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New Zealand Travel Tips & Questions

Can I sleep anywhere in my car/campervan?

Once-upon-a-time the answer to this question would have been 'pretty much' but over the last decade or so things have really changed, mostly due to disrespectful campers and the disastrously negative impact they have had on this wonderful natural playground. Wild camping or freedom camping – which basically means camping anywhere outside of a designated camp-ground – is still legal overall in New Zealand. However, there are some areas of the country now which have by-laws in place which make wild camping there illegal such as the Coromandel and the Mahia Peninsula.

There are also several areas where freedom camping is severely restricted such as in the South Island's Clutha District, Ashburton District and Westland area. Generally speaking town centres are always no-go camping areas. Some camper-vanners or car campers still flout these ever-tightening laws but if you do get caught – and many do – you could face some crippling fines.

Where restrictions (other than a blanket no wild camping) apply they are typically along the lines of only self-contained vehicles can wild camp which means cars are definitely out. In other cases local councils, in an effort to continue to welcome travellers in while at the same time ensuring random camping without thought is controlled, have set aside designated areas. Some of these are unbelievable gems – all for free - such as the gorgeous riverside Reid's Farm in Taupo.

The bottom line is if you want to wild camp and do so responsibly and legally do some homework. A great place to start is the Department of Conservation's which has guidance in the freedom camping section.

Additionally, whenever you hit an area you are considering wild camping in first pop into a local i-SITE for the low down on any laws, restrictions or designated free areas.