Going Bush 

I’m interested in doing some outdoor activities in the New Zealand bush. What are the options?

To find out what’s available in the area you’re in or want to travel to, see the Department of Conservation (DOC) outdoors activity finder or visit the nearest i-SITE Visitor Centre.

If you’re interested in walking, hiking, or tramping, the DOC website offers advice and information about the great walking tracks in New Zealand. To read about some of the walking tracks open to the public, visit the DOC webpage on Tracks and Walks.

Remember that even if you are going for a day walk rather than overnight, you still need to be well-equipped.

If you’re more interested in simply seeing the sights of New Zealand, rather than going for long treks, visit the Places to Visit webpage for stories, photos, and descriptions of some of New Zealand’s magnificent scenery, and how to get to those places (but you need to be well-equipped even for day trips).

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Where can we go camping in New Zealand?

The Department of Conservation (DOC) manages more than 250 campsites on conservation land New Zealand-wide, and these are particularly good if you are touring New Zealand’s national parks. If you need to find a DOC campground, see the DOC Campsites website.

There are also commercially-run campgrounds in almost all towns in New Zealand. You can find a campsite by visiting an i-Site visitor information centre. They are open during business hours, and can give you information about the area. They can also make bookings for you. 

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Where can we go freedom camping in New Zealand?

The main appeal of freedom camping is that you can save money by not having to pay camping fees. In general, freedom camping is allowed on land that is owned by local authorities or the Department of Conservation – except in places where it is prohibited.

However many freedom camping sites are restricted to those who are travelling in a vehicle which has been certified as self-contained. This means that the vehicle has toilet, shower and wastewater facilities on board that don’t rely on external services.

To find out where the freedom camping sites are and what rules apply to a particular site, you can contact:

Depending on the site, there may be restrictions on: 

  • the number of vehicles that are allowed to park there on any one night;
  • the number of nights you can park at the site; 
  • what times of year, days of the week or time of the day that you can park on the site.

General freedom camping rules include:

  • You are responsible for removing your waste. Don’t treat the great outdoors as a toilet or the waterways as your wash basin 
  • Use the approved dump stations for motorhome waste. You can find out the locations of these by contacting the local council.

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I like hiking and the outdoors, but hate staying in tents. Are there other options?

If you don’t like tents, there are plenty of other options. You could stay in a hut, or if you’re with a big group, you could stay in a lodge.

The Department of Conservation maintains huts in many public conservation areas. To stay in a Department of Conservation (DOC) hut you will need to buy hut tickets from your nearest sports store, DOC office, or visitor’s centre.

Many commercial campgrounds also provide accommodation in the form of huts, self-contained cabins and/or motel units.

The local i-SITE can help you find something suitable.

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What are ‘hut tickets’ and where can I get them from?

Hut tickets are used to help pay for the maintenance and upgrading of Department of Conservation (DOC) huts. If you stay in a DOC hut, you’ll be expected to buy hut tickets before you go. For a list of huts and the amount you’ll have to pay check the DOC website

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Where can I find out about national parks?

The Department of Conservation manages all national parks in New Zealand. If you’d like to find out about the features of a particular national park, see their national parks website.

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What do I need to be aware of if I am planning to spend some time in the bush?

The New Zealand bush is beautiful, but there can be dangers such as harsh and very unpredictable weather, difficult terrain, and other hazards. If you are new to the New Zealand bush it’s a good idea to team up with experienced trampers (hikers) or go with a commercial guide. 

There isn’t enough space here to tell you everything you need to know to stay safe in the bush, so we’ve provided a short list of resources for you:

  • The New Zealand Outdoor Safety Code consists of five rules you should follow to stay safe in the bush.
  • The AdventureSmart website has a notification system which allows you to register your trip plans online, via email, or by completing a downloaded form and giving it to your contact person.
  • The Tramping New Zealand website has, among other useful information, a suggested checklist of equipment.  
  • The Mountain Safety New Zealand website has advice on food and drink.