Unveiling the Hidden Gems: Our Favourite Camping Spots on the South Island of New Zealand

New Zealand’s South Island is a land of breathtaking landscapes, dramatic mountains, and pristine wilderness. If you’re an adventure-seeking camper, you’re in for a treat. In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through some of the best camping spots that we have found on the South Island, where you can immerse yourself in nature, starlit skies, and unforgettable experiences. Let’s explore these hidden gems that promise an unparalleled camping adventure.

1. Momorangi Bay Campground/Queen Charlotte Sounds

The campground is located on the shores of the Queen Charlotte Sound in Momorangi Bay Scenic Reserve. The sheltered bay offers opportunities for swimming, fishing, and small craft launch. Only 30 minutes away from Picton, it is the perfect place to if you take or arrive by ferry from the North Island

2. Kerr Bay Campground/Nelson Lakes:

This DOC Campsite sits on the outskirts of St. Arnauds right on the shore of Lake Rotoiti and is the perfect place if you are seeking serenity. Take in the beautiful lake views and admire the Nelson Lakes National Park which offers stunning hiking opportunities or why not kayak on Lake Rotoiti.

3. Kekerengu Beach/Kaikoura Coast:

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Kekerengu Beach on the Kaikōura Coast is a paradise for beach-loving campers. As freedom camping in Kaikoura is sparse and more car parks than camp sites, this is the perfect alternative if you want to wake up on the beach with the soothing sound of waves, watch dolphins play offshore, and relish in the magical coastal sunsets that paint the sky in hues of pink and gold.

4. Paparoa Point Rest Area/ Kaikoura Coast:

This is another great alternative close to Kaikoura overlooking the stunning coast. Here you can find lots of seals lying around on the rocks and let the waves soothe you into a relaxing slumber. make sure to bring chocks though as the sites are not completely level.

5. Hanmer Springs River Reserve/ Hanmer Springs:

Nestled along the banks of the Waiau River, Hanmer Springs River Reserve offers a picturesque camping spot near the famous Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools. Immerse yourself in the natural hot springs, surrounded by lush forest, and rejuvenate your soul.

6. Reefton Freedom Camping/Reefton:

While we actually haven’t spent the night here, we drove through this quaint and charming little town and fell in love with it. The freedom camping spot is right by the river and close to town.

7. Blaketown Tip Head Campervan Park/Greymouth:

With stunning views of the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, Blaketown Tip Head Campervan Park is a cozy spot near Greymouth. Unwind on the rugged West Coast beaches and watch the sunset paint the sky in a blaze of colors.

8. Outlet Camp Wanaka/ Wanaka:

Situated right along the shores of Lake Wanaka, Outlet Camp is a perfect spot to experience the magic of the Southern Lakes region. Wake up to the stunning reflections of the surrounding mountains on the lake, stroll along the Clutha river inlet and partake in water sports or scenic hikes nearby.

9. Albert Town Campground/Wanaka:

Just a short distance from Wanaka, the Albert Town Campground offers a peaceful setting on the banks of the Clutha River and is very affordable. Fish, swim, or simply bask in the serenity of the beautiful river surroundings.

10. Glendhu Bay Motor Camp/Wanaka:

Embrace the grandeur of Lake Wanaka at Glendhu Bay Motor Camp. This campsite boasts magnificent lake views, has heaps of space as well as a kids playground. The campsite is the perfect base to explore the nearby hiking trails like Roys Peak or the Rocky Mountains, launch your boat or just simply unwind on the sandy beach.

11. Lowburn Harbour Camping Site/Cromwell:

A hidden gem near Cromwell, the Lowburn Harbour Camping Site sits along the shores of Lake Dunstan, is very spacious and offers gorgeous views over the water. Savor the tranquility, go for a swim, and marvel at the star-filled skies at night.

12. Driftaway Queenstown/Queenstown:

For a campsite with a touch of luxury, Driftaway Queenstown offers glamping experiences amidst the breathtaking scenery of Queenstown. Enjoy the comforts of a campervan with a dash of elegance and breathtaking views. The brand new facilities boast a playroom, covered patios overlooking the lake and don’t forget to book in for a hot tub.

12. Freedom Camping Ground Twizel:

Nestled in the heart of the Mackenzie region, the Freedom Camping Ground in Twizel sits slightly elevated and provides stunning views over Lake Taniwha. It is the perfect base to to explore nearby wonders like Lake Pukaki and Aoraki/Mount Cook.

12. Freedom Camping Ground Lake Pukaki:

There a several designated freedom camping spots around Lake Pukaki, but we liked the one up North the best as it offered the most space and was more quiet. Enjoy the beautiful views over the lake and the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

13. Kidds Bush Reserve/Lake Hawea:

Located on the shore of the Lake Hawea, this beautiful and serene DOC Campsite offers a very generous campground right on the water far away from any other civilisation amidst lush greenery and the tranquil waters of the lake. Wake up to the melodic sounds of native birdlife and enjoy fishing, kayaking, or simply unwinding by the water’s edge.

Conclusion: The South Island of New Zealand is a haven for campers, boasting a diverse range of camping spots that cater to every nature lover’s dream. From serene lakeside settings to picturesque coastal getaways, the South Island’s camping spots offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you seek solitude or adventure, the South Island’s hidden gems await you, promising a memorable and soul-stirring camping experience. So pack your bags, hit the road, and let these enchanting destinations weave their magic on your South Island camping adventure!

PS: All the campsites we are recommending have been personally experienced by us unless otherwise stated. All photos unless otherwise credited are by the owners of Camper4Hire – Jana & Pedro

Create Memories of a Lifetime in one of our campervans available for hire from Auckland/New Zealand. Book your adventure with Camper4Hire here.

Your Camper4Hire Team

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