This post was written in 2015 and just posted now -2018-, so some indications may not be true anymore!...)
In NZ, while in the hostel talking with some people and checking the prices of hostels – very different from South America! – we decided to rent a camper van!!
This way we could sleep in it and camp out wherever we wanted, due to free camping available everywhere!… Or so we thought!
This is what we learned:
- it isn't called Free Camping, but actually Freedom camping,
- you can't just park anywhere, there are specified areas where you can camp.
Freedom camping means that you can park in some public places around the city and sleep there (for free).
But this is (mostly) only for self-contained campervans! Self-contained campervans means you have a toilet in the van and you will leave no traces of you – you "contain" yourself!
Most of the campers we saw available for renting didn’t have a toilet, so please take this in consideration if you ever plan on camping around in NZ!
We did find 2 places in our 20 days road-trip where you could sleep for free when in a regular campervan (or car, like us). These 2 places had a public toilet, so no waste behind!
All the other places we stayed in you had to pay a small fee (campsites or holiday parks).
But what I wanted to write was a review on the camping apps you can get! When we started our trip, I installed one of them, by the end of the trip I had 4.
They are very useful to find the nearest campsite or freedom camping site near you!
The usual outlook of these apps is a NZ map and the sites are displayed through little icons, it can be a camper, a bubble, etc. If you click on these icons, you get more information on the site, such as photos, reviews/comments from other campers, nearby activities, etc.
This is my review:
. Camping NZ – this is the official NZ camping app, based on the travel reviews website rankers (www.rankers.co.nz). While it is very comprehensive, it is missing an address for many camping sites, only providing you GPS coordinates. We were using Navfree to travel around as it provides offline maps – however it doesn’t take GPS coordinates as input! An address would have been helpful. Additionally, it only shows you camping sites, as you will see below, other apps offer more..
. CamperMate – somebody on the road advised us this app, it is pretty cool as it shows you locations of not only camping sites but also Fuel, Wifi, Public Toilets, Hospital, Groceries, the list goes on and on! It was very helpful in finding Wifi and Fuel for us!
In addition, you can distinguish between searching for sites for Self-contained vehicles and non self-contained! This was very helpful as we were non self-contained and many of the sites in display at Camping NZ were for self-contained only – you only see this info in Camping NZ after opening the site information…Not very practical.
On the other hand, what CamperMate is missing is prices! In Camping NZ you have the sites divided by price range (Free, 1- 10 $ or 11-20 $), in CamperMate you have to hope that in the comments area somebody left a note on the cost! Many sites are missing the price. I am guessing the colour that the sites are coded will be an indicative of the cost, but this is explained nowhere, so this is just a guess!...
. NZ Touring Atlas – This app is the one with least reviews/comments of all 3 (maybe it is newer?), but it is the most visual of the 3 as it shows you in the site information, through little icons, what is available in each site (shower, hot water, wifi, laundry, etc). You can also mark the sites you want and have your own “My Itinerary Map”, showing you the places you have been – nice to have.
. NZ DOC finder – this was the least useful of all apps for us, as it only gives you the GPS coordinates of the campsites listed as DOC (Department of Conservation). It would have been helpful if we had any other GPS navigator..
Furthermore, the name can be misleading as we thought it would be a map we can browse for the different DOC sites and it isn’t, it just gives you the GPS coordinates of a campsite when you enter the name of the site you are going.
App name Plus Minus
Camping NZ Price overview of sites Addresses missing
CamperMate Location of not only sites but also fuel, wifi, etc. Prices overview missing
NZ Touring Atlas Icons indicating amenities Not very attractive or comprehensive
NZ DOC finder Good if you are looking for GPS coordinates Name misleading