Ready for an adventure? Get your boots and camping essentials because it’s time to experience the raw wilderness in New Zealand!
Having tried it first-hand, camping in New Zealand is an incredible and unforgettable adventure. It’s a great way to experience the country’s spectacular natural beauty and myriad outdoor recreational opportunities. However, this activity would be more suited for non-fussy travellers who are adaptable to making changes to the itinerary when necessary. Some improvisation will be needed when circumstances like extreme weather, attraction closures, or a broken-down vehicle arise. So if you’re looking for a 10D9N itinerary to freedom camping in New Zealand, this will certainly satisfy the adventurer in you!
What Is Freedom Camping?
Image credits: RV Super Centre
Freedom camping is a type of camping in New Zealand that allows people to camp in areas where traditional camping is not permitted, such as in public places like parking lots, rest areas, and along the side of the road. You can simply pull over, park your campervan or motorhome, or set up your tent and camp for the night right next to that tranquil lake.
It’s a brilliant option for travellers to see the country on a budget, as it allows you to save money on accommodation and bask in the natural beauty of New Zealand. As freedom camping can be more rustic than staying at a traditional campsite, pack smart and be prepared for the elements! Since you’re possibly going to be in a forest or next to a lake, there aren’t going to be 5-star amenities, room service, or even flushable toilets so get ready to be self-sufficient!
Before you start packing, do note that this freeing experience comes with some rules. For example, there are certain strictly no-camping zones like within 50 metres of a public toilet, or within 200 metres of a camping ground. Freedom campers must also take care to leave no trace of their presence and must not cause any damage to the environment. Certain camp spots require booking, while others are on a first-come-first-serve basis. Other times, certain campsites also require you to have a self-contained vehicle.
These factors demonstrate how important it is to read up on the campsite you want beforehand. You can find these campsites on the Department of Conservation Freedom Camping’s website, Campermate App, or Rankers Camping NZ App. These apps will also be your best companion while road-tripping to notify you of any potential road closures.
Try Freedom Camping In New Zealand With This 10D9N Itinerary: Find out more about our guide to Freedom Camping here
The 10-Day New Zealand South Island Itinerary
Image credits: Travellers Autobarn NZ
This is a rough estimate of how much you have to drive. Yes, get your butts and backs comfortable because there’s a total of at least 26 hours worth of driving. For this trip (or any other road trip), it’s essential to get capable drivers who are ready to drive the distance.
Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch & pick up a rental car. Drive to Akaroa, a small town on the Banks Peninsula with beautiful views of the harbour & surrounding hills. Spend the night at a campsite in Akaroa.
On the first day, upon collecting your choice of vehicle — cars or campervans, head to a well-stocked grocery store to get your essentials like water, first-aid kit, cooking supplies etc. Remember to also ensure you have all the camping supplies you need like a good sleeping bag or headlamps because you might not be able to find a large selection of them once you leave the city area.
If you still have time before evening comes, consider exploring the town of Akaroa! The historic French and British community of Akaroa is located in the heart of a long-extinct volcano. Other than shopping and eating, there are also tours to visit dolphins and potahu penguins as well as Maori museums to better understand the native culture.
🏕 Campsites: Duvauchelle Holiday Park
💰 Prices: NZD120++ (Depending on season)
Try Freedom Camping In New Zealand With This 10D9N Itinerary: Find out more about what to do at Akaroa
Day 2: Drive to Lake Tekapo, a stunning lake in the Mackenzie Basin with breathtaking views of the Southern Alps. Spend the night at a campsite near the lake.
Image credits: Audley Travel
Lake Tekapo is a stunning alpine lake located on the South Island of New Zealand, surrounded by the Southern Alps. It’s known for its crystal clear waters, which are a brilliant turquoise colour due to the rock flour that is suspended in the water. If you’re lucky, it just might be lupin season too!
What Else To Check Out At Lake Tekapo:
Image credits: Archipro
🍴 Food: Fairlie Bakehouse — On the way to Lake Tekapo, drop by the esteemed Fairlie Bakehouse for some really delicious local pies. If you didn’t know, pies are quite a kiwi thing. Their Pork Belly with Apple Sauce pie was worth every calorie. And of course, I paid with my YouTrip card.
Image credits: Dark Sky Project
🏔 Attractions: Mt John Observatory — You can stargaze on the mountains at 1,029m high with a full 360 view at Mt John Observatory, a world-renowned astronomical research centre. As part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, the location is protected against light pollution which allows viewers the best look at the sky.
