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Camping South Island: The Best Campsites in New Zealand South Island

Experienced campers know that a great campsite is not just about finding a spot to pitch your tent or park your van; it’s about the location, the views and the entire experience. We’re constantly searching for the best campsites offering the ultimate camping experiences. We’ve stayed in some incredible campgrounds during our thousands of kilometres of road trips across New Zealand. Some of the best we’ve discovered are South Island campsites. This article shares some of our top picks with you. So, if you’re on the hunt for the best campsites in New Zealand South Island, keep reading.  

Campervan with river and bush view at Kohaihai campsite.
West Coast South Island in our campervan

Discover the Best Campsites in New Zealand South Island

Camping in South Island New Zealand, offers a unique experience, immersing you in panoramic views that combine with mountains, and submerge you in native forests and water views.

Our ultimate travel goal is to discover all the best campsites South Island New Zealand has to offer. Here are some of the best South Island campsites, each offering breathtaking landscapes. 

Kohaihai Conservation Campsite New Zealand South Island: Nestled Next to a National Park

Rocky cliffs and beach
Sea views at Kohaihai Conservation Campsite.

Location: Karamea, New Zealand

Kohaihai Conservation Campsite is a hidden gem nestled right next to a national park. This serene spot offers a unique experience for those who dream of immersing themselves in nature. 

Located not far from the tranquil village of Karamea, it’s the perfect base for exploring the Kahurangi National Park.

What to Do at Kohaihai Conservation Campsite

  • Hiking and Tramping: The camp is your gateway to Kahurangi National Park, known for its stunning hiking trails. The Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, begins nearby.
  • Birdwatching: The park is home to diverse bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers.
  • Relax by the River or Admire the Sea Views: Kohaihai Conservation Campsite is situated by the Karamea River, allowing you to relax by the water’s edge. Additionally, it boasts ocean views.

Why Kohaihai Conservation Campsite is the Best

This Karamea campground is considered one of the best campsites in New Zealand South Island for several reasons.

Firstly, it is surrounded by lush greenery, which provides a serene and peaceful environment.

Secondly, you’ll wake up to the soothing sounds of nature and enjoy the majestic views of the river and the ocean.

A bonus is that it is adjacent to the Kahurangi National Park and metres from the start of the Heaphy Track walk. 

Whether you are visiting the area just to do the famous five-day walk or a shorter walk, or simply want to rejuvenate in nature with the views from your tent, you will agree that this campsite has some of the best views in New Zealand.

Additionally, the campground is run by DOC (Department of Conservation). We consider it one of the best DOC campsites South Island New Zealand wide.

Kohaihai Conservation Campsite Facilities: There are basic but clean facilities, including toilets and showers. There is no kitchen or potable water, but there is a wood-fired BBQ.

New Zealand South Island Travel Insider Guide Tip: During the summer, sandflies are likely to be present in the area. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you carry insect repellent with you.

In fact, many nature areas in New Zealand’s South Island have mosquitos or sandflies in the summer, so come prepared.

READ NEXT – A Hidden Gem: Things to do in Karamea, and discover the incredible natural wonders of the area.

Momorangi Bay Campground: A Secluded Waterfront Bay

Bush and water views at Momorangi Bay Campinground
Momorangi Bay Camping, South Island NZ.

Location: Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

Momorangi Bay Campground is a secluded waterfront gem that offers a serene and picturesque escape in the heart of Queen Charlotte Sound.

What to Do at Momorangi Bay Campground

  • Swimming and Water Activities: Enjoy the clear waters of Queen Charlotte Sound for swimming, kayaking, and boating.
  • Hiking: Explore the nearby Queen Charlotte Track, offering stunning views of the sound and native forests.
  • Picnicking: Relax by the water, picnic, and soak in the beautiful surroundings.
  • Glow-worm Spotting at Night: Resident glow worms are found in the bush behind the grounds.

Why Momorangi Bay Campground is the Best

Momorangi Bay Campground is the best campsite in New Zealand due to its stunning absolute beachfront sites with epic panoramas of Queen Charlotte Sounds. 

