A Guide to Camping On New Zealand’s South Island

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

A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - WHITE HORSE HILL CAMPGROUND

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.

A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - WHITE HORSE HILL 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.


A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - MOKE LAKE CAMPGROUNDMoke 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)

A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - MOKE LAKE CAMPGROUND

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.


A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - BOUNDARY CREEK CAMPGROUND

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.

A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - BOUNDARY CREEK CAMPGROUND

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.

Read here about more things to do in the area. You can find more information about the campground on the DOC website.

 

READ MY SOUTH ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE!12 MUST SEE PLACES ON THE SOUTH ISLAND OF NEW ZEALAND

Disclaimer – This post was sponsored by Kathmandu, though as always, my opinions in this blog post are honest and unbiased. All photos were taken by myself or my husband Matthew Hahnel.

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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

A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - WHITE HORSE HILL CAMPGROUND

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.

A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - WHITE HORSE HILL 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.


A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - MOKE LAKE CAMPGROUNDMoke 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)

A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - MOKE LAKE CAMPGROUND

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.


A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - BOUNDARY CREEK CAMPGROUND

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.

A GUIDE TO CAMPING ON NEW ZEALAND’S SOUTH ISLAND - BOUNDARY CREEK CAMPGROUND

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.

Read here about more things to do in the area. You can find more information about the campground on the DOC website.

 

READ MY SOUTH ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE!12 MUST SEE PLACES ON THE SOUTH ISLAND OF NEW ZEALAND

Disclaimer – This post was sponsored by Kathmandu, though as always, my opinions in this blog post are honest and unbiased. All photos were taken by myself or my husband Matthew Hahnel.

Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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17 Comments

  1. Jackie on October 17, 2016 at 3:24 am

    Great information Renee. Thanks for the camping tips.

  2. David on October 17, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Fantastic information Renee, thks for sharing and wonderful photos too !!

  3. Sam on October 17, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Love it Renee! Can’t wait to get back there and try out some of these spots.

  4. The Common Wanderer on October 18, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    New Zealand is outdoors utopia – your photos are incredible and these suggestions are perfect!

    • Renee Hahnel on October 21, 2016 at 7:41 am

      I totally agree – and thank you!

  5. Mary Jane on February 2, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    New Zealand’s South Island is always a good campsite for any backpacker who loves nature and wants to be a part of it. It is also famous for boating and fishing that you also mentioned. Great, informative article. Thank you for sharing and please keep it up.

    • Renee Hahnel on February 4, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Thanks Mary Jane. The South Island is so special – I can’t wait to visit again!

  6. Oliver on June 28, 2017 at 4:30 am

    Thanks !!!
    Next february for my wife and me !!

  7. The Camping Guy on July 13, 2017 at 8:42 am

    I always love camping around water like lakes and creeks, but the sand flies at Boundary Creek would drive me nuts. Camping by the lake with some good fishing sounds like it would be a lot of fun though.

  8. Gioko Pat on October 4, 2017 at 11:55 pm

    Great information there Renee. Thanks for sharing the natural gem that is New Zealand with us. For many, blogs are the only way we get to travel. Nice pictures too.

  9. Megan on January 21, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Hi Renee,

    Thank you so much for the information in this post! It seems that most of the photograph links are broken, though. Would you be able to fix them so that page visitors could see the images?

  10. Michael on February 21, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    This really confirms (again) that NZ is definitely worth a trip. Added to my wish list. 😉 Until then, will continue to camp here in the good old USA. Btw, I didn’t know NZ had 200 campgrounds. Wow. One day….

  11. John Henry on September 26, 2018 at 8:35 am

    This is the really helpful tip. Your post is very helpful. I like your guide. It’s a very informative post. Thank you for share such a great tip.

  12. Hazel on June 14, 2019 at 4:11 am

    Hi! Thanks for the information! It’s really good. I am a noob in camping as well as campervan trip. This is my first time! May I ask you a few more questions regarding the camping at these places.

    1) can a 2wd go to these campsites you mentioned.
    2) my hire is a 6-seater converted campervan, I saw you are able to have a full patch of grass area to yourself. Is it allocated area? Or anyone could come and share the same space you have paid for? I saw some campsites, campervan are Park right next to each other. We will not be tenting but sleeping in campervan itself. Like to know how does it really work? I’m going in Dec, do I need to book campsite in advance? How advance should I book? Like the white horse is first come first serve basis.

    Will be great if you could advise. Thank you!

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Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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I recently spent some time exploring the Italian Dolomites and now I am convinced that it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth! I’ve lived in mountainous places such as Colorado and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, and traveled to destinations like Peru, Alaska, Switzerland, and New Zealand… and nothing quite prepared me for the…

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