The Best Campsites In Wanaka | 12 Epic Spots & How To Choose

Wanaka is hands down our favourite destination in New Zealand and as soon as you step foot in the laid-back lakeside town, we’re confident you’ll agree! The surrounding mountain ranges offer endless outdoor adventures, and the streets emanate an intoxicating positive vibe that instantly makes you feel welcome.

But the best part is, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the best campsites in Wanaka. Even if it doesn’t seem as if this is the case at first glance.

On our recent 4-month road trip through New Zealand, we spent almost a full month in the vibrant mountain town of Wanaka – finding ourselves constantly seeking reasons to return! During that time, we checked out almost all of the campsites in Wanaka, uncovering our favourites and not-so-favourites along the way.

We know that for most of you, it’s not feasible to hop between campsites to find your favourite. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate guide to camping in Wanaka, so you can effortlessly choose the best campsite in Wanaka for you!

Included in this post, you’ll also find helpful information about freedom camping near Wanaka and other handy tips for your upcoming stay in our favourite destination in New Zealand.

Campervan at Glendhu Bay Campsite in Wanaka

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Essential Things To Know About Camping In Wanaka

There Are No Free Campsites In Wanaka

Sadly, just like Queenstown, there are no free campsites in Wanaka. This rule is heavily enforced with fines of up to $200 and possible wheel clamping. Parking officers monitor the car parks quite diligently throughout the day and night.

Lakeside walk in Wanaka on a beautiful sunny day
No campervan parking in the 90 degree parks alongside Lake Wanaka

However, it’s not all bad news. While you won’t be able to freedom camp on the banks of Lake Wanaka, there are options nearby that include a freedom campsite at Red Bridge and an affordable basic campground on the banks of Clutha River in Albert Town.

You’ll find the full details of both of these options below, which were our top choices for our stay in Wanaka.

Note: The parking officers are also very serious about no campervans parking in the 90-degree angle car parks on the lake closest to town. These are all clearly marked with signs stating no campervans. We thought this was only for large campervans but even our small, custom-built Isuzu (which is the same size as a Hiace) was apparently prohibited.

Freedom Camping Near Wanaka

Campervan freedom camping near Wanaka at Red Bridge Campsite

The rules on freedom camping in the Queenstown Lakes District Council are clear as mud…

While it’s super clear that you cannot camp anywhere that is listed as a prohibited area on the map below, it’s not clear whether you can simply park up on the side of the road outside the red zones.

Most often, once you’re out of the red zones, you’ll still find ‘no freedom camping’ signs at any suitable pull-out spot along the main roads. These are legit signs placed by the immediate council in charge so we highly advise abiding by them.

Personally, we didn’t attempt any freedom camping in Wanaka or the greater Queenstown Lakes District. We were content to use the freedom campsite at Red Bridge and the various DOC campsites nearby.

If you do choose to try your luck freedom camping near Wanaka, don’t forget to have your self-contained sticker visible – the one with your registration details, not just the blue sticker.

Click here to download the freedom camping bylaw maps for the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Road Trip in New Zealand driving in Mt Cook Nation Park

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How To Pay For The DOC Campsites Near Wanaka

We’ve included a couple of DOC (Department of Conservation) managed campsites in our list below that are perfect to use as a base if you’re exploring the many hikes near Wanaka.

While not all DOC campsites are structured the same in terms of payment, the two listed below – Kidds Bush Reserve and Cameron Flat – both require you to book online in advance. This can easily be done using this link and creating an account.

Cameron Flat Campsite at the Blue Pools near Wanaka
Cameron Flat Campsite, these are the facilities you can expect from most DOC Campsites

However, the best value for money – especially if you’re road-tripping through New Zealand for a week or more – is to purchase the DOC Campsite Pass. We debated for a while whether spending the money on a DOC Campsite Pass was worth it, but we are so glad we did.

The DOC Campsite Pass can either be purchased for a month or a year and allows you to stay in most of the campsites throughout New Zealand for free. You will still need to book your site, but no additional payments are required.