Queen Charlotte Track is on the doorstep. It provides excellent hiking opportunities and allows you to immerse yourself in nature.

Additionally, you will love Momorangi Bay and its boat access if you’re into water activities.

Momorangi Bay Campground Facilities: The camp provides clean toilets, showers, laundry and kitchen amenities. 

There is a playground for children and a jetty where you can walk and enjoy the beautiful sunset.

This is also one of the best DOC camping sites South Island NZ offers.

READ NEXT – Momorangi Bay is just 25 minutes drive from Picton. Find out the best things to do in Picton and the surrounding area.

Rainforest Retreat: Franz Josef’s Hidden Gem

Camping chair and table with cheese platter in rainforest retreat campsite at Franz Josef, NZ
The views from our campsite at Franz Josef rainforest retreat.

Location: Franz Josef, New Zealand

Rainforest Retreat is a hidden gem in the heart of Franz Josef. It offers a unique experience amidst lush rainforests and alpine beauty. It’s one of our absolute favourite bush retreats in New Zealand.

What to Do at Rainforest Retreat Franz Josef New Zealand

  • Glacier Exploration: Explore the nearby Franz Josef Glacier with guided tours, hikes and helicopter rides.
  • Rainforest Walks: Immerse yourself in the lush rainforest surrounding the retreat or near Franz Josef.

Why Rainforest Retreat is the Best

Rainforest Retreat stands out among the best campsites in New Zealand South Island for several reasons. 

Firstly, it is nestled in a pristine rainforest, providing a unique and serene atmosphere. We almost don’t want to leave our site for any hikes. It’s that blissful! 

Additionally, Rainforest Retreat is conveniently located near the heart of Franz Josef, within walking distance, with access to local amenities and activities.

Rainforest Retreat Franz Josef Facilities: The retreat provides fantastic facilities. Besides the usual showers and kitchen amenities, they offer BBQs in a garden setting and a lounge. They also have a sauna and a spa pool available to all guests.

We were last there in March 2024, and they are renovating and will provide even better facilities. 

Further, they have an on-site restaurant bar, Monsoon Bar and Restaurant, with ambient fireplaces and an outdoor balcony setting.

Franz Josef camping options are plentiful. However, Rainforest Retreat offers an exceptional New Zealand South Island camping experience and is by far the best Franz Josef camping ground.

READ NEXT – Nature and Adventure Activities in Franz Josef.

Pohara Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park: Coastal Paradise

Camp chair on the sand with sea view at sunset at Pohara Beach, NZ
The sea views at sunset are one of the highlights at Pohara Beach Holiday Park.

Location: Pohara, New Zealand

Pohara Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park is a coastal paradise nestled by the beach, providing the perfect blend of seaside relaxation and outdoor adventure.

What to Do at Pohara Beach Holiday Park

  • Beachfront Bliss: Enjoy the golden sands and the clear waters of Pohara Beach right at your doorstep.
  • Golden Bay walks on the Beach, Kayaking and Boating: Explore the beautiful coastline by kayaking or taking a boat trip.
  • Golden Bay Adventures: The park is a great starting point for adventures in Golden Bay, including visiting waterfalls, salmon farms, caves, and lakes. It is renowned for its coastal hiking trails and stunning scenery.

Why Pohara Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park is the Best

Pohara Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park provides a unique camping experience with its beachfront location. Camping by the beach and waking up to the sound of waves and stunning ocean views are some highlights, making it one of the best campsites in New Zealand South Island.

Pohara Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park Facilities: The holiday park offers a range of amenities, including shower blocks, kitchen blocks, laundry facilities, BBQ areas, a kid’s playground, and more, ensuring a comfortable stay. 

Plus, they offer free Wi-Fi for all guests.

When it comes to location, views, wondrous local attractions and plenty of comfortable facilities, this is indeed one of the best campsites in New Zealand South Island.

For comprehensive information on one of Golden Bay’s best attractions, including photos, Read –Travellers Love the Short Walk to Wainui Falls in Golden Bay, New Zealand.

