9 hidden treasure DOC campgrounds

Ryan Boyd
9 hidden treasure DOC campgrounds

With over 200 campsites around our beautiful country, The Department of Conservation (DOC) offer somewhere every Kiwi can go camping.

Though they may be basic, they are in some of the greatest scenery in the world, and better yet, many of these sites are free or pretty cheap.

By no means a comprehensive list, here are nine spots around the country where you can go to to get away from it all, enjoy nature, and unwind from all the stress of modern living.

 

Northland - Pandora

Right near the top of the country, Pandora is a stunning secluded beach only accessible via an hour’s walk from the car park.

A good spot for swimming and fishing, Pandora is perfect for those seeking a minimalist camping trip away from the crowds. But insect repellent is required.

  •   Cost: Free

  •   Bookings: Not required

  •   Access: Boat, foot

  •   Facilities: Long drops, water (non-treated), cold showers

  •   Sites: 30 non-powered tent sites

DOC description: “Camp in a picturesque setting in beautiful Pandora bay. Only accessible on foot and with minimal facilities, this is the spot for those seeking a true wilderness experience.

 

Auckland region - Motuora Island

Motuora Island Campsite

Pest-free Motuora has beautiful beaches, clear water, walking tracks, and a wide variety of native wildlife. It's even possible to hear and sometimes see (at night) North Island brown kiwi.

If you don’t have a boat, you can take a water taxi from Sandspit, or a 1.5 hour kayak if you’re feeling adventurous.

  •   Cost: Adults $8 per night, children (5-17 yrs) $4 per night

  •   Bookings: Required

  •   Access: Boat

  •   Facilities: Long drops, water (non-treated), cold showers

  •   Sites: 35 non-powered tent sites

DOC description: “An island sanctuary for native flora and fauna, the camp is near a Māori historic site and early European settlement.”

 

Coromandel - Port Jackson

Port Jackson campsite

Probably the least “hidden” of the treasures on this list, Port Jackson is right up the top of the Coromandel and is a summer camper’s paradise.

Swimming, fishing, and diving are all great here, plus there are some impressively scenic coastal walks up the headlands.

  •   Cost: Adults $15 per night, children (5-17 yrs) $7.50 per night

  •   Bookings: Required

  •   Access: Car, campervan, caravan

  •   Facilities: Flush toilets, water (non-treated), cold showers, BBQ

  •   Sites: 113 non-powered tent sites

DOC description: “At the northern tip of the Peninsula, this campsite is at the water’s edge next to the beach. At the eastern end of the campsite, the Muriwai Coastal Walk leads up the headland towards Wharekaiatua Pa and along the coast, with stunning coastal views.

 

Wairarapa - Putangirua Pinnacles

Putangirua Pinnacles campsite

The spacious and peaceful Putangirua Pinnacles is perfect if you want to get out of Wellington for a bit.

The perfect spot to see some excellent night time skies and visit the famous Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve, made famous in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’.

  •   Cost: Adults $8 per night, children (5-17 yrs) $4 per night

  •   Bookings: Not required

  •   Access: Car, campervan, caravan

  •   Facilities: Flush toilets, water from stream

  •   Sites: 50 non-powered tent sites

DOC description: “Sited beside the Putangirua Stream with views of Cook Strait and a pebbly beach across the road. Walk from here to the impressive Putangirua Pinnacles, or drive to the seal colony near Cape Palliser lighthouse.”

 

 

Marlborough - Blumine Bay/Oruawairua

Blumine Bay/Oruawairua campsite

Teeming with native birds, including the endangered rowi kiwi, this pest-free island in Queen Charlotte Sound is accessible via water taxi or kayak (there’s no jetti or moorings).

There is also a WWII gun emplacement and barracks about an hour’s trek from the campsite.

  •   Cost: Adults $6 per night, children (5-17 yrs) $3 per night

  •   Bookings: Not required

  •   Access: Boat

  •   Facilities: Long drop, water (non-treated)

  •   Sites: Six non-powered tent sites

DOC description: “North-facing seafront site on a picturesque, pest free island. Walk the track to the historic WWII gun emplacements, experience the all day 'dawn chorus', and enjoy the stunning views.”

 

Nelson/Tasman - Mutton Cove

Mutton Cove campsite

Located in Abel Tasman National Park, Mutton Cove has a mild climate, golden beaches, and lush coastal native bush. But as you will be walking a couple hours to get there, the beach will hopefully be a bit quieter than other spots in the area.

  •   Cost: Adults $15 per night, children (5-17 yrs) free but booking still required

  •   Bookings: Required

  •   Access: Boat or foot

  •   Facilities: Flush toilets, water (non-treated)

  •   Sites: 20 non-powered tent sites

DOC description: “Walk-in or boat-in to this beachside campsite on the Waiharakeke to Whariwharangi section of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. There is no drive on access.”

 

Canterbury - Loch Katrine

Loch Katrine campsite

The drive to get to Loch Katrine is not an easy one, with DOC suggesting only 4WDs make the trip, and probably best to avoid during bad weather, but the lake, surrounding mountains, and (likely) isolation will make it worthwhile.

Great base for trampers, mountain bikers, kayakers, and brave swimmers.

  •   Cost: Free

  •   Bookings: Not required

  •   Access: 4WD recommended

  •   Facilities: Long drop, water (non-treated)

  •   Sites: 30 non-powered tent sites

DOC description: “Camp beside the beautiful lake in a grassy area. Walk, 4WD or mountain bike from here, or take a swim in the icy waters!”

 

Otago - Homestead

Homestead campsite

Set in the picturesque hills of Central Otago, the Homestead Campsite is set around an old homestead found down a long stretch of gravel road near the historic gold rush town of St Bathans.

There are 20 non-powered tent sites and reports say cell phone coverage is pretty much non-existent.

If peace and quiet is what you crave, this may be the spot.

  •   Cost: Free

  •   Bookings: Not required

  •   Access: Car, Caravan, campervan (4WD only in winter)

  •   Facilities: long drop, water (non-treated)

  •   Sites: 20 non-powered tent sites

DOC description: “A basic campsite in Central Otago, this isolated campsite is the ideal base for mountain biking, hunting, fishing and tramping in the nearby St Bathans and Hawkdun Ranges.”

 

 

Fiordland - Hall Arm

If isolation in amazing scenery is what you’re after, Hall Arm may be your heaven. But you’ve got to be prepared to work to get there as access is by boat only.

There are overnight kayak tours you can take, or alternatively boat charter, though once you are there the scenery is unmatched. However do take netting and bug spray as the sandflies are notorious.

  •   Cost: Free

  •   Bookings: Not required

  •   Access: Boat

  •   Facilities: long drop, water (non-treated)

  •   Sites: Six non-powered tent sites

DOC description: “This is a backcountry campsite in western Fiordland. In a beautiful forest setting beside the water, in Hall Arm, Doubtful Sound.”

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