We made our money back for our year pass within the first two weeks of being in New Zealand. This was mostly thanks to the fact that there is no free camping in Milford Sound or near Mt Cook.

Pack Bug Spray When You Visit The Campsites In Wanaka

Bad blisters on feet after hiking with sandfly bites in New Zealand
Hiking + Sandfly Bites = Not Fun

While Wanaka itself is free from the hordes of sandflies that dominate many campsites in New Zealand’s South Island, as soon as you leave town you won’t be so lucky. The worst affected areas are the campsites near Makarora, Lake Hawea and the Matukituki Valley.

If you’re unfamiliar with sandflies, they are tiny flies with a mighty bite that itches for days on end.

Sadly, we found that the only insect sprays that truly work are ones with at least 40% DEET. We recommend stocking up on spray before leaving for your campsite and keeping your campervan closed up – especially at sunset.

Quick Tips For Camping In Wanaka

  • For the cheapest fuel, fill up at the Allied 24/7 Fuel Station in the industrial area just out of town
  • The Wash Station – located near the Wanaka Recreation Centre – is the best place to wash your car, van or caravan, offering both manual and automatic services
  • The best dump point is located on Brownstone Street on the western side of Wanaka’s town centre, where you’ll also find potable water and recycle bins
  • The cheapest place to refill gas bottles is at the Rockgas, but you can also get them refilled at the Caltex in town
  • Shop at the New World supermarket in the new Three Parks shopping area, they have the widest range of options and loads of yummy pre-made meals at the deli
  • Wanaka Recreation Centre (near the New World Three Parks) offers the use of their showers for $2 during off-peak hours and $4 during peak hours, with no limit on time!!
  • The best and cheapest public laundry facility is at the Caltex on the corner of Ardmore and Brownstone Street
  • We recommend spending a minimum of 2-3 days in Wanaka – however, to fully enjoy all the things to do in Wanaka has to offer, we suggest planning for a week
  • Our favourite time to visit Wanaka is from April to June when it is generally less busy but winter hasn’t yet set in
  • The warmest months in Wanaka are generally January and February, with a balmy average daytime temperature of 23℃
Two campervans refilling at Wanaka campervan dump point and refill station
Wanaka campervan dump point and refill station
Washing a campervan at The Wash Station in Wanaka
The Wash Station

12 Epic Campsites In Wanaka

With the logistics of camping in Wanaka sorted, let’s delve into detailing the best campsites in Wanaka! To make it easier for you, we’ve organised the campsites by price, beginning with the freedom campsites.

Red Bridge Freedom Campground

Location: Red Bridge Campground
Fees/Bookings: Free for self-contained campervans only
Toilets: Yes, non-flush
Bins: No
Power: No
Water: No
Showers: No
Phone Service: Yes
Most Suitable For: Self-contained campervans

Wide open carpark at Redbridge Campsite near Wanaka

Popular among locals, Red Bridge Campground is the only freedom camping option close to Wanaka. We spent over two weeks camping here and while it’s nothing to write home about, it’s a comfortable and convenient place to base yourself.

The Red Bridge Campground is located 12 minutes southeast of Wanaka, on the way to Luggate. Just past the red bridge, you’ll find a large gravel car park and a toilet block. This basic campground is suitable for self-contained campervans only and is enforced by the council.

Every afternoon, this freedom campsite near Wanaka fills up – sometimes even overflowing! If you arrive early, be sure you park at a 90-degree angle and avoid leaving awkward gaps between your campervan and the ones next to you.

Many campervans parked in Red Bridge Campsite, the only free campsite near Wanaka
Red Bridge Campsite packed full

Note: Technically this freedom campsite near Wanaka allows a maximum 3-night stay. However, from our experience utilising Red Bridge Campground almost exclusively for our 3 weeks in Wanaka, we faced no issue of being asked to move on. We also met people who were living in their vans, working in Wanaka, and staying at this free campsite.

