New Zealand truly is a bucket-list destination for a road-tripping adventure. Whether you’re thinking about exploring the East coast, West coast, North Island or South Island, there are plenty of beach camping opportunities. Each spot is different and special in its own right. Whether it’s a freedom camping spot or a holiday park you’re after, Aotearoa New Zealand has some awesome beach campsites with incredible views. To help you with your travel planning, we’ve made a list of our top west coast beach camping spots, so read on.
Many people ask our campervan hire team about how they can travel around New Zealand responsibly and whether they can actually camp on the beaches. But, you can’t just camp anywhere in New Zealand. Like many countries, New Zealand has rules as to where you can and cannot camp. You can’t camp or drive your Mighty camper on the beach. However, there are many fantastic camping spots that are right by the beach. You can still wake up to the sound of surf while tucked up in your sand-free bed.
Aotearoa New Zealand has over 420 dedicated freedom camping sites where you can sleep for next to nothing. The Department of Conservation (DOC) manages over 250 vehicle-accessible camping areas, many of which are beach settings. We simply ask that you follow the Tiaki Promise and tread lightly on the land, sea and nature and leave no trace.
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Some freedom camping spots, such as the Northland - Whangarei council sites, are truly free and you can’t book them, while others charge a small fee. Some campsites have more facilities than others. Usually, the more facilities, the higher the cost per night. The more basic campsites usually operate on a first-come-first-served basis while you can book a spot at the serviced campsites online. You may wish to consider a DOC Campsite Pass. These give you a per-head discount at most DOC campsites. They are seasonal though, so check which DOC campsites are eligible and when. You can also book the beach campgrounds managed by some councils online. Between December and February, New Zealand goes on holiday, and a lot of campgrounds get booked out. So, we recommend you book in advance where you can if you’re beaching it on your New Zealand road trip. You don’t want to turn up and be disappointed because there’s nowhere to stay.
We find most of our van travellers like to mix it up a bit. They spend a couple of nights in a remote beach camping site before heading to a holiday park.
If you’ve put together your New Zealand itinerary and you plan to spend a bit of time hanging out at the beach, there are a few rules you’ll need to be aware of.
If you’re looking for the best time to plan your beach camping trip, we’ve got you covered. Consider choosing the warmer months for your campervan road trip around New Zealand. The beaches are warm and welcoming, the days are long, the nights are mild, and there’s plenty going on. However, it is worth noting that December to February is peak time for tourists and it is the school holidays. Our beaches and campgrounds are buzzing. So, if you want to avoid crowds, consider November or March.
Many New Zealand beaches are remote, so make sure you are prepared. Thanks to a lack of an ozone layer, you can get sunburnt in no time at all. So, if you’re beach camping, you’ll need to be sun smart. Check out our handy list of beach camping necessities.
If you're looking for the ideal beginner surf spot, Ngarunui Beach is awesome. A black sand beach, it is just 10 minutes from Raglan. Ngarunui is the main sandy swimming beach and is patrolled by surf lifesavers from October to April. It gets busy in summer, but there's plenty of parking. Not into surfing? It’s a beautiful spot to just chill. Find yourself a lookout spot and enjoy the sights or you can walk the 1.5-kilometre beach to the eastern end.
If you decide you love it, Raglan Holiday Park is just two minutes from the beach. Powered sites are $24.00 per person while non-powered sites cost $22.00. On a peninsula in the Raglan Harbour, you’ve got the ocean on one side and the river on the other. You feel you’re “away from it all” yet it's only a 500m walk across a walk-cycle bridge into town. Raglan is funky, and friendly, with charismatic cafes, restaurants, pubs and relaxed vibes.
This beach stretches over 54 miles, from Kaitaia to Cape Reinga. There you can soak up the dramatic headland where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. The beach is officially a highway but is only safe for 4WD vehicles at specific times of the tide. Mighty, like most NZ campervan hire companies, don’t allow vehicles to be driven on the sand. So, if you do want to experience a drive along the beach, catch a sand safari. You’ll love the sand boarding at the giant sand dunes of Te Paki. Not your thing? How about blokarting, quad biking, zooming along on an e-bike or a sunset horse trek?
If you’re looking for a beach camp and rest after your adventure, head to Rarawa Beach Campsite. It’s located halfway up 90-Mile Beach via a short 4km gravel road. The spacious campground is nestled along a stream amongst trees and set back from Rarawa’s beautiful white sandy beach. You need to book to stay there: it’s $15 per person. Walk to the north end of the beach and scamper over the mermaid pool rocks or just be stunned by the endless white sand beach. Reputed to be the world’s purest silica sands, you won’t find sand whiter. There are strong currents and Rarawa is an unpatrolled beach, so the advice is to never swim or surf alone.
This beach should be on everyone's New Zealand itinerary. 8 km-long Koekohe Beach is home to the Moeraki Boulders, some of these large spherical hollow boulders measure nearly 3 metres across. But, expect a crowd. If you walk about 20 minutes beyond the boulders, you’ll find fewer people and the beach artistically littered with eroded boulder bits. There’s a cliff-top café with a sunny deck by the carpark. It’s a great spot to watch for the regular Hector’s dolphins’ visits. Drive for 15 minutes and you’ll discover the Katiki Point Lighthouse: maybe the best spot to view the endangered yellow-eyed penguins. The far cove on the peninsula is also a busy fur seal breeding colony. Moeraki Boulders Holiday Park is just a 5-minute walk to the world-famous Fleur's Restaurant and the Moeraki Tavern and a 50m walk to the beach and playground. It costs from $40.00 for 2 people for powered sites, some with great harbour views.
Hokitika Beach is beautiful and wild with black sand, pebbles, pounamu-jade, driftwood, and spectacular mountain views, all within 100 metres of the Hokitika township. A beach for breathing in the sea air, hearing the crash of the sea, skimming perfectly round stones, and admiring sculptures made of driftwood, all the while watching seal heads pop up and spotting the odd blue penguin. Grab some food, walk along the beach and capture the amazing sunsets. The Hokitika Camping Ground and Holiday Park is nestled in native gardens 20 meters from the beach with its own direct access and right across the road from the Glow Worm Dell. $40.00 per night for a powered site and $15.00 for an unpowered site.
Image Source: Tourism New Zealand Asset Library
Whatever kind of coastal getaway you’re dreaming of, you’ll find a beach camping area that will fit the bill. Self-drive holidays in New Zealand mean you can detour to remote, beautiful locations and wake up to the sound of waves from your cosy campervan bed. To experience the west coast beach camping spots in this list, bookmark the page, book your Mighty campervan online and then get moving. Choose your first beach camping spot and then pick up your campervan from the most suitable branch.