🏕 Freedom Camping Site: The Pines – Lake Pukaki
💰 Price: Free
🏕 Managed Campsite: Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park
💰 Price: NZD62++ (Depending on season)
Try Freedom Camping In New Zealand With This 10D9N Itinerary: Find out more about what to do at Lake Tekapo
Day 3: Head to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain. Spend the day hiking in the Mount Cook National Park & the evening at a campsite nearby.
Mount Cook (also known as Aoraki) is the highest mountain in New Zealand, standing at an elevation of 3,724 metres. It’s a sacred mountain for the Māori people who have a long history of living in the area and have cultural and spiritual connections to the mountain. Surrounding the mountain, the UNESCO World Heritage Mount Cook National Park is home to a number of other peaks, glaciers, and alpine lakes. With a variety of basic to challenging trails, the park is a great place for exploration.
Here Are Multiple Hiking Tracks You Can Try Out At Mount Cook:
|🏕 Hooker Valley Track||Hike Distance: ~10KM|
Duration: 2 – 3 hours
Elevation: ~100m elevation
|🏕 Mueller Hut Route||Hike Distance: 10.4KM out-and-back|
Duration: 5.5 – 8 hours return
Mueller Hut Elevation: 1800m Above Mean Sea Level (AMSL)
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult
|🏕 Tasman Glacier Moraine Viewpoint||Hike Distance: 8.5 KM|
Duration: 2 hours
Elevation: 260m of elevation gain to 910m AMSL at the moraine viewpoint
Difficulty: Easy hike (but dangerous scree climb and avalanche risk in Winter)
What Else To Check Out:
🍴 Food: Mt Cook Alpine Salmon Shop for some fresh sashimi-grade NZ salmon. It’s worth a try because not only is it fresh, but the salmon from New Zealand is distinctively different from the Japanese or Norwegian salmon variety. They’re known to have a chewier texture, richer flavour, and higher omega-3 content. Definitely worth a try.
🏔 Activities: Mount Cook Helicopter Tours. If time and money allow, the alpine helicopter tours are an idyllic experience you should definitely consider. There are a number of different Mount Cook helicopter tours available, ranging from short flights to longer expeditions. Some tours offer a scenic flight over the park, allowing you to take in the breathtaking landscapes from above. Other tours offer a more immersive experience, with options such as landing on or taking a guided walk on a glacier.
🏕 Freedom Campsite: White Horse Hill Campground
💰 Prices: NZD18/ night (Depending on season)
🏕 Managed Campsites: Glenntanner Park
💰 Prices: NZD56++/night (Depending on season)
Try Freedom Camping In New Zealand With This 10D9N Itinerary: Find out what you can do and see in Mount Cook/Aoraki
Day 4 & 5: Drive to Queenstown, a popular tourist destination known for its adventure sports, and stunning views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. Consider trying out one of the many adventure sports available, such as bungee jumping, kayaking, or white water rafting. Spend the nights at a campsite in Queenstown.
Image credits: Tripsavvy
Queenstown is a South Island tourist favourite. It’s known for its stunning natural beauty, with a backdrop of the Southern Alps, and a location on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The town is a popular base for outdoor activities, with a range of adventures available including skiing and snowboarding in the winter months and hiking, mountain biking, and white water rafting in the summer.
In addition to its outdoor activities, Queenstown also has a vibrant nightlife — with a range of bars, clubs, and restaurants catering to a range of tastes and budgets. Whether you’re looking for adventure or a chance to relax and take in the stunning natural beauty of the region, Queenstown has something for everyone.
What To Check Out In Queenstown:
😮💨 Wellness: Onsen Hot Pools
💰 Prices: NZD57++ (Depending on season)
⚠️ FYI, in case you’re using a campervan, most of the roads are not campervan-friendly in Queenstown. You’ll have to park at a campervan-friendly parking area or campsite before heading out on foot!
Try Freedom Camping In New Zealand With This 10D9N Itinerary: Find out more about what to do and see at Queenstown
Day 6 & 7: Drive to Fiordland National Park to catch some of the most breathtaking landscapes in New Zealand. Spend two days exploring Fiordland National Park and the Te Anau region. Consider taking a boat tour of Milford Sound or a hike through the park’s beautiful forests and valleys. Spend the nights at the campsites in Fiordland National Park or Te Anau.
Fiordland National Park is a protected area located in the southwestern corner of New Zealand’s South Island. Its most famous hike is the Milford Track, a multi-day trek that takes hikers through some of the park’s most spectacular scenery.
