• Freedom Camping

    in Tairāwhiti

    tuamotu please credit tim gander and tourism eastland

The written and unwritten rules for freedom camping in Tairāwhiti

Life on the road and the mystery of where the journey takes you is a great way to travel. Freedom camping in Tairāwhiti takes you to hidden gems and beautiful places but there’s a lot of written and unwritten rules you should be aware of. Here’s what you need to know.  

1. You can’t reserve or pre-book sites

When it comes to freedom camping, the early bird catches the worm. Pegging a tarp on the ground to save a spot doesn’t mean the site is yours - so, remember it’s a first come first serve basis. In some locations you will require a camping permit - follow this link to visit the GDC Summer Camping Permit page. 

2. Leave nothing behind

Take back some awesome memories with you and leave no trace. Which means responsible freedom campers should recycle or dispose of rubbish here. Wastewater holding tanks should be disposed of at designated dump stations here. More info on what you can recycle where can be found on this handy page.

3. No semi-permanent structures

This means you can’t tie things up to trees or shrubs. No makeshift structures that can be blown away. It’s just you, your tent or your van under the stars.

4. Don’t block any access ways

Rather obvious but easy to forget. Footpaths and boat access should stay obstacle-free so be mindful when parking your vehicle.

5. Bring your own water

Drinking water is not available at any campsite so remember to bring your own water – and plenty of it. There may not be a shop or gas station you can walk to so its important you come well prepared.

6. Open fires are prohibited

As idyllic as toasting marshmallows around an open campfire sounds, this is absolutely not permitted. You must have gas for cooking.



Tokomaru Bay

“Toko” as it’s known on the East Coast, has rustic and artistic charm, a historic wharf, and an absolutely stunning beach. There are two freedom camping sites in Tokomaru Bay. The site in the north (opposite Potae Street) provides absolute beachfront camping. There’s a long stretch of grass between the road and the beach, with beach views and lots of space to make yourself at home. It is an easy walk to the Tokomaru Bay Four Square supermarket to stock up on essentials, a fish and chip shop and the Te Puka Tavern.

The southern site, on Waiotu Road, is also near the beach, but in some spots, there are sand dunes between you and the water.  

Makorori Beach 

This is a beautiful spot right on the water and being close to Gisborne you’ll have to get in quick because it gets very busy. There is no camping here – self-contained vehicles only. There’s a bit of road noise from logging trucks rumbling by, but this site does have incredible sea views.  Find out more information here. 

Kaiti Beach

Kaiti Beach freedom camping is also one that gets very busy – get there early afternoon for a spot if you can. Camping must be in vehicles, in the carpark. There is a toilet and an adjacent playground, and even though there is some noise from the port nearby, the views are amazing, and the location is handy to the city centre. Find out more information here. 

Motu Rest Area 

Another inland destination: if you’re driving between Ōpōtiki and Gisborne via the rugged Waioeka Gorge, this lovely little site is not far from the Gorge on the Gisborne side. Off the beaten track, this peaceful settlement offers a campsite in a paddock (with two flush toilets and a school playground nearby). Listen out for kiwi at night, and get a dose of nature on the Whinray Scenic Reserve Track.

Midway Beach

Midway Beach freedom camping site is at one of the city's popular beaches with great views of the Pacific Ocean. Close to public toilets, the Gisborne Olympic Pool complex as well as the dump station on Awapuni Road. Find out more information here. 

Bright Street

This location is handy for those who are wanting to be more central and close to the CBD. It is within walking distance of Gisborne's cafes, restaurants and main shopping precinct. Find out more information here


If it’s summer and you’d love to camp at the stunning Kaiaua Beach, Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay and Doneraille Park (summer is when Freedom Camping at these sites is prohibited) and other great camping sites, just buy a permit -  it’s easy!

Permits for Summer Camping are $18 for up to 2 nights (including 1 rubbish bag), $36 for 2 - 10 nights (including 5 rubbish bags) and $75 for 10 - 28 nights (including 14 rubbish bags).

You can purchase permits online from the Gisborne District Council website and from the following locations: