This year our family vacation was spent camping at the Ruakaka Beach Holiday Park. What a beautiful spot, with the Waipu Caves to explore, the Mangawhai cliff top walkway nearby with its tremendous views, the beautiful long sandy beach to play on and of course Whangarei only 30 minutes’ drive away if you felt the need to take a jaunt into town.
Camping is the ultimate New Zealand family holiday experience where you and your kids can re-discover the great outdoors, escape the normal routines of life, whilst calming your mind and restoring your spirit. After seven nights of camping, I felt the day-to-day remnants of ordinary life melt away and I truly relaxed. I came away thinking: “Why don’t we go camping every year?”
So, how do you choose a holiday that is right for you and your family? I think this boils down to what your family needs/wants out of a holiday and of course what your budget is. This article focuses on some of the costs you will need to factor into your holiday budget if you choose to go camping.
There’s no doubt in my mind that camping is by far cheaper than any other type of holiday in terms of the price you pay for a campsite, versus paying for a cabin, campervan, motel or hotel. Campsite prices will vary depending on whether you choose a powered site versus a non-powered site, as well as whether you camp at a Holiday Park campsite, Department of Conservation (DOC) campsite or a Regional Council campsite. DOC and Regional Council campsites tend to be very cheap because facilities/amenities are somewhat limited compared to what you would have available to you at a holiday park.
The tariffs for each Holiday Park around New Zealand will all be different and will change according to whether you wish to stay during peak or off-peak season. Your best bet is to check out the website for each Holiday Park that you’re interested in to get a better indication of overall cost. Also bear in mind there may be other costs you will need to factor into your overall holiday budget such as whether using the shower/cooking facilities are included in the cost of the campsite or whether they cost extra. For example, you may be required to pay extra to use the communal showers, but the cost for these are usually minimal.
DOC provides facilities and charges fees on the basis of the campsite category. These categories include: Serviced campsites, Scenic campsites, Standard campsites, Basic campsites, Backcountry campsites and Great Walk campsites2. To give you a general idea on price per night for say, a standard campsite, you are looking at $6.00 per night per adult and $3.00 per night per child.
Similarly, each Council around New Zealand should have information on which Regional Parks/Council Campgrounds around the country you can camp at. For example, Auckland Regional Council charge $13.00 per night per adult and $6.00 per night per child, children under 5 are free. Wellington Regional Council, charge $6.00 per night per adult and $3.00 per night per child. I strongly recommend you check out your local council website for more information.
Next there’s the question of camping equipment and factoring that into the cost of your holiday. If you’re not sure how often your family will realistically go camping, you have the option of hiring your camping equipment to give it a trial run3. Of course, if you believe, this is an activity you and your family will do a lot of, then it’s probably better value to buy your own gear. Initially, this will involve a one-off upfront cost. Going forward, you may wish to add to your gear as and when you need it, especially if you decide to camp at DOC and/or Regional council campsites – the facilities at these sites are limited compared to Holiday Parks, and you will require more gear. Once you’re equipped, going forward you’ll only need to meet the campsite costs. There are plenty of places that you can go to, to shop for your equipment. I recommend you buy off-peak or during a sale so you can take advantage of cheaper prices. You may also consider buying camping equipment second-hand off trade-me. The key thing to remember is, if you’re likely to camp often, invest in good quality equipment so you will get years of enjoyment from your family camping holidays.
Happy camping everyone!
 For a comprehensive guide on Holiday Park campsite prices around New Zealand, check out thttp://www.familyaccommodationnz.com/nz/holiday-parks/holiday-parks.html
2 The DOC freedom camping website, http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-stay/stay-at-a-campsite/freedom-camping/