Find out about freedom camping on public conservation land.

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.

Search for free campsites.

Definition of freedom camping

In general, freedom camping is to camp overnight in a public area other than at a managed campsite. See the full definition as it applies in the Freedom Camping Act 2011

If you plan to freedom camp on public conservation land, you need to know where you can do this, and follow these rules.

Freedom camping is allowed on public conservation land – with exceptions

Where you can't camp

You cannot freedom camp in areas where camping is prohibited (not allowed).

You cannot camp in DOC administered scenic reserves or recreation reserves, unless you're within a managed campsite. This is in accordance to section 44 (1) of the Reserves Act. However, some reserves that allow freedom camping in self-contained vehicles only. Not all reserves will have a sign stating camping is prohibited.

See conservation areas where freedom camping is prohibited or restricted.

Where you may camp

You may camp on public conservation land (except at DOC reserves) if:

At DOC reserves you may only camp at managed campsites, or freedom camp in a self-contained vehicle where signs say you can do so. 

  • Take notice of the signs.
  • Always be responsible with your waste.
  • Carry in, carry out. Leave no trace.

Take notice of camping restriction signs

No camping sign

Camping overnight is prohibited at sites displaying no camping signs, including this sign:

Freedom camping is prohibited within 200 m of this sign.

Self contained vehicles only sign

The following sign means you can only camp overnight in a vehicle that meets the NZS Self containment of motor caravans and caravans standard.

Having a self containment certificate shows your vehicle meets this national standard. A plumber or gasfitter can usually inspect your vehicle, and give you a certificate if it passes.

It's important to be self contained to protect the environment, and keep these areas available for freedom camping. 

Sign for camping with self contained vehicles only.

Why some areas prohibit camping

Prohibited areas 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, eg ensuring equitable access to a site or where sensitive native species are present.

Camping in a prohibited or restricted area can result in a $200 infringement fee.

Freedom camping with dogs

Freedom camping with dogs is not permitted in national parks.

For other public conservation land where freedom camping is permitted there may be different rules and bylaws for dogs. This may be posted on a sign.

You can also check with the local DOC office. 

More information

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