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5 Best Off-Road Camping Spots - Thumbnail

7 Best Off-Road Camping Spots in New Zealand: Where to Go with Your Rooftop Tent

Overview

So you've got yourself a rooftop tent and you're raring to go, but there's just one last thing you need to know: Where are the best off-road camping spots in New Zealand?

We asked avid 4x4 explorer, Vik Pathania aka Raven Overlanding and Adventures, to put together a list of some of his favourite off-road campsites so you can add them to your own bucket list.

New Zealand's rugged terrain and diverse landscapes make it a prime destination for 4x4 enthusiasts looking to explore off the beaten path and escape the crowds.

While some are more challenging and rugged than others, there's something for everyone — from endless coastlines to winding valleys and mountain ranges.

Make the most of your rooftop tent and get out and explore what New Zealand has to offer.

1. Waiohine Gorge, Tararua Forest Park

7 Best Off-Road Camping Spots - Waiohine

The Waiohine Gorge is a family friendly, off-road camping spot, which is not too far from the heart of Wellington. This place is popular for rafting, canoeing, swimming and some cool forest walks. The suspension bridge over the Waiohine River is fun to do especially if you have someone with you who’s scared of heights. The road to the campsite is a gravel road with rough and windy sections and there are two forded stream crossings. A high clearance vehicle Is recommended as it can be pretty rough somedays. You can make it there in a 2WD vehicle as well with bit of care if road is not too bad. Definitely one of my favourite spots.

Campsite Facilities

  • 50 non-powered sites (DOC fees apply)

  • Flush toilets

  • Water supply (untreated, boil first)

How to Get There

Travel from Carterton through Matarawa, proceeding along Moffats Rd, Joseph Rd, and finally Waiohine Gorge Rd until you reach the destination.

Google Maps Link

2. Lawrence Campsite, Kaweka Forest Park

Lawrence Campsite in Kaweka Forest Park is one of the North Island's underrated gems. The campsite is at the end of Lawrence Rd, about 1.5 hours west of Napier. The 7-kilometre gravel road is mostly well maintained and accessible for most vehicles. However, the last 500 metres gets much more rugged and is only suitable for 4WD vehicles. This helps to keep the campsite pretty quiet despite its stunning location on the Tutaekuri River where you can enjoy fishing, hunting, canoeing and swimming. There are also day and overnight walks from the camp.

Campsite Facilties

  • 5 non-powered sites

  • Non-flush toilets

  • Shelter

  • Water from stream

How to Get There

Turn onto Lawrence Rd from the Napier-Taihape Rd. Lawrence Campsite is located at the road end. Be wary of logging trucks and only attempt the full journey in a 4WD vehicle.

Google Maps Link

3. Moawhitu Campsite, French Pass/D'Urville Island

If you're looking for something super remote and adventurous, Moawhitu Campsite on D'Urville Island could be worth a trip. You'll have to get your vehicle from French Pass in the Marlborough Sounds across to D'Urville Island using the local barge service, . Once there, you can explore the 27 kilometre road through native bush to Moawhitu Campsite in Greville Harbour. The last few kilometres of the road are pretty steep and narrow and can be slippery when wet so it's strictly 4WD-only. Once there, you're treated to everything that makes the Marlborough Sounds so popular — and there's every chance you'll have it to yourself. Take your pick of fishing, hunting, surfing, hiking or mountain biking.

Campsite Facilities

  • 11 non-powered sites

  • Non-flush toilets

  • Water from tap (untreated)

How to Get There

Take the barge from French Pass to Kapowai (make sure to call and book ahead of time) and then drive the 4WD road to Moawhitu Campsite at Greville Harbour.

Off-Road Camping Spots NZ - Moawhitu

4. Kariotahi Beach, South Auckland

Best Off-Road Camping Spots - Kariotahi Beach

For all you Aucklanders who want to escape the city and take your 4WD to experience sand, sun, and sea, Kariotahi Beach is one of the best spots to do it. Located on the West Coast about an hour from the CBD, it's a great place for a relatively easy overnight 4WD getaway. There are big, open, flat stretches of black sand and legit coastal 4WD tracks that are great fun for all levels. While there's no official campsite, there are sheltered pockets tucked into the dunes for setting up camp for the night. A roof tent like the Bushbuck Armourdillo® comes in handy on trips like this. There are no camping facilities to speak of, so make sure to "leave no trace" and respect the environment.

