Waking up surrounded by natural beauty is what freedom camping is all about, and New Zealand’s South Island is one of the best freedom camping destinations in the world. With awesome natural beauty around almost every corner, the South Island is made for explorers who want to escape crowded holiday spots.
We have put together a list of the top 5 free camping spots in the South Island to help you get out exploring.
1. Ahuriri Bridge Campsite, Omarama, Canterbury
Just 20 minutes out from the town of Twizel on the banks of the Ahuriri River, this campsite offers sheltered camping near large willow trees. It is the perfect spot for a bit of fishing, mountain bike riding or walking. There’s a couple of excellent intermediate mountain bike rides nearby, both taking about two hours. The Birchwood Road end to Shamrock Hut ride will take you across Canyon Creek while the Shamrock Hut to Hagen’s Hut ride, descends gently to the Ahuriri River flats. The trout fishing on the Ahuriri is epic and with any luck you can catch some brown and rainbow trout.
2. Moray Terrace Reserve, Fortrose
This freedom camping site is just a 30-minute drive out of Invercargill at the mouth of the estuary in Fortrose, a small town that is the southern gateway to The Catlins coastal route. It is a great spot to see some sea life with sealions at nearby Waipapa Point and Hector dolphins in Porpoise Bay.
3. Whitecliffs Domain, Glentunnel, Canterbury
An hour out of the city of Christchurch, Whitecliffs Domain is one of five freedom camping spots in the Selwyn District which stretches across the Canterbury Plains. This peaceful and secluded spot is a great place to unwind on the way to Arthur’s Pass. It’s the perfect spot for fishing as it sits alongside the Selwyn River, and in good conditions you can try your luck for some sea-run trout at the Selwyn Huts.
4. Fox River/Potikohua, Buller District
Fox River has plenty to offer campers. There’s a Sunday market, a coffee cart that visits on a regular basis, scenic walks up the river and along the beach, even free WIFI. Lonely Planet rates the Great Coast Road drive, which passes Fox River and nearby town Woodpecker Bay, as one of the world’s greatest coastal drives. The beach along Woodpecker Bay has some amazing rock pools filled with crabs and starfish. At low tide you can walk out to Seal Island and get up close to the seals.
5. Cobden Aromahana Lagoon, Greymouth
A short drive from Greymouth, Cobden Lagoon is a beachfront camping spot offering stunning views of the 12 Apostles Range and the Southern Alps. The area is popular with bird watchers and there have been sightings of the rare white heron. There’s a short 15-minute walking track around the lagoon and in good weather you can see amazing reflections in the water.