The best campgrounds on the South Island of New Zealand

The best campgrounds on the South Island of New Zealand

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Our favorite campgrounds

To make the planning of your New Zealand trip easier, we’d like to share with you some of the best campgrounds on the South Island of New Zealand.

Our priority was to find great places that were uncrowded and that offered breathtaking views and clean toilets. Even better if the campground was free of charge. Sounds utopian? It’s not!

Recommended Apps

In order to find our favourite campgrounds, we used the app CamperMate for the best campsites on the South Island of New Zealand.  Later on in our trip, we bought the app WikiCamps, which we wish we would have used earlier. Both apps are great. In our opinion, CamperMate is very easy to use with a good and useful selection of categories. But WikiCamps sometimes offered campsites that CamperMate didn’t have.

At just under 3 euros, WikiCamps is an investment that quickly pays off. And, WikiCamps also includes Australia, so if you plan to travel to both New Zealand AND Australia, you only have to pay once.

CamperMate is free of charge.

There are other apps like Rankers NZ or Campable, but we didn’t use them.

Self what?

If you plan to travel in New Zealand in a campervan, sooner or later you will stumble upon the phrase “Self-Contained”.

Our campervan Lorna was fully “Self-Contained”. And we found that most campsites you can only stay in if you are self-contained.

Self-Contained means that you have a toilet in your campervan as well as a “grey water” container. This is your sewage, which can only be dumped in permitted places.  In New Zealand, campervans that are self-contained are marked with a blue sticker, and it is often checked at campsites whether you are entitled to stay there or not.

But there are also plenty of non-self-contained campsites. It is always best to check the respective app for information in advance. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee completeness here.

Now finally to the best campsites on the South Island of New Zealand:

Tōtaranui Campground

This is a campground directly in Abel Tasman National Park and has a large layout. There are parking spaces on gravel and many individual sections on grassy areas that have toilets and showers. The location is outstanding!

Permitted length of stay: no information found. Only at certain times, such as Christmas, there is a minimum of 3 nights and a maximum of 14 nights indicated.

Cost: $15 per person/per night (approx. EUR 9 pP/night)

The costs are higher during certain holiday periods, so please check their website:

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/nelson-tasman/places/abel-tasman-national-park/things-to-do/campsites/totaranui-campground

Abel Tasman Campground
The best campgrounds on the South Island of New Zealand
Abel Tasman Campground

Contact:

Phone: +64 3 528 8083

Address: 62 Commercial Street, PO Box 166, Takaka 7142

Email: totaranui@doc.govt.nz

Location:

In Abel Tasman National Park

NZTM2000 coordinates: E1600414, N5481379

Latitude: -40.81860657, Longitude: 173.00490919

Golden Bay in Abel Tasman Nationalpark
The best campgrounds on the South Island of New Zealand
Golden Bay in Abel Tasman Nationalpark

Kawatiri Beach Reserve

Kawatiri Beach Reserve is a free campsite located directly at the sea just north of Westport. It has toilets but does not have showers.

There are certainly cooler places, but the fact that it is free was great.

Besides, is there anything better than falling asleep to the sound of the ocean?

Permitted length of stay: max. 2 nights

Cost: free of charge

Contact:

https://www.rankers.co.nz/experiences/6534-Kawatiri_Beach_Reserve_Westport

Location:

Westport

Cobden Tiphead (Shipwreck Point)

This was one of our favorite campsites! Not only it is located directly at the sea, but it also has unrestricted sea views!

The view from our Camper in Greymouth
The view from our Camper in Greymouth

The toilets were very clean and there was a (cold!) outdoor shower.

However, we recommend being there very early if you want a place in the front row. The campsite fills up very quickly.

Permitted length of stay: 3 nights

Cost: free of charge

Contact: Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any contact information.

Location:

Cobden, Greymouth 7802, New Zealand

42°26’20.8″S 171°11’51.3″E

https://goo.gl/maps/bPoDCyi4n88Ytpx3A

Greymouth Campground
The best campgrounds on the South Island of New Zealand
Greymouth Campground
Sunset at Greymouth
Sunset at Greymouth

White Horse Hill Campground

If you want to visit Mount Cook National Park and take one (or several hikes) you have three options:

You can either camp at Lake Pukaki or Lake Wardell, 24.2 miles away (info below), or at the White Horse Hill Campground. Although this was not free, we decided to do stay here and were rewarded with breathtaking views. We love the ocean and always try to be at the water somehow, but the view of the mountains was spectacular. We had never seen anything like it!

