New Zealand is the perfect place to plan a camping road trip. The South Island in particular is jam-packed full of epic scenery and things to do – check out this blog post for all the best places to visit.
You can travel around New Zealand by car, camper van, bike or by tour group. Car camping and camper van style trips are particularly easy due to the many free or affordable campgrounds. The Department of Conservation (DOC) have more than 200 campgrounds around New Zealand.
I recently partnered with Kathmandu to test out some campgrounds on the South Island. Below I talk about three of my favorites, including what facilities and activities are available at each.
A Guide to Camping On New Zealand’s South Island
White Horse Hill Campground
This campground is located in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and is the perfect spot to base yourself for hiking and adventuring.
White Horse Hill is a DOC campground, costs $10 per person per night and is first come first served. The facilities include bathrooms (with flush toilets), a dump station for camper vans, unpowered campsites, tap water access and an undercover cooking shelter with sinks.
The best things about White Horse Hill are the incredible alpine views, the access to hiking trails and the quiet starry nights. The Hooker Valley Track leaves right from the campground and is an absolute must do if you are in the area. Another popular trail is the Sealy Tans Track, which also leaves right from the campground.
The only negative about this campground is the sketchy access to phone service, which could be seen as a positive for some people. I would recommend coming prepared with cash (including coins for showers), food and petrol, as Aoraki Mount Cook Village is very small and has limited services.
The town has a few restaurants/cafes, a (very expensive!) petrol pump and you can buy simple food and grocery items at the Hermitage Lodge or YHA Hostel. There aren’t any showers at the campground, though you can pay for one in the village at the Public Shelter.
I would highly recommend White Horse Hill campground because it doesn’t get much better than those mountain views! You can find more information about the campground on the DOC website.
Moke Lake Campground
If you are planning to visit bustling Queenstown but looking for a quiet area to camp, then I would suggest staying at Moke Lake.
A 20 minute drive out of Queenstown will take you into the hills and to this more secluded DOC campground. For $10 per person per night you have access to toilets, a cooking shelter, tap water access, a gorgeous lake and mountain views.
Nearly zero light pollution means epic views of stars, the milky way and even the southern lights if you’re lucky! (see the photo below)
Moke Lake is a popular spot to go fishing, boating, swimming or kayaking/canoeing. There are also numerous hikes that leave from the campground. The 2-3 hour Moke Lake Loop is an easy hike around the lake through grasslands and by the mountains.
You can also walk between Moke Lake and Lake Dispute, which takes 3-4 hours (one way) and is considered a more intermediate hike. Another option is to go on a local horse trek of the area.
You won’t be disappointed with this gem of a campground! You can find more information about the campground on the DOC website.
Boundary Creek Campground
Boundary Creek Campground is located beside State Hwy 6 at the head of Lake Wanaka. By far the best thing about this campground is the picturesque lake and mountain views. The shoreline is just a few steps from the campsites and it is the perfect spot throw down a picnic blanket and spend an afternoon relaxing.
This DOC campground costs $10 per person per night and is first come first served. The facilities include flush toilets, a cooking shelter, tap water access, unpowered campsites and it is also wheelchair accessible.
Boundary Creek is a popular spot to go fishing, boating and kayaking/canoeing. The Boundary Creek Track (12km) starts from the campground if you are looking for a more challenging hike.
The only negatives about Boundary Creek are the sand flies (especially in spring) and the lack of phone service. I would highly recommend stopping at this campground when traveling between Wanaka and Mt Aspiring National Park.