1. Klondyke Corner, Arthur’s Pass National Park
With one smelly toilet, and stinkin’ good views, this free campsite was my favourite by far. Perhaps because it was our first night in the van, or because it was in close proximity to Devils Punchbowl Falls and the Scott’s Track.
2. Lake Pearson, Arthur’s Pass National Park
Loved this spot. It was a tad overcast when we stayed here, and it was packed! We almost couldn’t find ourselves a spot, but managed to get away from the crowds and parked the van right between two trees, where we couldn’t get any closer to the lake without drowning the van.
Bring the camp chairs, and don’t worry about the need to answer nature’s call – the drop toilet here wasn’t all that bad.
3. Lake McGregor, Tekapo
If you’re a fan of starry night skies, welcome to one of the most spectacular night-sky viewing territories in the world. Lake McGregor is a top spot, with plenty of space to camp the van on the rocky-sand shores of the lake.
Watch out for those darn sandflies, we were literally swarmed by them in the afternoon.
And do yourself a favour, if you’re there in Summer, put an alarm on for about 2am, poke your head out of the van, and see the milky way in all it’s glory.
4. White Horse Hill, Mount Cook National Park
Look, this spot is literally the parking lot for the Hooker Valley Track. There’s nothing remote about this campsite, and it’ll cost you $8 per person for one night.
With toilets, and facilities to charge devices, and powered sites, the fees aren’t anything to scoff at.
If you want to get a great sunrise or sunset view of the Hooker Valley Lake, it’s an ideal spot to sleep for the night, or relax during the day before taking the hike.
5. Cameron Flat, Mount Aspiring National Park
This campsite isn’t too far from the Blue Pools Walk – actually if you want to do a longer version of that walk, you can start the trail from Cameron Flat. With nice views of the mountains around, and the valley below, it’s as picturesque as any campsite right beside the road you could ask for.
When we stayed here, it was pelting down with rain. We weren’t exactly fans of the toilet blocks, either. They were pretty ordinary.
There’s a tap with water – but you’ll need to boil it before drinking.
6. Diamond Lake, Wanaka
If you’re searching for a quiet spot to camp near Wanaka, but you don’t want to camp at one of the big holiday parks, this spot is ideal. You can also start the Diamond Lake hiking trail from here!
It’s pretty much a parking lot just off the side of the road in the middle of a nice big valley. There were heaps of camper-vanners here when we stayed, so bring a few drinks along and get chatting!
7. Henry Creek, Te Anau
My number one tip would be to give yourself at least three days in the Milford region. Start by driving to Te Anau, and camp at Henry Creek, before getting up early the next day and visiting Milford Sound (it’s a 3 hour drive from here – ignore the nav-man).
This spot was magical, we walked on squishy ground, found a rope swing in the trees, and skipped rocks across the lake.
It’ll cost you $13, and there are a few little drop toilets.
8. Deer Flat, Fiordland National Park
On the way back from our morning at Milford Sound, we stopped in at all the campsites along the road, but chose to stay at Deer Flat because the views in the valley, and the close proximity to the flowing river.
It was pretty packed when we arrived there at around 3pm, so if you want a good spot, try to get there early.
Another tip would be to take a walk through the tall grass to where the river goes a little deeper. Keep your eyes peeled for trout!
9. Twenty Five Mile Stream, Between Glenorchy and Queenstown
On our first day in Queenstown, we weren’t shocked to find that all the campsites in town were big, crowded holiday parks. We had another two nights left, and desperately wanted to find something remote and beautiful for our second last night.
Safe to say this spot, just 25 minutes from Queenstown, and about 15 minutes from Glenorchy, was a sure winner. We camped right beside Lake Wakatipu, and enjoyed the peace and serenity.
Plus, it’s free!
10. Queenstown Holiday Park & Motels Creeksyde
This one will set you back $65, but with showers, toilets, and a spot to power the van (if needed) you’ll no doubt be as happy as we were if you’d been on the road with none of these luxuries for over a week.
Plus, it’s close to town. You can go out and have a big night, and stumble home without worrying about traipsing through any dodgy neighbourhoods.
As always – practice usual safety precautions.
Got any questions? Ask away!