Camping on New Zealand’s North Island was an incredible experience, made possible by these top campsites. Not only have we put together this post on the best North Island camping grounds, but you can also read our entire 2 week itinerary which includes a map of our route, every photo stop and daily break down from our North Island road trip. From mind blowing star gazing spots to free thermal spas these were the campsites that were above and beyond yet within our modest backpacking budget. Camping grounds on North Island will offer not just a place to sleep, but memories that will last long after your trip!

However, before the serious campsite wanderlust begins (yes, that’s a thing) we have shared the complete guide to New Zealand in a campervan which you might appreciate first! It covers how to find a cheap rental, our routes for both islands, our budget, travel tips and more!

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Our first night was probably one of our favourite North Island camping grounds for numerous reasons. Firstly, the owner – his enthusiasm for van life was infectious. He explained it was his dream to open a camp site and how he’d renovated numerous campervans in the past. He also gave us a voucher for a free coffee at a nearby café, little touches like this make all the difference when camping on New Zealand’s North Island.

As the name describes, if looking for camping grounds in Wellington, this is one of the closest at less than a 15 minute drive to the centre! It was also only a 7 minute drive to the Weta Cave – home to the film props from Lord of the Rings. We enjoyed a walk right along Shelley Bay on a search for penguins who are said to frequent the area, luckily the stunning view at sunset made up for our lack of penguin pals. Although hoping we didn’t peak to soon, not many North Island camping grounds offered a view as good as this one!

Cost: NZ$39.00 – Powered

Wi-Fi: Yes – unlimited & FAST!

Facilities: Amazing showers, spacious lounge area & kitchen.

Sunset Behind Campervan At Shelly Bay Campground


If there is one thing you MUST do when camping on the North Island, it is hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Never heard of it? Our video below will convince you in seconds! The location makes it one of the best North Island camping grounds as it’s not only situated at the gateway to the Tongariro National Park, but exactly halfway between Auckland and Wellington and minutes from the shores of Lake Taupo.

Our spot was spacious, nearby toilets and a large, well equipped communal kitchen. We also noted there was motel and dorm style accommodation available if you fancied a night off from van life. Also, the showers here were definitely something to write home about, we could not believe how powerful they were!

Cost: NZ$45.00 – Powered

Wi-Fi: Yes

Facilities: Very powerful showers!


Although this was the only free North Island camping ground that we visited, it was one of the best campsites in New Zealand for one reason – stargazing! The view was unbelievable here, not just for the insane stars but during the day too as there was a beautiful bush walk nearby that lead to the Cascade Waterfalls. The campsite was quite busy but in no way crowded, there was so much space and all spots are by the river which adds to the tranquil atmosphere! Unlike most free North Island camping grounds, they even had flush toilets here except there was no light so make sure to pack a torch for any late night toilet treks!

Cost: FREE

Wi-Fi: No

Facilities: Toilets had running water although no lights, picnic areas and beautiful bush walk!

Campervans Lined Up In Campsite New Zealand


If searching for Rotorua camping grounds, look no further! Whilst camping on New Zealand’s North Island this was such a unique experience as included in the site fee was unlimited use of the thermal spa facilities. It was such a surreal experience after a tough day of exploring to change into our swimwear (or togs in New Zealand) and head to a thermal pool heated completely via the Te Manaroa Natural boiling spring nearby (it is cooled slightly to make it safe). This means the pools contain zero chemicals and are instead 100% natural thermal water, working wonders for your skin and thus a very relaxing night’s sleep!

The other reason we felt it was one of the best Rotorua camping grounds was due to it also featuring a fascinating eco-walk from the campsite – simply follow the steam! It leads to the Te Manaroa boiling spring which not only provides the thermal waters for the spa but is the largest single source of boiling water in New Zealand and is truly mesmerising to watch!

TIP: The campsite offers a 10% discount voucher off the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It was the reason we were camping in Rotorua and a definite highlight from our time North Island road trip!

Cost: NZ$54.00 – Powered & Includes Spa Entry

Wi-Fi: No

Facilities: Toilets & showers were busy as also used by spa visitors. There are also kitchen and laundry facilities available as well as a thermally heated drying room.

Thermal Spa At North Island Campground


If searching for Tauranga camping grounds, Fernland spa is a little slice of paradise without the luxury price tag! Even if you’re not searching, make a detour as although we only had two weeks to explore the North Island camping grounds, we’d say this deserves the title of friendliest staff on the North Island! They were so unbelievably helpful, carrying a hose up to our van to top up the water and recommending things to do in the area.

Once you set up camp here you won’t want to leave, as the reason we feel it’s one of the best camping grounds Tauranga has to offer is due to its thermal spa facilities. As you may guess by now, we have been on many spa breaks, but the natural thermal waters and tranquil environment at Fernland Spa was unbelievable for the NZ$40.00 fee!

There is one large thermal pool containing 100% pure soda mineral water (and zero chlorine) meaning a revitalising yet relaxing experience. You can also indulge in a private thermal pool for some added relaxation before heading back to your van for the night! Our spot was spacious with a beautiful view of the surrounding native bush. The campsite itself is only a 5 minute drive from downtown Tauranga however it is such a peaceful retreat you will feel world’s away!

Cost: NZ$40.00 – Powered & Includes Spa Entry

Wi-Fi: Free & Fast

Facilities: Although the huge thermal spa pool was a highlight, the showers, toilets etc were immaculate and staff so friendly and helpful!

Couple Driving In Campervan In New Zealand


This was an unexpected find on our way to Cape Reinga, the most Northernly point of the North Island. There is only one road in and out of Cape Reinga however part of it was swept away during our trip, so we were unable to venture further. The other option is to drive on the 90 mile beach, however in a rented campervan this is prohibited. It was in fact a blessing in disguise as it meant a night at Ahipara Holiday Park – the only camping ground in Ahipara Bay and mere minutes from the famous 90 mile beach! It was such a colourful, welcoming campsite with friendly staff and spacious sites. There was a huge lounge area with large comfy sofas and welcoming fire place. They also have free gas BBQs to use, which would’ve been a welcomed addition had it not been torrential rain. One of the best North Island camping grounds for a memorable stay – rain or shine.

Cost: NZ$37.80 (10% disc with Kiwi Campgrounds)

Wi-Fi: Yes – unlimited although given as 1 x 500MB voucher per customer. If you use more than 500MB you can return to reception for another voucher code.

Facilities: Colourful and creative campsite, even the toilets had music in them! Free gas BBQs and communal kitchen. Ideal campsite for families as it’s pet friendly and there is a playground for children.

Campervan Parked Next To The Beach In New Zealand


Last but not least in our North Island Camping grounds round up was the perfect way to end our road trip. Located right on the shoreline of the Matakana and Kowhai Coast with views across Whangateau Harbour to Omaha Beach and Point Wells. It was the perfect place to relax after a crazy busy few weeks during our New Zealand road trip. On low tide you could walk right out into the bay and in high tide it was a safe spot to swim or partake in the numerous activities offered in the area. We had plenty of space and found the facilities colourful and clean with friendly, informative staff.

Cost: NZ$35.20 – Waterfront sites and regular site prices differ. It may have been more expensive as we booked/paid the same day, looking for the same date in 2019 the price is only NZ$22.00 for a powered site!

Wi-Fi: Yes – NZ$5.00 for 1GB

Facilities: Showers were NZ$0.50, great playpark/trampoline for children, a large tv room for relaxing, great communal kitchen and covered BBQ facilities.

For more photos of our adventure, please take a peek at our New Zealand gallery.

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