top of page

Click on image for full view and caption

Small town friendly

Miriam Richardson

Here are some suggestions on how to go about attracting campers to your town

Let people know they are welcome; give them a reason to stop; make them welcome.

The Hororata Glow at a really small town in Canterbury. ©2023 Hororata
A reason to stop

Each place will offer different reasons. You only need one reason to begin being camper-friendly. Make the most of it.

It might be a shop, a museum, a rest stop area, a view, a cafe, a pub, a rest room. It might be services such as water, rubbish, fuel, dump station, a laundry.

It might be an undercover space for cycle/tent campers: space for cooking, perhaps with a bbq, or fireplaces.

It might be walks or bike tracks.

List on Campermate, Wikicamps, Rankers, the NZMCA app so people know about your town and can plan to stop.

Lumsden have made a point of welcoming freedom campers. This is the train station carpark in Lumsden. ©2022 Andrew Morton

A place to pull over
  • A sign in advance so people can prepare to stop is handy.

  • A well sign-posted park that’s firstly easy to spot and find, and secondly, easy and safe to get both in and out of.

  • A park for long vehicles and vehicles that are towing.

  • Welcoming signage.

  • Consider how people will cross if the park and the places of interest are on opposite sides of the road.

A place to overnight
  • In summer, grass is likely ok; in wet weather hard stand is needed.

  • Consider the varied vehicle types, widths and lengths and allow enough room that fire-safety gaps are easy.

  • Cycle tourers and car campers will be on the look out for good places to pitch a tent.

  • Make it safe to drive in and out. (Traffic? Gate posts?)

  • Walking distance to the town shops/pub etc.

  • Somewhere pleasant (probably not at the town dump).

Two night stays are the minimum for a relaxed stay: arrive, settle in, suss the place out, sleep; a day to explore/walk/fish/cycle; sleep; move on. Consider offering 3-, 4- , (or more) day stop-overs. A one-night stopover is an in-and-out thing: arrive, shop, sleep, move on to the next place.

Waipiata, on the Otago Rail Trail, has made it very easy for cyclists and visitors to stop over in their domain. I can attest the Waipiata pies are worth a special trip. © 2023 Miriam Richardson

Start with what is there

You can start with what is currently there. Make it welcoming. Make it easy. Build on it bit by bit.

What campers need...

...not necessarily all in your small town; not necessarily every visit; not necessarily free.

  • A place to park. Tenters need short-grassy areas.

  • Groceries and food.

  • Fuel — petrol, deisel, LPG.

  • Drinking water (some fill tanks, some fill bottles).

  • A toilet and/or a dump station.

  • Rubbish and recycling disposal.

  • Showers.

  • Laundromats.

  • A place to charge a bike battery or phone.

  • Cyclists can use a place for doing repairs (a post with a bike hanger does the job (under cover is even better).

  • Internet: do you have rural broadband? Is there a local wifi network they can connect to? Mention this on the apps when you promote your town.

What campers enjoy for parking up
  • Car campers and tenters appreciate picnic tables, covered areas, places to wash dishes, light fires or thermettes; a clothesline.

  • The self-contained enjoy the chance to put up an awning, set out some chairs, a table and the BBQ.

  • Space: Too many vehicle crammed in together is uncomfortable as well as unsafe.

  • Pleasant surroundings and view.

Trucks whizzing by 2m away is uncomfortable, but intermittent trains deter very few. Having the local dump over the fence doesn’t appeal. Drifts of dust when a car goes past is no fun on your BBQ or in your cup of tea.

What campers enjoy to do
  • Shops, cafes, meals out, pubs, films.

  • Meeting people.

  • Walks, bike rides, swimming.

  • Fishing, geo-caching, metal detecting.

  • Museums and libraries.

  • Resting up with a chair, a book and a view.

It can be simple; it needn’t be flash
  • A shop could offer to take small bags of rubbish for a small fee.

  • A fuel stop could allow a tap to be used for water.

  • Dishwashing sinks could be added to the outside of a toilet block.

  • The hotel might offer showers and laundry for a fee; or overnight parking for a fee (some waive the fee if a meal is bought).

  • Road reserve could be managed for long-vehicle parking.

  • The local hall, domain or church could offer overnight parking, when the community doesn’t need it (eg., ‘never on Sunday,’ 
‘never on Show Weekend’). An overnight fee can be a big help with maintenance.

  • Locals could offer tent space on their lawn and perhaps a shower for cycle campers. See

Campers, cycle tourers, van tourers and motorhomers come to meet a need or to explore and to enjoy your part of the world. They have money to spend. They are mostly gregarious and sociable. Welcoming these visitors, as a town, brings a social and an economic boost to your small town.

Let people know, 
give them a reason, 
make them welcome.
A social and economic boost to your small town

, p


bottom of page