Can you live in a motorhome permanently in NZ?

In this article, we will discuss: Can you live in a motorhome permanently in NZ? We will explain the rules of parking a motorhome in NZ, tell you where you are free to camp and debate how easy it is to find a motorhome parking space in NZ. 

Can you live in a motorhome permanently in NZ?

Yes, you can live in a motorhome permanently in NZ, but you cannot park wherever you want for an indefinite time.  There is a general idea that in New Zealand you can park your caravan or pitch your tent anywhere and go wild camping, and this is not the case. 

First, because many of the areas are private property and second because some of the most tourist areas have suffered such mistreatment by campers that state or municipal regulations have had to be enacted that prevent or regulate camping.

So, be it out of respect, because you are a faithful observer of the law or because you want to avoid seeing yourself “gifted” with a nice fine, you can only camp or park your caravan in authorized areas. 

In general, you can camp or park your motorhome for the night in:

  • Private paid campsite
  • Duly designated camping areas
  • DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite

But beware, the term “authorized areas” which in many parts of the world is synonymous with “private, paid and often ugly camping” in New Zealand can mean “a car park by the sea, free and with fantastic views”.

Where to park your motorhome in NZ

  1. Private paid campsite – There are small campsites and several large, very popular camping chains such as Top10 or Kiwi Holiday Parks.

The advantage of the campsite is that you generally have good services such as hot showers (although sometimes you have to pay a small extra amount for hot water), Wi-Fi (generally paid), a free shared kitchen, electricity to connect your motorhome, and some even have a pool and laundry.

The disadvantage is that it is the most expensive option and more considering that if you travel with a “self-contained” caravan, you will only use the campsite to park, not requiring any other services.

  1. Free camping in “Designated areas” – They are areas established by the State or municipalities, in which camping or parking your caravan is allowed.

The advantage is not only that they are free. It is also that many of them occupy dream locations on beaches, lakeshores, quiet wooded areas in the middle of nature.

The disadvantage (depending on how you travel) is that although some allow tents and vans without a bathroom, in general, they are for the exclusive use of “self-contained” vehicles.

Sometimes the problem is finding these areas and knowing that you can spend the night there since it is generally limited to a small sign authorizing camping, but sometimes the sign is so small that you only see it when you arrive. 

Do not expect the nearby traffic signs to direct you to them, if you follow them you will always end up in a private paid campsite. But don’t worry … then we’ll tell you how to find them.

  1.  DOC campsite (Department of Conservation) – The Department of Conservation, better known as DOC, is the state agency that is responsible for managing the camping areas dependent on the State.

There are several categories of DOC camping, which, depending on the services available, ranging from free to a price similar to private camping.

  • SERVICED campsites: they are the most complete. They have toilets, hot showers, a kitchen area, and garbage collection. Some even have laundry facilities, electricity, barbecue, grill and picnic tables.
  • SCENIC campsites: they have toilets and water. Some have cold (eye) showers, grills, picnic tables, or kitchen areas.
  • STANDARD campsites: they have a bathroom (usually a septic tank without a cistern), water. Some have barbecues, cold showers, and picnic tables.
  • BASIC campsite: accessible by car can only be used by Self-Contained vehicles. They are for free
  • BACKCOUNTRY campsites and GREAT WALK campsites: they are camping areas with bathroom, water, and in some with picnic tables and cooking areas. You can only get to these campsites on foot and therefore only camping with a tent is allowed. The Great Walks are located in all the Great Walks (except Milford). The price varies depending on the area and services.

How to choose the area to camp in New Zealand

Ok, we already know where to sleep, but practically … How do we choose the camping site?

If you are one of the most forward-thinking, one who likes to keep everything well-programmed, you can search from your home computer on the Rankers (equivalent to CampingNZ) or Campermate pages (it also has a specific app). Both are good web pages, with more than 1500 camping areas and campsites that show you the services, prices, ratings and photos.

If  you are one of those who, when travelling by car or motorhome, are looking for accommodation at the last minute when you no longer feel like driving or have found a pleasant area to spend the night, then you have two options:

  1. You visit the nearest iSite (that’s what they call the tourist office in New Zealand). Keep in mind that they close before 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. We leave you here the list of iSites in pdf so that you can download it and use it without Wi-Fi.
  1. The second option and undoubtedly the most useful is to download the CamperMate application (much better than CampingNZ’s) on your mobile. When you want to find a place to rest, you open the application (it doesn’t need internet or consume roaming data) and look for the closest one. It will put all the available ones, from privately paid campsites to free ones… you select one and go there. 

Is it easy to find parking while touring New Zealand by motorhome?

You will have no problem finding parking even in cities in New Zealand. The vast majority of free car parks are for both cars and motorhomes in NZ.

Of course, there are some points in the centre of cities and a few private supermarket car parks that indicate that they do not accept motorhomes. You also have to be careful with the parking time limits in city centres. There are usually signs that limit the free parking time to 10, 30 or 60 minutes. In that case, it is best to park outside and not worry all day.

The bottom line

Travelling and living in a motorhome in NZ is a great option to visit the island and an amazing opportunity to wake up each morning to beautiful scenery. NZ is definitely worth visiting at your own pace!

Where are you parking your motorhome in NZ? Feel free to share with our readers your thoughts, questions or comments on the content. 

FAQ on Can you live in a motorhome permanently in NZ?

Where can I park an RV?

An RV is perfectly entitled to park in the parking spaces along the roadway. However, its size must allow it, it must not interfere with road traffic or pedestrians. However, due to its size, the motorhome cannot park everywhere.

Where to stop with a motorhome?

A motorhome can stop in town in a parking space and spend the night there. It does not matter whether the motorhome operators are on board or not, as long as they comply with the regulations.

Can I put an RV in my garden?

You can install your RV in your garden without authorisation if you are not using it as a home or as an annexe to your home. The RV must permanently retain its means of mobility (wheels, drawbar, etc.) to leave its location at any time.


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