Where to Camp in New Zealand

Staying at New Zealand Department of Conservation Campsites

Staying at New Zealand Department of Conservation Campsites

What’s Up, DOC?

new-zealand-309892_640Approximately one third of the entire land area of New Zealand is managed by DOC – that’s the Department of Conservation – and much of that area is dedicated to human recreation. The Department of Conservation is a government organisation responsible for protecting New Zealand’s unique heritage, which includes its diverse and breathtaking terrain, its native forests and endangered animal species, and its sites of historical significance. DOC creates and maintains hundreds of walking tracks, observation platforms, wilderness huts, family picnicking spots, and many other outdoor recreation facilities, including campsites.

Why DOC Campsites are Great for Motorhomes

DOC maintains a variety of campsites, which are enjoyed year after year by New Zealanders and tourists alike. DOC campsites are a fantastic option for anyone on a New Zealand motorhome holiday, as they are more peaceful by far than your average holiday park. You’re in nature’s midst, right on the doorstep of beautiful scenery, bush walks and beaches, and they’re cheaper to stay at than your average holiday park too – quite a number of them are in fact free.

Different Grades of DOC Campsite

There are four different grades of DOC campsite that are suitable for motorhomes, ranging from top-notch campsites with all the facilities you could need, to campsites that are little more than a place to park your motorhome within dashing distance of a long drop toilet.

The Serviced Campsite

The highest grade of DOC campsite is the Serviced campsite. It costs $15 per adult and $7.50 per child per night, and bookings are required. You can make bookings on the DOC website and at DOC visitor centres.

KoruThe Serviced sites offer not only flush toilets, rubbish collection, picnic tables and cooking areas, but also hot showers and laundry facilities – you’ll need coins to operate the latter. In addition, some sites may provide powered sites for an extra $2 per person per night, from which you can recharge your motorhome’s battery and use electronic devices without worry, and dump stations, at which you can discharge your motorhome’s wastewater.

(The prudent campervanner takes advantage of any dump stations provided, as the improper discharge of a motorhome’s wastewater can damage the environment and human health, and result in a hefty fine in accordance with the Freedom Camping Act.)

The Scenic Campsite

The second-highest grade of DOC campsite is the Scenic campsite. It costs $10 per adult and $5 per child per night, and bookings may be required depending upon the site and season. While Scenic campsites do not have hot showers, they do have flush toilets and, in some places, cold showers, along with barbecue areas and rubbish bins. Scenic sites are situated in coastal locations.

The Standard Campsite

Lake Moke New Zealand
Moke Lake

The middle grade of DOC campsite is the Standard campsite. It costs $6 per adult and $3 per child per night, and bookings may be required depending upon the site and season. Standard campsites have basic toilet facilities and a water supply that, if not from a tap, will come from a stream or lake. Either way, it would be wise to boil any collected water before drinking it. A Standard site may also have one, some, or all of the following: cold showers, fireplaces, cooking shelters, barbecues, picnic tables and rubbish bins.

The Basic Campsite

The lowest grade of DOC campsite is the Basic campsite. It is free to stay at, as it has only toilets and water from a tank, stream or lake, which you would definitely have to boil before drinking.

Things to Remember when Staying at DOC Campsites

  • Never go to the toilet in the bush. Use the facilities provided or, if you have a certified self-contained campervan, the toilet in that.
  • Never leave any rubbish behind unless there are proper bins at the campsite.
  • Never use cleaning agents such as toothpaste and soap in or near to a natural water source – they are harmful to aquatic life.
  • Never light a fire unless you are sure you are allowed, and only use dead wood.
  • Respect the wildlife.

Useful Links

Find a DOC Campsite

Cheap New Zealand Motorhome Hire

Map of All Campsites in New Zealand

Campervan Silhouette

Abigail Simpson Writer Profile PicArticle by Abigail Simpson, author of Poms Away: A British Immigrant’s View of New Zealand

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