Freedom Camping. It just sounds exciting doesn’t it? It sounds like something right out of the Lord of the Rings. Find a spot, pitch up in your campervan and enjoy a free night of accommodation under the starry night sky.

Well, there is some truth to this but there are some rules that come with it.

Freedom camping is a great way to explore our beautiful country. It is however important that you have the right type of vehicle in order to enjoy all the delights of freedom camping. The key rules around this include:

  • Must be a certified self-contained vehicle
  • Must have an on-board toilet which can be used at all times
  • Must have adequate water and waste disposal facilities

Without any of the above, your options for places to stay in New Zealand become more limited.

If you do have a certified self-contained vehicle then your options for freedom camping are pretty amazing. We have some truly beautiful spots around New Zealand where you are allowed to freedom camp and these are just waiting to be explored.

The Dos and Don’ts of freedom camping in New Zealand

New Zealand is a truly beautiful country. From the sandy beaches to the soaring mountains to the glacial lakes, there is so much to enjoy for visitors and locals alike. We do however need the help of visitors and New Zealanders to help to keep our country beautiful.

A post shared by Raïsa Mirza (@raimirza) on

Whenever you visit any of the amazing destinations around New Zealand, whether you are visiting for a day, a week a month or longer, there are a few dos and don’ts you need to be aware of. Nothing too heavy. More like social etiquette tips.

Think about freedom camping like going round to Auntie’s house for dinner. You wouldn’t leave your rubbish there or go to the toilet on her front lawn would you?

Freedom Camping – Things you should do

    • Assume nothing – if in doubt, ask a local! Most towns in New Zealand have an i-Site and the Department of Conservation (DoC) also have local offices. If you’re not sure whether you can freedom camp in a certain location, be sure to ask.
    • Be eco-wise – help keep our towns, cities, parks, beaches and native bush free from pollution and waste. Please also respect our unique flora and fauna. Be active and get involved in caring for the environment. It is everyone’s responsibility.
    • Show respect – not just for the surroundings but for other people who may be camping in the area.
    • Enjoy the surroundings – freedom camping is an adventure. When you do it right, it’s one of the most exhilarating ways to see the country. Finding remote places to camp where there might only be you and a lake, or a mountain or a beach is all part of the fun of traveling around New Zealand and it’s there to be enjoyed.
    • Be prepared – whilst freedom camping is available in a wide number of places around New Zealand, it’s not available everywhere. Do your research before you head off on your road trip and make sure you know where you can and can’t go. If you’re visiting from overseas, make sure you research the cost of things before you arrive to help you plan your trip – online shopping will help you to budget for your food costs whilst you are here. Whilst freedom camping looks like a good option, if you don’t have the right vehicle, the fines for freedom camping start at a $200 infringement and can go up as high as $10,000 for repeat offenders.

Freedom Camping – Things you shouldn’t do

      • If you’re not certified self-contained, don’t do it – with no toilet on board, this unfortunately means one thing – the bushes become the toilets and sadly a lot of this doesn’t get cleaned up. Don’t spoil our beauty spots for everyone else. If you’re not self-contained, make sure you head to a proper camp ground with toilet and shower facilities.
      • Don’t leave your rubbish – carry in, carry out. Leave no trace. Whenever you freedom camp anywhere in New Zealand, try and leave the spot where you camp in the same or better condition than when you arrive. Take all your own rubbish (and any other rubbish left on the site) and help to keep our country free from pollution and waste.
      • Don’t spoil it for everyone else – freedom camping is a privilege. Being able to travel round our amazing country at a minimum cost is something that should be respected. Sadly, like most things, it’s the relative few that spoil things for everyone else – respect the country and respect your fellow travellers and freedom camping is something to be enjoyed and treasured.

Find out more about freedom camping

Freedom camping is a big thing in New Zealand and in the main, people are doing it the right way. If you do like adventure and the thrill of finding new and cool places to pitch up for the night, then freedom camping is one of the best ways to explore New Zealand.

Freedom Camping Itinerary

If you are planning a freedom camping trip in New Zealand but you’re not sure where to go, then make sure you check out our awesome 21-day freedom camping itinerary that will take you all the way from Auckland to Queenstown via some of the best freedom camping spots in New Zealand!

There are of course lots of online resources available to help you plan your freedom camping adventure. Making sure you are up to speed with all the rules as well as understanding the signage around New Zealand is important if you want to avoid a nasty fine.

Here are some of the most useful resources for those thinking about freedom camping: