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3 Best Camping Sites In Curio Bay | The Catlins, New Zealand

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Home » Blog » Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » The Catlins » 3 Best Camping Sites In Curio Bay | The Catlins, New Zealand

Curio Bay is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts travelling in New Zealand and what better way to enjoy the great outdoors than camping in The Catlins? In this guide, you will discover the best camping sites to enjoy Curio Bay.

Visiting the Catlins on a camping trip means you can camp alongside one of New Zealand’s best beaches and have a chance to spot some of New Zealand’s rarest wildlife from the comfort of your tent or campervan.

There is a private camping site in Curio Bay that has a prime location by the beach, as well as a shop, cafe and surf school. There are also freedom camping sites located near Curio Bay for those with self-contained campervans. We look at all these options in this post. So, let’s get to it and discover the best camping sites in Curio Bay in The Catlins.

Private Camping Sites In Curio Bay

1. Curio Bay Camping Ground – Tumu Toka CurioScape

The Best Private Curio Bay Camping Site For Tents & Campervans

porpoise bay, the catlins, new zealand
Porpoise Bay, The Catlins – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Curio Bay Camping Ground Overview

  • Location: 590 Waikawa-Curio Bay Road (Google Maps)
  • Type of accommodation: Private Campground
  • Accommodation options available: Powered and Non-Powered sites for tents and campervans
  • Budget & Cost: $ – Rates from $45 – $55 per night.
  • Facilities: Amenities block with kitchen, toilets, showers, bins, laundry, drinking water, cafe and shop, surf school
  • Dogs allowed?: No, due to wildlife
  • Booking: Book in advance – Visit the Curio Bay Camping Ground website

If you’re visiting Curio Bay with a campervan or tent camping, the best accommodation is the Curio Bay Camping Ground. The site is also known as Tumu Toka Curio Scape.

This large campsite is situated right by the beach. It is in the perfect spot to visit Curio Bay’s best attractions.

Curio Bay Camping Ground Rates, Site Options & Facilities

There are powered and unpowered sites available at Curio Bay Camping Ground. Rates are between $45 – $55 per night. There are vehicle and tent sites available.

A communal amenities block has a kitchen, toilets, bins, and laundry facilities. There is drinking water available at the campsite.

No dogs are allowed at Curio Bay Camping Ground due to nesting penguins.

The Curio Scape Cafe is located near the reception. It is open 9 am – 6.30 pm for breakfast, lunch, cabinet food and drinks. There is also a shop selling souvenirs.

Catlins Surf is a surf school located near the campsite by the beach. They offer equipment hire and surf lessons between October and April.

white campervan parked at curio bay campground facing the sea
My campervan at Curio Bay Campground – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

The Best Things To Do Near Curio Bay Camping Ground

Swimming, Boardboarding & Surfing

The beautiful Porpoise Bay Beach is perfect for swimming, surfing and boardboarding. The sheltered bay is safe for swimming. If you’re a keen bodyboarder or surfer then it is great fun for beginners and advanced surfers. At the campsite is the Catlins Surf School and they offer equipment hire and surfing lessons.

See Dolphins From Your Campsite

Hector’s dolphins are common in Porpoise Bay. If you look across the bay from your tent or campervan, there is a likelihood that you will see the rare Hector’s dolphins swimming in Porpoise Bay.

The dolphins are a rare species and the smallest dolphin in the world. They are endemic to New Zealand.

You can also experience swimming with dolphins in the wild for FREE by getting in the water at Porpoise Bay. The dolphins may come up to you while you are in the water. If this happens, don’t touch them but enjoy the experience.

A highlight of my visit to Curio Bay was seeing the dolphins in the water.

fiachra swimming with a hector's dolphin riding a wave
Fiachra in Porpoise Bay with a Hector’s Dolphin riding on a wave, and another dolphin’s dorsal fin visible in the background – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
Walk To The Petrified Forest & Living Forest

A short walk from the campsite will lead you to the Petrified Forest, an ancient fossilised forest. From a viewing platform, you can see fossilised trees on the beach at low tide. I found it interesting to see fossilised trees at Curio Bay as it was something I had never experienced before.

Across the road is the Living Forest which is the counterpart to the Petrified Forest. It shows how the Petrified Forest may have looked many years ago. Along the walkway are interpretive signs. I had a great experience walking in the Living Forest and enjoyed the trees and birdlife.

yellow eyed penguin colony viewpoint at the catlins, new zealand
Yellow-Eyed Penguin viewing area at Curio Bay in The Catlins, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
Spot Yellow-Eyed Penguins

Curio Bay is also a yellow-eyed penguin nesting site. You can take a walk from the campsite to the lookouts and wait to see the penguins coming in from the beach and waddling along the beach to their nests. I was not lucky enough to see a yellow-eyed penguin during my visit to Curio Bay but you could be!

