Hiring a campervan for your trip around New Zealand is one of the most budget-friendly ways of travelling around the North Island. You have your transport and accommodation all in one, meaning plenty of savings can be made in order to do other activities. And New Zealand is the land of fun activities – so you’re gonna want to put some dollars towards that!
That being said, during peak travel times of the year, campgrounds and caravan parks in New Zealand can become quite pricey. So if you’re travelling in a campervan, you can always take the other option of freedom camping. Freedom camping literally means camping for free! New Zealand has plenty of freedom camping opportunities around the North Island, and just because they don’t cost a cent doesn’t mean they aren’t AMAZING! Read on to learn all about the hows, whats and wheres of freedom camping in the North Island.
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WHAT IS FREEDOM CAMPING IN NEW ZEALAND?
Freedom camping is camping outside of recognised campgrounds on public land or using campsites specially designed for freedom campers. Families and adventure lovers alike appreciate freedom camping because of the quiet and unobstructed views it affords. There are frequently no other campers right on top of you to keep you up at night or wake you up in the morning.
As these spots are usually quieter than your normal paid campgrounds, you can enjoy 180-degree views or better of some of the most stunning terrain in New Zealand. This is ideal for stargazing and if you’re into your photography. It can be like having your own campground all to yourself!
Some freedom camping locations are truly free, in that they don’t cost anything. Others charge a fee, albeit usually a small one, but you are not restricted in the way you would be in a family holiday camp or RV park. Instead, you can park in out-of-the-way locations because you don’t need to be hooked up to an electrical or water connection (but more on that below). You see more of nature and can come and go with ease, covering lots of ground without having to spend hours “decamping”.
What are the rules of freedom camping?
If you wish to freedom camp in the North Island, you should be aware of a few things before you head off on your road trip journey. As there’s such a high volume of campers and campervan travellers in New Zealand, the country has some pretty hefty laws in place – understandably. Some of the rules and regulations of freedom camping in New Zealand include:
Always clean up after yourself and leave no litter or trace of your stay
Dispose of waste carefully. Only empty your greywater tanks into designated dump stations. And please (please!) use toilets to do your business
Keep noise to an absolute minimum at night and always be respectful towards the locals. Especially if you’re freedom campsite which is close to a residential area.
Avoid lighting fires. If you do make a campfire always keep it small and douse it out one you are finished with it. You should also be aware of whether or not you’re allowed to light one in that area in the first place – sometimes there are total fire bans.
Lastly, and definitely most importantly – know where you can and can’t sleep. If you have a ‘self-contained’ sticker on your vehicle (meaning you have a toilet and greywater onboard) you are allowed to stay in a lot more places. If you don’t have this, you will always need to stay in designated ‘non-self contained’ campgrounds.
Freedom campgrounds in the North Island
Whether you want to stay lakeside, beachfront or in the forest, you’ll find plenty of amazing freedom campgrounds in the North Island. You might want to consider some of these free campgrounds when you travel around the North Island:
Rankers Koha Camping
Long Beach Domain
Anzac Bay, Bowentown, Domain
Ohingaroa, Kenepuru Sounds
Alex McKenzie Arboretum, Otautau
Also, try Googling Department of Conservation (DOC) campgrounds in New Zealand. These are government run sites, many of which are free for campervan travellers.
To take advantage of freedom camping in New Zealand, you should have a general idea of some places you can stay before you head off. We live in the era of technology, which means luckily for us, there are plenty of apps that allow you to find places to sleep, right at your finger tips. We would recommend not leaving on your campervan journey without having downloaded at least one campground-finding app. Trust us – they are lifesavers and will make your trip so much more enjoyable!
You can download the free Travellers Autobarn app which has helpful information about free campgrounds, so you should never be stuck without a place to sleep.
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.