Geocaching: Modern day hide and seek

Caraline Abbott —  08/07/2014

A recent photo shoot at Maunga Kakaramea/Rainbow Mountain near Rotorua took an unexpected turn when the photographer asked me “Are you a geocacher?” before diving into some native shrub to retrieve a small, plastic container.

A geocache hidden at Rainbow Mountain under a rock.

Spot the geocache

Slightly taken aback I bombarded the local photographer with questions, “Who put that there?! Is it safe?! How many people know it’s there?!”

The photographer went on to explain that geocaching involves the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to play hide and seek with containers called geocaches or caches.

Thousands of people around the world—and hundreds in New Zealand—are discovering the joy of decoding cryptic messages and scampering across the countryside in search of hidden treasure in more than two million hidden caches worldwide.

Current information shows nearly 6,000 geocaches currently located in New Zealand.

DOC ranger Amanda on Crater Lakes Track.

DOC Ranger, Amanda Vallis, close to a geocache on Crater Lakes Track

Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment,” says Rotorua-based Kevin Carroll who chairs the Kiwicaching Association of New Zealand.

What does a cache look like?

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook which a ‘geocacher’ signs and dates.

Examples of geocaches that can be discovered including, containers, birdhouses and status.

Examples of geocaches

After signing the log, the cache must be returned to the spot where it was found for other geocachers to find.

Caches may also contain small trinkets which may be swapped by the finder with a trinket of equal value.

Caches may contain trackables—distinctive objects that contain a unique tracking code. Finders are asked to update the geocaching community with the last known location of trackables so their movements can be traced.

A geocache hidden in the bush at Crater Lake.

Can you spot it the geocache on Crater Lakes Track?

A quick look on the geocaching website reveals numerous caches currently located on public conservation land. For example, the Tarawera Trail, officially opened in December 2013 is already home to a number of caches, and many conservation campsites have caches hidden nearby.

The ‘hiders’ in this modern game of hide-and-seek with a twist, are members of the everyday public who as an added bonus, are acting as travel writers, using websites to describe the trail, how to get there and what to expect.

Geocaching is a different, and addictive, outdoors activity and a great way to spend time in New Zealand’s special places.

How do I get involved?

Be warned: Once you start geocaching, it’s hard to stop!

A comprehensive overview of geocaching, including FAQs and maps, can be found on

Search ‘Geocaching free’ on your Android device or iPhone to find apps.

Geocaching trends, tips and tricks can be found on the Geocaching Blog.

You can connect with members of the NZ geocaching community on the forums of the NZ Recreational GPS society.

Caraline Abbott


I'm an English-born Kiwi and have worked for DOC since 2013. I'm part of the partnerships team that works to build relationships with iwi, businesses and the wider community to grow conservation. I'm really luck y to live in a really interesting part of New Zealand with lots of geothermal warmth, rare geothermal vegetation and some threatened birds that are benefiting from the work of DOC and our partners.

One response to Geocaching: Modern day hide and seek


    What is DOC’s stance on geocaching? I would like to set up a small trail in a national park and they would be very small caches that are quick to find. They would be set up on the main track so people wouldn’t be wandering off the tracks or damaging native bush. The caches will be painted to blend in to the surroundings an would have no impact on the NP.