ve put together a list of our favourite spots near Christchurch. Most of these campsites have very basic facilities, but will be more than comfortable if you’re travelling in a campervan.

Let’s jump in to the best freedom camping sites near Christchurch.

Quick links

  1. Wooded Gully Campsite
  2. Lake Taylor Campsite
  3. Lake Pearson (Moana Rua) Campsite
  4. Peel Forest Campground
  5. Pioneer Park Campsite
  6. Round Bush Campsite
  7. Okains Bay Campground

tents on grassy field

1. Wooded Gully Campsite

Okuku, South Island

Wooded Gully campground and picnic area is located in Mt Thomas Conservation area at the foothills of the Southern Alps, about an hour north-west of Christchurch. It’s also the starting point to several walking and hiking tracks, making it a perfect base for some outdoor adventures.

The large campground has several grassy areas available for camping for up to 50 sites and basic amenities, with a toilet block and untreated tap water. There are no powered sites here, so make sure to charge your batteries and devices in advance.

Whether you’re just starting your road trip in the South Island or getting ready to head home, this low cost campsite is a good choice for those looking for a secluded spot out of the city to spend the night in nature surrounded by forests.

This campsite is free with a DOC/NZMCA Campsite Pass, or just $8 per adult and $4 per child per night, but please note that bookings are required all year.

Find out more at the Wooded Gully Campsite website.

FEATURED AMENITIES

  • 50 unpowered campsites
  • Flushing toilets
  • Walking tracks
  • Dogs allowed on a leash

Lake taylor view from campground

2. Lake Taylor Campsite

Canterbury, South Island

Lake Taylor Campsite is a remote but very pretty spot located within Lake Sumner Forest Park.
It’s located about 3 hours drive north and inland from Christchurch, between Lewis Pass and Arthurs Pass National Park.

The camping area is located right by Lake Taylor, with the surrounding mountains making for a picture perfect place to wake up in, or a spot for brave campers to swim during the warmer months. For those that prefer to go by foot, several hiking routes are located nearby for advanced/expert trampers.

Facilities are basic here, with a block of non-flushing toilets, untreated tap water and a cooking shelter.

Lake Taylor Campsite is free with a DOC/NZMCA Campsite Pass, or just $8 per adult and $4 per child per night, bookings are required all year.

*Please note the access road to this campsite is an unsealed gravel road, so before planning your visit make sure your vehicle is suitable, and take extra care while driving.

FEATURED AMENITIES

  • 15 unpowered sites
  • Scenic spot by the water
  • Toilets (non-flush)
  • Fires are not permitted at any time
  • Dogs allowed on a leash

a tent by the lake

3. Lake Pearson (Moana Rua) Campsite

Lake Pearson, South Island

Lake Pearson Campsite is located about 1 and a half hours from Christchurch or 35km south of Arthur’s Pass Village, accessible via a gravel road just off State Highway 73.

Positioned right on the shore of Lake Pearson, and surrounded by beautiful mountains, this is a tranquil and a quintessentially New Zealand spot to spend the night. Large trees along the water provide shade to some sites, plus swimming is permitted in the lake.

This campground is a photo-worthy spot, especially in the autumn! In fact, it’s a great alternative to the more popular sites near Arthur’s Pass and a hidden gem for your South Island road trip.

Facilities here are very basic, with a block of non-flush toilets and untreated tap water.

Like some of our other recommendations, Lake Pearson Campsite is also free with a DOC/NZMCA Campsite Pass, or just $8 per adult and $4 per child per night, bookings are required all year.

FEATURED AMENITIES

  • 20 unpowered sites
  • Scenic spot by the water
  • Fires are not permitted at any time
  • Toilets (non-flush)

woman hugging big tree

4. Peel Forest Campground

Peel Forest, South Island

Peel Forest Campground is a large campground located within the Peel Forest Park Scenic Reserve, just under 2 hours drive from Christchurch.

It’s a serviced campsite – so it’s a little on the pricier side for DOC managed campgrounds – but it has plenty of great facilities for a overnight stay or two. As well as powered sites, this campground has flushing toilets and hot showers, a communal kitchen with a shared fridge, drinking tap water and a credit card operated public phone – oh and 4 cabins should you decide.

There are several walking tracks nearby, like the accessible Big Tree Walk and a track to Acland Falls, with the Rangitata River running alongside.

Take note: Peel Forest Campground is closed during the winter months (May to mid-September), but you can still find a site with more basic amenities at the adjacent Clark Flat Campground.

FEATURED AMENITIES

  • 47 unpowered campsites
  • 34 powered sites
  • 4 cabins
  • Flushing toilets and hot showers
  • Communal kitchen with electric elements and one shared fridge.
  • Drinking water

woman sleeping with dog in tent

5. Pioneer Park Campsite

Christchurch, South Island

Not far from Peel Forest, and another option for a quiet overnight stop on your road trip south is Pioneer Park Campsite. This campground is located a bit over 2 hours from Christchurch, 1 hour from Lake Tekapo and just 40 minutes from Timaru.

There are 40 unpowered sites at this campground, spread on a grassy area and surrounded by forest. Campfires are allowed, except during fire bans.

Facilities here are very basic, with a block of non-flush toilets and untreated tap water.

Two loop tracks start and end from the campground, the short 30min Homebush Track and the longer 2-3 hour White Pine Track, these are both fairly easy tracks t