is wild camping legal in new zealand

There’s no better way to explore a country than camping your way through it. The scenery, the people and the wildlife you see along the way all add up to an unforgettable experience. What’s even better is the freedom to camp whenever and wherever you like. Welcome to wild camping.

What is wild camping?

Wild camping (also known as freedom camping) is camping anywhere that isn’t a designated camping ground or holiday park. Whether you want to stargaze or wake up to a beautiful sunrise, you are wild camping when you park on a beach or even the side of the road.

What is the wild camping law in New Zealand?

For all those wanting to live life on the edge by wild camping – good news! In New Zealand under section 10 of the Freedom Camping Act 2011 you are allowed to camp in any local authority area unless camping is restricted or prohibited in that area. This means you can wild camp on Department of Conservation (DOC) and local council land. However, the rules on wild camping alter slightly depending on the part of New Zealand that you’re in. It’s important to note that some councils won’t let you wild camp within 1km of the town or will only allow you to stay for one night. To be on the safe side when you enter a town that you want to camp in head to the Visitor Information Centre (i-SITE) and check whether they have any specific areas where you are not allowed to camp. If you are on DOC land then wild camping is allowed unless the land has special value related to flora or fauna.

What vehicle is allowed for wild camping?

You need to have the right type of vehicle to make the most of your wild camping experience. Wild camping rules apply to vehicles such as cars, vans, motor caravans, campervans, RVs, motorhomes, caravans and mobile homes. Fully self-contained vehicles are the way to go as they allow you to camp in more places. Self-contained vehicles are those which come with a toilet and washing facilities. The purpose of this is to promote protection and conservation of the surrounding environment. The self-containment vehicle also requires a Self-Containment Certification. The criteria for this is that you need to be able to live in the vehicle for three days without needing to get more water or dump waste. The vehicle must also have; a toilet, fresh water storage, waste water storage and a rubbish bin with a lid. We have a range of self-contained campervans that meet these requirements.

What are the penalties of wild camping in New Zealand?

  • $200 fine if you camp illegally. For example, this includes if you cause damage to the area you’re camping in, don’t leave an area when told to, refuse providing information to an officer, camp in a prohibited area, camp without a toilet in a self-contained vehicle area.
  • $5000 fine if you behave illegally towards an enforcement officer from the council or DOC.
  • Up to $10,000 fine if you dump waste such as the sewage on public land.
  • If you receive a fine you have 28 days to pay it. All details of how to pay the fine will be listed on your notice. If you don’t pay your fine then you can be taken to court. If the vehicle you are using is rented then the vehicle company can charge the fine to your credit card.

Where is the best place to wild camp in New Zealand?

Some hot spots to check out;

  • Kai Iwi Lakes outside of Dargaville
  • Mt Maunganui
  • Kapowairua (Spirits Bay)
  • Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Tongariro Crossing

Things to keep in mind while wild camping

We want you to have the best time while you’re in New Zealand. Remember to stay safe and be aware of your surroundings. The land that you’re on is home to many people and has a lot of historical value. Therefore, it is important to treat it with respect and care. You can do this by taking your trash with you and recycling or disposing of it in the bins around you. If you have a self-contained vehicle remember to dispose your water waste in the correct disposal facility. Before sleeping make sure your doors and windows are locked and any valuables are stored away. Most importantly, don’t camp on private land.

  • Note – if you see this sign with the red line it means overnight camping is not allowed in that area.

no overnight camping sign

Now comes the best part. It’s time for you to go wild and explore!