Where to Stay on your NZ Roadtrip
One of the best things about taking your accommodation with you on the road is being able to stop when and where you want (with some exceptions) and stay for the night.
We've written before about how to be a good freedom camper in New Zealand, but many of our customers also choose to mainly stop in paid camping grounds with powered sites and a range of facilities including bathrooms, laundries, entertainment rooms, swimming pools and shared kitchens and BBQs.
Perhaps the ideal is to combine freedom camping with regular stops at paid campgrounds where you can recharge your batteries, empty waste and enjoy the facilities - plus often there is free wifi as part of your booking fee.
So if you are not familiar with New Zealand, what should you be looking for in a paid camping ground?
Many locations were once called campgrounds, but over time have evolved into Holiday Parks. These normally have a mixture of accommodation options, from fully self contained motel units through to cabins, tent sites and powered sites for campervans and caravans. They also usually have plenty of options to keep children entertained, including playgrounds, pools and jumping pillows.
You can see a range of holiday parks around NZ via the Holiday Parks New Zealand website.
Holiday Parks are often located in premium spots close to beaches or lakes in some of the main tourist locations around the country, while others might be quite centrally located in the cities with good access to transport routes and proximity to the airport etc as a first or last stop on your trip.
Pricing for bookings at Holiday Parks varies considerably depending on the time of year, location and type of park.
Check the Camper Mate app for updated pricing and the holiday parks near you if you are travelling outside of the summer peak season.
If you are roadtripping at a busy time of year, especially in the NZ school holidays, you are wise to book ahead to make sure you don't miss out on somewhere to park for the night.
Department of Conservation campgrounds are located around New Zealand, mostly in or close to national parks and reserves managed by the department.
These have far fewer facilities than Holiday Parks but are usually less expensive. You may need cash to pay for your site, and you are advised to book ahead for popular sites, again especially during school holidays and the busier Summer and early Autumn months. Peak season for DOC goes from October to the end of April each year.
Many of them don't have dumping stations to get rid of your waste, so be aware this is likely to be the case and look for somewhere with a dump station using the AA website.
You can look for DOC campsites suitable for campervans by using this link.
To find out more about what's involved in camping on conservation land, read this.
Check out the list of fees and facilities DOC sites offer, and you can also buy a weekly pass online here. Anyone travelling in a self-contained rental campervan can use the pass. Display the pass on the campervan dashboard where it's clearly visible. Present it to the campsite warden on request.
This link shows you which campsites are included and excluded using the weekly pass.
Anyone holidaying in a campervan or motorhome around New Zealand now has two handy free apps to choose from when working out the spots you want to stay on your trip.
As mentioned above, it is often advisable to book ahead rather than assuming there will be plenty of sites available everywhere you go, especially in smaller locations with only one camping ground.
Both apps give you a great selection of sites around the country, along with reviews, photos and the information you require to make a decision on the best places to stop.
You can also book directly using the apps, which once again we advise doing before you get to your chosen campground for the night. Generally camping grounds and holiday parks will allocate the best sites to those who are first in for the evening, and those who have booked ahead.