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Where to find budget-friendly campgrounds in NZ

New Zealand is a haven for camping adventures. Here you can hike adventure, with mountainous views awaiting around every corner. The best part? A New Zealand road trip doesn’t have to break the bank.

There are plenty of ways to travel New Zealand on a budget. One of the best ways is by taking advantage of the incredible freedom camping and low-cost campsites available. To help, we’ve put together this guide on where to find budget-friendly campgrounds in New Zealand. So you can get out there exploring no matter your budget.


Can you camp anywhere in New Zealand? 

There are hundreds of stunning campgrounds and holiday parks throughout New Zealand. But you can’t just park up anywhere (unfortunately!).

If you want to see the complete list of where you can park up during your New Zealand road trip, we recommend you download the thl Roadtrip app. This app features integrated maps to help you find the nearest camping spots to your preferred location. The app also has a road trip planner feature to help you plan your stops before you pick up your camper! And with the offline option, you can access maps at all times.

Where can you camp in New Zealand? 

There are plenty of options for camping in New Zealand. These vary in travel style and budget and include anything from holiday parks and DOC campgrounds to freedom camping spots. Regardless of where you choose to camp, be sure to check local council rules and regulations before you go.

These are the top three types of budget-friendly campsites that you will be able to stay at when camping in New Zealand.

Holiday parks 

Holiday parks are some of the most popular campgrounds in New Zealand. They are typically centrally located and relatively inexpensive. Here you can kick back, unwind and enjoy the luxury of a powered site and all of the facilities. Facilities will vary from place to place but may typically include:

  • Laundry
  • Toilet and shower
  • Dump point
  • Camp kitchen

Some also have playgrounds, pools and rental gear for local activities. While others include fun extras like on-site mini-golf, bouncing pillows and more. It’s best to do your research to get an idea of what kinds of facilities are available. It is also worth checking the reviews before booking. This will help you get an idea of what to expect and confirm that the facilities match the website description.

Looking for a quality holiday park and don’t want the pressure of researching? The TOP 10 Holiday Parks Group is a well-respected holiday park that has over 45 campgrounds all over New Zealand to choose from. Sites start at around NZ$40 per night, but if you are planning a longer overland trip, you can become a member and save 20-30% off this rate.



DOC campgrounds 

The Department of Conservation (DOC) owns land all over New Zealand. These conservation areas are designated safe spaces to relax, enjoy the outdoors and get into nature. There are over 200 of these campsites scattered across New Zealand, and so it is a perfect option regardless of whether you’re leaning toward a North Island road trip or a South Island adventure. These campsites are typically located in the national parks but can be located in forested mountain ranges, next to panoramic lakeshores and within walking distance of beautiful sandy beaches.

These are a great low-cost camping option for anyone who loves to get out into nature. Small fees may apply and will vary from site to site. They also vary in their amenities, so it is worth checking before you arrive.

If you are travelling for more than seven days, you may want to look into a DOC campsite pass. These cater to 7-night, 30-night (and even 365-night stays!) and provide excellent value with prices from $55 to $80 per adult.

The 4 different types of DOC campsites 

1. Serviced DOC campsites 

These cost around NZ$20-23 with the option for powered camping sites. These campsites may include amenities such as:

  • Flush toilets
  • Tap water
  • Laundry facilities
  • Hot showers
  • Rubbish collection

2. Scenic DOC campsites 

Scenic cost around NZ$15-18 for a powered site. These sites are typically the more popular, scenic locations. They may include amenities such as:

  • Toilets BBQs
  • Cold showers
  • Picnic tables
  • Cooking shelters

3. Standard DOC campsites 

The standard campsites cost around NZ$8 and don't have an option for powered sites. These sites are more rustic and include limited facilities such as:

  • Toilets
  • Tap water
  • BBQs
  • Fireplaces
  • Cold showers

4. Basic DOC campsites 

These are the most basic of the campsites but have the added bonus of being free. However, these sites are more rustic, so you need to be self-sufficient. These limited facilities may include:

  • Toilets
  • Untreated water

You are permitted to park up and camp on DOC campgrounds, with a few expectations. Firstly, always consult the DOC website before you arrive. This will advise the payment options for that particular campsite. Secondly, when staying in these areas, it's important to uphold the Tiaki Promise. This is a commitment to care for New Zealand for now and future generations. Do your part by ensuring you leave no trace and adhere to the rules of the campsite.


What is the cheapest campground? 

The cheapest campground in New Zealand will be freedom camping spots. Do keep in mind that it is free for a reason. So be prepared that you won’t have access to any facilities when freedom camping.

Freedom camping vs holiday parks 

While holiday parks and DOC campsites come with a price, freedom camping spots are exactly that - free. The trade-off with freedom camping is that it’s unlikely there will be facilities available. Alternatively, when you stay at holiday parks, you will have access to communal areas, kitchens, showers, bathrooms, laundry facilities, and more. Overall, with holiday parks, you are paying for ease and comfort. You are sacrificing those extra comforts with free camping for a budget place to sleep for the night.

How to find the best campground for you 

The first thing to consider when deciding what campsite is for you is whether the vehicle is able to stay at the campground or not. Some sites only permit self-contained campervans.

In New Zealand, self-contained vehicles are those that can retain their waste and sanitary needs for all occupants of the motorhome for a minimum of three days without requiring any additional services for dumping waste.

Why you should hire a Mighty campervan 

At Mighty, our entire NZ fleet is certified self-contained with toilets on board. However, they don’t all come with showers, so it's worthwhile noting this when booking. Depending on your preferences, this may impact the kinds of places you can stay during your trip.

Types of campervans available at Mighty 

Full indoor shower and toilet:

Porta-Potti only:

Aside from checking these restrictions, there is no ‘right’ place to camp - only what feels right for you. Think about your own needs and what makes you feel comfortable. For some, venturing off the beaten track to camp in the woods is a childhood dream come true. In contrast, others love the comforts and facilities that holiday parks can offer. Not sure what you will enjoy? A combination of both can be a great way to see and do more on a budget.



Ready to book your next New Zealand adventure? 

New Zealand is filled with stunning scenery and plenty of low-cost camping options. Helping you see and do more on your New Zealand road trip. For more tips on budget travel in New Zealand, check out our guide to budget travel in a camper.

Ready to head off on your adventure and explore the very best budget-friendly accommodation New Zealand has to offer? Book your Mighty camper today.