Photo by Christopher Jolly

Photo by Christopher Jolly

Our Top 10 Free & Cheap Campsites in New Zealand

We traveled New Zealand by buying a campervan and traveling both the North and South Islands for five months.

These are our top 10 favorite campsites in New Zealand and they're all on the South Island. 

Make sure you download the app CamperMate. You can find each of these campsites on the app along with more information, pictures, and comments from other travelers. The app is also a huge help in finding public toilets, showers, wifi, places to do laundry, fun things to do, markets, and heaps more! The app will be your best bud while you're in NZ:)

We hope you experience these awesome campsites and others like them on your own road trip!

1. OTTO/MACDONALDS CAMPSITE

Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location: South Island | West Coast Region | North of Franz Josef Glacier | Off of SH6

GPS: -43.29865, 170.22528

Cost: NZ$6 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite sits on Lake Mapourika with the mountains in the background. The bathroom and dish washing area was pretty nice.

Why it’s a favorite: Most of the campers went out in the morning to the lake and went swimming. There was a misty fog hanging over the lake, so it was always a surprise to see the mountains peeking through the fog every little while.  It was a beautiful spot.

2. PURAKAUNUI BAY CAMPSITE

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 17.05.07.png

Location:  South Island | Otago Region | Catlins | Off of Purakaunui Bay Rd

GPS: -46.54605, 169.61319

Cost: NZ$6 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non-self contained vehicles

Description: The grassy campsite is right off the beach with views of the deep blue water and huge cliffs to the left.

Why it’s a favorite: The view from this campsite is incredible and a top favorite! The cliffs look like a castle. In the morning the sand and water reflected the cliffs from below.  There were huge sea lions chilling on the beach, too. It was a really cool place, a great surf spot, and we didn’t want to leave! It was also close to two of our favorite spots in New Zealand: Nugget Point and Purakaunui Falls.

3. PAYNE FORD’S HANGDOG CAMP

Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Tasman Region | Golden Bay | Off of Takaka Valley Hwy

GPS: -40.88228, 172.81351

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type: Private campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is next to Payne Fords Park with a lot of rock climbing. The campsite is like a parking lot, but the hang out areas and bathrooms are really eclectic. Plus, it had a great shower!

Why it’s a favorite: We enjoy rock climbing, so we got to try new routes in the park. We didn’t have any climbing gear, so we rented from the campsite. The community at the campsite was really great!

4. KLONDYKE CORNER CAMPSITE

Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Arthurs Pass | On SH 73

GPS: -43.00205, 171.58941

Cost: Free

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is on a grassy area surrounded by great views of the mountains! The train goes through this area, too.

Why it’s a favorite: One night it snowed on us. The next morning we woke up to a 360˚ view of sparkling white mountains all around. The view was stunning! Then, we hiked the Bealey Spur Track to the top of the mountain.  The view from the top was even better!

Another night, we had a rowdy group of kea (mountain parrots known to be very cheeky) kicking us out of our campsite. They huddled under our camper squawking. We could also hear them biting on the metal parts underneath. It was pretty funny, but keas have been known to cause damage to cars, so we drove across the campsite to another area and they all followed us! The night was a memorable one.

5. WHITE HORSE HILL CAMPGROUND

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park

GPS: -43.71855, 170.09319

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a big grassy area having you sleep at the base of the mountains and glaciers. The bathrooms and sinks for washing dishes were also clean and great!

Why it’s a favorite: The view of the mountains and the glaciers from the campsite were stunning! We could actually hear the glaciers cracking throughout the evening. We loved this site because we were so close to some of our favorite spots in the country: Tasman Lake, Mueller Hut Hike, Hooker Valley Hike, and Lake Pukaki.

6. FRENCH PASS CAMPSITE

Best Campsites and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Marlborough Region | End of Croisilles-French Pass Rd

GPS: -41.03219, 173.77061

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The camp spots are right on the beach overlooking the water. There’s a dock for fishing and boating nearby.

Why it’s a favorite: The drive out on the windy road was incredible and well worth the mileage! The views of super green paddocks, the deep blue water, and bright blue sky were stunning! The campsite felt like our own and we had an incredible sunset. Huge stingrays were fishing right up on the beach and we went fishing ourselves off the dock with new friends, too!

7. MOKE LAKE CAMPSITE

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Queenstown area | Off of Glenorchy Rd west of Queenstown

GPS: -44.99864, 168.57386

Cost: NZ$10 per person per night

Type:  DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a grassy area next to the small lake and surrounded by mountains.

Why it’s a favorite: This was a cool little nook in the world surrounded by mountains on the way to Glenorchy. The road to Glenorchy is a dream and we would’ve loved to stay longer!

8. SYLVAN CAMPSITE

Best Campsites Campervanning New Zealand and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You Campervan New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Near Glenorchy | Off of Kinloch- Routeburn Rd

Cost: NZ$6 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is in a grassy area surrounded by mountains. It’s a great spot to stay before and after hiking the Routeburn Great Walk.

Why it’s a favorite: We stayed here a few nights and did the Routeburn Track and Conical Hill twice just to see the view from Harris Saddle. Harris Saddle is one of our favorite spots in NZ! The second night when we got back from the hike, we saw the southern lights at the campsite! An unforgettable experience!

9. ROUND BUSH RESERVE LAKE OHAU

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Lake Ohau | Off of Lake Ohau Rd

Cost: NZ$8 per person per night

Type: DOC campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is right on the beach of Lake Ohau with the mountains as the background.

Why it’s a favorite: This area felt like our own and was a lot less traveled. The lake is a stunning turquoise with the mountains as the backdrop.  We met some great folks here who transformed our lives. They invited us into their RV’s to hang out and we were sold. It was at this very campsite where we decided to change our lifestyle. We decided to live in a RV long-term in the USA and continue traveling.   

10. ALBERT TOWN CAMPGROUND

Best Campsites Campervanning New Zealand and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location:  South Island | Canterbury Region | Wanaka Area | Albert Town | Off of SH6

GPS: 44° 40' 45.5484" S 169° 11' 22.9596" E

Cost: NZ$7 per person per night

Type: Private campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a big grassy area outside of Wanaka next to a river.

Why it’s a favorite: The site is only a short drive from Wanaka and from one of our all-time-favorite hikes: Roy’s Peak. We made great friends here at the site and even saw an eclipse through our moon roof in Bernie!

11. GENTLE ANNIE SEASIDE CAMPING GROUND

Best Campsites Campervanning New Zealand and Top 10 Free and Cheap Campsites in New Zealand When You're Campervanning New Zealand

Location: South Island | West Coast Region | North of West Port | Off of De Malmanche Rd

GPS: -41.52139, 171.94019

Cost: NZ$12 per person per night

Type: Private campsite for both self + non self-contained vehicles

Description: The campsite is a big grassy area on the beach with a cool coffee shop on the property. The pizza is highly recommended.

Why it’s a favorite: We watched the sunset from the campsite’s beach and it was incredible! After the sunset, we met other travelers hanging out around the fire pit next to the coffee shop. The next morning, everyone met again for breakfast in the coffee shop. The awesome location, vibe, and great company made it one of our favorite campsites!


Ready to Campervan New Zealand?

Campervanning is the best way to travel NZ! Buying one is the best way to keep your costs low.

Don't know how to do it? We've got you covered!

Get our step-by-step guide showing you how to buy a campervan to save you money, time, and stress figuring it out yourself.

We guide on where to buy, how to get one on a budget, what to look for when test driving, tips to negotiate the price down, what government forms to complete, how to find free and cheap campsites, and heaps more. 

Your book was soooo stinkin helpful!
— Brooke M.

Comment