Top 8 low-cost Campsites in the South Island

Kia ora!

We have been to the South Island of New Zealand twice within a year! The first time we went there was in April (autumn) and the other time was during New Years which was summer. IMO, it’s better to go there in summer because it gets dark pretty late around 9 pm.

Both times we flew to the South Island we hired a car. Couldn’t be bothered to take Millie (the lovely van) with us. It’s so fun to go on a road trip and just camp!

Here we go, our top 8 campsites in the South Island that we have visited 🙂

8. Pigeon Bay Campsite on the Banks peninsula




This was Mikki’s first ever time camping in New Zealand. The site is very quiet and has beautiful out over the bay. However, it was cold and windy when we camped here in April so we couldn’t explore very far. At $10 per person and with toilets and a rope swing this is a textbook low-cost campsite. Lovely stuff.

7. Lake MacGregor Campsite near Lake Tekapo


At $5 per person, this is the cheapest option for camping near Lake Tekapo. The campsite is basic with a toilet block and running water. We were there in the height of summer and it was extremely hot and dusty, which limited our activities. Lake MacGregor is great for swimming and there are all the usual outdoor activities to partake in at Lake Tekapo. We went to Tekapo Springs which is a series of hot spa pools on the side of the Lake, which offer stunning 360 views of the mountains and forests. They offer a Star Gazing experience also but we didn’t stay that long.

6. West Bay Campsite Near St Arnaud




The camp, adjacent to Lake Rotoiti, has sites tucked amongst kanuka/manuka forest. It costs $13 per person and bookings are required especially during high season. We arrived at 5 pm and were lucky to meet the Park Ranger and make a booking on the spot.

Booking Click Here

The campsite is on the lake front again offering stunning views of yet another lake! There are walking tracks around Lake Rotoiti and a boat ramp available. We sat on the pier and fed the fish because it was cold and Mikki hates walking. The site is a short drive to St Arnaud which has some restaurants and bars for a quiet drink or an all night binge ending a vomit in a flower pot!

5. Hanmer Springs Alpine Holiday Apartments and Campgrounds

Hanmer Springs is a spa town in the foothills of the Southern Alps. It is a lovely picturesque town with an alpine feel to it. The adventure activities on offer are comparable to the Southern Island towns of Queenstown and Wanaka.  You can go forest hiking, mountain biking, horse trekking, bungee jumping, jet boating or, in winter, hit the slopes and go skiing you can even enjoy a leisure round of golf.

We spent our time here relaxing in the thermal spas, which has a number of pools heated to different temperatures.  The campsite is a ten-minute drive outside of town and costs $14 per adult to camp with hostel style rooms available. There are hot showers and a small kitchen which is in need of a renovation.

 4. Wanaka/ Albert Town Camping ground


Nice camping spot just ten minutes’ drive outside of Wanaka. The large campsite is situated on the banks of the Clutha River alongside which is an excellent mountain track. There is a range of water sports on offer and Mount Iron is close which offers spectacular views of the region. The campsite is basic but has water and flushing toilets (luxury!) but for $10 per adult. it is excellent value due to its proximity to the lovely town of Wanaka.

Wanaka is one of my most favourite towns in the South Island with amazing lakes, mountains and forests. There is so much to see and do here. We stayed here on the 30th of January and it was extremely busy so it is best advised to arrive early.

3. Abel Tasman Old MacDonalds Farm & Holiday Park


A 3-minute walk from the start of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, this relaxed farm stay borders Abel Tasman National Park. It’s 1 km from Sandy Bay beach. Basic cabins and dorms have shared bathrooms. There’s also a simple cottage with a kitchen, plus an en suite bathroom featuring a whirlpool bath. The property has communal kitchens and a coin-operated laundry, as well as picnic areas and a volleyball court. There are llamas next to the road which Mikki was very excited about! Non powered tent sites are $17 per person. Kayaks can be rented at reception and tours can be arranged also, but these are dependent on the weather which is extremely changeable in this part of the South Island. The proximity to the Abel Tasman Coast Track is the biggest advantage of this campsite, unfortunately, we couldn’t walk the whole track because it was raining. (and we were too lazy to carry all our camping stuff!)

2. Mount Cook/Aoraki White Horse Hill Campground




Located at the foot of Mount Cook, White Horse Hill Campground has the most spectacular view of any campground I have ever stayed at. It is situated in a valley surrounded by huge snow-capped mountains on three sides. The flatland leading to Lake Pukaki provides a stark contrast to the huge mountains. The 5km Hooker Valley Trail is a must do for all visitors. The trail is a mostly flat walk with stunning views the whole way, crossing over three swing bridges, culminating in an amazing view of Mount Cook and the Hooker glacier.  The campground costs $13 per person and has a kitchen and toilets. There is a $2-coin operated shower at the Mount Cook village a short drive away. Make sure you stock up on food and drink before you arrive. There is a shop in the hermitage hotel, but it’s a rip off! The Hermitage hotel has a museum to the great Edmund Hilary and cinema showing some interesting documentary films.

The Hermitage hotel has a museum to the great Edmund Hilary and cinema showing some interesting documentary films. However, the show times for the films are quite inconvenient, scheduled as they are throughout the afternoon, the time most people want to be out enjoying the beautiful countryside. Certainly, an option for a rainy day though. We saw the Edmund Hilary documentary which I enjoyed. (Mikki fell asleep so probably wasn’t as reverted as me!) The only reason that keeps it from the number one spot is the lack of activities, with only one trek to the foot of Mount Cook available there is no reason to stay more than one night here.

1. Akoroa Onuku farm hostel





Onuku farm hostel is perched half way up a mountain 6 km outside of the town of Akoroa, offering breathtaking views of the banks peninsula. The Farm hostel offers a number of lovely huts and dorms as well as a camper van site with a view over Akoroa town. There are three kitchens and communal area which is a great way to meet fellow travellers. Beware of the Goose that attacks most guests as they walk from the car park to the campsite. It is proper mental.  A campsite costs $15 pp for one night $12.5 pp for any following night.  The hostel offers numerous activities.

The dolphin trips book up quickly and we weren’t able to go on this trip which was disappointing. We booked on dolphin swimming cruise with Black Cat Cruises but, unfortunately, the seas were too rough to go out so we cancelled and claimed a full refund. We were able to visit a penguin sanctuary which Mikki is going to write about in great detail in another blog post.

Onuku farm hostel has to be the best place we have stayed in the South Island! (Although someone did steal my cheese and chicken which I still haven’t got over!)

Check out video here!:

Taken from the hostel website;

“Climb the “Ridge” – the highest lookout on the farm – for spectacular coastal views, catch Paua at the fishing spot or take a dip in the Pacific at the swimming beach. For the more adventurous, we rent out kayaks and operate our own swimming trip with Hector’s dolphins – the smallest and rarest in the world. If you’re not in a hurry to return to city life, why not walk the popular Banks Peninsula Track or our new Sky-track around the Akaroa Hills?” 


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