The South Island in New Zealand is where thousands of people flock to from around the world over Summer. It’s not hard to see why – you’ve got the Southern Alps, beautiful lakes, crystal clear rivers and the opportunity to get out into nature around every turn. There are so many good campsites dotted around the island, from off the beaten track, backcountry sites to more commercial or accessible DOC campsites. We have put together a short list of just a few campsites that are worth visiting on your Summer road trip around the South Island!
Totaranui Campground- Abel Tasman (South Island)
Totaranui Campground is the idyllic Kiwi Camping experience. Positioned within the outer reaches of the Abel Tasman National Park, you will naturally find golden sand beaches, crystal clear water (feat. resident dolphins, penguins & seals) as well as plenty of land & water based activities including snorkelling, fishing, kayaking, hiking & mountain biking. This mammoth of a campsite offers space for up to 850 people, with amenities scattered throughout the site. Book early to get in ahead of the rush & then prepare for a few days of ultimate Kiwi Summer Camping Kickback!
White Horse Hill Campsite, Mount Cook National Park (South Island)
White Horse Hill Campsite in the Mt Cook National Park is a hikers dream! Camp beneath the towering peaks of Mt Cook & enjoy the wide variety of walks from the valley floor to the mountain tops during the day. You can even grab a hot shower (often a luxury when camping in NZ) in the nearby village! Situated within the Aoraki/Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, White Horse is as good a spot as any to spend the night sleeping under the blanket of stars!
Mavora Lakes Campsite– Southland (South Island)
Mavora Lakes Campsite is an awesome campsite if you are looking to get a bit more off the beaten track and towards a more secluded spot! Situated in Southland, about an hour and a half from Te Anau – the Mavora lakes are a good option for those venturing into Milford Sound. This Lord Of The Rings filming location (Nen Hithoel) is a great spot for boating activities, fishing, mountain biking & hiking.
Gillespies Beach Campsite, Westcoast (South Island)
Gillespies Beach is the campsite of choice for many who are visiting Fox Glacier. Get in early in the afternoon or risk missing out at this spot which can take just 8 non-powered sites! Parked near an old gold mining settlement & a seal colony, there is plenty to explore when stopping off for a night at gillespies beach. Beware the road in is narrow, gravel and not suitable for larger vehicles (we witnessed a van stuck in the ditch when we went there!).
Kenepuru Head Campsite, Marlborough (South Island)
The Kenepuru Head Campsite in Marlborough Sounds is a great spot for anyone undertaking the Queen Charlotte Track nearby! With 25 non-powered spots available, there is ample space to park up and enjoy your break. Keep your camera at the ready, Kenepuru Sounds is renowned for it’s bangin sunsets/rises and the very active birdlife! Also a great spot for boating, fishing, kayaking, mountain biking & hiking.
Cascade Creek Campsite, Milford Sounds (South Island)
Looking for the perfect campsite in Fiordland? Look no further than Cascade Creek! With plenty of space (120 non-powered sites) set amongst the lupins & tussocky grass – Cascade Creek is an idea base if you are spending a few days in the area. Make sure you go for a wander up to Lake Gunn and sit on the incredibly still shores for a while. If you are lucky enough to get a clear day during your stay, you will be treated to a kaleidoscope of colours during the sunset! Whatever the weather, Cascade Creek won’t leave you disappointed.
Purakaunui Bay Campsite, Otago (South Island)
Arriving at the Purakaunui Bay Campsite the first thing you’ll notice are the striking white cliff faces. Beyond it’s instant visual impact, the Purakaunui Falls are also very close by. If you are a freedom camping Surfer then you will be happy to know that just south of the campsite is a good surf beach! Keep an eye on the shoreline for wildlife – seals and penguins have been known to waddle onto the golden sands.
Lake Paringa Campsite, Haast (South Island)
Lake Paringa is an epic spot to stop for a night on your West Coast trip! In an area where your cheap/free options are limited, Lake Paringa can become very busy very quickly! Get in early to secure your spot, then enjoy the views of the beautifully still lake as the sun goes down. Expect to see some raucous Kea at some point during your stay – just remember not to feed them! Also come prepared for the sandflies – cover yourself up and bring plenty of insect spray.
Brod Bay Campsite, Fiordland National Park (South Island)
One of two DOC campsites & three DOC huts along the Kepler Track, Brod Bay is an amazing Great Walk campsite set amongst beech forest on the shores of Lake Te Anau. Accessible only via walking 2 hours from the Kepler Carpark. It is remote, so you’ll need to prepare properly, but it’s worth the hike for the breathtaking scenery and tranquility.
Gentle Annie Seaside accommodation– West Coast (South Island)
Gentle Annie is a homely and welcoming campsite set at the mouth of the Mokihinui River on the West Coast. With sheltered, private camping sites set amongst landscaped gardens you can expect a good spot to pitch! Very close to the beach, where evening bonfires turn to late-night star-gazing. Head along to “The Cowshed” a converted Milking Shed that does a mean Pizza in their woodfire oven!
To find all of these amazing campsites, as well as countless others – Download Breadcrumbs. If you know of a campsite that we have missed, Drop a Crumb on Breadcrumbs to share with the community! Or get in touch via the form below and let us know what we are missing out on!