Adventure Bike Camping in New Zealand

There is an excellent network of campsites dotted all around New Zealand for adventure riders to take advantage of. The Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites offer the greatest number of options followed by privately owned campsites.

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DOC Campsites

There is good spread of DOC campsites throughout most parts of the country meaning you can almost plan an entire riding trip around staying at the best ones. There are different types of DOC campsites which offer various levels of facilities.

Serviced DOC Campsites

These are the more mainstream campsites and can include flush toilets, water on tap, kitchens with cooking benches, hot showers and rubbish collection. In some cases they may also have laundry facilities, barbecues, fireplaces and cookers.  These mainstream campsites normally offer easy access tarmac roads and target general tourers in motorhomes or family holiday goers.

The cost for a tent site at a serviced DOC campsite is $18 per person per night.

Scenic and Standard DOC Campsites

These campsites start to be of more interest to the adventure rider. A good majority are located in very scenic locations around New Zealand and can offer some excellent camping experiences. These campsites have a varied range of facilities. Most have basic bio-toilets and the water supply can be from a tap or collection from a stream or lake. Some may have wood BBQs, fireplaces, cold showers, picnic tables or cooking shelters. Normally these campsites are not serviced for rubbish so you will need to take out what you take in.

The popularity of these campsites varies quite a bit. The campsites that are located in the more easily accessible locations naturally see more campers than the ones that are off the beaten track. 

Scenic/standard campsites have a mixture of access options. Some can be accessed by tarmac roads while others are accessed by gravel roads. Some have access by 4X4 track only which means they see far less visitors each year making them a perfect option for the adventure rider looking for a more remote and peaceful camping experience. 

The cost for a tent site at a scenic/standard DOC campsite varies between $8 to $13 per person per night.

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Example of a standard campsite by a lake. This is Lake Kaniere Campsite
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Example of a standard campsite up a river valley. This is Cameron Flat Campsite

Basic DOC Campsites

These campsites normally only offer a basic toilet and that’s about it. Water will more often than not have to be collected from nearby streams or lakes. Some basic campsites are categorised as basic due to the limited appeal of their location. Some basic campsites are categorised as basic due to their limited facilities however they can be in absolutely stunning locations. It is important to do your research to avoid disappointment as some basic campsites vary considerably in appeal.  

Some basic campsites can be in quite remote places and have 4X4 track access only. This type of campsite will be of most interest to the adventurous rider that wants a remote camping experience. 

There is no cost for a tent site at a basic DOC campsite.

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Example of a typical basic campsite. This is Mailing Pass where you are allowed to camp on the lower flats of the valley - absolutely stunning!

How to Find DOC Campsites

One important thing to note about DOC campsites is that not all of them are motorbike accessible. The majority of DOC campsites are accessed by walking track only. There are however a good number of vehicle accessible DOC campsites. One of the most convenient ways to find just the vehicle accessible campsites is on RemoteMoto as it shows the campsites plus all of the routes leading up to them. 

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View Campsites

You can also use this free DOC campsite brochure to find all DOC campsites (vehicle and walking accessible): DOC Campsites

Privately Owned Campsites

Throughout New Zealand are a number of privately owned campsites. Some of these can be at scenic spots on inland farming stations or landowners who have property next to lakes or the sea.

The prices will vary considerably but the typical price you will pay for a private campsite is anywhere from $5 through to $20 per person per night. 

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Camping and Campfires

There is nothing quite like winding down around a campfire after a hard day of riding; it's absolutely brilliant. There are many campsites around New Zealand where you can have campfires however there are also many places where you can't. Most of the campsites that don't allow campfires will normally be due to the risk of fires spreading into nearby areas.  

Some campsites will be quite flexible and allow campfires anywhere within the campsite while others can have designated areas or fire pits to better keep fires under control. As a word of caution, whatever option is available do be careful that your fire does not get away on you. On average, the cost to extinguish a bush fire in New Zealand can be up to $200,000 if emergency services are involved. If you do not have personal liability insurance or any insurance coverage from a club or group; you will be directly responsible for the costs. 

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Author of this article: RMOTO