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14 May, 2020 - Updated Last updated on
19 July, 2022

Posted by Spaceships Crew

Preparing for your road trip in New Zealand is heaps of fun. The amazing photos of New Zealand will definitely inspire you. One of the most important question to answer is: where can I camp in New Zealand. And the answer is simple, at DOC campsites.

Being aware of these great DOC campsites before you arrive can really help you plan the best adventure possible while in New Zealand.

What are DOC campsites?

DOC is short for Department of Conservation, the public service organisation that is responsible for New Zealand's natural and historical heritage. DOC manages over 200 campsites throughout New Zealand. Campsites that can be found in all sorts of terrain, from lakeshores to forests. It's always an amazing experience to spend the night at one of these DOC campsites.

The DOC camps are great fun and tend to attract more down to earth people looking for a more genuine camping experience. Taking a fishing rod with you is a great option but make sure you are aware of the different rules around when you can fish and the size and number limits. These rules vary for fresh and saltwater and in different regions.

How much does it cost to stay at a DOC campsite?

DOC camping is the ultimate way to experience off the beaten track camping in New Zealand. We are blessed to have a huge number of National Parks and a number of World Heritage Areas. These areas are scenically stunning and within a lot of them are DOC campsites that range from free to around $20 per night.

Basic camps (free)

These campsites have basic toilets and water may be from a tank, stream or lake.

Standard campsites ($8 per night)

At these campsites, you'll find basic toilets, water supply from tap, stream or lake, wood fireplaces and BBQ’s, cold showers, picnic tables and a cooking shelter and rubbish bins may be provided.

Scenic campsites ($15 per night)

DOC's scenic campsites can be found in popular locations. These campgrounds have a limited range of facilities, such as toilets, water (tap), cold showers, picnic tables, fireplaces and rubbish bins.

Serviced Campsites ($20 per night)

A wider range of facilities and services. Flush toilets, tap water, kitchen/cooking bench, hot showers, rubbish collection. Laundry facilities, BBQ’s, fireplaces, cookers and picnic tables may be available.

How to pay for DOC campsites?

Paying for DOC campsites is easy and can be done as follows.

  1. Some of the bigger DOC campsites have a ranger station at the entrance where you can pay the fee.
  2. Most DOC campsites have an honesty box. You simply take a form, fill it out and put the form + money in the "honesty box" (safe box). It's clearly marked, you can't miss it.

Please note: most DOC campsites, especially the ones with an honesty box, only accept cash. If there is an honesty box please make sure to put the exact amount in as no change can be given as there's no one on-site.

Where can I find DOC campsites?

We encourage our travellers to check out at least a couple of DOC camps. There are over 200 DOC campsites so this shouldn’t be an issue. You can download the PDF with all DOC campsites on the North Island or all DOC campsites on the South Island.

Or download the free Spaceships camping & travel app. Our app will show you the location of all DOC campsites and lots of other free & budget campsites. It's the easiest and most environmentally friendly way to find these campsites in New Zealand.

Choosing which ones to stay at may be a bit harder so this is why we sent our photographer Micah around for 5 weeks to capture some photos of what you can expect in some of the DOC campsites.

Mavora Lakes DOC campsite (South Island)

DOC campsite at Mavora Lake


DOC campsite Kidds Bush Reserve Camp (South Island)

DOC campsite Kidds Bush Reserve Camp


Fletcher Bay DOC campsite (North Island)

Fletcher Bay DOC campsite

DOC campsite Port Jackson (North Island)

Port Jackson DOC campsite

Stuff to do along the way

Camping is only half of the experience - what about the stuff to do along the way? This is why we have teamed up with Scott Cook, author of the well-known NZ Frenzy guidebooks.

His content is a great fit for those adventurous travellers looking to experience more. In his books, which Spaceships provide for free with your campervan hire, you will find information on great things to see and do along the way plus some more info on the DOC campsites.

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