Camping is as much a part of Kiwi culture as remembering to blow on the pie. So when it comes to camping in Northland—one of Aotearoa’s absolute gems—you’ll be stoked to know we’re pretty spoiled for choice.
Whether you’re camping in a tent, campervan or prefer a cute cabin, if you’re after lakefront, beachfront or in the middle of the bush, Northland’s got you.
Here are ten of the best camping grounds in Northland.
Ahipara Holiday Park
The small Northland town of Ahipara is a favourite spot among surfers. And after a day in the surf, you’ll love returning to Ahipara Holiday Park. The main building—which has a fully-functioning camp kitchen, table tennis tables and a big hang out space—is adorned with flags from all around the world, and has been painted in stunning, brightly coloured murals. You’ll camp among the gardens—brimming with wisteria, loquat trees, bougainvillaea, lavender, banksia, freesias and more. There are hot showers a-plenty and even a large playground to keep the sprogs happy. Fancy treating yourself to brunch? You can’t go wrong with North Drift Cafe.
Hukatere Lodge and Camping Ground
For an enchanting stay head to Hukatere Lodge and Camping Ground. You can pitch a tent, or park up your campervan if you want to, but you’ll be hard-pressed to resist a stay in one of the curious huts and buildings that are scattered over the site. A cosy indoor kitchen boasts power points, a stove and bits and pieces to cook with. There’s also a freezer, great toilets and hot showers. This Northland camping ground is a short stroll from the water's edge and, if you’re lucky, you might just awaken to a flock of
unicorns horses happily grazing outside your hut.
Ruakaka Beach Holiday Park
With 264 powered sites, 80 non-powered sites and nine backpacker cabins Ruakaka Beach Holiday Park is one of the largest camping grounds in Northland and the country. Perched on the bank of the Ruakaka estuary you’re a short walk away from Ruakaka beach, which is patrolled by lifeguards over summer. There’s a well-stocked dairy right beside the park and if you’ve got a boat to launch, the Marsden Cove Marina is a short drive away so you’re sorted on that front too. Pop your tent then hit the tennis court, the playground or the volleyball courts, or head to the beach to see if you can spot some dolphins.
Nikau Bay Camp
Nikau Bay Camp is one-of-a-kind. Perched on the edge of Ngunguru River and a cross between an old Victorian house and a communal saloon with a big garden to boot, camping here is like stepping into another world. The camping grounds are at the back of the property, on the water’s edge, so a refreshing swim is just seconds away. Each campsite is separated from the next by trees, for privacy. Guest numbers are kept low to maintain a sense of personal space. With the Ngunguru Sandspit nearby (83 hectares of coastal wilderness), plus beautiful beaches and walks there’s a lot to keep you busy. Plus, the epic Salt Air Cafe and an impressively well-stocked dairy across the way are worthy motivators to entice you into a kayaking adventure.
Urupukapuka Bay Campsite
Situated on the largest island in the Bay of Islands archipelago, Urupukapuka Bay Campsite is one of the best camping grounds in Northland. Access is via water taxi, passenger ferry or private boat. Mobile coverage is limited but you won’t care—the island is brimming with archaeological sites and pa, not to mention beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters so there's loads to do and see IRL. The beachfront camping ground is equipped with a composting toilet and a cafe/restaurant is a short walk away in Otehei Bay. Urupukapuka Island, owned by Ngapuhi, is pest-free and home to many native birds so your pets will need to sit this one out.
Te Paki Recreation Reserve
Located 12km south of the Cape Reinga lighthouse is Twilight Micro-Camp, a modest camping ground on Twilight Beach that has everything you need and nothing you don’t. There’s a hexagonal shelter with tables for cooking on, a water tap and a long drop toilet. DOC describes the mosquitos here as “prolific” and they’re not joking. Be sure to arm yourself with lashings of mosquito repellent. The intrepid can walk in from Cape Reinga or tackle 3-4 day long Te Paki Coastal Track, or there’s an hour-long walk from a nearby car park. Note: As of February '22 there's an alert out for feral dogs in the local area. Refer to DOC’s website for advice on minimising risk.
Camp Waipu Cove
Camp Waipu Cove is a vibe. With powered and non-powered sites, cabins, a bunkhouse and self-contained digs, camping can take any form you like. The camp buildings are adorned with bright, summery murals which adds to its atmospheric charm, and there are ‘beach wheels’—sand-friendly wheelchairs—for hire ensuring no one misses out on making memories in the sand. The camping ground makes a perfect base for those who love diving and fishing, surfing, dolphin and whale-spotting, and sunbathing, plus, the glorious limestone Waipu Caves are a 30-minute drive away making for a mystical day trip.
Puketi Recreation Area Campsite
Tucked into the outskirts of an ancient kauri forest, Puketi Recreation Area camping ground is a great destination for campers who love hiking and mountain biking. The camping ground is a large lawn hemmed with trees, and if you’re lucky you might spot a kiwi or short-tailed bats. There’s a couple of long drop toilets and showers for after a day adventuring and for those who prefer bunking in a hut, there’s a well kitted out one right next to the camping ground. The kauri trees in the Puketi forest are highly susceptible to kauri dieback disease so to ensure these forests are still around for generations to come, clean any equipment (including boots and bikes) before entering the forest and when leaving and stick to the tracks.
Kai Iwi Lakes Campground
A short drive from kūmara capital Dargaville, the Kai Iwi Lakes Campground is absolutely stunning. You’ll be camping on the edge of breath-taking freshwater dune lakes. There are three campsites to choose from Pine Beach, Promenade Point and Clinks Gully. Pine Beach is the largest of the three and is on the eastern side of Lake Taharoa. It has coin-operated wash and shower facilities, flushing toilet blocks and a playground. Promenade Point, on the western beachfront, is smaller with flush toilets (including an accessible one) but no showers, and Clinks Gully is smaller again with an ablution block, an outdoor kitchen, a microwave and two electric hobs, plus picnic tables to gather around. Please note, you’ll need to bring your drinking water with you.
Mangawhai Heads Holiday Park
Just 90 minutes north of Auckland the Mangawhai Heads Holiday Park is the closest of our Northland camping grounds to the Big Smoke but it’ll still feel like you’re worlds away. The holiday park allows quick access to the ocean adventuring, being across the road from a boat ramp, and the famed Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway is a ten-minute drive away. Mangawhai Village is also within reach for those of us who like our camping with a side of chocolate factory.
Keen to explore Coromandel instead? Check out 8 of the best camping grounds on the peninsula.
Image credit: Nikau Bay Camp by Alice Rich, Ahipara Holiday Park, Nikau Bay Camp by Matt Dowdle, Camp Waipu Cove, Kai Iwi Lakes Campground.