By: Blonde Two
DOC, pronounced as in ‘doctor’, are the New Zealand ‘Department of Conservation‘ and run a selection of stunning New Zealand campsites or NZ ‘camp grounds’ as well as a wide selection of heritage, restoration and protection projects. DOC campsites are set in stunning natural surroundings across New Zealand (if you are looking for something a bit different or want to walk (or ‘tramp’) one of New Zealand’s stunning trails, they also run a network of over 950 DOC huts.
Do I need to book my New Zealand DOC campsite?
During the summer months (October to February) you might need to book your DOC campsite place whether you are in a tent or motorhome/campervan (see individual site descriptions for more information). DOC campsite bookings can be made online, but on a midweek night in May, you may well find your white sand beach campsite, completely deserted and asking for cash payment into a box.
Will I need a 4×4 vehicle to access New Zealand DOC campsites?
Many of the DOC campsites are down gravel roads (for example the gravel road to the Spirits Bay campground is 16 km) but these are usually drivable in the average car or motorhome. Each DOC campground has accessibility information on its individual description, including some that are only accessible by boat, mountain bike or walking. Sometimes campsite access roads can be closed due to flooding or slips and it can be worth phoning ahead to check. If you are hiring a car or renting a motorhome in New Zealand it is always worth checking that your insurance covers you on gravelled roads.
Are there different types of New Zealand DOC campsite?
There are 5 main different types of DOC campsites. Ranging from DOC Serviced Campsites ($18 per night 2018) with a full range of features to DOC Basic Campsites (free) where you will need to be pretty much self-sufficient but will find a toilet. The Kiwis are a practical bunch and, as well as toilets, you may also find cooking shelters, outdoor sinks for washing up and showers (more about those later but they are cold!) Arrive with your food because shops will be in short supply. Fires are not allowed at many New Zealand DOC campsites but carry charcoal (and maybe steak) in case you find one with a barbecue area.
What are the toilet facilities at New Zealand DOC campsites?
You won’t care about the facilities once you see your location but, across New Zealand, ‘wild toileting’ is actively discouraged and most DOC camp grounds have long drop toilet blocks. If the toilet drop when Mr B2 and I travelled in Norway was sometimes too short, I would like to comment here, that the drop (into metal tanks) in NZ can seem disconcertingly long (kind of a ‘1000, 2000, 3000’… scenario but without the parachute, there are actual seconds between ‘production’ and the corresponding noise. One of my camping tips is to always carry loo roll in your pocket but, despite our remote New Zealand camping locations, we didn’t find a single roadside or DOC campsite loo without plenty of paper.
Where can I find out more about New Zealand DOC campsites?
DOC are excellent at providing information, both on campsite notices and online and their website gives plenty of information about individual campsites, walks and conservation in campsite areas and general camp information. Useful lists of New Zealand DOC campsites are available to download and I would recommend doing this before you travel as you are unlikely to find any internet or phone access in these remote locations. Mr B2 and I explored Northland on our recent New Zealand trip and had a wonderful time (and some great weather) at the following New Zealand DOC campsites (all were stunning).
Tapotupotu (New Zealand’s most northerly campground with a fascinating tidal lagoon)
Maitai Bay (an area of Maori spiritual and cultural significance)
Puriri Bay (right on the beach and completely empty)
Otamure Bay (Pohutukawa trees for day time hammocking)