Rakaia Huts and Peel Forest: A Weekend Trip

What I find awesome about travelling around New Zealand in a campervan is that you don’t have to travel far to find an awesome place to camp. There’s also a range to suit any budget, from freedom camping sites to fully catered, and everything in between. One of those in-between campsites is the Rakaia Huts Campground, located on the banks of the Rakaia River.

Leaving Christchurch

We left Christchurch right in the thick of the weekend traffic, Friday at 5pm. The new highway takes you out via Lincoln where you can shave 10 minutes or so off your travelling time. That route doesn’t usually see the amount of traffic as the Hornby route, so for driving a campervan, it’s ideal.

Rakaia Huts Campground
Rakaia Huts Campground
Gary from Rakaia Huts Campground
Gary and his assistant guide

Rakaia Huts Campground

Rakaia Huts is one of the more low-cost campgrounds on the CamperMate app. It’s only about an hour or so from Christchurch. So, while it might be a little off the main highway, it’s a good place to come and explore.

On-site managers Gary and Roslyn have created a very friendly vibe here. It almost seems like a big revolving happy family, which we were lucky enough to drop into for one night in our Britz 4-berth campervan. 

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Roslyn and after setting up went and met Gary and other campers in the kitchen. Everyone is on a first-name basis here, very cool!

Rakaia Huts is like a little town, so we went for a walk and bought some honey from an honesty box stand.

Upon returning, Gary invited us for a trip to the river mouth (about 1km away) on his quad bike. It was a nice little adventure before we made tracks to the next campsite, Peel Forest, inland from Geraldine.

Peel Forest

Peel Forest Campsite kitchen and shower block.
Peel Forest Campsite kitchen and shower block.

The Department of Conservation campsite at Peel Forest is awesome. You pay at the camp office which is about 3 km before the actual campsite. It closes at 7.30 pm.

If you don’t make it there before it closes the manager will drop by in the morning. But you will need to have cash!

At $15 per night per adult, it is a little more expensive than the normal D.O.C. campsite. However, Peel Forest comes equipped with a lot more facilities than your normal campground. You get access to electricity, a great kitchen and hot showers. If the campsite is closed when you arrive, there’s another parking area to park on. Just ask at the camp store about it.

Aside from the hot showers, what I like most about this campsite is the number of fun things to do nearby.

The Rangitata River is just a 5-minute walk from the campsite. Take your gumboots as there’s a stream you have to cross to get there. I’m told it has trout and salmon, however, while we did try, we cannot confirm this.

We woke up in the morning to a beautiful sunrise and Pukeko rummaging around the chestnut trees.

It does get a little wet here, so it closes over Winter but opens again at Labour Weekend.

Before heading back to Christchurch, we checked out one of the stunning D.O.C. walks on the Rangitata Gorge Road.

I’ve never seen Fantails (Piwawaka) so plentiful as I’ve seen them here. It’s an awesome spot.

If you have some time to spare in South Canterbury, it’s definitely worth taking the time and spending a night at Rakaia Huts or Peel Forest.

Blog post by Adam Hutchinson

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