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Discovering the Best South Island Campgrounds 

Camping grounds in South Island New Zealand offer an enchanting and unforgettable experience for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. Nestled in the heart of stunning landscapes and surrounded by breathtaking scenery, these campgrounds beckon travellers to embrace the great outdoors and embark on a journey like no other. In the past 20 years, we have camped all over the South Island, and camping adventures are one of our favourite things to do. Please keep reading as we share the best South Island Campgrounds with you.

Mountain and river views from West Coast beach.

The Allure of South Island Campgrounds

When it comes to camping in New Zealand, South Island stands out as a paradise for nature enthusiasts. With its diverse terrain, from majestic mountains to pristine lakes, and lush forests to captivating coastlines, the South Island offers a smorgasbord of camping options that cater to all preferences. Whether sleeping under the stars in a swag, a luxury tent or a campervan, camping grounds in South Island New Zealand, offer all these opportunities. 

The Thrills of Outdoor Activities at NZ South Island Camping Grounds

South Island campgrounds New Zealand are not just about pitching tents and staring at nature’s beauty. They offer a plethora of outdoor activities to get your adrenaline pumping. From hiking the famous “Routeburn Track” to kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park, each day is a new adventure waiting to unfold.

Read- How to Get to South Island New Zealand.

The Best South Island Campgrounds to Explore

We’ve been travelling and camping South Island New Zealand for over 20 years. It’s hard to pick our favourites as there are so many incredible South Island camping spots. However, there are a few standouts. Therefore we have given you a sample of the best camping grounds South Island NZ has to offer.

Milford Sound Campground – Fiordland National Park

We’re starting with one of our favourite campgrounds that we have ever been to. 

Encompassing dramatic fjords, towering peaks, thundering waterfalls, and ancient forests, Fiordland National Park provides a profound wilderness camping experience. A visit to Milford Sound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an NZ must-do activity!

Spending the night at the Milford Sound Rainforest Campervan Park adds to the wilderness experience.

Firstly, the Milford Sound Rainforest Campervan Park (at Milford Sound Lodge) is the only Milford Sound campground available. You can find DOC (Department of Conservation) campgrounds on the way to Milford Sound from Te Anau, but we urge you not to miss out on the experience of staying right in Milford Sound. Besides campsites, Milford Sound Lodge has cabins and chalets too! They all boast stunning bush and mountain views.

Why we love Milford Sound Rainforest Campervan Park

We parked our van in a site surrounded by rainforest. Even though there were lots of travellers at the campground, we felt we had privacy enclosed by the trees.

The facilities we found at the campground were excellent: high-pressure hot showers, a huge kitchen and a warm lounge area. Additionally, they have a restaurant and cafe on site. The coffee we had was among the best brews in New Zealand.

To top it all off, the sunsets from the campground were spectacular and at dusk, piles of kea birds came to the campground and greeted us. It was the first time we ever saw a kea up close.

When it comes to the “Best Camp Grounds South Island New Zealand” award, Milford Sounds is a clear winner in our books.

Cabins with mountain backdrop

Lake Tekapo Camping Ground – Lakes Edge Holiday Park Tekapo 

Lake Tekapo is famous for its stunning night skies, making it the perfect place for a peaceful and enchanting camping trip. 

If you are after the ultimate campgrounds South Island experience, the sight of the Milky Way stretching across the horizon is a sight to behold, as is the Church of the Good Shepherd on the waterfront of Lake Tekapo.

The best thing about this Lake Tekapo camping ground is the camping sites with spectacular views over Lake Tekapo.

Also, the Lakes Edge Holiday Park Lake Tekapo (formerly Lake Tekapo Motels & holiday park lake Tekapo New Zealand) boasts a central location near the village and the hot pools.

They offer everything from powered and unpowered sites for tents and campervans to motels and backpackers.

What we love about Lakes Edge Camping Grounds South Island New Zealand

We love the magical views of the lake. We love that we can see the clear starry night sky from our campsite. These outdoor experiences are what camping is about for us.

Also, they have plenty of kitchen facilities and shower blocks scattered around the park.

It is worth mentioning that the park also has the most gorgeous cabins. While we haven’t stayed there, we inspected them and sitting on a balcony overlooking the lake in one of their charming cabins is now on our South Island bucket list.

Read Next: Discover Tekapo’s attractions and best things to do.

Tekapo Lake view at sunset

Mt Cook Camping Ground – White Horse Hill Campground

For those seeking a closer connection with New Zealand’s highest peak, camping at Aoraki/Mount Cook is an incredible choice. Camping under the shadow of the majestic mountains is an awe-inspiring encounter with the natural world. 

White Horse Hill Campground is one of those South Island campgrounds that hiking enthusiasts should not miss. It offers stunning views and various trails easily accessible from your camp site .

What we love most about one of our favourite South Island campgrounds

Camping at the base of Mt. Cook and just a few minutes away from hiking trails leading into the mountain. Additionally, while facilities are sparse, the Mt Cook Village is only 2.5 km away.

