Camping on the Coromandel Peninsula. © Andy Belcher

Camping country

View the map


In a country where we all live so close to nature, it’s little wonder we harbour a national passion for getting back to it.

Whether you do it in comparative style – as a glamper or in a motorhome or caravan with all mod-cons – or whether you do it with a bivvy or tent, groundsheet and sleeping bags, camping is one of the best ways there is to see the out-of-the-way bits of our country.

Most holiday destinations have a campground or motor camp to cater to campers. You’ll generally find a spot where, for a few bucks, you can pitch a tent and use the communal facilities for cooking and ablutions. Most motor camps have cabin-style accommodation or on-site caravans for hire for those who wish to rough it after a slightly more refined fashion.

The Department of Conservation administers a network of well over 200 campsites, all strategically located to place you within easy reach or eyeshot of the splendours of our national parks and recreation reserves. The facilities at these range from the basic – the cold-water camps at some of our prettiest beaches, for example, where the showers are (as the name suggests) cold and the toilets are of the composting or long-drop type – to the comparatively luxurious, where there are flushing toilets, barbecue facilities and a friendly ranger to keep order.

Whole generations of New Zealanders go misty-eyed when the lid is removed from a bottle of insect repellent, remembering camping holidays from days gone by and roadies yet to be.

The scent of crushed Kikuyu grass sparks instant nostalgia for all those mornings you woke at sunrise, as the sun’s first rays set the interior temperature of your tent soaring. And if you somehow reproduce the rattle of rain on canvas, you evoke powerful memories of bygone summers. For although it’s a fact that the mass pitching of tents is one of the more effective rain-making rituals known to humanity, it’s also true that a dash of adversity makes the camping experience more memorable.

Wairarapa New Zealand Transtition

The stars seen through eyes smarting from woodsmoke is the preferred Kiwi view of the night sky. © New Zealand Transition

You know you’re a Kiwi when you’ve been inducted into the brotherhood or sisterhood of those who know how to spark up a primus or a gas stove and have learned the futility of trying to dodge the plume of smoke from a campfire. For while fires are no longer allowed at formal campsites in most of the North Island, you can still have a decent blaze in campgrounds around the South Island.

After all, the stars seen through eyes smarting from woodsmoke is the preferred Kiwi view of the night sky.

Explore more...

More stories like this

Find out more

Get outdoors

Get outdoors: five cute campgrounds on the Kaipara

With 800 kilometres of convoluted coastline, the Kaipara Harbour is the largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere, which means there are plenty of places to stay along its shores. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Get outdoors

Camping in Golden Bay: a pristine paradise

Base yourself under canvas in a pristine paradise of golden beaches, alpine valleys, tranquil rivers and ocean as far as the eye can see.  Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Road trips

Campervanning: the spontaneous way to travel

If the idea of a guided tour brings you out in spots, you’ll be wanting to bring yourself to the spots you most want to see. Read the story . . . 

AA Members save on selected accommodation with
AA Traveller

AA Members
Book now
Non Members
Book now