Of course, you can’t just park up or pitch your tent anywhere. Happily, there’s a list of sites to Freedom Camp. Many have world-class views or beaches right on the doorstep, and you can stay there for up to three nights. These sites allow Freedom Camping all winter (i.e. Easter Monday to the start of daylight savings in September), but some of them do require a paid permit in the summer season and a Vaccine Pass, so take note.
“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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Remember, no freedom camping sites can be booked so it’s first in first served – even pegging out a tarpaulin for a friend before they arrive doesn’t count! This makes it fair for everybody.
Make sure you bring drinking water and a gas stove (don’t light a fire) – and you’re set for an epic Freedom Camping experience in one of the most beautiful corners of the world! You can find more information about Freedom Camping in Tairāwhiti 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: