8 best family-friendly South Island campsites & campgrounds

Discover the best South Island campsites and campgrounds – all of which are family-friendly and fabulous!

There is no better way to reconnect with your family and nature than to find the perfect campsite. To really relax, without the stress of everyday life, is an experience money can’t buy.

And it’s no secret that Kiwis love camping!

To help you plan your next adventure under canvas (or cabin), these campgrounds should be top of your wish list.

Whether you’ve got little ones that you want to introduce to a true-blue Kiwi camping experience, or you’re a group of friends keen to unwind, these are the best South Island campsites.

Unless otherwise stated, all of the following campsites cater to campervans, caravans and tents, offering both powered and unpowered sites.

As an added bonus, we’ve added another 14 highly recommended South Island campsites to this list – all in all, that’s 22 amazing spots for your whānau to enjoy the great outdoors.

Some businesses are experiencing staffing challenges post-COVID. If you want to guarantee a space at a restaurant or attraction, we suggest pre-booking.

A wooden plank stretched to the clear waters of Quinney's Bush Camp.
Quinney’s Bush Camp.

The Best South Island Campsites

There are so many amazing campsites across the South Island. On the following map, we’ve marked our favourite ones in teal and other recommended options in purple.

Have fun exploring them!

In no particular order, these are the very best family-friendly South Island holiday parks and campgrounds.

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1. Little River Campground – “Camping the Kiwi Way”

If you’re looking for a well-equipped campground that still allows your whānau to get back to nature, Little River is it!

Both powered and unpowered sites are available (and cabins too), and there are 5 hectares of native bush waiting to explore. Listen carefully, and you’ll likely hear a range of beautiful native birds including tūī, korimako (bellbirds), piwakawaka (fantails), kererū (wood pigeons) and ruru (moreporks). There are also plenty of protected eels in the Okuti River (which love to eat leftover meat from dinner).

If you’re looking for a polished campsite, this probably isn’t the place for you. If, instead, you’re keen for a nostalgic camping experience – a back-to-basics adventure – you’ll be in your element at Little River.

This is the kind of place where kids can play freely (on the trampoline, the slip ‘n slide waterslide, in the river or out in the bush), whilst you can relax, knowing they’re safe. You’re also welcome to bring your four-legged friend, as long as fido is kept on lead at all times.

The facilities at Little River Campground are basic, but clean and well-cared for. They have composting toilets, coin-operated hot water showers and a kitchen (that has power points that come in handy if you’re staying at an unpowered site).

Conveniently located close to Christchurch, it’s also easy to stock up before setting up camp, whilst providing the perfect base from which to explore Banks Peninsula.

287a Okuti Valley Road, Little River, Banks Peninsula, 7591 – Less than one hour from Christchurch and Akaroa.

Pro Tip: As this amazing campsite is so close to the river, we do recommend close supervision for toddlers.

2. Okains Bay Camping Ground

Okains Bay Camping Ground is another firm favourite amongst families.

Offering peace, quiet and solitude, this popular campground is near a beautiful surf beach and estuary (both of which are perfect for swimming and water spots).

 The campsite has two well-appointed amenity blocks containing toilets, washing facilities, coin-operated showers and well-equipped kitchens. There are also tennis courts nearby that are available for hire (bring your own rackets and balls) and for the little ones, two flying foxes, a climbing frame, swings and slide are all onsite.

Whilst there, we recommend heading over to Little Okains Bay too. The walk itself is lovely and you’ll likely have the beach to yourself.

It’s worth noting that there’s no cell reception at the Okains Bay Camping Ground – whether that’s a blessing or a curse, we’ll leave you to decide.

1357 Okains Bay Road, Okains Bay, Banks Peninsula 7583 – Just a 25-minute drive to Akaroa or 1.5 hours from Christchurch.

Calm waters and the shorelines of Okains Bay.
Photo credit: JobeeMom.

3. Quinney’s Bush Camp – Activities Galore at this South Island Campsite

Quinney’s Bush Camp is the type of holiday park you never need to leave – there is so much to do on site!

With a farm park (where you can feed the animals), go-karts, a flying fox, waterslide, BMX track, fitness trail, skate park, eel feeding and more, this is the place of Kiwi kids’ dreams!

A map of Quinney's Bush Facilities and Activities.