Since we are self-contained, we didn’t use the hot showers or the communal hut (it rained heavily, so we stayed in our camper in the evening).

But the next morning, as the skies cleared, the view of Mount Cook was stamped into our memories.

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, you MUST visit the glaciers!

Permitted length of stay: no information found.

Cost: $15 per person/per night (approx. EUR 9 pP/night)

https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/canterbury/places/aoraki-mount-cook-national-park/things-to-do/white-horse-hill-campground

White Horse Hill Campground
White Horse Hill Campground

Contact:

Phone:  +64 3 435 1186

Email:  mtcookvc@doc.govt.nz

Address:  1 Larch Grove, Aoraki/Mt Cook

Location:

Mt Cook National Park 7999, New Zealand

NZTM2000 coordinates: E1365711, N5155153

Latitude: -43.71964561, Longitude: 170.09146595

https://goo.gl/maps/w129EGBvTL7oyFUP6

Mount Cook
Mount Cook

Lake Pukaki

If you love blue and turquoise coloured water, you won’t ever want to leave this place!

Lake Pukaki was an absolute dream come true for us. A turquoise lake that looked like it had been torn from the pages of a travel magazine. We have never seen a lake with such a colors!

Just make sure that your camera and phone batteries are charged before you arrive! These spectacular views make you stop more than once for pictures.

Stunning Lake Pukaki
Stunning Lake Pukaki

Permitted length of stay: 1 night

Cost: free of charge

Contact: Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any contact information.

Location:

4589 Tekapo-Twizel Road, Pukaki 7999, New Zealand

44°11’03.2″S 170°09’02.8″E

https://goo.gl/maps/XMaKVzDGrp3aBdAu7

Lorna at Lake Pukaki
Lorna at Lake Pukaki

Lake Wardell

Just around the corner from Lake Pukaki, this campsite is a nice small green area that was sheltered with trees.

Since the stay at Lake Pukaki is unfortunately limited to only one night, we spent another night here.

Go up to the main road and watch the people fishing in the river, which is as turquoise as Lake Pukaki!

Permitted length of stay: max. 3 nights

Cost: free of charge

Contact: Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any contact information.

Location:

Tekapo-Twizel Road, Pukaki 7999, New Zealand

44°11’42.2″S 170°07’16.6″E

https://goo.gl/maps/y1GmujBfHh2KVwho6

Happy at Lake Pukaki
Happy at Lake Pukaki

Lowburn Harbour

This campsite is in such a beautiful and peaceful location just before Cromwell. Within a few minutes, we experienced a change of weather at this lake that was incredible. From blue skies and sunshine one minute, to end of the world grey skies and hail the next. But when it’s not raining, the scenery is quite spectacular.

Don’t miss the 45° South marker just north of the campsite, and a delicious pie at Cromwell Bakery.

Permitted length of stay: max. 3 nights

Cost: free of charge

Contact: Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any contact information.

Location:

45°00’37.5″S 169°12’38.2″E291 Luggate-Cromwell Road, Lowburn 9384, New Zealand
https://goo.gl/maps/NMqz7ZrkqAVe9AxT8

Our campground by Cromwell
Our campground by Cromwell

Fortrose Township

Even if there is not much here (except for a golf course that we wanted to play), we thought it was so beautiful. The Fortrose campsite is located directly at the sea and, for us, there is nothing better than waking up and having direct ocean views.

Fortrose Campground
Fortrose Campground

Permitted length of stay: max. 2 nights

Cost: free of charge

Contact: +64 800 732 732

Location:

Fortrose 9875, New Zealand46°34’31.3″S 168°47’48.0″E
https://goo.gl/maps/JJwgmwo2y65DV5oW8

Fortrose view
Fortrose view

Purakaunui Bay Campsite

Are you ready for an incredible campsite? Getting there takes a little effort, but believe us, you will be more than rewarded at the end.  It was one of the most beautiful places on the South Island of New Zealand!

Even though we were unlucky with the weather, and it poured buckets while we were there, we would go back in a second!

Be sure to set your alarm so you don’t miss the sunrise!!

Permitted length of stay: –

Cost: $8 per person/night

Contact:

Phone: +64 3 211 2400

Email: invergarcill@doc.govt.nz

Location:

Purakaunui Bay Road, Purakaunui 9586, New Zealand

46°32’42.1″S 169°36’42.6″E

https://goo.gl/maps/m4aeztVwKdncecsg9

Ocean View Recreational Reserve Brighton

Another incredible campsite. And when we say beautiful, we usually mean the location.  The Ocean View campsite is actually located on a beautiful beach, white as sugar! The campsite itself is a square asphalt place without frills. But it does have clean toilets, a dump station and even drinking water. The proximity to Dunedin is another plus point.