Raspberry Creek Freedom Campground

Location: Raspberry Creek Car Park
Fees/Bookings: Free for self-contained campervans only
Toilets: Yes, non-flush
Bins: No
Power: No
Water: Yes, untreated
Showers: No
Phone Service: No
Most Suitable For: Self-contained campervans

Watching sunrise from our Campervan at Raspberry Creek Carpark in Mt Aspiring National Park

Raspberry Creek Car Park, located at the end of Wanaka Mount Aspiring Rd in the Matukituki Valley, is the only other freedom campsite near Wanaka. This is the ideal spot to camp while exploring the many amazing hikes in the Matukituki Valley, such as the Aspiring Hut Hike and Cascade Saddle Route.

At the car park, there is a designated area for self-contained campervans to park overnight and a toilet block with untreated water. The only downside to Raspberry Creek is the hour-long drive from Wanaka to get there.

Raspberry Creek Carpark Shelter and toilet block

Regardless, this is one of our favourite places to camp near Wanaka. The bumpy gravel road is a small price to pay for the stunning sunsets and sunrises that grace the valley, framed by majestic mountain ranges.

Note: As you near Raspberry Creek Campsite, you’ll encounter 8 fords you need to cross. During summer and in good weather, these are simple to cross, even for small 2WD cars. However, during heavy rain or snowmelt, these fords can bloat making it impossible to pass. Be sure to check the weather before you venture out this way.

Crown Range Summit Freedom Campground

Location: Crown Range Road Summit
Fees/Bookings: Free for self-contained campervans only
Toilets: No
Bins: No
Power: No
Water: No
Showers: No
Phone Service: No
Most Suitable For: Self-contained campervans

Epic sunset from the Crown Range Summit Campsite, overlooking Queenstown and the Remarkables
Sunset we watched from Crown Range Summit Camp

The final freedom campsite near Wanaka is the Crown Range Summit Car Park. This large car park also doubles as a lookout and is located halfway between Wanaka and Queenstown, making it an ideal campsite if you’re planning on exploring both adventure towns.

However, this freedom campsite doesn’t have a toilet, so you’ll need to use the one in your self-contained campervan or wait until you get into town. But if that doesn’t deter you, you’ll be rewarded with a sensational sunset and sunrise over the valley and the distant peaks of The Remarkables.

Albert Town Campground

Location: Albert Town Campground
Fees/Bookings: $10 NZD per person, per night – runs on a first-come, first-served basis
Toilets: Yes
Bins: No
Power: No
Water: Yes, untreated
Showers: No
Phone Service: Yes
Most Suitable For: Campervans, camping trailers, caravans and tents

Sun-rays beaming through the mist at Albert Town Campsite in Wanaka

Situated on the banks of Clutha River, the Albert Town Campground offers the best value for location. With only a short 5-minute drive from Wanaka’s town centre, this is the ideal campsite in Wanaka if your top priorities are both to save money and to stay close to town.

The Albert Town Campground offers a variety of shady sites scattered throughout the trees that flank the river. The only challenge can be finding a flat spot if you arrive late during the busy season.

Sunrise glowing through the pine trees at Albert Town Campsite in Wanaka

As you would expect from paying just $10 per person, per night, the facilities are basic. There is untreated tap water, sinks to do your dishes and toilets that can sometimes be temperamental. However, the location is stunning and we loved waking up early with a cuppa to watch the sunrays filter through the thick mist lining the trees.

Kidds Bush Reserve Campsite

Location: Kidds Bush Reserve, Lake Hawea
Fees/Bookings:
$10 NZD per person, per night (can use DOC Campsite Pass), booking in advance required
Toilets: Yes, non-flush
Bins: No
Power: No
Water: Yes, untreated (from the lake in winter)
Showers: No
Phone Service: No
Most Suitable For: Campervans, camping trailers, caravans and tents

Kidds Bush Reserve DOC Campsite near Wanaka on a moody day

If you’re searching for solitude in nature with 5-star views, then you’ll love Kidds Bush Reserve Campsite. Located roughly 45 minutes northeast of Wanaka, on the banks of Lake Hawea, this DOC-managed campsite is one of our favourites when we need to reset.

