Where to Camp During Your Campervan Trip

Road trip in a campervan is exciting because of the flexibility of the trip. For us, not only the driving itself that makes the trip exciting, but also the camping. In this post, we will share a basic information about campsites, as well as few tips on finding a campground for your campervan road trip.

Generally, there are two types of campgrounds: paid campgrounds and free campgrounds.

Paid campgrounds

Paid campgrounds are commercially operated. It can be in a form of holiday parks or campsites managed by the government. Most holiday parks have powered and unpowered sites as well as some other facilities too, like laundry, communal kitchen, toilet an bathroom, playground, swimming pool, etc. Aside from campervan sites, usually the campground also has cabin units or sites for tents. 

Powered site in a holiday park

Another paid campgrounds can be in a form of campsites managed by the government. Usually, these campgrounds are located within a state conservation area. This type of campground is generally less fancy than holiday park. They have only basic amenities like toilets and rubbish bin. Other campsites may have more amenities like shelter, camping table, or cold shower, but nothing more. Pricewise, this campsite costs cheaper than holiday parks.  

Free Campgrounds

Free campgrounds, on the other hand, are places where you can camp without having to pay. As it’s free, most of the free campgrounds have a very minimum or even no facilities at all.

However, we need to practice a responsible freedom camping here. As a responsible freedom camper, you are expected to respect the environment and minimise the impact on camping areas by taking away waste and ensuring you leave the site clean and tidy for those who come afterward.

Freedom camping at Cape Otway, Australia

Restricted Free Campgrounds

Most of the free campgrounds technically can be occupied by any type of campers. However, in New Zealand, some may be restricted to self-contained vehicles only. According to NZMCA, a certified self-contained vehicle meets the ablutionary and sanitary needs of the occupants for a minimum of three days, without requiring any external services or discharging waste. Wastewater is then safely disposed of in approved dump stations, which can be found in most camping-grounds and public areas. All certified vehicles are usually equipped with a blue self-contained vehicle sticker.

What happens to a non-self-contained vehicle camping on a restricted freedom campground area? Expect fines and you are told to leave the camp. You don’t want to ruin your camping time because of not following the rules, right? 

Restricted campgrounds only for self-contained vehicles (picture: resources.stuff.co.nz)
A self-contained sticker for certified vehicles (picture: www.backpackerguide.nz)

Seven Tips for Camping in a Campervan

  1. Read the rental company term to avoid disappointment in the end because of penalty or unnecessary charges. For example, a non-4WD campervan is not allowed by the rental company to go to the non-sealed road, we also should respect that because there is valid safety concern embodied in that restriction.
  2. Look for signage. Make sure that your type of campervan can camp in the campground.
  3. Adjust your car to level the flat surface. Sleeping in a tilted campervan is not comfortable. For campervans with shower, flat surface will make sure your grey water runs into the grey water tank smoothly.
  4. Download camping apps. The apps provide a map that contains camping point of interests (POI) such as free campgrounds, paid campgrounds, dump waste point, groceries store and so on. Each POI sometime includes photos, prices, and comments too. Make sure to read the description and reading the comments of the campground to avoid disappointment before you eventually arrive there.
  5. Park your vehicle at an appropriate distance from the other vehicle. Don’t park too close. Respect others privacy.
  6. Ask when you are not sure. It also applies when you lost in finding your way or if you need any general information. We almost lost our way in our trip because of overconfidence and didn’t ask.
  7. For Muslims – Adjust parking direction to the same direction for Qiblat (direction for praying). This will make praying inside the vehicle easier.

Our story – what we love

Based on our experience, we love free campsites better than the holiday parks. We only camp at holiday parks only if our fresh water supply is low, and our grey water tank is full. It usually takes 3 days

The free campsites allow us to be the closest to nature. We love to camp at a lakeside, at the base of a hill, by the beach, and wake up with a million dollar view, for free. Here are photos our favorite free campgrounds. These are only some of them, and there are a lot more!

Freedom camping at the side of Lake Hayes, New Zealand
Having a cup of tea facing the beautiful Lake Hayes, New Zealand
Our morning view. Freedom camping at Kakanui Beach, New Zealand.

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