DOC rangers share their favourite family-friendly places to explore during the holidays

Department of Conservation —  27/12/2019

Looking for new places to discover with your family this summer? We asked our local experts – DOC rangers at Visitor Centres – to share their top picks for whānau -friendly places to explore during the summer holidays. Our rangers share why they love these places, and can help you plan and prepare for your own adventures. Visit our friendly rangers at a  DOC Visitor Centre to find out more from the local experts.

Tongariro National Park

Mangawhero Forest Walk and Rimu Walk

VC ranger Kerry on Rimu Walk.
📷: Carrie Donaldson DOC

Kia ora! I’m Kerry, a DOC ranger at the Ruapehu i-SITE. The Mangawhero Forest Walk and Rimu Walk are two easy tracks I really enjoy here in Ohakune.

The Mangawhero Forest Walk is an hour loop walk beside the Mangawhero River, with some uphill walking. Birdsong and the sound of the river make this a very special walk for me.

The Rimu Walk is a flat, easy 15-minute loop walk suitable for all ages that loops off the Mangawhero Forest Walk. It’s pushchair and wheelchair accessible too. Cross a pedestrian bridge over the crystal-clear Mangawhero River, and then meander through stunning Podocarp forest with giant Rimu and a variety of ferns and other trees.

Both these walks are sheltered and while you still need to pack jackets and sunscreen (the weather here is changeable) they are a great on both sunny and rainy days.

Waitonga Falls Track

Waitonga Falls Track.
📷: Barbara Van Der Woerd.

The Waitonga Falls Track starts 11km up Ohakune Mountain Road and winds through native Mountain Beech forest for an hour and 20 minutes. The highlight for me is the wetland area and beautiful boardwalk, with views of southern Mt Ruapehu reflected in the mountain tarns. Enjoy this scene and breathe in the fresh alpine air before heading down the steps to the base of the impressive Waitonga Falls.

Take care on the boardwalk if it’s wet or icy, and pack waterproof layers and sun protection as the weather in the Tongariro National Park is changeable all year round.

Visit me and the friendly team at the Ruapehu i-SITE for your free map and latest weather information before you head out.

Paparoa National Park

Punakaiki Cavern

Punakaiki Cavern.
📷: Nathanael Coyne, Creative Commons

Kia ora, Jacob here from the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre.  One of the best kept secrets along the West Coast, and my favourite spot to take friends and whanau, is the Punakaiki Cavern.

The Cavern is tucked away only a short walk north of the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre and very close to the main road SH 6. Walk down the stairway into a different world! The 130m of passages within the Cavern are a magical place to explore for young and old. See the stalactites forming, hunt for glow worms, and breath in the cool cave air.

Remember your torch. It can be damp in the Cavern so watch your footing and wear warm layers.

Come and talk to me and the other rangers at the Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre to learn more about the Cavern, and to plan and prepare for exploring Paparoa National Park.  

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

Tasman River Viewpoint along the Tasman Glacier View Track

Tasman River view.
📷: DOC

Kia ora, I’m Kelly, a ranger at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park Visitor Centre, and I would like to share one of the can’t-miss places in our Park: The Tasman River Viewpoint.

Along with stunning views of the Tasman Glacier (the longest in New Zealand), the Tasman Valley, and some spectacular peaks, you also get a closeup view of the massive icebergs that have broken off and floated down to the Tasman River mouth – indicators of a retreating glacier. You can also see towering walls made of rocks and sediment deposited by the Glacier. These mark the former height of the Glacier, which now sits about 5km away at the end of the Lake.

From this viewpoint you can experience first-hand the impacts of climate change, as you see evidence of the Glacier’s retreat. It’s retreating up to 3 meters per day and is predicted to disappear entirely in the next 20 years.

This walk is 40-minutes return from the carpark at the end of Tasman Valley Road. Wear good shoes as you will be walking on rock steps and be prepared for changeable weather.

Pop in and talk to us in the Visitor Centre for weather and track information before you set out on any walk in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. We can help ensure you have everything you need to head out safely and have an enjoyable outdoor experience.


Sawyer Burn Track

VC ranger Chrissy’s whānau, Sawyer Burn Track.
📷: Chrissy DOC

Kia ora, I’m Chrissy, a DOC ranger from Wanaka.

The Sawyer Burn Track is one of my family’s favourite walks. It’s close to home but still feels adventurous and wild. My 9-year-old loves clambering and exploring along the track.

It’s a lovely bush track starting on the shores of Lake Hāwea, climbing up through bush to the tussock. It takes about an hour to get to the wonderful viewpoint and this is the spot to enjoy your picnic. We often turn back here, but the track continues for another hour if you’re looking for a longer walk.  Remember to take water on hot days. There are a few steep sections to be mindful of.

You can make your walk even more exciting by camping overnight beside Lake Hāwea at Kidds Bush Reserve Campsite, at the beginning of the track. There is a short bush walk here that’s perfect for young children, with lots of birdlife, and this is a good alternative if it’s windy as the Sawyer Burn Track is exposed along the tops.

Thinking about heading out on the Sawyer Burn? Drop in to the Mount Aspiring National Park Visitor Centre to learn more about the track.


Twelve Mile Delta to Bob’s Cove Track

Ranger’s dog Dixie enjoying the sunshine at Bob’s Cove.
📷: Bex Orpin.

Kia ora, I’m Abby. I’m a VC ranger in Queenstown and the Twelve Mile Delta to Bob’s Cove Track is one of my favourite places to explore after work. The track winds along the shores of Lake Wakatipu with stunning views, swimming coves, historic lime kilns and great bird life, and is a perfect place to take friends and family.

The track is 2–3 hours return and can be started either from the Twelve Mile Delta Campsite or from Bob’s Cove carpark (15 minute drive from Queenstown). It’s an easy walking track with very little elevation, and is suitable for mountain biking, running and dog walking.

Some of the beautiful native birds you may spot along the track include pīwakawaka, korimako, kereru, tui and the South Island Robin.  I recommend you add the 20 minute Picnic Point climb to your walk for some epic panoramic views over the Lake and native bush. Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes and take plenty of water and sun protection.

Want more information about walking and camping in Queenstown? Visit us in the Queenstown Visitor Centre and we’ll help you out.


Heyward Point Track

View Heyward Point.
📷: Akari Otsuka

Kia ora, Karen here from the Dunedin DOC/i-SITE Visitor Centre.

During summer nothing is better than a pleasant walk along Heyward Point Track, with views of our spectacular coastline. It’s a 2 hour 5km return cliff-top walk through farmland and then a magnificent patch of rare coastal forest.

The DOC/iSITE Visitor Centre team did this walk recently and we had a memorable encounter with pīwakawaka. Known for their friendly ‘cheet cheet’ call and energetic flying antics, I counted about 15 of them flying around us!

The track follows the cliff tops down and is exposed to the weather.  Be prepared for all conditions and pack warm and waterproof layers. I’d recommend taking water and some snacks for enjoying while you stop to admire the coastal views.Before you head out, visit the Dunedin DOC/i-SITE Visitor Centre for directions and information about this and other walks in the area.

Interested in these or other walking tracks this summer? Drop into your nearest DOC Visitor Centre. Our DOC rangers can help you figure out what walks are best for you and your family, and make sure you’ve got the right safety information and gear to head out and explore our conservation places.

2 responses to DOC rangers share their favourite family-friendly places to explore during the holidays


    All that made good reading

    Michael Dally 14/01/2020 at 11:40 am

    Great visit is the first power station at Mangahao, behind Shannon. The waters are used for NZ Slaloms Championships.