Are you thinking of visiting New Zealand? Renting a campervan or car hire? Wondering where you’ll go on that trip of a lifetime, what sights you’ll see and places you’ll stay?  

Well we want to make that trip a little easier and cheaper for you, by teaching you the tricks of the trade to Freedom Camping in NZ. Download the guide for extra tips and information. 

Book Cover - Guide to Freedom Camping

Download your complete copy of our Guide to Freedom Camping in New Zealand, packed with basics and bonus tips.

Book Cover - Guide to Freedom Camping

Download your complete copy of our Guide to Freedom Camping in New Zealand, packed with basics and bonus tips.

Couple Freedom Camping with a Kuga Campervan during sunset.

What is Freedom Camping in New Zealand?

Freedom camping is when you camp on public land or using a campsite specifically designed for freedom campers.

What does that mean? Well besides a few rules we’ve covered below, you won’t be disturbed by other campers, as most stick to their own plan; you can laugh, sing, and talk as you like without disturbing others too. Enjoy 360-degree views, stargazing and stunning terrain 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.  

Lucky for you, our guide provides a tonne of low-cost or free campgrounds across the North and South Island. For details, download our guide.

Campervan by the beach

5 Rules for Freedom Camping

Whilst freedom camping NZ sounds very… well, free, there are a few rules to follow, so that everyone has an enjoyable experience and you don’t wind up paying fines for camping how and where you shouldn’t. It’s worth noting that fines for violating camping rules can be quite steep. You don’t want to run afoul of the law or ruin freedom camping for others by flouting the rules. 

Here are 5 rules to follow when freedom camping: 

1. Stick to Self-Contained

Starting off with number one – hiring a self-contained vehicle. Thankfully, in New Zealand it’s pretty straightforward! Once you have hired a self-contained campervan you be able to stay at district council land and other areas throughout to New Zealand. We also recommend to camp on Department of Conservation (DOC) land (everyone can stay there – you don’t need to be self-contained to stay at a DOC campsite).

2. Clean up after yourself

To preserve New Zealand’s natural beauty, be sure to use designated rubbish bins or take any trash with you – always pack up what you brought with you.

3. Use recycling facilities

Protect the environment by using recycling facilities, and remain conscious of whether you’re placing your rubbish into the correct bins.

4. Use designated waste facilities

This goes without saying – do not use nature as your personal restroom!

Always use the toilet attached to your self-contained vehicle or find a public toilet nearby using the CamperMate App.

5. Respect the locals

Don’t get us wrong – freedom camping means you can have a lot of fun – but be mindful of other campervans, residential areas or local council guidance on noise restrictions.


Campervan rest stop

What is a Self-Contained Vehicle?

A self-contained vehicle meets specific standards, making it environmentally friendly and qualified to camp without having to rely on public facilities nearby.

To qualify, self-contained vehicles must supply:

  • Fresh water & waste water supply for at least 3 days
  • A functioning toilet
  • A lidded rubbish bin
  • A valid ‘NZS 5464’ sticker to prove its certification.

In fact, if you hire a self-contained campervan, it’ll hold all of your equipment – so you don’t have to haul your gear around and pitch a tent.

Self-contained campervans are also super spacious – meaning you’ll be able to sleep multiple people and still get around to a game of cards if you get stuck inside during a rainstorm.

Learn about the additional extras you’ll get when renting a campervan from Travellers Autobarn in our guide! 

Campervan self contained sign

How do you find the best camp spots?

If you’re looking for the most gorgeous spots for freedom camping, there are tonnes of terrific resources. 

Check with the New Zealand Department of Conservation to make sure that any conservation land where you might want to camp is not prohibited (restricted to self-contained vehicles is okay if you have a certified campervan as discussed above). The DOC manages the National Parks for the country of New Zealand, so if you want to camp in one of those parks, that’s an ideal starting point for research. 

Our complete guide showcases top sites, and provides a step-by-step breakdown of how you can easily find the best campgrounds. Take the hassle out of your travel research, and download it today!

Campervan window view

What Are the Best Apps for Freedom Camping?

Of course, in today’s high-tech world, there are also apps to help you find ideal camping spots, whether you’re free camping South Island of New Zealand or free camping North Island of New Zealand. There are many free camping apps that you can download to find your ideal camping locations. Below are some apps you can download, including our own app Travellers Autobarn!

Campermate App Icon CamperMate

CamperMate is your pocket guide to New Zealand, built by campers from around the world.

Find the CamperMate app on the Google Play Store or on the App Store.

Camping NZ App Icon Camping NZ by Rankers

Poor reception? No worries!

The Camping NZ app lets you use the app virtually anywhere with offline freedom camping maps.

Discover the Camping NZ app on the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android).

Apple app store

What are the Best Freedom Campgrounds on North Island?

Whilst beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there are hundreds of lovely campgrounds on North Island, here is one of the five highly ranked spots you might want to check out!

