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.
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, but it means that you’ll be able to camp on Department of Conservation (DOC) land and district council land.
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.
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!
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!
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 is your pocket guide to New Zealand, built by campers from around the world.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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 tobook your campervan today.
We look forward to welcoming you on the trip of a lifetime!
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.
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.