The main mode of transportation around New Zealand, for tourists, is camper vans. While these can be incredibly expensive just to rent, you have to fork over even more money just to stay at a site, especially for a powered site. Being on a budget, we opted for the cheapest, most convenient option we could find: tent camping and renting a car. It seemed like the happy medium between getting a camper van and hitch-hiking/couch surfing. There isn’t much information online about tent camping through New Zealand, so we though we’d share some knowledge we’ve gathered along the way. Here are some tips for tent camping New Zealand (but a lot of these tips would be helpful to anyone visiting NZ!).
Get Your Gear at The Warehouse
Arriving in New Zealand without gear? No problem. Head to The Warehouse, a cheap store chain that will fulfill all of your camping needs. We purchased the following equipment for under $200 USD at The Warehouse: a 4-person tent (because Pete is a large person and this was much more comfortable), a queen-size blow-up mattress, an electric pump, a lantern plus batteries, a door mat, pillows & pillow cases.
Grocery Shop at Pak’nSave
You can save tons of money in New Zealand by grocery shopping instead of eating at restaurants. The cheapest option is Pak’nSave, a budget grocery store chain. Our favorite purchases were the fresh pizzas ($3-4 NZD) and a cooler bag ($3 NZD) to keep our yogurt, drinks, meats and cheeses cold.
Rent a Car
We recommend using a comparison website to find the cheapest rental car possible during your stay. For 26 nights, driving from Auckland to Queenstown, we spent $744 USD. If you want to really save money, and your itinerary is flexible, check the website imoova to find cheap (or even free or paid!) rentals; they’re often looking for people to drive from south to north.
Download (Free) Apps
Apps are incredibly helpful when camping in New Zealand – make sure to download these before you go, as New Zealand doesn’t have the best wifi coverage.
Campermate is an absolute must for campers. We used it to find campsites all over the country. This app provides the location, honest comments/reviews and prices to help you easily decide which site to stay at.
Essential NZ is the official app of Tourism New Zealand that provides a lot of help as a travel guide. It lists activities and their locations and prices. You can search by destination, what’s near you, or the top 10.
Get Familiar with Helpful Websites
Department of Conservation provides tons of information on national parks, camp sites, hikes…pretty much everything you need to know about exploring the natural beauty of New Zealand.
Bookme.co.nz will show you great deals for activities by location. We found this especially helpful for Queenstown, which is a pretty pricey town where you’ll probably want to sign up for some adventurous activities. Don’t book a tour without checking this website first!
Stop at Local i-Sites
These information sites are everywhere in New Zealand; you’ll find them in every major town. When we didn’t have wifi to do research by ourselves, or if we just wanted some advice from locals, we’d pull into the local i-Site and ask the person at the desk for their recommendations. Depending on who you talk to, they usually provide good info. At the very least, they give out free maps and brochures.
Have you ever tent camped New Zealand? Are there any other resources you found helpful?