Go NZ: Five classic Kiwi campgrounds for summer

A guide to some of New Zealand’s most primo spots to pitch a tent. Brought to you by the team behind our weekly Travel magazine, published on Tuesdays.

Stony Bay, Coromandel

At the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, this DoC campsite lies at one end of the glorious Coastal Walkway (mountain bikes permitted). Remote, peaceful and with no cellphone signal, it’s perfect for an off-the-grid break with walking and swimming on the side. Basic camping is spread through meadows with pōhutukawa for shade, and facilities limited to little more than showers, toilets and water. At the other end of the walkway, DoC’s Fletcher Bay campsite offers an alternative view.

Castlepoint Holiday Park, Wairarapa

About as windswept and interesting as the east coast gets, Castlepoint boasts a formidable lighthouse (spectacularly illuminated at night), wild beach, limestone reef, dunes and a peculiar lagoon overlooked by the striking Castle Rock. The beachfront campground punches above its weight with million-dollar views from its waterfront and terrace sites, while a series of sites down the back allows tenters to escape the nor-wester. Recent years have seen some excellent upgrades.

Himatangi Beach Holiday Park, Manawatu

The holiday hamlet of Himatangi lies in the centre of New Zealand’s largest coastal dune system, so here’s a chance to get some serious sand between your toes. A top contender for the country’s best-kept campground, this place has sharp, sparkling facilities while retaining a classic Kiwi feel. We love the cute cabins, but there are some gorgeous grassy sites spread through, too. The epic beach is popular for swimming and fishing, but we’re personally quite partial to cycling the hard sand down to Foxton and back at sundown.

Mistletoe Bay Eco Village, Queen Charlotte Sound

This campsite occupies a bushy wee valley just an hour’s drive (or 20 minutes by boat) from Picton. A pretty simple affair, it has the atmosphere of a DoC camp but with a few more facilities including stylish cabins. Spend your days swimming, jetty jumping, or sitting around in the sun, or hit the Queen Charlotte Track for walking or mountain biking. It’s right on the scheduled boat service route, and close to Portage where the restaurant and bar are on song.

Creeksyde Holiday Park, Queenstown

This isn’t just a campground, it’s a labour of love for owners Erna and Tonnie who’ve spent more than three decades developing one of New Zealand’s most genuinely environmentally sustainable campgrounds. Small but perfectly formed and just a five minute walk from town, it features salvaged heritage materials and other upcycled stuff crafted into buildings, garden sculpture and other curiosities within thoughtfully landscaped grounds. And there’s a bed for every budget including cabins and lodge rooms.

This is an amended version for a story by Sarah Bennett, which ran in the Herald on October 27. For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com

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