Below is a list of tried and tested campsites and hostels for those looking to travel New Zealand by camper-van. These have all been trialled by budget backpackers who travelled NZ in a self-contained Jucy camper-van from Auckland to Wellington in the North Island and from Nelson to Queenstown via the West Coast in the South Island. These travellers had no intentions of finding luxury accommodation. Prices stated are based on one night either per person or per vehicle. Prices reflect the time of research in April 2012. The current exchange rate was 1.92NZD- 1GBP.
For Further information on campsites under the Department of Conservation visit http://www.doc.govt.nz.
Price: From $20 pppn for an 8 bed mixed dorm.
Facilities: Linen; Hot Showers; Kitchen; TV Lounge; huge common area; Pre-pay Wi-Fi; Rooftop Bar and basement bar.
The Good: Smack bang in the heart of Auckland City, fall out of bed and you’re on Queen Street. Extremely comfy bunks. Often offer ‘book 3 nights get 4th free’ or book on Hostel World for a free breakfast of copious Weetabix and toast. The Basement bar probably sells the cheapest drinks in town.
The Bad: The showers independently run for about 20 seconds. You will need to learn how to Simultaneously push against button whilst scrubbing body. The Kitchen hobs are another challenge to ones patience- first of all you need to light the gas with a match, most of the time there aren’t any so lighting a rolled up piece of kitchen roll must suffice. Once risking setting your hands on fire you will then need to attempt boiling your pasta in a pan with no handles. Most evenings result in poorly cooked meals whilst nursing hand burns. The Basement bar is a sticky dive where backpackers strip naked in the hope of winning prizes.
Price: $10 pppn
Facilities: Hot Showers; Swimming Pool; TV and Games Room and Power Supply.
The Good: Ran by a friendly family. Reasonably priced for a non-DOC campsite. The best price you will find on the Coramandal especially as Freedom Camping is not prohibited anywhere on the peninsula. Beautiful secluded surroundings that look out onto the Hauraki Gulf.
The Bad: Quite a drive from anywhere on the coromandal such as the Hot Water Beach, but good if en route.
Price: $8 pppn (donated into ‘honesty box’)
Facilities: A parking spot, basic toilets.
The Good: Cheap and simple. Lovely lake to wake up next to. Stays open late, so you won’t need to worry about rushing back after a night out. The DOC site across the lake shuts a lot earlier!
Price: $8 pppn
Facilities: A portaloo
The Good: A 30 second walk away from a gushing waterfall. Great ‘Off the beaten track’ location.
The Bad: It’s a slightly spooky place in the night. An isolated spot which doesn’t attract many travellers. The Portaloo is filthy, Rotorua Council really should be using everyone’s $8 to keep this in a better state.
Price: $19 pppn.
Facilities: Flash BBQ; Kitchen (must use own crockery and utensils) communal area with Sky TV; clean bathrooms with hot showers and power supply.
The Good: As this is a holiday park for families everything is in mint condition, especially the showers, which even have hairdryers! Some Kiwi families were on fishing holidays here, strike up a conversation with one and you might get some free BBQd trout.
The Bad: Family orientated, don’t expect to meet many fellow backpackers. Expensive for budget backpackers, but worth every penny for a night of extra comfort.
Facilities: A parking spot only.
The Good: Here you are able to perch your camper right up against Lake Taupo. Get a takeaway, fling out the plastic table and dine over a lake the size of Singapore
Facilities: On site restaurant; pool; hot showers; power supply; communal areas; etc.…
The Good: Enough facilities to shake a stick at. They will even deliver their restaurant food to your side door.
The Bad: Expensive for campsites. All the TOP 10 parks are around this price.
Price: $26pppn for 8 mixed 12 person. $28pppn for girls dorm 6 person.
Facilities: Large Kitchen and communal area, 2 free to use computers, free WIFI, linen and hot showers.
The Good: A funky zebra printed building. The paraphernalia indoors pays homage to Welly’s artsy film scene. Very helpful staff with tips on places to park camper overnight. Staying here for a good night out is perfect as it’s adjacent to party central Courtney Place.
The Bad: Worn out communal areas with ripped sofas.
Facilities: Hot showers, decent toilets.
The Good: Good value for money. Overlooks Wellington’s waterfront.