Campsite Facilities

  • BYO (none)

How to Get There

Follow SH1 from Auckland or Waikato, turn onto SH22 and follow it all the way to the coast.

Google Maps Link

5. Ninety Mile Beach, Northland

The iconic Ninety Mile Beach really needs no introduction. Officially a highway in New Zealand, the beach is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and makes for an epic coastal roadie. Ninety Mile Beach is actually only 55 miles (or 88 kilometres) long, stretching from Tauroa Point, to the west of Ahipara Bay to Tiriparepa/Scott Point. There are several places to camp along the coast so take your pick and make it into an overnight mission. I recommend Waipapakauri Ramp, known as "The Ramp" to regulars, as a freedom camping option at around the mid-way point.

Campsite Facilities

There are many camping options along or nearby Ninety Mile Beach including fully-serviced campgrounds and freedom camping locations.

How to Get There

There are three main entry points along the coastline: 1. Waipapakauri Ramp 2. Hukatere Entrance 3. Te Paki Stream

Best Off-Road Camping Spots - 90 Mile Beach

6. Skippers Campsite, Queenstown

Best Off-Road Camping Spots - Skippers Campsite
Photo: pureglenorchy.com

The 4WD trail through Skippers Canyon to Skippers campsite has everything you could want in an off-road adventure — rugged roads, hill climbs, mud and puddles and spectacular scenery. Located in the Queenstown area near Coronet Peak, the route follows an old gold mining trail to the former settlement, which has been turned into a campsite. The old homestead burned down a while back, but the old school and cemetery remain. This has been called "New Zealand's Most Dangerous Road" so don't say I didn't warn you.

Campsite Facilities

  • 36 non-powered sites

  • Flush toilets

  • Water from tap (untreated)

  • Fires NOT permitted at any time

How to Get There

Skippers Rd branches off Coronet Peak Rd north of Queenstown. The gravel road is steep and winding with sheer cliff drop-offs and should only be attempted by experienced drivers in a suitable 4WD vehicle.

7. Moke Lake Campsite, Queenstown

Best Off-Road Camping Spots - Moke Lake Campsite
Image: Queenstown NZ

It's tough to decide which campsites to include or leave out of this list, but Moke Lake Campsite is one of my favourites as it's typically pretty quiet and peaceful — and one of the best parts about off-roading with a rooftop tent is escaping the crowds. Located just 10 minutes from Queenstown, you follow a steep, windy road before you continue on an unsealed road for 8 kilometres. While you can access it in a 2WD, it's much safer and more manageable in a 4WD. In winter, I'd say it's 4WD only. This off-road campsite is a hidden gem that's situated in a picture postcard setting by the lake and surrounded by mountains. You won't want to leave.

Campsite Facilities

  • 50 non-powered sites

  • Non-flush toilets

  • Tap water (untreated)

  • Cooking shelter

How to Get There

From Queenstown, follow Glenorchy Rd for about 6km and then turn into Moke Lake Rd and follow for about 7km to the lake.

Google Maps Link

Go Beyond the Beaten Track

The best part about having a 4WD vehicle and a rooftop tent is being able to go camping where others can't get to. Many times, I've woken up in the middle of nature without anyone else around. That's part of the magic of off-roading. New Zealand has so many off-road camping spots with stunning views and beautiful landscapes — far too many to list. In this article, I've shared a few of my favourites. But I encourage you to get out there and explore for yourself. Where the guidebooks, YouTube videos and blog posts stop, true adventure begins.

Follow Raven Overlanding and Adventures on Instagram

Vik Panthia_Raven Overlanding Bushbuck Bio
Vik Pathania aka Raven Overlanding & Adventures

Vik Pathania, aka Raven Overlanding and Adventures on Instagram, is a 4WD enthusiast and off-road adventurer. Originally from India, he now calls Auckland, New Zealand, home. He was introduced to off-roading by his dad and enjoys the adventure, scenery and community that four-wheel-driving offers. Vik's currently driving a black Jeep Wrangler kitted out with a Bushbuck Armourdillo Rooftop Tent.

Follow Vik's adventures

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