DOC Campsites in New Zealand are useful when Travelling on a Budget.
One of the things New Zealand is famous for is its freedom camping. Throughout most of both the North and South Islands, you are legally allowed to park your self-contained camper van anywhere you like overnight, making the cost of travelling as cheap as possible. However what if you’re in a basic camper van without toilet facilities or what if you prefer to be in a designated camping spot but don’t have the funds available for a holiday park? The answer is a Department of Conservation (DOC) Campsites which cost as little as $6 a night.
DOC Campsites are located throughout New Zealand on conservation land and are run by the Department of Conservation. Some are located within native forest settings whilst others can be found on beaches or lake shores. All offer a much more scenic location than in a lay-by at the side of the state highway.
5 Different Levels of DOC Campsites in New Zealand
There are five different levels of DOC campsite. The first is a basic site which has very limited facilities. There is usually a pit toilet and water available from either a tank, stream or lake. Backcountry campsites also have a basic toilet and water facilities but most also include cooking shelters, fireplaces and picnic tables too. Standard DOC campsites and Scenic Campsites offer a few more facilities so as well as a toilet, a tap is usually available along with cold showers, picnic tables, cooking shelters and rubbish bins. Finally serviced DOC campsites offer the widest range of facilities including flushable toilets, hot showers and cooking benches along with laundry and BBQ facilities in most instances.
Throughout my travels around New Zealand, I have stayed in DOC campsites and find that they offer a little more luxury than freedom camping. One of the main reasons I use them is so that I don’t have to use or empty my own self-contained facilities after going to the bathroom. I also find that DOC campsites in New Zealand give me the chance to meet like-minded travellers from all walks of life.
A popular DOC campsite of mine is Gillespies Beach located near Fox Glacier on the South Island. This basic campsite is reached by a winding, unsealed track and although not really designed for campervans, I find that it’s easily accessible in mine and I’ve met loads of other motorhome owners there too. Located right on the beach, there is a pit toilet as well as tap water to hand. One of the highlights of this campsite is the nearby seal colony which can be reached on foot along the beach.
My Favourite DOC Campsite in New Zealand
My favourite DOC campsite haunt on North Island is the remote Putangirua Pinnacles standard campsite in the Wairarapa. Despite being remote in terms of local amenities, this campsite is usually well-used and it’s all down to location. Just a few minutes’ drive away in one direction is the infamous Cape Palliser Lighthouse and seal colony whilst in the other is Lake Ferry which is a popular fishing hang out. From the campsite itself, you can follow the well-sign posted route to the Pinnacles which featured in the Lord of the Rings films. The camp ground features a limited water supply (I would recommend taking your own drinking water), flushing toilets and picnic benches.
All in all, I’ve never been disappointed by a DOC campsite and find that they provide a great way to explore beautiful New Zealand.
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