Related Read: 10 Best Things To Do In Curio Bay | The Catlins, New Zealand

Freedom Camping Sites In Curio Bay

There are two options for freedom camping near Curio Bay. If you are considering freedom camping then make sure you understand and adhere to the freedom camping bylaws in New Zealand and in the area you are visiting. You will likely need a Self-Contained campervan for freedom camping although some freedom campsites allow tents and non-self-contained vehicle camping. There will be signs located at the site displaying the rules, however, if no sign is displayed it can be assumed freedom camping is allowed.

2. Waikawa Recreation Reserve Freedom Camping

The Best FREE Camping Ground Near Curio Bay

  • Location: 599 Niagara-Waikawa Road (Google Maps)
  • Type of accommodation: Freedom Campground
  • Rules & restrictions: Self-Contained Campervans & Motorhomes only
  • Facilities: Public toilet, rubbish/recycling bins, 4G phone signal

The nearest freedom camping spot to Curio Bay is the Waikawa Recreation Reserve. It is located about 6.4 km (8 min drive) from Curio Bay.

The freedom camping ground at Waikawa is suitable for small and medium-large campervans and motorhomes. There are minimal facilities here. There is no drinking water however there are clean toilets open all night.

The Waikawa Recreation Reserve is the freedom camping site that I stayed at while I was visiting Curio Bay. I stayed here for two nights and I had a great experience.

The Best Things To Do Near Waikawa Freedom Camping

Waikawa & Districts Museum

Opposite the freedom camping site is the Waikawa Museum and Information Centre. Visiting this museum is an interesting experience because you can see fossilised trees and learn about the history of the area including the old Jail.

St Mary’s Church

In addition to the Waikawa Museum, there is the wooden red and white St Mary’s Church which is very picturesque!

waikawa district museum the catlins new zealand
Waikawa District Museum, The Catlins – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
red and white wooden church with flowers, white fence, green tree, blue sky - st marys church in waikawa, new zealand
St Mary’s Church in Waikawa, New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

Related Read: 5 Best Accommodation In Curio Bay | The Catlins, New Zealand

3. Recreation Ground off Weir Rd, Near Slope Point Freedom Camping

  • Location: 195 Weir Road (Google Maps)
  • Type of accommodation: Freedom Campground
  • Rules & restrictions: Self-Contained Campervans & Motorhomes only, stay only 1 night per calendar month
  • Facilities: Public toilet, sink with water, 4G phone signal

Another freedom camping site near Curio Bay is the Recreation Ground off Weir Rd, near Slope Point. This freedom camping ground is a bit further from Curio Bay. It is located about 14.5 km (20 min drive) from Curio Bay.

This camping spot is in a quiet location beside Haldane Bay. There are public toilets here for campers to use and a sink.

Take care on the road to the campsite as it can be muddy, slippery and on a slope.

The Slope Point Freedom Camp is a large gravel and grass area. There is space for small and large campervans and motorhomes.

lauren and fiachra standing at the slope point sign, showing the distance to the equator 5140 km and the south pole 4803 km
Lauren and Fiachra at Slope Point, the most southern point in the South Island of New Zealand – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World
crooked and twisted windswept trees, with white branches and dark green leaves, in a golden field with a blue sky - located at slope point, south island, new zealand
Windswept trees at Slope Point – Ⓒ Wild Lovely World

The Best Things To Do Near Slope Point Freedom Camping

Visit Slope Point

Slope Point is the most southern point of the New Zealand South Island. It is well worth making a trip to the iconic location for a photo opportunity.

It is a 7-minute drive to the starting point for the walk (free car park) from the Slope Point Freedom Camping site.

From the car park, the walk to Slope Point is an easy 20 minutes across farmland. You’ll get a drive view of the sea from the yellow sign. It is likely to be muddy and windy so take a jacket and wear good walking shoes.

See The Windswept Trees

At the Slope Point car park, you can also see the interesting trees that have been blown into shape by the wind.

The Best Camping Sites In Curio Bay | The Catlins, New Zealand – Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for reading this guide to the best camping sites in Curio Bay. I hope you have a wonderful stay in this magical part of New Zealand and enjoy the great outdoors in your tent or campervan. – Lauren x

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Thanks for reading! 🙂 – © Wild Lovely World

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Lauren is a coffee and cat obsessed travel writer from the U.K., specialising in solo female, couple travel and budget backpacking. She has previously lived in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England and Scotland. Follow her adventures around the world on her blog

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