Van Rental And New Zealand Freedom Camping

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Read about 'Van Rental And New Zealand Freedom Camping' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

“Freedom Camping” is a phenomenon that has risen in popularity in New Zealand in recent years, however it has caused some debate with local residents, government authorities and tourism organisations concerned about the environmental and economic implications.


Particularly popular with backpackers and other tourists travelling on a budget, freedom camping, means camping out in your vehicle in non-designated campground locations without any on site facilities (like toilets, running water, showers and public waste disposal etc.)  Your choice of vehicle whether it be campervan, caravan or van rental, will depend on how many of you there are, what resources you have or require, legal constraints, length of stay and the level of comfort you wish to achieve.

For many, freedom camping can be an attractive option offering greater flexibility, relative affordability, and a feeling of really connecting with the true essence of New Zealand while holidaying in the country. Freedom Camping is permitted in many places throughout New Zealand; however some limitations have been introduced in recent years due to litter, human waste problems and to encourage the use of commercial campground facilities.

The increase in disrespect towards the areas available for freedom camping has forced some interest in banning freedom camping in New Zealand entirely.  It is important to remember to leave as little trace of your stay as possible and of course, be responsible and keep your trash and waste contained until you reach a suitable rubbish bin or dump station.  In order to preserve the future of freedom camping in New Zealand ensure you treat the countryside with the respect and kindness it deserves.

Where Can I Freedom Camp In New Zealand?

New Zealand has an abundance of remote, scenic spots ideally suited to freedom camping, however please be aware freedom camping is only permitted in certified self-contained vehicles, or in close proximity to public restrooms, so it is important to do some investigation prior to departure in order to obey any legal requirements and avoid fines.

In The South…

Nelson and its surrounding coastal landscapes offer many idyllic opportunities for both camping and freedom camping, some even within the city limits.  Heading south down the West Coast of the South Island you will encounter Blenheim and Kaikoura – home to delicious seafood and plenty of opportunities for marine fun.  Further along you will encounter many smaller rural townships as you head southwards to Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island. 

Over on the east coast you will find Westport, Greymouth, Hokitika and lower down the popular alpine landscapes surrounding Wanaka and Queenstown.  At the southern most tip of the south Island lies Invercargill, overnight temperatures here can become quite chilly, so plan ahead and make sure you are fully prepared.   

In The North…

The coastal nature of New Zealand’s far north makes for ideal temperatures and weather conditions for camping.  Lower down the North Island you have the picturesque Coromandel countryside, the remote areas of Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and the East cape, and the warmer, more central areas of the Bay Of Plenty.  Lower North Island areas like New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington are full of interesting activities and places to visit.

What Are DOC Campsites?

Enhancing the freedom camping experience, New Zealand is lucky to have access to simple but adequate camping facilities dotted throughout the country supplied by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.  While the facilities may not be five-star luxury, they do provide a convenient, responsible option for freedom campers to enjoy parts of the country that may not have larger commercial camping grounds.

The Department of Conservation website has information on where these areas are, and if there are any limitations, rules and/or fees associated with them.  You can also find out more about other accommodation options in New Zealand.

Can I Use My Van Rental For Freedom Camping?

If you plan on using a rental van for freedom camping in New Zealand, it is preferable to find a campsite or a place to stop that has basic facilities such as toilets and a shower, DOC campsites are the perfect option for this, otherwise you need to be in close proximity to public toilets as well as being in a permitted freedom camping area.  It also pays to check with your van hire company when booking your van rental as there may be restrictions on using rental vans for the purposes of freedom camping.

For more information on camping in New Zealand see the Tourism Industry Association’s website or contact your local iSITE information centre.  When camping in New Zealand please help to keep our rivers, lakes, bushland and public areas free of pollution and trash, be eco-wise, respect our native flora and fauna, follow the rules, and most of all – enjoy yourself!

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