Camping in Northland - The Ultimate Guide
If you have thought about camping in Northland, this is the ultimate guide to help you prepare, plan and make the most of your holiday.
Planning your trip
Booking a campsite
Start planning your trip early, some campgrounds in Taitokerau Northland are so popular in the summertime they book out six months to a year in advance. You’ll need to get in early if you want to book the hotspots, but rest assured, even if you miss out on your top pick, there are loads of campgrounds, holiday parks and Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites in amazing locations all around the region to choose from. Click here to see more Taitokerau Northland campgrounds and holiday parks.
Preparation and packing
Although Taitokerau Northland has a warm subtropical climate, some nights (even in the height of summer) can be cool, and a rain shower or two is not unexpected. Pack a couple of warmer layers and a rain jacket along with your summer dresses and swimsuits to be prepared for all occasions. You’ll also want to make sure you have a full bottle of sunscreen, insect repellent, and some general first aid supplies.
If you haven’t got a full camping set up, no worries! Plenty of holiday parks will have cabins you can book instead, and some even have tents already set up and available for that classic kiwi summer experience. Facilities will also range from bare-bones composting toilets and cold showers, to full ablutions blocks, communal kitchens, games rooms, camp stores and more.
When it’s time to hit the road, you’ll want to map out the closest supermarket and fuel station to your campsite and fill up both vehicles and chilly bins, as some camping locations can be over an hour from the nearest town. Pre-planning your meals means you can spend your time lazing on the beach or playing games with the kids instead of trekking back and forward to grab groceries every day.
Five top activities to include in your camping holiday in Taitokerau Northland
Nothing says kiwi holiday like a campsite by the water, barbeque dinners, ocean swims and beach games, but if you want to take your camping trip to the next level and make unforgettable memories, here are five top activities to add to your itinerary
Some campgrounds and holiday parks might have kayaks available to use, but if not, there are some great kayak hire options especially on the east coast and around the Bay of Islands. Kayak up the Waitangi River to Haruru Falls, take the ferry out to Otehei Bay and kayak around the islands, or paddle the nooks, crannies and bays of the Whangārei Harbour.
Snorkelling or diving
Almost every inch of Taitokerau Northland’s coast has something interesting to explore, especially when it comes to doing it underwater, but if you want tried and tested exceptional experiences then book a snorkelling or diving trip. The Perfect Day is a family-friendly trip to the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, and Bay of Islands Snorkelling takes dedicated snorkelling trips to Deep Water Cove, known for it’s water clarity. There are also plenty of dive operators who will head to the Rainbow Warrior, the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve, the Canterbury wreck and more.
Nothing beats fresh fish for dinner, especially when you’ve reeled it in yourself, so try your hand at fishing while you are in Taitokerau Northland. If you bring your own rod and reel, be sure to check with a local about where you plan to fish, respect any local rahui, and keep safe by taking a friend or telling someone where you are going. If you would prefer to leave the hard work and preparation to the experts then join a fishing charter instead. Some will even bait your hook for you!
Wildlife and nature experiences
Sure you can spot a sparrow while you eat your sandwich, or hike a marked trail along a ridgeline but if you want a next-level experience, seek out a local wildlife or nature tour. There are lots of options, like guided forest walks, twilight kauri forest experiences, night-time kiwi walks and more.
Local food and drink
Being self-sufficient and surviving off barbeque dinners is part and parcel of every camping trip, but if you need a break from tending the barbie or drinking lukewarm bevvies, a trip to a local café, restaurant or winery should be on the cards. You’ll find some pretty incredible eats and drinks around the region if you know where to look, so take a peek at our food and beverage itineraries for inspiration.
How to choose a campground in Northland
Every campsite has its own personality, and no matter your preferences, there is bound to be a perfect campground for you in Taitokerau Northland. We've rounded up some of our top picks based on key factors like scenery and location.
Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park is one of the lushest holidays parks in Northland. Unlike most, it’s not beachfront, or ocean view, instead this park is bordered by native forest and a river where you can laze the day away on a floaty ring or cool off in the swimming hole. Guests of the park can also do a self-guided night-time kiwi walk in the nearby Trounson Kauri Forest.
Ruakaka Beach Holiday Park has stunning beachfront views that are complemented by the towering skyline of Whangārei Heads across the water as well as bright white sand lining the river mouth. The river mouth is a breeding area for New Zealand Dotterel and Variable Oyster Catchers making it a great spot to birdwatch too.
Location location location
Russell Top 10 Holiday Park is a stone’s throw from the Russell waterfront, and with great views to boot. This is the perfect camping spot if you want to be close to the action and to all the amazing experiences the Bay of Islands has to offer, while still embracing the kiwi tradition of a camping holiday.
Ahipara Holiday Park is an excellent choice for those who want to explore the very top of the country while still enjoying excellent amenities in a convenient location. Just a hop skip and a jump from the famous Ninety Mile Beach but with a distinctly resort-like feel complete with mature trees, this holiday park has almost everything you need, and is just a short drive from all the conveniences of Kaitaia including grocery stores and fuel.
Camp Waipu Cove is a winner here, because just over the dunes are the most spectacular long sandy Bream Bay beaches. Expect epic sunrises, long walks down the beach and if the swell hits right, even some surf. There are great amenities and a range of options from camping to campervan sites and even cabins.
Paihia Top 10 Holiday Park is right on the water’s edge, just moments from Paihia. They even have kayaks on site for use the explore the surrounding coastline, and a pool too! You can’t beat waterfront views like these!
Off the beaten track
Urupukapuka Island has three DOC campsites but the catch is, you’ll have to ferry or take a private boat to get out here as this is literally an island in the Bay of Islands. Bookings are required and these campsites are so popular they often book out as soon as dates open up for reservation. You’ll need to be well prepared to camp here as there are limited facilities, and even rubbish will need to be packed out when the rubbish barge isn’t available.
Tapotupotu Campsite is just five minutes away from Te Rerenga Wairua Cape Reinga, making it an epic spot to stay for a few days. Like Urupukapuka, this is a DOC campground with non-powered sites and very basic amenities, and rubbish is only collected during the peak season months. It’s also a long way from convenience stores, so you’ll need to be prepared, but you’ll be treated with breath-taking views and a peaceful relaxing setting perfect for switching off from the real world.