There are so many camping sites in New Zealand. Some of them are state-owned, others are private. The price of each of them is different depending on the owner, the location and the facilities.
These sites are directly managed by the DOC (Department of Environmental Protection), which offers camps divided into several basic groups.
These campsites provide minimal facilities, mostly just a toilet sometimes without a water source too. This category includes free camps, which are usually free or for a voluntary contribution. They are certainly the most exciting category for low-cost travelers, as there is a possibility to stay overnight legally and free of charge. If you have a certified self-contained vehicle (vehicle with a bin, toilet and running water inside - for more information read the Self-contained article), then you are allowed to camp anywhere in a country where it is not specifically prohibited. You can also stay in place especially reserved for this type of vehicles. You will usually not be alone there. It is quite hard to find a private place during the high summer season in these camps, but you still have more freedom to travel than with an NSC (non-self contained) vehicle. Even for those, there are freedom camps that they can use. However, you often have to travel long distances or get off the planned route and drive unnecessary miles just to get there. These places are often just grassy areas with a dry toilet or parking on nearby roads. Always carefully study the details of individual camps, because there are big differences between each of them. One place can be a huge grassy area offering plenty of room for all travelers, another place can be limited to a certain number of cars per night. When arriving in the early evening, there may be no spot left for you, and you will be forced to go to another place that will be expensive or dozens of miles away.
Freedom Camping definitely does not offer a lot of luxury, which can be expected at zero cost. Even if they are free there are enormous differences between places. You can also find somewhere you have running water and a flushing toilet too. You can also often find yourself in beautiful places far from civilization or on the seashore with stunning views of the setting sun or snowy mountains. This way of traveling is not for everyone, but nature-loving adventurers will appreciate it.
SCENIC A STANDARD CAMPSITES
These campsites offer toilets, water (tap, river spring or lake), cold showers, litter bins, and picnic tables. Their price is $ 16 /person/night for scenic camps and $ 8 for a standard camp. These camps are usually without attendants and you pay for their service by inserting the exact amount of money with the filled in short form into a small plastic bag that you throw into the prepared drop box. All information and rules, including the maximum number of nights allowed, can be found on the information board in the vicinity of the camp.
The highest level of luxury, offering toilets, hot showers, a kitchen, barbecues, and garbage cans. Their price is $ 18 /person/day.
BACKCOUNTRY A GREAT WALK CAMPSITES
In the last category are campsites on hiking tracks in remote nature or on Great Walk routes (several popular tracks). The DOC has raised the prices of the The Great Walk campsites rapidly for season 2018/2019. These are different for locals and tourists. We recommend to always check the occupancy and book your place in advance. Especially if you plan to hike one of the Great walks in the summer season.
Another option of accommodation during your hiking is sleeping in so-called huts or open-air chalets in the countryside, providing a roof over your head on multi-day journeys. Some places are free of charge, others are paid in cash directly inside, by leaving the exact amount of money in the drop box, others are paid by special color cards that you have to buy before the trip at the info center. Each ticket color represents a certain monetary value. Whichever option you choose, be prepared to bring your own sleeping bag and stove for cooking. It is not easy to get to these places with the full load on your back, but it is a good idea to try at least once. You will be rewarded with beautiful nature and view.
Private camps offer a variety of quality and prices. These are usually between 8 - 25 dollars / person / night.
Great wizards on your way will be Wikicamps and Travelmate applications can be of great help on your way, which we definitely recommend downloading on your smartphones. Search campsites, attractions and other places and sort them with lots of requirements, which can save you a lot of time and worries on your way. For more useful applications, read our article about Apps and webs.