We just finished the ultimate New Zealand camping trip, practically driving across the whole entire country and sleeping in a tent for over a month! For anyone looking for the ultimate adventure, taking a month long New Zealand camping trip is it. We started our adventure in Auckland and finished the north island segment of our camping trip in Wellington.
New Zealand Camping Trip: North Island Route
Puriri Bay – 2 Nights
Campsite: Puriri Bay
Cost: $10/ pp per night
Miles driven: 137
It took us about 3 and a half hours to reach the campsite driving north from Auckland. Puriri Bay is at the end of a penninsula down a really windy gravel road, and it’s about an hour away from the nearest town. We spent our time relaxing by the beach and taking small hikes in the area.
We were even visited by a family of ducks! You know you miss your dog when you’re excited about ducks coming by.
Uretiti – 3 Nights
Campsite: Uretiti Beach Campsite
Cost: $10/ pp per night
Miles driven: 56
The campsite at Uretiti Beach was in an awesome location; it wasn’t right on the beach like Puriri Bay, but you still had beach access directly from the camp.
We learned a valuable lesson about not eating in your tent. We found an army of ants pouring from an ant hole and making their way on to our tent. We ended up moving to a different location, but at least they didn’t make it inside; No more eating inside the tent for us!
We explored Waipu caves, an absolute must do if you are in the area. You can explore the caves by yourself and see tons of glow worms!
Matamata – 2 Nights
Campsite: Brock’s Place
Cost: $5/ pp per night
Miles driven: 187
Matamata is a small, rural town in New Zealand, and its biggest draw is Hobbiton. The Lord of the Rings filming location was one of our favorite places we visited; You can check out our visit to Hobbiton here.
We stayed on a little piece of land on a family farm that was sectioned off for travelers to set up camp. There was a room to charge electronics and an attached bathroom to take a 5 minute hot shower for only $2. The only bummer was the toilet was not separate from the shower, so there were pretty long queues just to use the bathroom. For $5 a night, you can’t really complain though.
Lake Taupo – 2 Nights
Campsite: Lake Taupo Top 10 Holiday Park
Cost: $17/ pp per night
Miles driven: 73
After we left Brock’s Place, we did an scenic 3 hour hike up to Wairere Falls before heading to Lake Taupo.
The top 10 holiday park was a nice treat after staying in budget campsites for a week. We could take unlimited hot showers, do our laundry, and use an actual kitchen to prepare our food. It even had a heated swimming pool with a swim up bar!
Lake Taupo is a neat town, and it’s well worth a couple days to explore what it has to offer. We visited Huka falls, which are a set of waterfalls in the Waikato river.
Next we stopped at Taupo Bungy, the north island’s highest water touch bungee, and watched people hurl themselves off a bridge.
Lastly, we went to Otumuheke stream, where the really hot stream and the cold waters of the Waikato river meet. It’s a really cool spot to go swimming, but it was super crowded since it’s free.
Tongariro National Park – 2 Nights
Cost: $6/ pp per night
Miles driven: 61
The Mangahuia campsite was a very small, crowded DOC campsite equipped with only one drop toilet. It was one of our least favorite sites we stayed at, but it was the closest budget friendly campsite to the start of the Tongariro Crossing. You can check out our experience hiking the Tongariro crossing here.
Martinburough – 2 Nights
Campsite: Martinburough Top 10 Holiday Park
Cost: $25/ pp per night
Miles driven: 208
Martinburough is a really quaint town, with just a little town square surrounded by vineyards. The town is so small we were able to walk to everything from our campsite. We spent the day wine tasting around the different vineyards.
We also went to the small brewery in town to do a beer tasting.
It felt amazing to stay at another top 10 holiday park, especially after hiking the Tongariro Crossing the day before. Not to mention we hadn’t been able to take a shower since Lake Taupo, so we made full use of the unlimited hot showers.
Upper Hutt – 3 Nights
Campsites: Kaitoke Regional Park & Camp Elsdon
Cost: $6/ pp per night & $10/pp per night
Miles driven: 56
Upper Hutt is about 30 minutes north of Wellington, and our campsite was in the regional park where Rivendell from Lord of the Rings was filmed. The campsite was huge, and it’s a popular place to hang out during the day.
We did a couple hikes in the park, and were planning on swimming in the creek afterwards. Unfortunately, right before we were going to swim, the rangers came and posted signs about toxic algae in the water. The low water levels combined with the hot weather made the creek unsafe to swim in.
We also visited Te Papa in Wellington, New Zealand’s national museum and art gallery. It’s free to visit, immerses visitors in the New Zealand experience.
We were actually planning on staying at Kaitoke Regional Park 1 more night, however we realized last minute that the gates were locked at night until 8am the next morning. That would normally not have been a problem, but we were taking the ferry to the south island the next morning and had to check in at 6:45am. We would have missed our ferry entirely had we not remembered about the gates being locked. We quickly packed up our tent and drove to Camp Elsdon for the night.
New Zealand Camping Trip North Island Stats
Number of nights we camped: 16
Number of campsites we stayed at: 8
Number of miles we drove: 778
Where to Next
Some of the key places we didn’t stop at, but are going to make a point of visiting include:
- Hot water beach and Cormendal Penninsula
- Rotorua, the geothermal capital
- Raglan, a laid back surf town
- Napier and Hawkes Bay, a major wine region
We had a great time on the first segment of our New Zealand camping trip, and this was just the start of our journey. We spent an additional 2 weeks on our New Zealand camping trip driving through the south island. Stay tuned for our journey through the south!