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new-zealand-beaches-to-camp-by

Best Beach Campsites In New Zealand

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There’s nothing quite like falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves. Being an island, New Zealand is blessed to be surrounded by an abundance of pristine beaches and striking coastlines. Make the most of New Zealand’s beaches and park up for the night in a campsite right on the beach. To help you narrow down the best destinations to park up at for a couple of days, keep reading for our guide on the best beach campsites in New Zealand.

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Can you camp on the beach in New Zealand?

There are a number of camping spots right next to the beach in New Zealand. Whether it’s freedom camping spots or private holiday parks, you can find some awesome campsites with some pretty incredible views. The first thing you may want to know is ‘can I camp on the beach?’ While our Britz Campervans can’t be driven on the beach, there are plenty of camping spots close to the best beaches in New Zealand. Let’s face it, waking up to the sound of waves from the comfort of your sand-free bed in the camper is hard to beat!

Can you freedom camp in New Zealand?

Freedom camping is the term given to areas of public land that you can camp on, for free or for a small fee. You can only freedom camp in certain places in New Zealand. To find the best freedom camping spots near you during your road trip, download the thl Roadtrip App.

Top 10 beach campsites in New Zealand

1. Tapotupotu, Northland

If you’re after a scenic spot to park up and get salty, then New Zealand’s most northern point, Tapotupotu Bay is well worth the adventure. Despite being unpatrolled, the beach itself is popular for a summertime swim or surfing, and keen anglers can pick from casting off the beach or a number of rock platforms. While you’re in the area, drive a few minutes (or if you’re feeling energetic, walk three hours along the coast track) to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga - one of the most iconic seascapes in New Zealand.

Where to camp: A lagoon-like stream, foaming surf, and grassy bluffs frame the picture-perfect Department of Conservation (DOC) camping area at Tapotupotu Bay. There are 45 unpowered sites available which you will need to book ahead, plus toilets, tap water, and a cold shower. This site costs $16 per night for adults, $8 per night for children aged 5-17, and free for children under 4. Come prepared with all the food you need because the nearest shop is a 20-minute drive south.

2. Tokerau Beach, Northland

Just south of the Karikari Peninsula in Doubtless Bay, Tokerau Beach is a broad sweep of caramel and white sand that extends as far as the eye can see. If you’re into surfing, you’ll be stoked about the choice of left and right-hand breaks along Tokerau’s length, with conditions often catering to all abilities.

Where to camp: Uninterrupted views across the surf, a sense of seclusion, and a sunrise you can watch from bed - yep, this is what it’s all about. The Tokerau Beach freedom camping area is insta-ready, but fair warning - it’s a little tricky to find as its located down an unsealed road. There’s also no drinking water and the toilets are a bit of the walk from camp, so come prepared, preferably in a self contained camper!

3. Matai Bay, Northland

Image Source: TripAdvisor

Prepare for dropped jaws when you arrive at Matai Bay, a scalloped bay of powder-white beaches on the outer limits of the Karikari Peninsula. Protected by arcing headlands, the glassy turquoise water laps gently at the sand making it perfect for swimming, kayaking, and bobbing around on an inflatable flamingo.

Where to camp: The grassy DOC campground at Matai Bay is lovely-as-can-be, tucked among pohutukawa trees just 50m from the beach. You don’t need to book your spot here as it’s first come first served. It has 100 unpowered sites, cold water showers, tap water, flushing loos, and boat access. This campsite is $15 per night for adults, $7.50 per night for children aged 5-17, and free for infants (4 years and younger).

4. Piha Beach, Auckland

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand Image Library

An interesting departure from the ‘white sand/glassy blue water’ idyll is Piha Beach – a black sand beach and wild surf break about an hour from our Auckland campervan hire branch on the untamed west coast. The swathe of salt ‘n’ pepper sand that stretches between two rocky headlands is a dramatic sight any time of year. However, unless you’re a diehard surfer and confident reading currents, Piha Beach is the best enjoyed in summer between the flags.

Where to camp: Piha Motor Camp is less than a 10-minute walk from the beach and the striking Lion Rock. Its powered and unpowered sites occupy a grassy area with a picturesque stream running beside it. Spare yourself the future #throwback posts, as the nightly rate includes the use of wifi, as well as the shower blocks and camp kitchen. This campsite costs $22 per night for adults, $14 for children aged 14-17, $10 for 5-13-year-olds, and free for preschoolers. Pets are also welcome.

5. Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand Image Library

It’s been voted the best beach in New Zealand so, of course, you’ll be curious to check out Mount Maunganui Main Beach in Tauranga. The 1km-long stripe of powder-white sand makes an arc between the foot of Mauoa, an extinct volcanic cone known to locals as “The Mount”, and Moturiki Island which is accessed from the mainland via a bridge. The walking trails up the mountain or out to the island’s blowhole are great ways to warm up before going for a dip in the crystal blue water.

Where to camp: The Mount is a popular spot for obvious reasons, so make sure you book your stay at Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park in advance if you want to score one of their best oceanview powered sites for your campervan. Back in Tauranga proper, there are plenty of beach holiday parks as well as reserves for self-contained freedom campers sprinkled along the water, down to Papamoa Beach, and beyond. Fees per night differ at this campsite depending on whether you’re visiting in peak or off-peak seasons. For the full list of prices, check out their website.