The facilities at this campsite are kept clean and tidy and if you’re in an unpowered site, you have flexibility as to where you set up camp. This adds to the sense of freedom and privacy for everyone.

On lead dogs are also welcomed to Quinney’s Bush, so there’s no need to leave your furry companion behind – this is good news for many!

Located just 40 minutes inland from Nelson, this is, without a doubt, one of the best family-friendly campsites in the whole of New Zealand and camping here is one of the best things to do in Nelson.

We had the best 5 nights here at the end of the school holidays. Kids (and us adults) loved the water slide, river slide, flying fox and all the other amazing entertainment that is here. All the facilities were spotless the entire time and loved seeing staff there regularly to check everything. Reception staff were super friendly and helpful. We have been recommending this place to everyone and we will definitely be back!

Trip Advisor review

255 Kohatu-Kawatiri Highway, Motupiko, RD2 Nelson, 7072

Did you know? If you don’t have your own camping gear, you’re able to book one of their cabins, or a fully-equipped tent or caravan. It’s also possible to pay for a day pass to use the facilities at Quinney’s Bush Park too – and it’s a surprisingly affordable day out!

A woman having fun on a slide while nearby tourists rides a raft in Quinney's Bush Camp.

4. Rakaia River Holiday Park

The Rakaia River Holiday Park is an incredible family-friendly South Island campground.

It’s well-kitted out, offering engaging activities to guests of all ages.

With a massive playground, trampoline, outdoor pool, mini golf and quad bike, the kids are guaranteed to entertain themselves – plus in the summertime, they’ll even lay out a slip n’ slide.

Meanwhile, adults will love the big BBQ and pizza area, their spotless facilities and the campground’s close proximity to one of the best salmon fishing rivers in New Zealand – the Rakaia River.

The campground itself is expansive with lots of shelter and beautiful big trees. It’s amazing that such a beautiful green spot is only 40 minutes from the centre of Christchurch!

At the Rakaia River Holiday Park, you can choose between a powered or unpowered site, or book into one of their motels, cottages or backpacker cabins.

Another pet, friendly campground, you’re welcome to take well-behaved furry friends on holiday too (cats included).

Enjoy your stay at this beautiful whānau-approved campground!

State Highway 1, Rakaia, Canterbury 7710

Kinds riding on a cart that is pulled by a tractor that has a dog sitting on a box in Rakaia River Holiday Park.

5. Jackson’s Retreat Alpine Holiday Park

The only campground in between the wild West Coast (which is home to Glacier Country) and Christchurch, Jackson’s Retreat Alpine Holiday Park is located 30 minutes north of Arthur’s Pass.

Incredibly, they have four different spots where you can see and photograph glow worms at night, and a beautiful rainforest waterfall walk. Plus you’ll have fifteen acres of campsite to explore, with views of the Taramakau River, the snow-capped Southern Alps and waterfalls to keep you company.

These natural attractions sit alongside clean and tidy facilities that will make your camping trip a pleasure. Plus you’ve got access to a beautiful brand-new cedar hot tub and sauna!

Choose from both powered sites and unpowered sites, along with cabins and units and pre-pitched tents – there really is something for all budgets and desires.

Those travelling in campervans and caravans will also be able to make use of their unique (and award-winning) all-weather-covered site.

What a beautiful place for your family to reconnect with nature.

4464 Otira Highway (State Highway 73), Jacksons (near Arthur’s Pass) 7832

Sunshine peeking through the mountains while a river runs at a distance of a town in Jackson Holiday Park.

6. Temuka Holiday Park

Though the Temuka Holiday Park is far from being the flashiest inclusion on this list, it deserves a spot amongst the best campsites in the South Island.

The facilities are kept immaculately clean and the site itself is celebrated as being quiet and peaceful. It is the perfect place to relax with your family and decompress after a busy time at work and school.

There’s plenty to keep the kids entertained as the holiday park is perched right on the side of a 75-hectare domain. There, you’ll find a big swimming pool, mini golf course, playground, impressive skate park and a bird aviary (complete with talking birds).

For the big kids, there’s also an 18-hole golf course, bowling club and a number of walking tracks.

Alongside the expected powered and unpowered sites (perfect for tents, campervans and caravans), they also have cabins and an area that is dog-friendly.

If you’re looking for a place that offers old-fashioned fun in a relaxing setting, the Temuka Holiday Park is a hidden gem.

