When travelling around New Zealand accommodation and camp sites can be a very costly part of anyone’s trip. You’ll struggle to find anywhere cheaper than $20 per night, which quickly eats away at your budget.
Many countries have very few opportunities to park up in places aside from campsites, making spontaneity difficult and, not to mention, pricey if you end up with a fine from pitching up in undesignated areas.
Luckily, New Zealand is quite against this, and instead is well known for promoting ‘freedom camping’. Freedom camping means you can park up for free on public conservation land – staying overnight in any town library car park, as long as your transport is self-contained (has a toilet).
It’s important to remember, however, that this doesn’t mean you can park just anywhere. Some land prohibits camping due to previous problems and disturbances, or for conservation reasons, and will usually have a sign to say so. Therefore make sure you look around the area before pitching up!
There may also be other restrictions in place such as locked gates, meaning you can’t come and go as you please, and your camper must display a sticker to show that it’s self-contained.
Many of these car parks possess good facilities that are open all night – some with showers (mainly outdoors) and mostly free outdoor BBQ in parks. Naturally people must treat these areas with respect – considering other campers and keeping noise to a minimum, as well as making sure all litter is cleared up. Large fines may be incurred if you leave waste behind!
You can find more information about the freedom camping in New Zealand regulations here: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-stay/freedom-camping/
There are many awesome apps available that you can use to find out where these freedom spots are. Some cost, such as Wikicamps (success from a crowd sourced database), and others are free, such as Campermate. Campermate is a extremely user friendly app. A simple browse of the map will lead you to easy to read descriptions of the camping areas and more importantly directions! You can even leave comments and reviews of the camping area for other users to read! These apps are also useful for discovering alternative camping opportunities, including people’s land and various pit stops.
You will often find that some spots, offering free camping, will be providers of various services such as shops and fuel. Therefore they make their money in other ways which is an interesting tactic!
A spot that did just that for us is The Purangi Winery in The Coromandel Peninsula, we were camping near Hot Water Beach and found ourselves stuck for a reasonably priced camp site nearby. A quick search on led us to finding a family run winery on the road towards Cook’s Beach. The deal was to spend $40 per couple at the winery on either food (they do great pizza’s!) or alcohol and you can camp on their land for free. Granted it was just a field with a portaloo but what else do you need for one night?! Well for forty bucks we got suitably smashed on Feijoa wine and tasting all there delights which they produce at the winery plus we got to rest our heads for the night, and as a added bonus saw a shooting star! It definitely beat’s the lights out at 10.30pm rule at the family run camp site nearby that’s for sure!
It’s a clever technique, and one that appears to have worked out well for the winery especially if you if you’re interested in what they’re selling! (In this case, if you don’t drink wine then perhaps the pizza is the better deal!) To find out more about spending an perfect weekend at The Coromandel Peninsula check out our article here!
Overall by taking advantage of freedom camping and designated camping spots, you’ll save yourself buckets of money that can be put to better use on enjoying your trip! You will find AA books in all fuel stations that have discounts for activities and good routes for drivers. You’ll also find that freedom camping is far from slumming it, offering everything you could possibly need, as well as a great environment to meet other fellow travellers.
If you have any amazing freedom camping spots that you have come across on your travels how about leave us a comment below and let us in on the secret?!