Take the family camping

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Take the family camping

What do you love about exploring the great outdoors? Do you like getting far away from civilization, or do you prefer relaxing close to all the modern comforts? When it comes to camping, The Selwyn District has a range of options you can choose from.

You can free camp at one of the Selwyn District Council sites, you can head to a scenic location at one of the Department of Conservation sites, or choose a camping ground with all the facilities. 

Keep reading to discover inspiration for your next camping trip.

Updated November 2023

Tent set up in the Whitecliffs Campgrounds


Free Camping

Did you know that you can camp in Selwyn for free? You can camp here in a self-contained campervan. Plus, these these five locations have toilet facilities, which means you can camp here in a tent or car, even if you aren’t self contained.

You can freedom camp at Chamberlains Ford, Coes Ford, Lakeside Domain, Whitecliffs Domain, and Harper Intake

Please take the time to read the signs at each site so you are clear on the rules at each site.

If you are keen to take the kids on their first camping adventure, then these spots make it a very cheap wee holiday.

Chamberlains Ford, Coes Ford, Lakeside Domain and Whitecliffs open for camping until 1 April 2024 (Easter Monday) check latest here.

Chamberlains Ford

Riverside spot for small vehicles

Chamberlains Ford is a popular picnic spot with great gas BBQ facilities, but it is also a Selwyn District Council free camping spot. Just nine minutes from Leeston, but feeling like a world away, this bushy site sits right beside the Selwyn River. Kids will love exploring the river.

It has toilet facilities, a BBQ area, sink for washing dishes, picnic tables and even a sheltered picnic spot, as well as rubbish and recycling.  Chamberlains Ford isn't suitable for large vehicles like huge campervans or buses, as the turnaround areas are tight. (Try Coes Ford if you have a large vehicle)

Check river quality before swimming.


Coes Ford

Large campsite for all vehicles

The Coes Ford Recreation Reserve is located on The Lake Road, just 10 minutes from the township of Lincoln. One of the big appeals of this campsite is its riverside location.  Great for kids to cool off in the summer and some great free entertainment. Coes Ford is also a free campsite.

There are a number of camping areas at Coes Ford and they can take a lot of campers.  This is the best campsite to choose if you have a group of families who want to travel together, as there is plenty of space.

With no tight turns or narrow access points, Coes Ford is ideal if you want to go camping in a large campervan or modified bus.

A few things to note:  Sometimes throughout the year, the water is not swimmable, or the river is in flood.  There will be signs with more information on site. Check river quality before swimming.



Lakeside Domain

Perfect for Watersports

If you enjoy the lake and are a family of watersport lovers, then the Lakeside Domain is a great spot for the family.  Just 8 minutes from Leeston, Lake Domain sits on a little peninsula on the water's edge of Lake Ellesmere. 

It is the ideal sport for jetboating, waterskiing, kayaking, paddleboarding and even taking that old dinghy out for a spin.  There is a boat ramp on site, making it easy to get in and out on the water.

Selwyn's Lakeside Domain campground facilities include: flushing toilets, cold showers and picnic tables.  It is a dog friendly site too where your pooch is allowed off lead if they are under control.

Please note: At certain times of the year, the mayfly like to congregate at the lake.  They don't bite, but do make sure you keep the doors and windows of your tent or campervan closed to keep the swarms out.


DOC Campgrounds

The Department of Conservation provides cheap campsites in incredible places.  But because they are super budget friendly, they do not have many facilities. Most have toilets and water, but no showers or electricity.  For these campsites you will need to bring your own cookers or plan to eat out.  A battery pack for your cellphone is also a great idea.


Holiday Parks and Campsites with facilities

Holidays Parks are great as they provide many of the facilities from home but in an outdoor setting.  You have access to power, a camp kitchen (you may have to bring cooking pots/plates etc.) hot showers and many often have extras such as lounge areas and games to play.  It is a great option if you don’t have a lot of camping gear and want a few comforts from home.


Rakaia Huts Campground

The Rakaia Huts Campground is located on the northern side of the Rakaia River mouth, 20 minutes off State Highway 1 at Bankside. It is a popular spot for salmon fishing and whitebaiters so if your family love their seafood, then this is a great spot for you.

The campground has sites starting from $10 per night and children are only $2 additional, a great budget-friendly option.  The well kitted out kitchen has an oven to cook your fish, as well as fridge and freezer facilities if you wish to take some home with you.

Find out more


Glentunnel Holiday Park

The Glentunnel Holiday Park is a beautiful park-like campsite that sits beside the Selwyn River.  There is a great swimming hole with a rope swing, perfect for creating summer holiday memories.  They have a children's playground and access to the next door school pool over the school holidays so a great wee place for kids.

Just 45 minutes from Christchurch Airport and close to the local township of Darfield, Glentunnel is a great central spot to explore Canterbury.  Head down the road to explore Washpen Falls or the Rakaia Gorge, or into the hills to Arthur's Pass.

Find out more



Wherever you choose to camp in the Selwyn district, enjoy spending time in the outdoors together as a family, switching off those devices and relaxing this summer.


Written by Backyard Travel Family

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