1 Fergusson Drive, Temuka (near Timaru) 7920

Grasslands, trees, shrubs, and clearly-marked walkways of Temuka Holiday Park.
Photo credit: Lisa J.

7. Moeraki Boulders Holiday Park (AKA Hampden Beach Camping Ground)

Recently renamed from Hampden Beach Camping Ground to the Moeraki Boulders Holiday Park, this is a beachfront campground that’s well worth a visit with your family. You’ll find it not far from Oamaru.

The campsite and its facilities are kept spotlessly clean (which is always appreciated) and it’s located close to the incredible Moeraki Boulders – just a 25-minute walk along the beach.

This holiday park has plenty to keep the kids entertained onsite including drift bikes (which are serious fun), swimming holes and a beautiful beach right on your doorstep.

Whether you choose to swim at the beach, kayak the lagoon or head out fishing in the bay, you’ll be guaranteed a good time. Keep your eyes peeled if on or in the water too as you might be lucky enough to spot an endemic Hector’s dolphin.

2 Lincoln Street, Hampden 9410

Pro Tip: Whilst visiting, be sure to head down to the lighthouse (approximately 8lm from the Moeraki Boulders Holiday Park) where you can see both yellow-eyed penguin and seal colonies.

A woman jumps on huge rounded rocks on the beach while his boyfriend awaits her.
Check out the Moeraki Boulders when you’re down south. Photo: Miles Holden.

8. The Barn Cabins & Camp

Though the lucky-last spot on our list is, of course, family-friendly, this is one that couples and friends will particularly enjoy.

Beautifully relaxed, this campsite is something else.

Not only does it have an amazing food truck onsite that serves delicious Lebanese cuisine (please note, this is only open during the summer season) but they also offer free yoga on the deck three times a week.

For the kids (and young-at-heart) there are lots of fun games, including table tennis, pool, volleyball, kubbs and Connect4 and a swing to hop on too. During the summer season, they’ve also been known to put on an outdoor movie!

Located right on the edge of the Abel Tasman Park, we recommend heading out to complete part (if not all) of this amazing Great Walk whilst you’re staying here. The walk itself is fairly sedate, so is perfect to undertake with your children. If they’d rather not walk, you can also kayak into the national park, or can catch a water taxi.

The Barn Cabins & Camp offer a range of accommodation options to suit everyone – from the powered/unpowered sites you’d expect, to family-friendly cabins and glamping tents.

Pets are welcome too, provided they are friendly and kept on-lead. They even run a competition to see who can bring the best pet along and have offered up their paddocks – perhaps it’s finally time your horse, buffalo or pet lambs can join you on holiday?

If this doesn’t sound like camping paradise just out of Nelson, we don’t know what is!

14 Harvey Road, Mārahau (near Abel Tasman and Nelson) 7197

A fireplace on the grass surrounded by chairs, a beautiful tent behind, and some lightings.

The following campgrounds are also fantastic family-friendly options in the bottom half of New Zealand.

  • Akaroa Top 10. 96 Morgans Road, Akaroa 7542
  • Ashley Gorge Kiwi Holiday Park. 697 Ashley Gorge Road, Starvation Hill 7495
  • Bethany Park. 8 Inlet Road, Kaiteriteri 7197
  • Greta Valley Camping. 7 Valley Road, Greta Valley 7387
  • Glendhu Bay Motor Camp. 1127 Wanaka Mount Aspiring Road, Glendhu Bay 9382
  • Herbert Forest Campground. 99 Breakneck Road, Herbert 9495
  • Kaikoura Peketa Beach Holiday Park. 665 State Highway 1, Peketa Beach, Kaikōura 7374
  • Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park & Motels. 53 Freda Du Faur Ave, Twizel 7901
  • Pūnakaiki Beach Camp. 5 Owen Street, Punakaiki 7873
  • Smiths Farm Holiday Park. 1419 Queen Charlotte Drive, Linkwater 7281
  • Spencer Park Holiday Park. 100 Heyders Road, Spencerville, Christchurch 8083
  • The Farmyard Holiday Park. 22/50 Elmslie Road, Geraldine 7992
  • Waikuku Beach Holiday Park. 1 Domain Terrace, Waikuku Beach 7402
  • Wooded Gully Campsite. 32 River Road, Rangiora 7400

Wherever you choose to stay, we hope you make amazing memories with your family whilst out camping!

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