6. Stony Bay, Coromandel

The unspoiled, hidden beaches of northern Coromandel are where locals go to get away from it all, and when you see Stony Bay, it’s not hard to see why. It begins with a stunning drive north, and on arrival, you’re rewarded with a pebbly cove lined with weathered pohutukawa trees, and nestled between grassy hills. The calm blue water here is ideal for a swim or paddle, and exploring the Coromandel Coastal Walkway is a must.

Where to camp: The Stony Bay campsite is located right beside the beach, with 122 sites across a whopping five hectares. You’ll need to book this one and arrive prepared to take all rubbish except compost back out with you. With cold showers, toilets, and water (treat before drinking), you can get comfy here for up to two weeks. This campsite costs $15 per night for adults, $7.50 for children, and is free for infants (4 years and younger).

7. Hahei Beach, Coromandel

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As if the turquoise water and blushing pink sand at Hahei Beach weren’t enough, from here it’s an easy walk to the famous archway and sculpted rocks of Cathedral Cove – a bucket list mainstay. A short drive in the opposite direction brings you to Hot Water Beach, one of New Zealand’s renowned thermal beaches where you can tap into the steamy groundwater by digging out your own spa pool in the sand.

Where to camp: With absolute beach frontage, Hahei Holiday Resort claims some seriously stunning real estate. Not all the campsites have a view so make sure you book a beachfront powered site to make the most of the location, and the full range of RV facilities. The cost per night of this campsite varies depending on the season. Offering beachfront powered sites as well as tucked behind the dunes, prices vary on the location of your site. For the full list and availability check out the website.

8. Waihau Beach, Gisborne

You’ll be among the first people in the world to see the sun come up when you camp by the beaches north of Gisborne. There are some brilliant destinations to choose from, but our pick is Waihau Beach. Here you can fill your days fishing, surfing, swimming, diving, and wandering along the 6km stretch of pink-hued sand.

Where to camp: Step out of your van and into the sand when you park at Loisel's campsite, a free campsite run by Gisborne City Council. Permits are required, and there are toilets available but you’ll need to BYO water – unless you’re prepared to boil it from the stream. Avoid peak holidays; you'll have no trouble claiming a spot with an uninterrupted view of the horizon from your home on wheels.

9. Waipatiki Beach, Hawke’s Bay

If you’re keen on a secluded beach on the North Island’s east coast, Waipatiki Beach in Hawke’s Bay might just be your bag. Hemmed in by hills on each side, you’ll approach the coast through a small settlement in a pastoral valley that opens out to a stretch of golden sand. Sunrises here are well worth the early start.

Where to camp: Waipatiki Beach Holiday Park is reached through beautiful farmland, and lies just 300m from the beach – the walk takes around five minutes and follows a freshwater stream. The tiered design of the property maximises the number of campsites with a glorious ocean view. It’s a full-facility holiday park perfect for all types of RVs and caravans. Prices per night vary depending on the site location and season of travel. For more information, check out the Waipatiki website.

10. Ohawe Beach, Taranaki

The Taranaki region on the west coast has an exhilarating coastline made up of windswept cliffs and volcanic black sand beaches that become strewn with pebbles and driftwood. Ohawe Beach is a pretty great example of this phenomenon in action. When the water is calm, you can wade out across the tide terrace quite a distance before the water deepens. But if the conditions are rough, stick to combing the shoreline for washed-up treasures at low tide.

Where to camp: Ohawe Beach Camp offers low-cost powered and unpowered camping a short walk from the beach, and many of the sites boast ocean glimpses. You can get pretty comfy here, with hot showers, a communal kitchen, fridge/freezer, and laundry. But the real draw? Catching a blazing west coast sunset over the moody ocean. The cost of this campsite for adults is $20 per night, $10 for children 14 and older, $8 for children aged between 4 and 14, and free for children under 4.

Tips for freedom camping in New Zealand

By now you’ll have a pretty good idea of the different types of campsites you’ll find in New Zealand, including some that are completely free. If you plan to make the most of these amazing freedom camping reserves, it’s important to remember that looking after the campsite and the environment is your responsibility. The rules for each free camping area will always be clearly laid out on signs, but if you need to brush up, here are some quick guidelines:

  • Designated freedom camping areas have basic, or no facilities and are suited to self-contained campers only, such as the Britz range which is certified self-contained. If you don’t have a toilet/shower in your campervan you’ll need to use public bathrooms.
  • As per the Tiaki Promise always aim to leave the site the same, if not better than you found it. Dispose of all waste at the appropriate facilities, and recycle when you can. Responsible Freedom Camping is about enjoying the beauty of New Zealand, and ensuring it stays that way.
  • Freedom camping is awesome now and then, but to truly enjoy your campervan trip around New Zealand and support local businesses, we recommend staying at a mix of holiday parks and DOC campgrounds as well. This is important for charging you campervan every few days.

Ready for your next New Zealand adventure?

It goes without saying but New Zealand is a pretty special place and its varied coastline and abundance of unspoiled beaches play a big part in that. We hope you’ve now got a few great ideas for where you can go to make the most of your campervan experience, but if you need a little more inspiration, see our popular itineraries. Know where you want to go, but not sure how to plan? See our New Zealand campervan tips. Book your Britz camper today.