Living out of a van and camping in New Zealand was seriously the dream! I have to share how you can live that dream too! And to do so in a respectful and responsible way.
I mean, what’s more important than keeping New Zealand gorgeous for everyone?
When I decided that I wanted to live out of a van and camp for my month in the South Island of New Zealand, I was so excited to wake up in a new gorgeous place every day, have all of the time to go explore the country, and have everything that I needed with me in my little Spaceships van at all times!
But I really didn’t know what responsible camping in New Zealand was like!
I thought you could just take your van and park anywhere pretty for the night, and move on in the morning.
This is the freedom camping myth!
Many people think that you can take any car or van and camp anywhere in New Zealand for free. This is not responsible or respectful of their country because many of the people who tried doing this did not have toilets, trash cans, or places to shower.
Freedom camping is creating a negative impact on New Zealand’s environment.
Luckily there is a way to camp in New Zealand that is extremely convenient for us campers and is responsible.
What is responsible camping?
Camping is extremely popular in New Zealand and us campers have a big impact.
It is vital that we use only designated camping areas to stay overnight.
It is SO important to keep leave New Zealand nicer than how we found it.
Please be careful to never leave rubbish anywhere, recycle when possible, and always use toilets rather than nature!
My Favorite Campsites on the South Island
The campsites in New Zealand are seriously amazing. We stayed at all kinds of campgrounds from budget DOC options to campsites with all of the fancy trimmings! Here are my favorites:
- Kaikoura Peketa Beach Holiday Park– Just a few minutes out of the main town, this campground provided us with a spot RIGHT on the beach. It was quiet, relaxing, and a great spot for dolphin spotting!
- Glendhu Bay Motor Camp outside of Wanaka- Probably my favorite campground because of the AMAZING views. We parked right on the lake with no other campers around! I could have stayed here forever.
- Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park– This was one of the nicer campgrounds we stayed at, but you have to go big in Queenstown, right?! This holiday park provides a shuttle to the main town, which is amazing because parking is my least favorite thing ever. They also had a nice kitchen and amazing lounge with a super warm fireplace. The perfect way to end our evenings!
Tips for Future #VanLife-ers
- Use a free travel and camping app—Literally, if you do only one thing, do this! I used both the Spaceships app and the Camper Mate app. They show campgrounds, deals, things to see, wifi, toilets, petrol and more!
- Get accessories—Maybe it’s to get that amazing Insta shot, and maybe it’s because you’re going to really want some lights in your dark van because leaving the van’s lights on will kill the battery (…not saying that we did that…). After getting food, we headed straight to Kmart for blankets, fairy lights, a lantern, and some other junk that made our van cute and homey!
- Don’t plan!—I absolutely love planning, but just don’t do it! You won’t need to book a campsite ahead of time, and it was so fun to not have a plan of where we would end up! Just enjoy the journey and stay the night wherever you end up (at a campground, of course!)
- Get out of your comfort zone—The South Island of New Zealand is the place to get a little crazy. Some of my favorite activities I did were bungy jumping the highest bungy in New Zealand, swimming with wild dolphins, and living out of a van! Do all of the crazy things, it’ll be the best thing you ever do!
- Meal Prep—The best idea we had was to stay at a nicer campground every once in a while to cook all of our food! We cooked in the afternoon when no one else was in the kitchen and made a week’s worth of food so that we didn’t have to take any more time out of our weeks for food! It was so easy to take our meals out of the back when we were ready to eat and keep adventuring!
- Make Friends—If your campground has a lounge, use it! We met so many fun people in the lounges and kitchens of campgrounds, and many of them are going to the same place you are!
I had the BEST time ever traveling the South Island of New Zealand in my Spaceships Van and I will remember it forever. I hope some of my tips inspired you to visit!
Pin me now, Camp (responsibly) soon!