Winter camping in New Zealand

Just because winter has arrived, doesn’t mean you need to put the camping gear away until the summer. We had a chat with one of our friends in New Zealand, photographer Emma Orchard, to get her recommendations for some of the best winter camping destinations across both the North and South Island.


North Island

Port Jackson - Coromandel

Located four hours out of Auckland, Port Jackson in the Coromandel region is the perfect destination for a peaceful beachside getaway. While swimming or diving might not be the preferred option in the colder months, there’s plenty of kayaking, fishing and boating opportunities in the area. Though there are some unsealed roads in the area, there is access for almost all vehicle types including regular cars, vans and caravans or camper trailers. Sitting right on the foreshore, the Port Jackson campsite has both toilet and cold shower facilities. It is an unpowered campsite so if you’re looking to run heaters or charge your devices you will need an off-grid power system.

For more information on the Port Jackson campsite or to book a site visit the Department of Conservation website.

Port JacksonPort Jackson
Baylys Beach - Northland

While it’s possible to access in a regular vehicle if you want to get the most out of Baylys Beach a 4WD is recommended. Under three hours out of Auckland, Baylys Beach makes up part of New Zealand’s longest beach with over 100km of remote coastline. If you’re planning to drive on the beach, it’s best to double check the best times depending on the season but generally you’ll want to do it around low tide, when the sand is hard to avoid getting stuck. For camping in the area, Baylys Beach Holiday Park has a variety of accommodation options including cottages, cabins, and powered and unpowered campsites. This means that no matter your power and camping setup, there’s something for you. While the holiday park isn’t directly on the beach, it provides a great home base for getting stuck into walks, surfing, horse trekking and the local golf course.

To learn more about the area and how to get there check out the Baylys Beach website.

Baylys BeachBaylys Beach
Waihau Bay - Gisborne

If fishing is your ideal holiday activity, Waihau Bay is the place for you. With many rocks and reefs around the foreshore area it’s the perfect place for a quiet getaway and a spot of winter fishing. Slightly further away from Auckland – about six hours – it’s a popular fishing and surf beach in the colder months. For camping, we recommend the Waihau Bay Holiday Park. As a dog friendly park there are both powered and unpowered site options, with kitchen, bathroom, and fish cleaning facilities available.

Check out the NZ Camping website for more information on getting to Waihau Bay and booking a campsite.

Waihau BayWaihau Bay
South Island

St. Arnaud - Nelson Lakes 

If you’re in the South Island, exploring the mountains is the way to go. Four and a half hours north of Christchurch, St. Arnaud is a small alpine village nestled in the Nelson Lakes National Park. It’s a great spot to soak up the beautiful scenery through the many hiking trails in the region or river fishing. If you’re looking for something a little more extreme there’s canyoning tours in some of the local waterfalls and a range of snow sports on offer in winter. For camping there are a variety of options in the region ranging in facilities and price points. If you’re looking at getting off-grid or stuck into some winter camping check out our winter camping essentials and tips for staying warm.  

For more things to do in St. Arnaud and the different accommodation options available check out the 100% Pure New Zealand website.

Nelson Lakes Nelson Lakes
Arthur's Pass - Canterbury 

Only two hours out of Christchurch and right in the middle of the scenic Southern Alps region, Arthur’s Pass is a hiker’s dream. With plenty of scenic lookouts and hikes to keep you busy during the day you can sit back, relax and soak up the stars in the evening. If you want to get a bit more extreme, ski fields in the area are perfect for getting stuck into some snow sports. If you want to get in touch with some of the native wildlife, Arthur’s Pass is the perfect place to meet the Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot. Accommodation in the area is very varied, with something for every traveller and budget.

To find accommodation options or plan your trip check out the 100% Pure New Zealand website.

Purakaunui Bay - Catlins 

The South Island has more than just mountain vistas, and if you’re wanting to get coastal, Emma recommends Purakaunui Bay. Surrounded by cliffs, it’s the perfect place for a relaxing beach getaway. With lots of walking trails on land and a good surf break in the water, you can get into it or just sit back and enjoy the scenery. Four hours out of Christchurch, there are some unsealed roads on the way but all vehicles should be able to traverse them fairly easily, though if it’s your first time driving on sand we recommend checking out our tips for beach driving. With 40 nonpowered sites right on the beach, there are fire, toilet, and water facilities available and dogs on a leash are allowed.

Purakaunui BayPurakaunui Bay

To learn more about the area and how to get there check out the Department of conservation website.

If you want to get stuck into some awesome 4WDing across New Zealand, check out our picks for the best tracks in the North and South Islands. Or find out about another of Emma’s favourite camping destinations, the East Cape.