The hot attraction is here the Milford Sound Tour Cruise — a fiord located in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s renowned for its impressive scenery of towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, and crystal-clear waters. There are many tour companies that offer guided tours of Milford Sound to help you experience the area and learn more about its natural history and culture.
Image credits: New Zealand
If You’d Like To Explore Fiordland National Park On Foot, Here Are Some Trails:
|🏕 Lake Monowai and Borland Nature Walk||Hike Distance: ~2.2KM loop|
Duration: 40 mins return
|🏕 Kepler Track||Hike Distance: ~60KM |
Duration: 4 days
Difficulty: Intermediate Advanced
|🏕 Milford Track||Hike Distance: ~53.5KM |
Duration: 4 days
Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate
Other Activities To Check Out Around Fiordland National Park & Te Anau:
💰 Prices: NZD15/night (Depending on season)
Try Freedom Camping In New Zealand With This 10D9N Itinerary: Find out more about Fiordland National Park
Day 8 & 9: Drive to the West Coast, a rugged and wild region known for its rainforests, glaciers, and sandy beaches. Spend two days exploring the West Coast. Consider visiting the Franz Josef Glacier or the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. Spend the nights at the campsite on the West Coast.
Image credits: Franz Josef Glacier Guides
The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is a rugged and wild terrain known for being New Zealand’s most diverse and ecologically rich region. The coast is home to a number of national parks, including Westland Tai Poutini National Park, where the famous Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers reside. The West Coast is also where a number of small towns and villages reside, including Greymouth, Hokitika, and Punakaiki, which are ideal for light day tour explorations.
What To Do On The West Coast:
🏕 Freedom Campsite: Hans Bay – Lake Kaniere Camping Area
💰 Price: NZD10/night (Depending on season)
💰 Price: NZD 48++ /night (Depending on season)
Try Freedom Camping In New Zealand With This 10D9N Itinerary: Find out what else you can do on the West Coast
Day 10: Drive back to Christchurch and return your rental. Spend the night in Christchurch before departing.
The first and last stop, Christchurch.
Christchurch is the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island and is known for its English heritage, cultural attractions, and beautiful parks and gardens, including Hagley Park and The Botanic Gardens. If you’d like something similarly cultured but indoors, check out the Canterbury Museum or the Christchurch Art Gallery both of which feature heritage and contemporary works respectively. There’s an abundance of food options in the town that suits a variety of budgets. You can also do your final shopping spree with stores locally and internationally.
There are plenty of accommodations in Queenstown. You can choose from local Airbnbs, hotels, or hostels. If you’re no longer driving, it would be best to stay within the Christchurch City Centre where most places are within walking distance.
Try Freedom Camping In New Zealand With This 10D9N Itinerary: Find out what else you can do at Christchurch
Some Parting Tips
This is simply a rough guide of the itinerary I’ve been on but a word of caution as road trips go, many things can change at the last minute so give it some flexibility and perhaps factor in some plan B’s.
Supply runs for food and fuel have not been factored into the itinerary as they will depend on individual consumption. During my trip, we topped up groceries every two to three days depending on when we would cook, and fuel whenever it was close to a quarter tank. Make sure to monitor your food, water (waste and clean), and fuel supply diligently to avoid any potential accidents. As outdoor activities and driving are involved, it is of paramount importance to check the weather forecasts and road closure warnings before setting off!
Your Next Kiwi Adventure Awaits
With a new way to explore New Zealand’s wonders, you’re all set to book that trip and get on the road! And while you’re booking your campervan or motorhome rentals and stocking it full of food, remember to use your YouTrip card to cash in on our sweet wholesale exchange rates!
As Singapore’s favourite multi-currency wallet, we aim to get those pesky fees out of the way and help you save on your travels. With the best foreign exchange rates, no longer will you have to deal with those long queues at money changers! So if you’re looking for a go-to travel card, sign up for your complimentary YouTrip card today with <YTBLOG5> and get FREE S$5 in your account! Then, head over to our YouTrip Perks page for exclusive offers and promotions — we promise you won’t regret it. For more great tips and articles like this, join our Telegram (@YouTripSG) and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter here or down below.
And while you’re at it, why not join the conversation with thousands of #YouTroopers in our very own Community Telegram Group @YouTripSquad? Get tips and tricks to everything YouTrip including exclusive invites to exciting events and experiences, & be part of the #YouTripSquad! 💜
Stay safe and happy camping!