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Lake Monowai campsite

Kayla Laatz, Mountain Mamas NZ

Our small family of 3 set up camp in a quiet and secluded paradise in the heart of Fiordland National Park. We picked Fiordland because it offers so many opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, hunting and nature walks too.


The best part though? This no-cost campsite is open to all non-self-contained campers, making it super accessible and affordable for us to visit.


Not surprisingly, this spot fills up fast in the summer months. It’s first come first served to stay overnight here and there’s only enough room for about 10 groups of tent campers maximum. Campervans squeeze into a small gravel area that might fit 4 vehicles at most.


The campsites themselves are spread out under the forest canopy directly beside the east shore of the lake. A boat ramp, fire pits, picnic tables, long drop toilets, a walking track and a small dam are all just mere steps away. Nearby signs let us know that this is a popular spot to fish for brown and rainbow trout too. Talk about having everything you need within close walking distance.From our tent site, a tiny path through the trees led us directly to the shore of Lake Monowai. It was shallow and covered in soft moss, making it super safe for kids to splash in. Since there was so much shallow water, the sun heated it right up, making it comfortable for our toddler. Our little guy played in the water for hours while us parents got to sit back, relax and watch the boats float by all day. A few kayakers too.


We also really enjoyed the half hour return walking track beginning in the camping area (front cover photo). Walking amongst the shade of the trees, listening to the bird song, and admiring the native plants and fungi along the way to the panoramic Lake Monowai Lookout. It was a very flat and family-friendly stroll, and was perfect for letting our son lead the way.


All weekend the forest provided the perfect shaded canopy to escape the heat, while still getting to enjoy the sun’s rays beaming off the water. As we cooked our food over the fire and ate our lunch at the picnic tables, we admired the glistening of the water between the tree branches. A soft breeze blew through just enough to keep us cool.


At night the moon reflected brightly off the water and a nearby dam provided the faint sound of rushing water to fall asleep to. Stargazing was surreal here since there are no towns within at least a 90 minutes drive. That night, our whole whanau fell asleep to the peaceful sounds of the forest and awoke to a cotton candy sunrise reflecting off the water. It doesn’t get much better than that.


In all of the South Island, this is our favourite freedom camping site yet. Next time we visit though, we’re bringing a lot more sandfly spray and making sure our food is locked far away from the possums!


Lake Monowai Campsite (Fiordland National Park)

Free campsite

Non self-contained

2 Long drop toilets

1 Non-treated water tap

Campfire rings + grills

No dogs allowed Mountain Mamas NZ

our most favourite freedom camping site yet

, p

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