There is no phone service out at Kidds Bush Reserve, requiring you to pre-book online before leaving Wanaka. But once you arrive, it’s just you, some friendly sheep and incredible views of both Isthmus Peak and Corner Peak – two of our favourite hikes near Wanaka!

Shelter and toilets at Kidds Bush Reserve Campground

Kidds Bush Resevers is also the perfect campsite near Wanaka if you are planning to hike Sawyer Burn or Sentinel Peak. Two hikes that we have yet to complete, but are high on our bucket list.

Note: Currently, as of February 2024, the toilet block at Kidds Bush Reserve Campsite is being renovated. For now, there are just two portable toilets located near the shelter. To check the current status of the toilet rebuild, visit the DOC website.

Cameron Flat Campsite

Location: Cameron Flat Campsite, Makarora
Fees/Bookings:
$10 NZD per person, per night (can use DOC Campsite Pass), booking in advance required
Toilets: Yes, non-flush
Bins: No
Power: No
Water: Yes, untreated
Showers: No
Phone Service: Patchy
Most Suitable For: Campervans, camping trailers, caravans and tents

Camping at Cameron Flat Campground before hiking the Blue Pools

Situated overlooking Makarora River, just north of Makarora town centre, Cameron Flat Campground offers grassy spots for tents and flat gravel areas for campervans. This is the best campsite near Wanaka for those wishing to visit the Blue Pools or explore the epic Brewster Hut and Glacier.

Cameron Flat Campground is located an hour north of Wanaka. So rather than being a good base for exploring Wanaka, it’s more of an ideal location to use as an overnight stop when you want to extend your adventure radius north.

The only downside to Cameron Flat Campground is the hordes of sandflies that make it almost unbearable to be outside! They are especially vicious in humid conditions or near sunset, so make sure you keep your doors closed and insect repellent on!

Luggate Campground

Location: Luggate Cricket Club, Luggate
Fees/Bookings:
$10 NZD per person, per night – runs on a first-come, first-served basis, cash only
Toilets: Yes
Bins: Yes
Power: Yes
Water: Yes
Showers: Yes, $2 coin-operated
Phone Service: Yes
Most Suitable For: Campervans, camping trailers, caravans and tents

Luggate Campground is a fantastic option for budget-conscious travellers who want access to a few extra amenities, such as powered sites, coin-operated showers and laundry facilities.

Luggate is a small rural town just 10 minutes east of Wanaka, boasting a quaint historic pub and a well-equipped general store. The campground is sprawled out along the sides of the local cricket field and is run as a fundraiser for the local cricket club

While the Luggate Campground doesn’t win any awards for views, this is by far the best value for money!

Glendhu Bay Campground (Hampshire Holiday Parks)

Location: Glendhu Bay
Fees/Bookings: From $20 NZD per person per night, book online
Toilets: Yes
Bins: Yes
Power: Yes
Water: Yes
Showers: Yes
Phone Service: Yes
Most Suitable For: Campervans, camping trailers, caravans and tents

Campervans and tents setup in Glendhu Bay Campsite overlooking Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains

If incredible views combined with the comforts of a holiday park are what you’re searching for, then Glendhu Bay Campground is the answer! Owned by Hampshire Holiday Parks, this campsite offers all the creature comforts you’d expect from a holiday park – with a slightly cheaper rate.

Glendhu Bay Campground can be found 15 minutes northwest of Wanaka, along Wanaka Mount Aspiring Rd. The park is nestled right on the banks of Lake Wanaka, within riding distance to Bike Glendhu and a short drive to Diamond Lake and Roys Peak.

