Ah…free. Those words are some of the best words when you are looking for somewhere to camp. New Zealand has an amazing tradition of freedom camping, allowing people to find a beautiful location and stay the night.
In recent years it has become slightly more regulated since, with a rise in popularity, issues were starting to arise in popular locations due to the number of campers and potential cleanliness.
Rules for Freedom Camping
- Campers and Caravans must be certified as self-contained or park in areas designated as free for non-self contained units (defying this will result in a $200 fine!)
- Campers must park in designated self-contained areas. If in doubt, as locals or check with the regional council.
- Most locations limit stays to 2-3 nights in a 30 day period.
- Pack in, pack out! Please don’t leave a mess as this will limit the possibility of freedom camping in the future.
Camping in Warrington
Warrington, NZ, is a small community located about 30 minutes north of Dunedin. Perfect for a weekend escape, there is a nice surf beach and day-use facilities, as well as a large field, dump station, drinking water, and outhouses available for both self contained and non-self contained campers.
You can rock up on your bike, pitch your tent, and have a free night! Or in your campervan or caravan as well. All are welcome at the domain.
It was a lot nicer than Andrew and I expected. We had visited Ocean Grove, the other free camp near Dunedin, since it seemed to be closer to town.
The camping area can get crowded, so it is best to arrive early. In summer (December-February) you would probably need to arrive before 2pm to get a decent spot, whereas in the off seasons there are still spots available around 5pm. Andrew and I noticed that cars coming in after 7pm had a slightly more difficult time finding space to park, but there were still a few spaces left when we went to bed. Parking is open, first-come, first-serve, but try to make sure you leave some space between your unit and the ones next to you.
The beach itself is fantastic. The ocean is starting to get a bit chilly for surfing without full wetsuits (around 10C in March), but on a good day Warrington is a pretty good surf beach. It is also great for shell collecting and relaxing in the sun with bright blue water, local birdlife, and soft white sand.
Nearby there is also a small inlet that opens up onto a broad bay that is teeming with native birdlife. During breeding season (January-ish) it is also relatively common to see seals and sea lions on the beach. Keep pets on leash and away from wildlife at all times.
We did take our kittens down to the ocean. They were fine in the tall grass leading up to the ocean but were quite uncertain about the big open space that the beach presented. We eventually coaxed them out and Tauriel promptly decided that the ocean waves required attacking. We dried our kitty back at the campsite, saved a lab from Eowyn (who thinks she can take on dogs, apparently), and made our dinner.
Andrew and I then settled down to an evening of board games and chatting with the other campers in the domain.
Camping in Warrington turned out to be a much better experience than we expected and one that we are certainly planning to repeat on nice weekends! I wish we had discovered it before summer was nearly over!