A convenient and often more quiet alternative to a lot of accommodations available throughout New Zealand is DOC camping. If you don’t want to share a room with others and would rather be more flexible when traveling camping will be the best solution for you.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) offers more than 200 campsites throughout New Zealand, mostly located in idyllic settings surrounded by nature or even in the heart of national parks and therefore not always easily accessible. Please be aware, though, that there are special rules and regulations for camping in nature reserves.
Some campgrounds will be rather remote while others can be large and popular housing more than 800 sites. For these it pays to book in advance as even locals love their camping. You will find it easier, however, to find a spot with a tent rather than a huge campervan.
To ensure you have a place to sleep at night you can make an inquiry at one of the DOC information centres or browse and book online on the DOC Website.
How much does it cost to stay at a campground?
There are several categories of campgrounds – some being really cheap, others rather comfortable. Basic is the least expensive choice. Being only equipped with the most essential (simple toilet and water supply) you normally don’t have to pay anything – but need to be self-sufficient.
Backcountry campsites have toilets and a water supply, mostly from clean lakes or streams They quite often also offer picnic tables, a fire place and cooking shelters. Prices vary, but since these sites can’t be booked in advance it pays to check out the individual websites.
Standard campsites are a bit more advanced with a limited range of facilities and services. For $6 per night you get basic toilets, water supply and vehicle or boat access. There may also be barbeques or fireplaces, cold showers, picnic tables, a cooking shelter or rubbish bins.
Similar, but with a bigger range of facilities and services are scenic campsites. They are mostly found along the coast and are very popular. Staying overnight is $10 for adults. Children pay half price.
The most comfortable category are serviced campsites where you will find a wide range of facilities: flush toilets, tap water, kitchen/cooking bench, hot showers, rubbish collection and road access for all types of vehicles. For $15 you may also find laundry facilities, barbecues, fireplaces, cookers and picnic tables.
Where/how do I pay?
You will barely ever find campground staff welcoming you – let alone walking around to collect their fees. Instead each campsite will have a waterproof “honesty box” with envelopes. You put the required cash into the envelope and leave it in the box. If you don’t pay or if there are any issues you will need to see the ranger looking after the campground. They will seek you out for any outstanding fees or will help you out e.g. if your change is missing.