Get the Flash Player to see the slideshow.

Where Oh Where May Bazils Rest? Locating Campsites in New Zealand

Bay of Islands (North Island)“How about right here?” I would ask.  “S*$%, this is someone’s private drive.” 
“Greg, this looks good,” Ashley would point out.  “Wait, nope.  Too exposed to the road.”
Having a home on wheels in New Zealand is fantastic until the sun retreats West.  About the size of Colorado and with just 4 million folks, one would think finding a hidden spot to pull over for the night would be a cinch.  Negative Ghost Rider the pattern is full.  Thus for twenty nights the same song and dance was performed.  Broadway won’t be calling us for auditions any time soon.

The ideal spot for “freedom camping” revolves around being hidden from the world.  If your campervan is exposed, concerned citizens will wake you in the middle of the night to ensure everything is AOK.  Or passing police will knock on your window until you begrudgingly move along into the pitch black night after parking in a prohibited area.  But we were focused on the first syllable in the phrase “freedom camping.”  A success rate of one in four nights (mainly within National Parks) planted the seeds of frustration each evening.  We seemed vexed until utilizing Department of Conservation (“DOC”) campgrounds.

Cloudy Bay Vineyard (North Island) Doubtless Bay (North Island) Navigator

DOC campsites are no frills to be certain: no showers, treated water on occasion, and roadside style toilets.  For what these sites lack is made up for by being inexpensive ($5 per person), no crowds, and offering sensational views.  When our patience grew thin searching for a free spot, helpful DOC brochures directed us to their locations.  Sometimes we would arrive prior to daylight giving way to shimmering stars.  Other times not so much.  Such as the night we drove through the rain, fog, and darkness of Waipoua Kauri Forest completely lost.  Over two hours of madness and an incredibly lucky siting of a nocturnal Kiwi, we arrived at the campground.  Our favorite DOC campsites were found in Merita, Lake Moke (outside Queenstown), and Mount Cook.  When we began smelling ripe due to hiking and lack of showers, it was time to pony up for legit campsites ($12 per person).

We fought like hell to avoid campgrounds (called Holiday Parks) such as these because they were expensive versus the alternatives, overcrowded, and offered lesser views.  But certain needs must be met like charging the auxiliary battery (powers fridge and internal lights), obtaining fresh water, and bathing.  The hippies of the 1970′s would never have condoned our “shower every third day” behavior.

Cook Strait Ferry Bay of Islands (North Island) Cable Bay (South Island)

For twenty nights, we slept beneath the stars in Bazils, our 1990 Toyota HiAce campervan from ExploreMore.  Like brushing your teeth every morning (let’s hope anyway), we were trained to snap a photo of each campsite.  Below is a brief slideshow portraying Bazils’ bed each day:

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) DOC campsites are not equipped with personnel to check in/out guests.  Payment is on the honor system.  So don’t be a jerk and short the National Parks.  After all, your money goes towards these incredible places of nature.
2) As mentioned above, freedom camping is more difficult than it would seem.  Secondary roads don’t exist like in the USA.  New Zealand has main thoroughfares and side roads typically lead to homes.  Asking locals and conferring with the friendly folks at iSites (green signs) provide good leads on where a suitable overnight place could be found.
3) Find a camping spot well before nightfall.  We learned this quickly having searched in the darkness on several nights only to end up paying for a Holiday Park.  Pick a time at least one hour before sunset to be settled in a location.  Then toss the migraine medication out the window (not literally, that would be littering such a beautiful country).

  • http://www.roundwego.com/ Ryan

    It would have been too fitting if we had gotten Bazil from you. Ours, Campbell, didn't fit the name since it's clearly a she – now Bertha. Second everything you say here, including the shorting of the National Parks, but I do have to admit to not having the appropriate change a few times…

    Carry on, my wayward ones. Hopefully, our paths will meet again.

  • fofs

    Ryan – Glad Bertha is working out for ya'll. How great is the Lake Moke campsite outside Queenstown?

    Hopefully we meet up in SE Asia… Ash and I will buy you two a shot of snake blood!

    - Greg and Ash

  • http://www.roundwego.com/ Ryan

    It would have been too fitting if we had gotten Bazil from you. Ours, Campbell, didn't fit the name since it's clearly a she – now Bertha. Second everything you say here, including the shorting of the National Parks, but I do have to admit to not having the appropriate change a few times…

    Carry on, my wayward ones. Hopefully, our paths will meet again.

  • fofs

    Ryan – Glad Bertha is working out for ya'll. How great is the Lake Moke campsite outside Queenstown?

    Hopefully we meet up in SE Asia… Ash and I will buy you two a shot of snake blood!

    - Greg and Ash

Powered by Wordpress | Designed by Elegant Themes