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Your Guide to Freedom Camping in New Zealand

We love free stuff at JUCY. The more freebies, the more money we can spend on activities and attractions. And the ultimate road trip freebie in New Zealand is freedom camping.  

We’ve got the low-down on freedom camping, including what JUCY campervans allow you to score free NZ camping spots. 

So, what is freedom camping?

If you’re a roam-free kind of traveller, you’ll love paying $0 to stay at some of the country’s most beautiful destinations. In a world of increasing fees, Aotearoa says nope, enjoy a free snooze in our natural wonderland! 

Freedom camping means you can camp without payment on public land unless prohibited by signage or laws. Local councils and the Department of Conservation (DOC) manage these spaces.  

Freedom camping is free of charge, not free of responsibility. The rules are fair, though, and following them supports future generations of roadtrippers. 

Trading campground and holiday park fees for a few rules seems like a sweet-as deal to us. We’ve got the answers to your questions on how to camp free in New Zealand. 

Can I camp anywhere I like? 

Please don’t assume you can rock up to any field, park, or car park and freedom camp for a few nights.  

There are prohibited areas across the country, but there are also over 500 places across the North and South Islands to freedom camp. 

How can I find these magical free campsites? 

Finding freedom camping areas doesn’t take some Bilbo Baggins-style quest, thankfully. (Btw, did you know we have Lord of the Rings itineraries?). 

While there are different rules across regional councils, the following resources give you everything you need to know in one click.  

The free Campermate app is epic, and the Department of Conservation website is chockful of info. If you like feedback from traveller's, Rankers is a great resource, too, especially for solo roadtrippers. 

Can I freedom camp in any vehicle?  

The rules are clear: to camp free you must be self-sufficient. For campervans, this means you’re in a self-contained vehicle. 

You can book our popular  4-berth Condo, 3-berth Chaser or new 4-berth Cruiser. All are fully certified self-contained to meet Freedom Camping Act 2011 requirements. Read this self-contained vehicle guide for more info.  

Choosing your ride can be tricky so use our guide here to help when deciding what self-contained campervan you'd like.

Are there any other rules to follow?  

When you freedom camp, your job is to leave no trace. That means using your camper’s facilities and taking absolutely everything with you. (Psst: we even mean your poop if there’s no public toilet).  

Disposing of your waste is a serious responsibility, as it can be hazardous to the native flora and fauna. Save this comprehensive list of public dumping sites so you don’t get caught short.  

New Zealand’s Tiaki Promise asks for you to care Aotearoa as if it were your own home. Help ensure the jagged peaks, pristine waterways, and ample wildlife continue attracting intrepid travellers for centuries. 

Besides protecting the environment, you’re also expected to be courteous and stay in a freedom camping location for only a night or two, before moving on. 

Check out ourtop 10 responsible travel tips to learn more. 

What happens if I camp in a prohibited area? 

How much do you love spending your holiday savings on fines instead of things like skydiving over Wanaka or zorb in Rotorua 

Not much, huh?  

If you camp in an unauthorised area, you risk fines from $400 to $1,000! As a rule, if the sign says you can’t camp there, don’t. And if you don’t see a sign, check Campermate and the DOC website to be sure.  

Do I need to bring anything extra if I’m freedom camping?

Bring everything you need for your stay. Most freedom camping spots are in nature and away from the usual avo-on-toast cafés and restaurants. This is where your JUCY campervan kitchen comes in handy, as you have a mini fridge to store your goodies, plus excellent facilities to cook a feast (like this yummy paella). 

You’ll also find the comfy beds, camper chairs (great for stargazing), and ability to close the door on the elements a total win when freedom camping in New Zealand.  

If you’reroadtripping by car, along with a tent, bring a gas stove and groceries to be self-sufficient.  

Beyond this, pack your togs (swimwear), jandals (flip flops - for the toilet blocks), and – most importantly – enough water for your sta

Is it safe? 

New Zealand is generally safe to travel, but always trust your gut instincts. Like anywhere in the world,it’s important to be aware of your surroundings (especially in secluded areas). Text a friend your intended location and know there may not be cell reception there.  

Your other safety check? The weather! It can get a little wild in NZ, so check the forecast before you set off. Make sure you close your vehicle windows if rain is coming while you’re out exploring. 

So, what’s the catch? Is freedom camping really free 

There’s no catch. Enjoy a fee-free sleep in designated freedom camping zones as long as you meet the criteriawe’ve explained here. 

We recommend you contribute in other ways, though. If you’re near a town or village, choose to shop local for petrol, groceries, or food. You can buy some of the best Kiwi snacks and mealson road trip routes.  

No spare cash? No problem!It’s zero cost to share your road trip experiences on social media. Use the relevant hashtags so the community you’re staying near feels the love. Tag us @jucyworld, too; we love to share and support along with you (plus you could even win the cost of your hire back).  

And now you have all the deets on why New Zealand Is one of the world’s best places to camp for free! 

Ready to reap the rewards of New Zealand’s gift of freedom camping? Call 1800 150 850 to book your JUCY wheels or BOOK NOW.

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