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15 July, 2018 - Updated Last updated on
10 February, 2022

Posted by Spaceships Crew

What are your plans on the South Island pary of your road trip? We guess Christchurch is definitely on your list. And it should, as it's a "vibrant city in transition" (according to Lonely Planet). Plus, it's a "great city to live and work in" (according to the NZ Frenzy guidebook).

The city of Christchurch and the surrounding area (Canterbury) has so much to offer. Whether you're picking up your Spaceships campervan at our Christchurch depot or passing through on your (super long) road trip, there are numerous reasons to check out the Christchurch area. Let's have a look at how to find campsites in Christchurch or the surrounding area.

3 tips to find campsites in the Christchurch area

Throughout New Zealand it's easy to find free or cheap campsites. Christchurch and the Canterbury area aren't an exception to that. Use these 3 tips and you'll good to go in Canterbury

  1. Use the free Spaceships travel app (free for all travellers)
  2. Use the free NZ Frenzy guide (free for Space Travellers)
  3. Check out Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites for scenic and cheap campsites

Canterbury River

DOC campsites in Christchurch area

Unfortunately, there are no DOC campsites in Christchurch or Banks Peninsula. DOC does, however, offer a range of vehicle accessible campsites around Christchurch in what is defined as North and South Canterbury.

North Canterbury DOC campsites

There are a dozen DOC campsites in North Canterbury. The closest DOC campsite to Christchurch is called the Grey River, Mt Grey/Maukatere Conservation Area. This is located in the Ashley Forest. It is worth talking to DOC about access as sometimes it is closed. It is a basic site which means it's a free campsite. Christchurch is a 50 km drive from this campsite.

Wooded Gully is a standard DOC campsite about 12km from Ashley Gorge ($8 per night for adults).

On state highway 73, which links Christchurch to Arthurs Pass, the first DOC campsite is in the Craigieburn Forest Park. Located between Castle Hill and Lake Pearson and set in a landscape of beech forest, tussock and mountains this is a pretty good place to be. It is a standard campsite with fees around $8 per night for adults.

From the Craigieburn Forest Park to Arthurs Pass there are a further six DOC campsites.

Deer Valley is located in the Lewis Pass 20km from Springs Junction. This is a basic campsite beside the Lewis River and close to the thermal hot pools of Maruia Springs.

South Canterbury DOC campsites

There are a total of nine DOC camps located throughout South Canterbury. The closest to Christchurch is the Peel Forest campground. This is a serviced campsite with 53 sites in total, 4 cabins and 24 powered sites. Fees are from $18 per night. Bookings are required during peak season (December to March)

Close by are a couple of standard campsites for $8 per night. The Orari Gorge is located within a remnant of a podocarp forest and the Waihi Gorge is on the banks of the Waihi River.

Pioneer Park is just a short drive away and offers another standard DOC camp. A bit further south is Mt Nimrod campsite and Otaio Gorge campsite. These are both standard campsites also for $8 per night.

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