The Neatest Campgrounds in Canterbury

A person swinging on a swing over a forested gorge.

Whether you’re a seasoned camper or are only just getting into the thought of ‘roughing it’, Canterbury is spoiled for choice with the neatest campgrounds.

Words by: Ashlyn Oswalt

Whether you’re a seasoned camper or are only just getting into the thought of ‘roughing it’, Canterbury is spoiled for choice with the neatest campgrounds. Check out a few of our favourites here. 

Wooded Gully Campsite - Mt Thomas Forest Conservation Park

1722007, Pleasant Point

Feel worlds away from Christchurch in just under an hour at this campsite. Situated in the Mt Thomas Forest Conservation Park, the Wooded Gully Campsite offers solitude for those looking to take it off the grid. Featuring 50 non-powered tent sites, this DOC campsite is equipped with flush toilets and water, plus leashed dogs are a-okay. Pitch a tent among the trees and wake up early the next morning to tackle one of the many walks with trailheads at the campsite. Whether you’re looking for kid-friendly nature walks such as the Kereu Track (one hour return) or something more strenuous like the Mt Thomas Summit (three and a half hours return), you’ll get your outdoor fix with enough time to enjoy a nice camp dinner before sundown.

Photo credit: @uniquelytravelled

Mt Potts Lodge - Ashburton

2131 Hakatere Potts Road, Ashburton Lakes

Known more for its luxury accommodation, the Mt Potts Lodge offers plenty of self-contained and non-powered spots. Located in Ashburton, the camping sites take in stunning views of the snow-capped mountain vistas, with plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy the outdoors. Mt Potts accommodation offers connections to luxury activities if you’re keen, like heli-tours, hunting, and scenic flights. However, if you’re more content with low-key activities, Mt Potts and Mt Sunday (any Lord of the Rings fans? This is the film site for the Edoras) are popular day hikes. Photo source: Mt Potts Lodge, Accommodation, and Events Centre.

Photo credit: Mt Potts Lodge

Little River Campground - Little River

287 Okuti Valley Road, Little River

A fan favourite for those wanting a getaway from Christchurch, the Little River Campground is a hidden gem. The campground offers plenty of powered and non-powered sites to go around, plus cabins for those who’d rather not rough it. Although the surrounding beauty of Little River and further into Akaroa are reason enough to stay, the real charm is the campground itself. From slippery mudslides, trampolines, and massive tree swings, this place is a haven to let children roam or to let your inner-child out. As if this place couldn’t get any better, the rates are affordable, includes free Wi-Fi (not that you’ll need it), and the site is dog-friendly! We recommend this one as a great site for first-timers. Oh, and don't forget to toast your marshmallows on the campfire! 

Photo credit: Little River Campground

Rakaia Gorge Camping Ground - Rakaia

6686 Arundel Rakaia Gorge Road, Mount Hutt

If you’re looking for a getaway close to Christchurch with stunning views, creature comforts, and both dog and kid-friendly, we’ve found just the place for you. The Rakaia Gorge Camping Ground is nestled next to the rumbling Rakaia, dishing up serene stream noises to lull you to sleep, if the epic stargazing doesn’t keep you up! With plenty of designated camping spots - no fighting over tiny sections of grass here - campers enjoy handy amenities like picnic tables, toilets, and views of the river. Just a short walk takes you down to the water for a refreshing dip, or up through the gorge to the stunning Rakaia Gorge Walkway.

Photo credit: Rakaia Gorge Camping Ground 

Lake Ruataniwha Campground - Twizel

53 Freda Du Faur Ave, Twizel

Twizel is a true gateway to the stunning outdoor playground that is the South Island. Located just a few hours south of Christchurch, it’s a booming little town with plenty to see and do. The Lake Ruataniwha Campground is the perfect spot to be in the centre of the action. Whether you’re into hiking, swimming, fishing, or enjoying the night sky in Mackenzie’s Dark Sky Reserve, this is the place for you. Featuring large campsites among the forest with a quick walk to the lake, the campground will leave you spoiled for choice with beauty at every corner. Lake Ruataniwha is one of New Zealand’s main rowing lakes, so campers are sometimes treated to glimpses of practices and races.

Photo credit: Lake Ruataniwha Campground

Alpine Pacific - Kaikōura

69 Beach Road, Kaikōura

As much as we love secluded campgrounds tucked into the bush, there is merit to a centrally-located campground. Alpine Pacific in Kaikoura is one of our favourites, both for its super close location to town and the amenities on site. Located a few minutes walk from town, this cosy campground offers plenty of space to get to know your camping neighbour and enjoy the sights of Kaikoura. With hot tubs, a pool, and great kitchen and bathroom facilities, campers are treated to the easy life. Perfect for families and pets, this place makes camping easy for those who have never been or prefer the comforts of home. Plus, you’re rewarded with the view of the Kaikouras. A true win-win.

Photo credit: Alpine Pacific 

Godley Head Campsite - Christchurch

2 Godley Head Road, Sumner, Christchurch

Godley Head is a popular walk for those living in Christchurch, featuring high-reward views for low-effort walking. To truly soak in the stunning views of the area, we recommend camping at the Godley Head Campsite, a 25 non-powered campsite that’s smack dab in the middle of a WWII defence battery site with ocean views and plenty of walks nearby. Campers wake up to seaside sunrises and are spoiled with vistas at every turn. This campsite is dog-friendly, too, so be sure to bring your pup.


Check out the 11 best walks to try in Canterbury (and where to reward yourself after!).

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