Anzac Bay

Campers love the view at this location. At the beach itself, there are swimming and fishing areas, although you do need to take care with the currents. There’s something for everyone here with dolphins jumping within view, small caves to explore, and a sandy stretch of beach to walk.

To learn more about the other four of the best freedom campgrounds on the North Island, download our guide!

Below are some additional guides for the North Island of New Zealand!

North Island Guides

5 Best Spots to Freedom Camp near Auckland

Gulf Harbour, Hatfield’s Beach or Hamilton’s Gap — they’re all covered in our top 5 freedom camping spots across Auckland — and they’re some of our favourites in New Zealand. Discover more!

7 Best Freedom Camping Spots on North Island

Serene and secluded spots — they’re all part of our best freedom campsites across the North Island. Check out our list, and start soaking up the sunrise.

Campervan coastal road

What are the Best Freedom Campgrounds on South Island?

Like the North Island, the South Island is full of amazing freedom camping spots. In fact, the South Island is where freedom camping really takes off, with dozens of beautiful and exciting spots to pick from. Here is one of the five highly ranked spots you might want to check out!

The Pines, Lake Pukaki

Visitors rave about the gorgeous views at Lake Pukaki, and this area at the side of the lake is limited to self-contained vehicles only, as there are no facilities. You’ll love the turquoise waters and snow-capped mountain vistas, and it’s no wonder this stop gets consistently top ratings on the Rankers app.

To learn more about the other four of the best freedom campgrounds on the South Island, download our guide!

Below are some additional guides for the South Island of New Zealand!

South Island Guides

7 Best Spots for Freedom Camping near Christchurch

From snowy mountains to pristine lakes, these free and low-cost spots close to Christchurch are all you need as you head mid-way through South Island. Discover our list and get on the road!

6 Best Freedom Camping Spots on South Island

Six amazing grounds, covering lakeside locations like Twenty Five Mile Stream and Lake Tekapo Camp Site. Explore the complete list in our comprehensive guide.

Campervan by the water

Download the full guide to freedom camping in New Zealand and learn more about the 5 Best Freedom Campgrounds in the North Island and South Island of New Zealand 

Whether you’re looking for freedom camping Christchurch rentals or freedom camping Auckland assistance, Travellers Autobarn is here to help you. Speak to the team at Travellers Autobarn for more information and to book your campervan today 

Is Freedom Camping Essential?

While Freedom Camping is great…it is not essential!

Lots of people book a self-contained campervan for Freedom Camping without understanding what it means and are using less than 20% of their stays at Freedom Camping Camp Sites. Self-contained campervans tend to be 10% to 40% more expensive (when renting) than a non self-contained campervan, so ensure to budget accordingly. Also, a lot of Freedom Camping Sites in New Zealand are car parks or at shopping centres – which is less than an ideal experience.

DOC Campsites in New Zealand are some of the most popular, affordable and enjoyable camping locations throughout the country. Offering a wide range of sites that are situated across a variety of stunning landscapes, DOC campsites provide visitors with enviable vistas and a wide variety of activities to enjoy. For as little as $95/person you are able to stay for 30 nights at over 150 DOC campsites New Zealand wide. You do not need to be self-contained to stay at DOC Campsites.

For more information about the DOC Camp Pass, visit the Department of Conservation (DOC) Website.

Campervan on road in New Zealand

We look forward to welcoming you on the trip of a lifetime! 

If you are after more Campervan Travel Guides please check out our New Zealand Campervan Travel Guide section… 

Campervan snowy mountain

Bonus Resources

Freedom camping is by far one of the best ways to experience the wonders of New Zealand’s North and South Island.

Plan your trip in advance and learn the latest rules with our bonus resources.

New Zealand Road Trips

We’ve put together a tonne of road trip itineraries to help you explore all of what NZ has to offer. Here are some of our best:

Interested in something different? Start exploring our other road trip itineraries.

Safe Driving in New Zealand

Before setting off in New Zealand, make sure you’re accustomed to all the rules, like driving on the left-hand side.

Take care, and study the handbook in our simple safe driving guide.

Campervan Hire 101

Hiring a campervan for the first time? Before you head off to live life on the road, there’s a couple of things worth being aware of.

We’ve covered our top 5 checkpoints in this campervan rental guide. Check it out and start your next adventure!

Freedom camping is one of the best ways to experience the wonders of New Zealand. If you plan in advance and stick to the rules, you’ll take in sights that will make your jaw drop – whether you’re a seasoned traveller or taking a road trip for the first time.

If you’re already on the lookout for campervan hire options, speak to our friendly Travellers Autobarn team or book directly online.

Happy camping!

Book Cover - Guide to Freedom Camping

Download your complete copy of our Guide to Freedom Camping in New Zealand, packed with basics and bonus tips.

Book Cover - Guide to Freedom Camping

Download your complete copy of our Guide to Freedom Camping in New Zealand, packed with basics and bonus tips.

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.

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