Staying at New Zealand Department of Conservation Campsites

Green Hippy CamperFor anyone considering a holiday in New Zealand campervan hire is a great way to go. Hiring a campervan opens up a world of accommodation options. Among the best places to stay if you’re touring New Zealand in a campervan are Department of Conservation campsites.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, commonly known as DOC, is the government organisation responsible for protecting the country’s unique and glorious heritage. That heritage includes New Zealand’s diverse and breathtaking terrain, its indigenous plants and forests, its endangered native animal species, and its sites of historical significance. It’s important for New Zealand to preserve these wonders for future generations, so that New Zealanders may maintain their cultural identity, and that the country continues to be the exceptional tourist destination it assuredly is.

A KiwiAbout one third of the entire land area of New Zealand is managed by DOC, and much of that area is dedicated to human recreation. DOC creates and maintains hundreds of walking tracks, observation platforms, wilderness huts, family picnicking spots and many other outdoor recreation facilities, as well as a variety of different grades of campsite, which are enjoyed year after year by New Zealanders and tourists alike.

DOC campsites are a fantastic option for anyone on a New Zealand campervan holiday, as they are far more peaceful than holiday parks and situated right in the midst of nature, on the doorsteps of beautiful scenery, forest walks and beaches. Also, they are cheaper to stay at than holiday parks – quite a number of them are in fact free – and the money you do pay goes to a good cause.

There are four different grades of Department of Conservation campsite that are suitable for New Zealandcampervans, ranging from top-notch campsites with all the facilities you could need, (which in most cases cost fifteen New Zealand dollars per adult person per night and half that per child per night, with infants under four years of age staying for free,) to campsites that are little more than a place for people to park their campervan within throwing distance of a long drop toilet. The latter are usually free for everyone.

The highest grade of DOC campsite is the Serviced campsite. These Serviced sites offer not only flush toilets, rubbish collection, picnic tables and cooking areas, but also hot showers and laundry facilities. In addition, some may provide powered sites, (which cost an extra two New Zealand dollars per person per night,) and dump stations for emptying the wastewater tanks of campervans. The prudent campervanner takes advantage of the dump stations provided, as the improper discharge of a campervan’s wastewater can result in a hefty fine, in accordance with the Freedom Camping Act of 2011.

KoruThe next highest grade of DOC campsite is the Scenic campsite. While these sites do not have hot showers, they do have flush toilets and maybe, in some places, cold showers, along with barbecue areas and rubbish bins. Scenic campsites usually cost ten New Zealand dollars per adult person per night and are in coastal locations.

The middle grade DOC campsite is the Standard campsite, which has basic toilet facilities and a water supply that, if not from a tap, will come from a stream or a lake. Either way, it is wise to boil any collected water before drinking it. DOC Standard campsites may have one, some, or all of the following facilities: cold showers, fireplaces, cooking shelters, barbecues, picnic tables and rubbish bins. It costs an adult six New Zealand dollars per night to stay at a Standard campsite.

The lowest grade DOC campsite is the Basic campsite. It has only toilets and water from a tank, stream or lake. It is free to stay at and no bookings are required. Bookings are, however, required for the Serviced campsites, and sometimes for Scenic and Standard campsites, especially during the peak season, which is from December until February.

There are a few things the camper needs to remember when staying at a DOC campground. Firstly, never go to the toilet in the bush. Use the facilities provided or, if you have a certified self-contained campervan, the toilet in that. Secondly, never leave any rubbish behind unless there are bins at the campsite. Thirdly, cleaning agents such as toothpaste and soap are harmful to aquatic life, so do not let them anywhere a natural water source. Open fires are rarely permitted, and if they are you may only use dead wood. Keep the fire small and remember to douse it with water afterwards.

Lastly, and quite obviously, respect the wildlife.

 

Article by Abigail Simpson, author of POMS AWAY! A British Immigrant’s View of New Zealand

7 thoughts on “Staying at New Zealand Department of Conservation Campsites

  1. Do we need reservations for campsites on the great walks in April/ May? ? We will be hiking Milford track May 5..our last backpacking track. Thank you. Have a beautiful day

    1. This should tell you all you need to know: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/fiordland/places/fiordland-national-park/things-to-do/tracks/milford-track/#page-id-42122. It looks like you’re not allowed to camp on the Milford Track, so you’ll have to stay in the huts. At the time of year you’re going, you don’t need to book, (as high season ends May 3rd,) but you still need to purchase back country hut tickets.

  2. If you do not have a certified self contained campervan, are you restricted as to what sites you are allowed to camp in? Or is it just freedom camping restrictions?

    1. Hi Ben. Certain campsites are restricted to self-contained campervans only. Sometimes, those sites will be subjected to an early morning inspection, and if a non-self-contained van is found there, the occupants will receive a fine.

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