Find the Best Campsites on the South Island… That are Cheap Too!
Sleep under the stars alongside the South Island’s towering mountains, within its verdant forests or alongside its picturesque beaches by staying at the best campsites on the South Island. While there are many stunning campsites that you have to pay a premium for, we’ve put together a list of scenic spots that are also cheap campsites on the South Island.
If you’re new to this whole camping thing, be sure to prepare with our camping guide to New Zealand, as well as our Camping Essentials Checklist for New Zealand.
1. Purakaunui Bay Campsite
Absolute beachfront and striking views of cliff faces, Purakaunui Bay Campsite is certainly one of the most scenic campsites on the South Island. Located along the coast of The Catlins, the cheap campsite managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) is a short drive from Catlins’ icons like Purakaunui Falls. The campsite has toilets, is wheelchair-accessible (with assistance) and allows campfires. See more campsites nearby in our guide to camping in The Catlins.
Check out Purakaunui Bay Campsite on the DOC website.
2. Pelorus Bridge (Kahikatea Flat) Campground
One of the most kitted out DOC campgrounds on this list of South Island campsites, the Pelorus Bridge Campground has cooking stoves, hot showers and even a camp shop! It’s also in a stunning part of Marlborough, near Havelock, surrounded by native bush and alongside the Pelorus River, chosen as a filming location for The Hobbit trilogy.
Check out Pelorus Bridge (Kahikatea Flat) Campground on the DOC website.
3. Lake Mahinapua Campsite
A popular overnight camping stop on the West Coast, outside of Hokitika, Lake Mahinapua Campsite is just off the shores of a picturesque lake that displays vivid colours when the sun goes down. The campground is kitted up with flush toilets, cold showers, a cooking shelter and is wheelchair-accessible.
Check out Lake Mahinapua Campsite on the DOC website.
4. Whites Bay Campsite
Enjoy glorious views of Whites Beach from this campsite near Blenheim. Whites Bay Campsite has cold showers, flush toilets and is wheelchair accessible. What we like the most, however, are the nearby hiking trails, as well as the beach to go for a swim.
Check out Whites Bay Campsite on the DOC website.
5. Moke Lake Campsite
Looking for a cheap and scenic place to camp near Queenstown? Moke Lake Campsite is up an accessible gravel road with a beautiful walk around the lake. The campsite is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery. Facilities include a cooking shelter and toilets. Note that the Campsite Pass is not eligible at this campsite. Plus, see more places to camp in Queenstown here.
Check out Moke Lake Campsite on the DOC website.
6. Kerr Bay Campsite
Conveniently on the main route between Nelson and the West Coast, Kerry Bay Campsite also outstands with its breathtaking backdrop of the Nelson Lakes National Park. Enjoy views of Lake Rotoiti as you cook up a storm with the supplied cooking stoves and shelter. The campsite also has other luxuries like hot showers, flush toilets and is wheelchair accessible.
Check out Kerr Bay Campsite on the DOC website.
7. White Horse Hill Campground
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park‘s most popular campground, White Horse Hill Campground offers a place to stay among New Zealand’s highest peaks. Stargazing here is exceptional within a Dark Sky Reserve. Plus, the flush toilets and cooking shelter facilities are pretty handy too. Book early for this popular campsite.
Check out White Horse Hill Campground on the DOC website.
8. French Pass Campsite
Your reward for taking the winding gravel road and ultra-scenic drive all the way to French Pass in the Marlborough region is a stay at the beachfront French Pass Campsite. You really feel like you’re at the edge of the earth here, but you’ll still have access to flush toilets and cold showers.
Check out French Pass Campsite on the DOC website.
9. Mavora Lakes Campsite
Immerse in Middle-earth scenery at the Mavora Lakes that were used in the filming of The Lord of the Rings. Aside from breathtaking mountain and lake scenery, Makora Lakes Campsite has a barbecue, toilets and allows campfires. The campsite is split into two sections, one at South Mavora Lake and the other between South Mavora and North Mavora Lakes.
Check out Mavora Lakes Campsite on the DOC website.
10. Cascade Creek Campsite
Finally, one of the most popular accommodations on the road to Milford Sound, Cascade Creek Campsite is shrouded in mountain vistas. The campsite is located close to the shores of Lake Gunn and the Lake Gunn Nature Walk. There are many grassy areas to call your own and gravelled parking for those larger motorhomes. There are two toilets, one that’s wheelchair accessible, while there are also picnic tables, a cooking shelter, tap water and water from a creek.
Check out Cascade Creek Campsite on the DOC website.