Motorhomes parked at campsite in Queenstown
Places to stay

Camping in Queenstown

Guide by Roxanne de Bruyn

Last Updated 4 January 2024

Camping gives you the opportunity to step away from normal life and go back to basics. And Queenstown is the perfect place to do it.

With phenomenal views, an abundance of fresh air, and so many different activities to engage in, you’re bound to have an epic time.

There are three main types of camping available in Queenstown – holiday parks, Department of Conservation (DOC) parks and freedom camping. We’re going to tell you a little bit about each of them and weigh up their respective pros and cons.

So, whether you prefer tents or campervans, here's what you need to know about camping in Queenstown!

Campervans at Driftaway Queenstown

Holiday parks in Queenstown

A holiday park, otherwise referred to as a campground or a campsite, is a specifically designated camping area. The area is generally divided up into smaller sites – each normally has its own water and electricity supply (although not all holiday parks have electricity).

Holiday parks have communal ablutions, and you can rock up with a camper van, a tent or whatever else your preferred method of camping is.

Holiday parks tend to be fun, lively places full of families – they’re ideal when travelling with children because they’re likely to be able to make friends during your stay, ad parents can enjoy a little bit of a break! Also, having access to facilities (including the bathrooms, showers and normally dishwashing stations and often  electricity) makes the process a lot easier.

Holiday parks are not only for families, though. As they have good facilities and are relatively organised, they can be one of the most comfortable ways to camp for all travellers. So, if you’re not looking for much of a wilderness adventure, camping at a holiday park may be the best option for you.

Something to note, however, is that holiday parks tend to get quite busy during – you guessed it – the holidays. So, if you’re looking for peace and quiet, you may want to opt for something else. Also, it’s worth noting that you’re likely to find holiday parks in fairly busy, touristy areas.

Here are a few of the best holiday parks in Queenstown for camping:

A tent at the DOC campsite at Moke Lake

Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites in Queenstown

Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites are established and run by the government. The aim of DOC campsites is to allow New Zealanders (and tourists) to explore the country and stay in a safe and cost-effective environment.

Generally speaking, DOC campsites are considered the cheapest option (other than freedom camping which is free by definition). They can cost as little as $6 a night and sometimes, they’re even free.

DOC sites are usually in beautiful and often remote places, however, they do tend to vary in terms of what they offer. Some will provide you with top-quality facilities, including ablutions, electricity and so on. Meanwhile, others will be super basic, just providing pretty much a place to set up camp. Check DOC’s list of what to bring with you, so you’re prepared.

Keep in mind that basic isn’t always bad – sometimes, staying at a basic campsite can be really nice if you want to really escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. And DOC campsites usually have amazing views.

Here are some of the best DOC campsites to stay at in Queenstown:

Lakes views at Twenty Five Mile Stream

Freedom camping in Queenstown

Freedom camping refers to the practice of camping out somewhere that’s not a specifically designated camping area – neither a holiday camp nor a DOC campsite (although some freedom camping areas are still DOC property). Sometimes, it can be about trying to save money, but it can also be for the purpose of enjoying nature.

There are specific rules in New Zealand about where you can and can’t camp, as well as who can do it. Most importantly, only people in motorhomes and campervans can free camp – you can’t free camp in Queenstown with a tent. You need to be in a self-contained vehicle. This means you must have ablution facilities, rubbish facilities and a wastewater tank.

When it comes to where you’re allowed to do freedom camping, the general rule is that you need to be outside of the Queenstown town centre and other residential areas.

A list of the specific areas where freedom camping is and isn't allowed around Queenston is available on the DOC website. Kawarau Gorge Bridge Car Park and Diamond Lake near Glenorchy are good options for self-contained vehicles.

If you don’t follow the rules for freedom camping, you can be fined for infringement.

Motorhomes parked at campsite in Queenstown

Camping responsibly

Here are some things to keep in mind when camping in New Zealand

  • Respect nature and your surroundings. When you’re camping, you are a guest wherever you’re staying. Clean up after yourself, and take any rubbish etc away with you.

  • Be respectful of those around you. For instance, if you’re in a DOC campsite or a holiday park, you’re likely to have camping neighbours very close by. Try not to be too loud and be conscious of everybody’s space. Be respectful when you use the facilities and leave everything the way you found it.

  • Safety ought to be your first priority. Always carry a first aid kit with you and don’t engage in behaviour that could potentially be dangerous.

  • Be prepared and do your research. Make sure you know what the site provides and you have packed accordingly.

  • Be careful with campfires and check the fire risk before you light a fire, particularly in summer.

  • Dispose of water safely. This is especially important if you’re free camping. Make sure that if you’re disposing of water, you’re doing it properly and not contaminating any other sources.

Final thoughts on camping in Queenstown

No matter where in the world you are, camping is (almost) always a good idea! And in Queenstown, that couldn’t be any more true. With incredible scenery and a plethora of options when it comes to beautiful places to stay, camping is the best way to see and enjoy the area.

Queenstown is also really well set up with lots of holiday parks, DOC campsites and other options for freedom camping too, so there really is something for everyone.