Outlet Camp Wanaka

Location: Outlet Camp, Wanaka
Fees/Bookings:
From $22 NZD per person per night, book online
Toilets: Yes
Bins: Yes
Power: Yes
Water: Yes
Showers: Yes, $1 coin-operated
Phone Service: Yes
Most Suitable For: Campervans, camping trailers, caravans and tents

The Outlet Camp Wanaka is a privately owned holiday park on the Clutha River, just 8 minutes from Wanaka’s town centre. We haven’t personally visited this caravan park, but the views and tranquillity are constantly boasted about in the reviews. 

Along with powered and unpowered sites, you’ll also find cute yurts (circular glamping tents) and cabins for rent. The campground is equipped with a large cooking area with barbecues and a spacious deck to enjoy the last light of the day.

The only gripe that we have with this holiday park is that despite paying the standard rate for a site, you still need to pay extra for hot showers

Mt Aspiring Holiday Park

Location: Mt Aspiring Holiday Park, Wanaka
Fees/Bookings:
From $45 per couple per night, book online
Toilets: Yes
Bins: Yes
Power: Yes
Water: Yes
Showers: Yes
Phone Service: Yes
Most Suitable For: Campervans, camping trailers, caravans and tents

Powered Site at Mt Aspiring Holiday Park in Wanaka
Powered Site at Mt Aspiring Holiday Park
Unpowered Sites at Mt Aspiring Holiday Park in Wanaka
Unpowered Sites at Mt Aspiring Holiday Park

Mt Aspiring Holiday Park is an affordable caravan park just 6 minutes out of town. We stayed here after our 4-day Gillespie Pass Circuit trek – when we were in dire need of a hot shower and laundry – and loved it.

Not only are the staff incredibly friendly, but you have free access to the hot tub and pool! Not to mention, the showers had amazing pressure and were delightfully hot.

You’ll find two amenities blocks at Mt Aspiring Holiday Park, one near the powered sites and another next to the unpowered sites. 

Pro tip: The amenities block near the powered sites is newer and far better equipped when compared with the lower block.

The Camp – Lake Hawea

Location: The Camp, Lake Hawea
Fees/Bookings:
From $45 per couple per night, book online
Toilets: Yes
Bins: Yes
Power: Yes
Water: Yes
Showers: Yes
Phone Service: No
Most Suitable For: Campervans, camping trailers, caravans and tents

Campervan parked in a prime site in The Camp Lake Hawea

The Camp is a beautiful oasis within the trees that line the shores of Lake Hawea. This holiday park offers a range of accommodation options, from unpowered and powered sites to glamping tents and cute cabins.

Glamping tents at The Camp in Wanaka

You’ll find all the bells and whistles here, including a well-equipped kitchen, an outdoor fireplace, recycling facilities and even a Rockgas bottle swap. But the best part is that The Camp has been awarded a Gold Sustainable Tourism Accreditation.

The only downside to The Camp is the wifi, which is subpar and costs after the first 100 MB or 30 minutes of usage.

Hampshire Holiday Parks – Wanaka

Location: Hampshire Holiday Park, Wanaka
Fees/Bookings:
From $30 per person or $55 per couple per night, book online
Toilets: Yes
Bins: Yes
Power: Yes
Water: Yes
Showers: Yes
Phone Service: Yes
Most Suitable For: Campervans, camping trailers, caravans and tents

While the Hampshire Holiday Park in Wanaka steps it up a notch in price compared to the others on this list, it is the only campsite in Wanaka within 15-minutes walking distance to town.

On top of a conveniently central location, the Wanaka Hampshire Holiday Park is equipped with all the amenities you’d expect from a top tier holiday park. You even have access to an indoor spa and sauna – though you’ll need to pay $40 an hour for a maximum of 4 people.

Final Thoughts

Campervan parked next to Lake Hawea while camping in Wanaka

We’re sure it’s crystal clear by now that we are in love with Wanaka. But a huge part of the reason for this is the ease of visiting in a campervan. On top of a wide variety of campsites near Wanaka to choose from, you’ll find every other service that you’ll need while living on the road.

We hope that this guide to camping in Wanaka has helped you choose the best campsite for your travels. If you have any further questions or would like to leave your own suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy Travels 🙂