Ten of New Zealand’s best campgrounds6 min read
The Camp, Lake Hāwea offers cabins, safari and bell tents.
Camping has come along way since the days of taking shelter under a tarpaulin on uneven grass; summer holiday parks now come armed with everything from comfy villas and safari tents to outdoor pizza ovens and swim-up bars. Here are ten of New Zealand’s best campgrounds to book in for summer.
Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
This family-owned park features 11 accommodation types from smart, modern apartments with private garden and grounds to non-powered campsites set among native bush, plus an array of facilities from petanque and pizza ovens to go-kart hire, giant bouncing pillow and basketball court. But the main attraction is the world-renowned Hot Water Beach just 700m walk away, where you can dig your very own hot pool in the sand.
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Tāhuna Beach Holiday Park
It’s hard to beat Nelson as a summer holiday spot, and the place to be if you’re a camping fan is on the Tāhuna “back beach” as locals call it, just a hop, skip and jump from the main stretch of stunning Tāhunanui Beach. First established in 1926, the expansive 54-acre site is a true classic right down to its retro mini golf course. There’s an onsite café, three playgrounds and an amphitheatre for outdoor movies and live music.
Lake Taupō Holiday Resort
It’s not lakefront, but it more than makes up for it water-wise with The Lagoon – New Zealand’s only thermally heated lagoon-style pool, which features water temperatures promising to be “warmer than Fiji all year round”, caves, a waterfall, big screen TV for movie nights, an ice cream parlour and the pièce de résistance, a swim-up bar and café. Choose from comfy villas and cottages or powered/non-powered sites then head off outside for the tennis court, beach volleyball, mini golf, jumping pillow and more.
Naseby Holiday Park
Set in 17 acres of forest adjacent to a summer swimming dam and nestled on the edge of the Naseby Forest Recreation Area, this family-owned, dog-friendly spot is also big on woodsy charm, with sites among the trees and a scattering of rustic old wooden cabins including two historic miner’s cottages built in 1896 in Ōmārama and transported to the holiday park in the 1980s. There are extensive mountain bike trails around the camp as well as an adventure playground, and the historic gold-mining town itself is walking distance.
Ross Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
Those familiar with the South Island’s West Coast know they do things a little differently there, and the holiday park at Ross Beach is no different. Set just 20m from the Tasman Sea, all accommodation and amenities are in repurposed and upcycled shipping containers, including the ‘apartment’ and smaller ‘sleeping’ pods, with decks and private native gardens. Take a dip, throw a snag on the barbie or hire a mountain bike.
Glendhu Bay Motor Camp
Situated in a picturesque bay on the shores of Lake Wānaka offers up a taste of classic old school Kiwi camping (clock the adorably retro Kitchen Cabin’s formica chair and table set) alongside its breathtaking lake views. A wood-fire barbecue area, boat ramp and hireable hot tub add just the right amount of bells and whistles.
Shelly Beach Top 10 Holiday Park
For those who consider beachfront camping complete with pōhutukawa trees absolute Kiwi holiday heaven, it doesn’t get much better than this. Set in Kikowhakarere Bay, five minutes north of Coromandel town, Shelly Beach offers a peaceful camp with cute pod cabins as well as motel rooms and tent/van sites. Fish, sea swim, enjoy the stunning sunsets over the Hauraki Gulf or cool off in the brand new pool and splash zone.
The Camp, Lake Hāwea
Formerly The Lake Hāwea Holiday Park, this quintessential Kiwi camping spot has been a go-to for those in the know since 1971. For 2021, it’s been spruced up with some very cool accommodation options including cabins, safari and bell tents and even geodomes. There’s also a food truck slinging breakfasts, coffee, burgers and wood-fired pizzas through the summer.
Miranda Holiday Park
Beautifully landscaped thermal mineral pools are the jewel in the crown of this Coromandel campground, but as well as a spectrum of accommodation offerings to suit all tastes and budgets, there’s also a flying fox, tennis court, mini golf, barbecue area and BMX track. For those keen to camp with their pooches, there are seven fenced and gated pet sites and an exercise paddock.
Russell-Orongo Bay Holiday Park
This Bay of Islands beauty is a multi-award winner, and for good reason. Stay options run from campsites, cabins and baches to glamping, tipis, lodge rooms and self-contained cottages but the real magic is in the outdoors – with bush walks on site, a wētā cave, campfire, wood-fire pizza oven and smokehouse among the facilities. Look out for the rare North Island weka, brown kiwi and pāteke that roam free in the park.
Ten basic tips for first-time campers
- If you’re buying a tent, make sure it’s comfortably sized. A good rule of thumb is to find one that sleeps at least two more people than are in your party. Remember it doesn’t have to be small/light if you’re only transporting it in your car anyway, and you’ll be glad of the space, especially if the weather goes bad.
- Test new gear at home first. Practise putting up your tent, blow up your airbeds in case of leaks, check your cooking equipment and other gadgetry works and has enough gas/is charged, even try out your sleeping bag.
- If you’re planning to cook onsite, plan your meals before you leave and to save space and time, prep what you can at home.
- Bring: industrial-sized sunscreen, torches and a lantern (and lots of spare batteries), a first aid kit, a pack of cards, water bottles, a bunch of plastic bags, a hammer or mallet if you’re camping, matches/lighter, a soft-pack of tissues, a clothes line, spare socks and shoes in case they get wet, warm clothes (it will get colder than you think) and a solar charger for your phone (if you must).
- Insect repellent! Those containing the active ingredients diethyltoluamide (DEET), picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus (which might be labelled as OLE or PMD) will provide effective and reasonably long-lasting protection.
- Arrive early enough to give you time to set up and get the lay of the land well before it gets dark. If you have little ones (or bladder issues), ensure your spot is not too far from the toilet block.
- If you’re a light sleeper, bring earplugs and an eye mask.
- Keep a bowl or shallow bucket of water by the door to rinse sand and dirt off your feet.
- Wash dishes right after you eat and seal food away to avoid ants, flies, wasps and other unwelcome guests.
- Hang a string of solar lights to help you find your tent (and not someone else’s) if you’re returning in the dark.
Staying safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Follow the instructions at covid19.govt.nz.