Green campervan at Mt. Cook campground

Camping St Arnaud- Kerr Bay Campsite at Nelson Lakes National Park, Lake Rotoiti, St Arnaud

Nestled in the northernmost reaches of the Southern Alps, Nelson Lakes National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The park offers picturesque lakes, rugged mountains, and diverse flora and fauna, providing an idyllic camping experience.

The best way to experience the national park is to stay at one of the DOC South Island campgrounds – Kerr Bay Campsite.

The sites boast the most dazzling views of Lake Rotoiti, and camping here offers one of the grandest lake views of any of the South Island camping spots on offer.

There is also a boat launching ramp for boating enthusiasts.

While the campground on the edge of the lake is among our favourite water views in New Zealand, it’s worth noting the minimal facilities; they have toilets, hot showers, and a basic kitchen, but you need to bring your own cooking utensils.

Additionally, when you’re in nature, you will encounter all sorts of wildlife if you are lucky. However, Lake Rotoiti has a large amount of sandflies. The pesky biting flies can make your stay unpleasant if you don’t bring insect repellant!

What we love about this campground

The lake and bush views, the walking tracks, and the cheap camping make this a place we love to stop over when we travel through the area.

The campsite is only 500 metres from St Arnaud village so you can easily walk to the shops or cafe for a meal. 

Boat at boat launch on Lake Rotoiti, South Island.

Punakaiki Camping Ground – Best Camping Spots South Island

You may have noticed a theme in the camping sites we favour on the South Island. It’s all about the views for us. And this is precisely what the Punakaiki camping ground provides. In fact, we love Punakaiki Beach Camp so much that we’ve honoured it with our “Best Campgrounds South Island New Zealand – Sea Views” award.

Not only that, but you can easily access the beach from the campground and walk along the remote beach, and the West Coast sunsets are incomparable to anywhere else in the world!

Punakaiki Campground offers campsites as well as cottages. Their facilities include a huge kitchen and shower block, and in season they even have a hot food truck serving West Coast delicacies such as whitebait sandwiches.

What we love about Punakaiki Beach Camp

Besides the views of the water, the campground offers majestic views of the limestone peaks and cliffs of the Paparoa National Park. 

Additionally, we love that they are just minutes from some incredible West Coast walks, including the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Walk.

Read Next – NZ Must Do: Best Things To Do in Punakaiki New Zealand.

Cottages with mountain and bush view

Campgrounds Abel Tasman National Park- The Barn Cabins & Camp

Nestled along the northern coast of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park offers golden beaches, turquoise waters, and a plethora of coastal trails for a memorable camping experience. DOC huts and camping sites are nestled along the track and offer a sublime wilderness experience for those hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track. 

However, our favourite camping site in the Tasman region is The Barn Cabins & Camp. On the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park and at the start of the trail, this is one of those South Island campgrounds that offer a perfect nature retreat. You can choose from powered or unpowered campsites or one of their cabins with shared facilities.

What do we love about Barn Cabins & Camp

We have been many times to The Barn, and there’s always a lively and friendly gathering of people from all over the world.

We love the atmosphere in the camps two kitchens, enabling us to meet people from other countries.

Additionally, there are fire pits, hammocks and outdoor lounges, which make the ambience even more pleasurable.

Besides that, the campsites offer panoramic water views, and the Abel Tasman National Park views are exquisite.

Campervan on grassy campsite

More of the Best Camping Grounds South Island NZ has to offer

So what do you think? Inspiring your wanderlust? Well, it definitely inspires us, so here are 6 more incredible camping sites in NZ. We’ve chosen these as our favourites, especially for their grand views. Read Next, Camping South Island: The Best Campsites in New Zealand South Island.

Planning Your South Island Campgrounds Adventure

Before you embark on your South Island camping adventure, a little planning can go a long way. Here are some essential tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience:

Choose the Right Gear

Packing the right camping gear is crucial. Make sure you have a reliable tent, warm sleeping bags, cooking equipment, and sturdy hiking shoes to tackle any terrain.

Check Weather Conditions

South Island weather can be unpredictable, so always check the weather forecast before your trip. Being prepared for rain or sudden temperature drops can make a significant difference.

Respect Nature and Wildlife

It’s essential to leave no trace behind and respect the local wildlife. Do not disturb animals (this includes feeding them) and plants, and be mindful of the fragile ecosystem around you.

South Island is home to some of the most beautiful campgrounds in New Zealand. With its stunning scenery and wide range of campgrounds catering to different needs and preferences, it’s no surprise it’s such a popular destination for camping enthusiasts.

Whether you’re looking for a secluded spot in the wilderness or a family-friendly campground with all the amenities, South Island Campgrounds has something for everyone.

Read Next – New Zealand South Island Bucket List – South Island Must Do.

Thanks for reading. We sincerely hope you liked this post and found campgrounds in South Island New Zealand, to visit.

There’s only so much we can write in one post, and we have over 50 South Island campgrounds we love. Therefore, we will be writing about them in the coming months. 

If you’re interested in discovering the best South Island camping grounds, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter (the form is at the bottom of this page), and we will share them with you!

Additionally, if you run a camping ground in South Island New Zealand and would like us to add you to our Series on Campgrounds South Island NZ, please send us a message through our Contact Page so we can drop by and review your place.

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