Permitted length of stay: max. 2 nights

Cost: free of charge

Contact:

Phone: +64 3 477 4000

Email: dcc@dcc.govt.nz

Location:

Ocean View 9035, New Zealand

45°56’15.0″S 170°21’23.5″E

https://goo.gl/maps/yEXi9SYNucjY92Z28

Katiki Beach North Reserve Rest Stop

At first, we thought this place was too close to the highway. But at the end we were glad that we spent a night here. The ground is very uneven, but the direct access to the ocean is simply fantastic.

Time seemed to stand still while we were here.  We walked down the kilometer-long beach, looked at the most diverse stones and shells, and fell asleep to the sound of the crashing waves.

Permitted length of stay: max. 3 nights

Cost: free of charge

Contact:

Phone: +64 3 433 0300

Email: service@waitaki.govt.nz

Location:

4142 Hampden-Palmerston Road, Hillgrove 9482, New Zealand

45°24’01.2″S 170°50’20.4″E

https://goo.gl/maps/pzSJRAWApjn4WKKk9

Marine Parade

This is actually a parking lot, but it is located directly at the sea, next to a surf school, with toilets and a cold outdoor shower, and just a few minutes’ drive from central Christchurch. It is too bad that you can only stay two nights, because we would have liked to spend more time at the end of our trip.

There are picnic tables, and if you arrive early, there are a few parking spots with direct ocean views.

Picnic table in New Brighton
Picnic table in New Brighton

For us this was a very pleasant stay in a nice location, because in the morning we were only two steps from a nice grassy area where we sipped our coffee and let our gaze wander out over the sea.

Permitted length of stay: max. 2 nights

Cost: free of charge

Contact: Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any contact information.

Location:

Below New Brighton

Marine Parade, Christchurch

New Brighton
New Brighton

Donegal House

The Donegal House was a huge surprise to us! When we went to Kaikoura, we couldn’t come across a single free campground at first.

Thanks to WikiCamps, we found this free campground, the only free campsite in Kaikoura. It is a few kilometers away from the sea, but we didn’t want to spend any more money on campsites. All paid campsites were just ok for us, because they were mostly too crowded, which is not our thing.

The Donegal is an Irish pub that offers unpowered sites for free, and powered sites for $29 per night. Those who spend the night free of charge can order a cool beer and/or eat something at the pub as a thank you. We did both on two different evenings. The beer tasted sooo good, especially because the weather finally warmed up. The sun was laughing and so were we!

Donegal Irish Pub
Donegal Irish Pub

The Donegal is superbly laid out. Each parking spot is divided so that no one can park too close. And, each spot even has its own water connection! And all for free!

The toilets were clean, but you need to bring your own toilet paper. Alternately you can buy a roll in the pub. The shower also costs extra.

Given that all other campsites are many times more expensive, we thought that the Donegal was a very great deal!

We liked it very much, both Kaikoura and Donegal, and we stayed here four nights.

Donegal House in Kaikoura
Donegal House in Kaikoura

Permitted length of stay: no limit known to us

Cost: free of charge

Contact:

Phone: +64 3-319 5083

Email: donegalhouse@xtra.co.nz

https://www.donegalhouse.co.nz

Location:

Schoolhouse Road, Kaikoura, New Zealand

https://maps.app.goo.gl/Go7MouviagsvXnze7

Donegal House
Donegal House

Our opinion:

For us, these were some of the best campgrounds on the South Island of New Zealand.

It was our very first time traveling in a campervan, and we had so many questions at the beginning.

Is it safe? Will we find beautiful places? Are there enough places to find drinking water on the go? And so on.

But we have to say: Freedom Camping in New Zealand is just fantastic, and New Zealand is perfectly designed for camper travel.

We had many other overnight stays, which we did not list here. Either because it was just a parking lot, or nothing special. Or other paid campgrounds that we found only good to terrible.

If you have any questions about campgrounds in New Zealand, please leave us a comment. Maybe we stayed there and can share our experiences with you!

Lake Pukaki always beautiful
The best campgrounds on the South Island of New Zealand
Lake Pukaki always beautiful
The best campgrounds on the South Island of New Zealand
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