At first glance, the idea of freedom camping seems almost too good to be true. Turning up to a beautiful location in your campervan, staying the night and not paying a thing… there must be a catch, right? Well, sort of. There are a few things you need to know about freedom camping in New Zealand before you go parking up just anywhere and expecting not to pay for it.
Firstly, freedom camping is only allowed on public conservation land. That may sound restrictive, you'll soon find that this covers a broad swathe of New Zealand's most beautiful countryside. The only public conservation areas where freedom camping isn’t permitted at all have this helpful image:
The ban is usually to protect vulnerable native species, so please respect the no camping sign. If you want to double check which areas are prohibited for freedom campers, take a quick look at the Department of Conservation’s handy list. There’s also the matter of self-contained vehicles. Overnight freedom camping is only allowed for vehicles that have been certified as self-contained at sites that have this sign:
How do you know whether the motorhome you’re looking to hire is certified self-contained? Well, we’ve taken the guesswork out of it for you with the list below - every motorhome listed is fully certified as self-contained and can be safely and legally used for freedom camping at any site with the above sign!
Abuzzy: All vehicles
Apollo: 2 Berth Euro Tourer, 4 Berth Euro Camper, 4 Berth Euro Star, 6 Berth Euro Deluxe
Britz: All vehicles
Cheapa: All vehicles except the HiTop
Compass Campers: All vehicles
Discover NZ: All vehicles
Jucy: All vehicles except the Cabana
Lucky: 4 Berth Rover
Pacific Horizon: All vehicles
Mighty: 2 Berth Deuce, 3 Berth Jackpot, 6 Berth Big Six
StarRV: All vehicles
To be honest, you don’t even have to keep the list above in your memory. Finding out if a motorhome you’re browsing is certified self-contained is as easy checking for a green tick next to the words ‘Cert. self-contained’. If you can see that, you know it’s perfect for freedom camping!
One more note before you launch yourself into the wonderful world of freedom camping in NZ: remember to leave no trace. Whatever you bring in, take out again. This ensures that future freedom campers will be able to enjoy their experience as much as you did - be responsible with your waste and keep New Zealand beautiful.
Popular spots to start your freedom camping adventure in New Zealand include hiring a campervan from Christchurch, Auckland, Queenstown or Wellington and smaller centres like Hamilton and Picton with Motorhome Republic.