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Camping in NZ – What You Should Know

by Estelle Verani | Jul 25, 2016

There’s a lot of talk about how brilliant, beautiful and fun travelling in New Zealand can be, but what about the potential downsides?

Everywhere must have rules and regulations, and specific things to take into consideration before planning a trip, and New Zealand is no different. What are the things to know before travelling in a motorhome in New Zealand?

1. Winter is winter – it can be cold


It sounds obvious but worthy of full consideration. A trip around New Zealand during winter can be an incredible experience, especially if you’re well prepared. However, if not, you could be in for a shock. While we don’t experience extreme drops in temperature, you will need to choose the right camper rental for the season you’re going to experience.

Hooker Lake and Mount Cook

Tip: Make sure the motorhome rental you choose for winter touring is insulated as well as a diesel or gas heater that you can operate when you’re not hooked up to mains power.

2. New Zealand’s natural beauty can be remote, and seemingly inaccessible at times

However, on the flip side, this is also one of New Zealand’s best attributes. While on the road, you will stumble across an array of hidden gems and secret coves that will propel you into the New Zealand from years past. Much of the country is untouched, and considering there are under 4.5 million people that reside here, it’s not a surprise. You can take in majestic waterfalls and freshwater streams, or admire the view from afar. You don’t need to touch it to appreciate it. As always, we encourage you to be a responsible tourist and take care to leave no sign of your visit. 


3. There are strict driving rules you need to follow – you cannot pull over just anywhere

New Zealand has a very strict system when it comes to road rules, which should be followed by locals and visitors alike. This means: no pulling over to take a photo, unless it’s a rest stop! 

You cannot camp wherever you please, no matter what the name ‘freedom camping’ suggests. There are definitely places where you can be more relaxed, just make sure to do your research.

Look out for signs that suggest you can / cannot camp in the area you’re in. Make sure you comply as these rules are put in place for your safety and the conservation of New Zealand’s precious nature, which we hope to be enjoyed for many generations to come.

No camping sign

Some local authorities require the purchase of a wild camping permit for a small fee (under $6 per night). 

Also remember you can stay at campgrounds and holiday parks and use their amenities for a small fee. New Zealand is populated with sites that have your ideal travel experience in mind. Make use of the communal kitchen, charge up your battery and make a few friends along the way.

Tip: Download our free WildernessNZ app on your mobile device to help easily locate wild campsites and holiday parks, along with dump stations, public toilets, gas stations, supermarkets and more. You can find it on the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

4. New Zealand’s roads are not forgiving

Windy New Zealand road

They are windy, can be steep, and are definitely not to be taken lightly. 
Exercise caution when driving along New Zealand roads as they can be exposed to the elements, slippery and incalculable. Stay within the speed limit for your vehicle, let those going faster than you overtake you (where it’s safe, pullover to the side) and be wary of sharp turns, especially though steep gorges and on icy roads.

5. The weather can be unpredictable

New Zealand weather is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. But think about it this way – each day is a new and exciting surprise. Because we’re a small landmass, our weather can change very rapidly. The best way to plan your trip is to keep an eye on the weather forecasts, particularly the rain radar, and pack clothing for all eventualities.

Here are a few things to remember about the weather in New Zealand:

  • It may not be scorching hot, but the sun in NZ summer is very strong and should not be ignored. Loose, light clothing, SPF 30+, sunglasses, and a hat are vital for a sunburn-free summer.
  • Although it may only be 10°C in winter, a southerly wind can make a huge difference to how you feel. Remember to take a wooly jersey or a windproof jacket on all your outings so you’re not caught out by a sudden change in conditions.
  • There are very few things to be afraid of in NZ, so bare feet are widely accepted, if not, flip flops or ‘jandals’ are the norm.

For every pitfall to camping in New Zealand, there are many more benefits – that’s to say, there’s no reason not to visit this awe-inspiring country and enjoy every minute!

Get in touch with one of our incredibly helpful team. They’re campervan enthusiasts and travellers too, and will be brimming with personal insights to help shape your dream motorhome holiday.

  • Travelling in New Zealand
  • NZ Travel Tips
  • NZ in Winter
  • Driving in New Zealand
  • Camping in New Zealand

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