The Bad: A ten-minute drive from ferry terminal and Wellington Centre. However, we found you needed to drive a bit out of the center in order to find a decent campsite in Wellington.
Price: $6 pppn
Facilities: $2 for an 8-minute hot shower (shoots to cold afterwards-beware!) kitchen and crockery.
The Good: Surrounded by dense woods. Good for star viewing.
The Bad: Gets extremely dark. Good luck finding the toilets without a torch.
Facilities: Power supply, $1 for 6-minute shower, Kitchen (no crockery or utensils) convenience shop, center providing info on Abel Tas National Park Kayaking and Treks.
The Good: Peaceful surroundings of still waters of the Abel Tas coast and crystal clear skies. Grab a bottle of NZ wine from the store, sit with your pals on the beach and watch darkness descend. This is really the only place to stay if embarking on a National Park trek the next day.
The Bad: If you don’t want peacefulness or you’re not planning on a trek, don’t come here.
Facilities: Power Supply; TV Room; Kitchen with crockery and utensils.
The Good: Great go-between location for both hippy town Takaka and Wharariki Beach/Farewell Spit. Camper van literally parks up against Abel Tas Sea and is steps away from a deserted beach best for clambering upon its monstrous sized driftwood.
The Bad: Collingwood only boasts one shop and one restaurant. One night is enough.
Facilities: Toilets only
The Good: Travelling from Golden Bay towards Westport is an extremely long drive and this is a very handy stop off to break up the journey.
The Bad: Keep your eyes peeled trying to find this place. DOC website states it’s in ‘Lyell Township’ this place is far from a Township, in fact, it’s just a large grassy parking spot in the middle of the foggy mountains.
Price: $20 for vehicle.
Facilities: $4 for an 8-minute shower and Laundry facilities.
The Good: Cheap and cheerful. There were 3 of us so we only spent around $7 each. Ran by a friendly man keen to deliver advice on the West Coast.
The Bad: At first sight, you won’t think this is a campsite. If you drive behind Challenge Petrol Station on Tanui St and find something resembling a concrete parking lot with no signage, this is it. Don’t turn back like we did, you’ll only end up returning scratching your head.
Price: $6 pppn
Facilities: Toilets only.
The Good: Cheap. Chance to see one of the many vast lakes formed by Fox Glacier’s melting ice.
The Bad: Toilets have no running water.
Facilities: Free WIFI; Sauna; Spa; lovely hot showers; selection of DVDs; large communal area with plasma Sky TV and bike hire.
The Good: Voted best campsite in NZ and there’s every reason why it should be! Helpful staff; great for a pamper; clean; relaxing and a great location. Their bike hires are $15 for 5 hours and is a perfect way to soak up Lake Wanaka. In the evenings hit the spa or for a small deposit rent one of their Kiwi cult classics, such as Whale Rider, snuggle up in the communal area or if you’re lucky enough (like we were) use the TV in your camper.
The Bad: I’ve got nothing!
Wanaka– LAKE OUTLET HOLIDAY PARK
Facilities: $2 for 5-minute shower.
The Good: A cheaper option for a night at Lake Wanaka. Site perches on Mount aspiring and is set on the edge of Lake Wanaka and Clutha River. Opt for the scenic parking spot, park backwards, lift bonnet in the morning and enjoy a room with a view overlooking the third largest lake in NZ.
The Bad: On a bit of a drop, be careful where you step in the darkness.
Price: From $20pppn (8 bed mixed). Also Look out for 3 nights for 2 offers or book through Hostel World for free breakfast. Same as Auckland Base.
Facilities: Ensuite bathroom to every dorm; linen; kitted out kitchen; dining area; TV room; Laundry Room; Pre-pay Wi-Fi; Computer Area; Travel Desk and adjoining bar/club ‘Altitude’.
The Good: Altitude Bar sells a dirt-cheap Pizza and beer combo and equally knock-off priced drinks. Comfy beds each with its own reading light. If staying for 4 nights and getting the last free, this hostel is the cheapest in town.
The Bad: Ensuites are the size of a shoebox, a slightly unreasonable size for 8 people. The same problem with the hobs here too, clearly a running error throughout Base hostels. Those working at the hostel for free board live in some of the dorms. We slightly felt as though we were ‘gatecrashing’ a group’s bedroom, having formed their own clique, they were not quite up for socializing. Obviously, this is circumstantial though.