Duvauchelle Holiday Park: Akaroa’s Coastal Getaway

Golden Hour in Duvauchelle, Views across the water to the colourful boathouses
Sea views from one of the best campsites in New Zealand South Island.

Location: Duvauchelle, New Zealand

Duvauchelle Holiday Park is a coastal getaway near Akaroa, offering a tranquil escape with stunning views of the surrounding harbour.

What to Do at Duvauchelle Holiday Park

  • Harbor Views: Enjoy panoramic views of the harbour from your campsite and soak in the coastal beauty.
  • Walking and Kayaking: Explore the harbour’s pristine waters by kayaking or walking along the secluded bay.
  • Akaroa Adventures: Visit the nearby town of Akaroa for charming cafes, historic sites, and harbour cruises.

Why Duvauchelle Holiday Park is the Best

  • Duvauchelle Holiday Park offers one of the best campsites in New Zealand South Island due to its waterfront camping. The water views are complemented by the colourful, quaint boathouses that line the water’s edge across the bay and especially come alive at sunset.
  • Additionally, Duvauchelle Holiday Park is near Akaroa’s attractions and activities, making it an ideal choice for those seeking relaxation by the water and exploring Akaroa’s charm.

Duvauchelle Holiday Park facilities: The holiday park offers a large amenities block, including toilets, showers, a kitchen, and an outdoor seating area on a deck with a free BBQ for use.

Additionally, they have a second ablution block and a dump station.

For those seeking more activity, two tennis courts are available with racquets and balls for hire.

If you’re looking for an Akaroa camp ground, we highly recommend Duvauchelle Holiday Park.

Love Akaroa? Read Next – Romantic things to do in Akaroa, NZ.

Riverside Holiday Park Murchison: Riverfront Camping

A green cabin on the bank of the Buller River at Riverside Holiday Park, Murchison.
One of the cabins on the bank of the Buller River at Riverside Holiday Park, Murchison.

Location: Murchison, New Zealand

Riverside Holiday Park is a riverfront retreat located in the charming village of Murchison, offering a peaceful escape with the soothing sounds of the river.

What to Do at Riverside Holiday Park Murchison

  • Riverfront Relaxation: Pitch a tent by the river and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere surrounded by native bush.
  • Swimming: The popular swimming spot is a summer must-do!
  • Fishing: There are opportunities for fishing in the river, with trout being a common catch in the area.
  • Bushwalks: Explore the native forest bush surrounding the holiday park.

Why Murchison Riverside Holiday Park is One Of The Best Campsites in New Zealand South Island

Riverside Holiday Park Murchison is the best campsite in New Zealand as it is located right on the river. It is serene most times, but after a significant rain, the river roars, and that’s just as magical.

Further, the living room kitchen is ideally located with waterfront views. You could not pay for views this good at a 5-star restaurant!

Riverside Holiday Park facilities: Besides the three toilet and shower blocks, there are five kitchen blocks. However, the stand-out is the kitchen, which boasts a spacious outdoor deck on the waterfront. Beyond that, there are BBQs, a TV lounge and free Wi-Fi.

The Murchison holiday park also offers a kid’s playground with a jumping pillow.

READ NEXT – Fun Things to Do in Murchison.

Six More Top South Island Campgrounds

Did you miss our first post on the best South Island campgrounds? Check it out to discover our top six campgrounds on the South Island. 

You’ve probably noticed a theme by now? We love our campsites with views. With these best campsites in New Zealand South Island, you can embark on unforgettable outdoor adventure. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, stargazer, or water lover, these top New Zealand campsites have something unique to offer, making your trip extraordinary.

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4 Comments

  1. Great post! We are seriously considering a trip to NZ and as seasoned campervanners, we will hire a camper van to explore. Do these campsites all take camper vans and motorhomes, or just tents? My tenting days are done! These sites all look fabulous so I would love to visit.

  2. Thanks for sharing these campsites in New Zealand South Island. I like the idea of the Rainforest Retreat Franz Josef. It sounds like a rainforest escape where I can experience nature.

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