Free DOC campsites
DOC has basic campsites where you can stay for free. Usually you do not have to be self-contained to stay at DOC campsites because there are facilities available. Check the individual campsite for more information.
Freedom camping is camping on public land that's not a campsite
If you're not staying at a campsite, you can choose to freedom camp. Freedom camping is to camp on public land other than at a campsite. If you plan to freedom camp on public conservation land, you need to follow these rules.
Freedom camping is allowed on public conservation land – with exceptions
You cannot freedom camp in conservation areas where freedom camping is prohibited.
You cannot freedom camp at DOC administered scenic reserves or recreation reserves, under section 44 (1) of the Reserves Act. However, there are some reserves that are allow freedom camping in self-contained vehicles only. Not all reserves will have a sign stating freedom camping is prohibited.
Prohibited areas (where you can't camp) are normally near roads where:
- there has been a history of problems caused by inappropriate freedom camping, or
- there is a conservation management reason that warrants restricting camping. For example, ensuring equitable access to a site or where sensitive native species are present.
Freedom camping in a prohibited or restricted area can result in a $200 infringement fee.
Take notice of freedom camping restriction signs
Freedom camping overnight is prohibited at sites displaying no camping signs, including this sign:
Freedom camping overnight is allowed only for vehicles that are certified as self contained at sites displaying this sign:
A self-contained vehicle must meet the NZS Self containment of motor caravans and caravans standard.
Be responsible for depositing waste
Be responsible with your waste wherever you camp. Carry in, carry out. Leave no trace.
Non-compliance can result in a $200 infringement fee or a maximum $10,000 fine if prosecuted.