Freedom Camping Lake Tekapo

Known for its breathtaking landscapes, crystal-clear waters, and starry night skies, Lake Tekapo is one of the most beautiful destinations in New Zealand for avid explorers looking to get back to nature. It’s also a particularly popular location for freedom camping, with the promise of waking up to the serene vista of the Southern Alps and the sound of birdsong.

However, as with all freedom camping spots in New Zealand, this picturesque destination on the South Island has certain limitations that you need to be aware of before heading over in your campervan! So, to keep things as easy as possible, we’re going to look at some of the places you are allowed to freedom camp near Lake Tekapo and offer a simplified explanation of the freedom camping rules and regulations here.

Lake Tekapo Freedom Camping Spots

  1. Mackenzie Waitaki RV Camping
  2. Lake Pukaki
  3. Lake Opuha

For each of the freedom camping spots listed above, you need to be in a certified self contained vehicle. To help make sure you’ve got this sorted (and to prevent any unfortunate incidents, like being fined for camping where you shouldn’t), speak to the team at Travellers Autobarn, who will happily help you and answer any question you have about hiring a campervan.

Mackenzie Waitaki RV Camping

Mackenzie Waitaki RV Camping

Just a short drive away, Mackenzie Waitaki RV Camping, also known as Sawdon Edwards Stream, is the closest freedom camping spot to Lake Tekapo and it’s hilltop location offers views right across the Tekapo areas. As with all freedom camping spots in this region, Mackenzie Waitaki is exclusively for self-contained vehicles, although there are drop toilets available to use.

This is a particularly busy area in the summer months, so arriving early is highly recommended. Once you’ve grabbed a space, you can spend one night here in a calendar month, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by scenic walking trails that are just begging to be explored!


  • Drop Toilets

Lake Pukaki Overnight Campervan Parking

Lake Pukaki

Located about a 30-minute drive from Lake Tekapo, this site is ideally positioned for those exploring the route between Tekapo and Mount Cook, and it is a favourite for freedom campers looking to immerse themselves in nature.

The campsite itself is basic, and while there are drop toilets available, local rules mean that you still need to be in a self contained vehicle to camp here. What you will have, however, is panoramic views across the beautiful Lake Pukaki, along with access to several amazing walking trails.

One thing to keep in mind is that this location is one of the most popular freedom camping spots near Lake Tekapo and, as such, it can fill up pretty quickly. So, make sure you get here in plenty of time to make sure you can grab a space.


  • Drop Toilets

Lake Opuha

Lake Opuha

About a 45-minute drive from Lake Tekapo, Lake Opuha is a great spot for freedom campers heading along the road from Christchurch. Unlike both Lake Pukaki and Mackenzie Waitaki RV Camping, there are quite a few spots available at Lake Opuha, and the North, West, and South campsites are designated exclusively for self contained campervans, while the East is for tent camping.

While the facilities are limited to drop toilets and a few picnic benches, this site more than makes up for it with its stunning lake views and quiet surroundings. This is also one of the best spots on the South Island for astronomy, with the beautiful blue skies giving way to a blanket of stars every night.


  • Drop Toilets
  • Picnic Tables

A Note on Freedom Camping in Lake Tekapo

A Note on Freedom Camping in Lake Tekapo

You’ll have noticed that each of the camping spots we’ve listed above is close to Lake Tekapo but not actually in the area. The reason for this is very simple – freedom camping in Lake Tekapo is actually prohibited due to local regulations.

The Mackenzie District Council also has established specific rules for the designated nearby freedom camping spots, which you must follow at all times.

Firstly, freedom camping near Lake Tekapo is restricted exclusively to the sites we have listed above. While these areas are equipped with basic facilities to manage waste and environmental impact, you must be in a self contained campervan to stay here.

These restrictions are in place to protect the local environment, which includes fragile ecosystems and unique landscapes. This is because unregulated camping can lead to litter, pollution, and damage to natural habitats, which the rules aim to prevent.

Campers are also required to comply with local bylaws and regulations at all times, and non-compliance can result in fines and other penalties. This enforcement helps maintain order and ensures that the region remains clean and safe for both residents and visitors.

While there may not be a plethora of options when it comes to freedom camping near Lake Tekapo, there are still some wonderful places that allow you to truly embrace the spirit of New Zealand’s natural beauty and explore everything the region has to offer.

However, as we have explained above, you need to be in a self contained campervan to enjoy any of these camping spots. Contact Travellers Autobarn today to discuss your travel plans. Whether your headed out on a family adventure or taking a solo break, we’ll match you with the perfect self contained campervan for your needs and get you one step closer to your Lake Tekapo getaway.

Freedom Camping in New Zealand – Important Information

There’s no doubt that freedom camping is one of the best ways to see everything New Zealand offers. However, there are some important things to note before you head out on your adventures:

  1. Freedom camping sites are usually only suitable for self contained vehicles, and the hire price of these can be between 10%-40% more expensive than non self contained vehicles. So, this is something you’ll need to factor into your budget.
  2. While freedom camping sites offer beautiful views in remote locations, their amenities are normally very limited. Also, even during the summer, night temperatures can fall as low as 0°C.
  3. Most freedom camping sites don’t have a booking system, and, as such, spaces are offered on a first-come-first-served basis. This means finding a spot can be quite difficult.
  4. Camping areas that are certified DOC (Department of Conservation) allow you to extend your stay for up to 30 nights as long as you hold a DOC Campsite Pass. These are massively useful for frequent freedom campers and cost as little as $95 per person.
About the Author

Bastian Graf

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.

Share this page

Find Your Nearest Travellers Autobarn Location