Seven days in paradise – a guide to camp hosting in the Abel Tasman

Department of Conservation —  22/01/2020

By Jacqui Irwin, Community Ranger

On New Year’s Eve two community rangers were dropped off at Onetahuti Beach in Abel Tasman National Park. Our day jobs are Treaty Ranger and Conservation Board Support Officer, but we were there to be first time volunteer camp hosts

Campsite hosts at Onetahuti

You might wonder why DOC staff would want to be volunteer camp hosts in our busiest national park. Surely, we see plenty of wild places through our work.

Due to the nature of our work we spend more time in an office than in the field. So a week in a relatively quiet corner of Abel Tasman National Park sounded like an idyllic way to chillax and get more of a feeling for the realities of balancing recreation and biodiversity protection.

After settling into the provided tent camp, we found all sorts of surprises and delights:

• You could set your watch by the early morning arrivals of the kayak delivery boats.

• You really DO bump into people you haven’t seen in years. 

• It is a joy to see the Bark Bay flock of kākā chasing each other through the trees – and their calls sound like ‘peow, peow’.

• A ‘full’ camp doesn’t mean it is packed, and there is a beautiful evening lull in all the activity so you can bask in the quiet remoteness.

• The Spirit of New Zealand tall ship looks amazing silhouetted against Tonga Island.

• We learned there are specified commercial boat drop off sites on the beaches known as ‘coastal access points’ by jumping into the water at an apparently deserted bit of coastline – which turned out to be the major commercial boat landing spot. Soon after, two very large launches arrived, dropping off and picking up a large number of visitors, but within minutes we were back to deserted beach.

• We learned that even a busy park has it peaceful times and places.

• We also learned that condensed milk brings much nostalgic joy when camping.

The Spirit of New Zealand in The Tonga Island Marine Reserve

Apart from a couple of unsavoury items discovered during the daily toilet clean – a small number of park visitors needed reminding that all waste must be carried out by whoever brought it into the park – it was fun, laughs and lovely people all the way. The light cleaning and booking check duties left plenty of exploring and relaxation time. After a week of perfect weather, Christmas cake and daily swims in the clear sea we are already planning our next volunteer camp host holiday. 


We’re looking for volunteer camp hosts across Nelson, South Marlborough and the Marlborough Sounds. Some sites have drive-on access and are suitable for motorhomes. For more information, check out the information on our website.

For more insight into campsite hosting and other volunteer opportunities, check out this blog post.

3 responses to Seven days in paradise – a guide to camp hosting in the Abel Tasman


    Sounds like an awesome experience. I envy you.

    Kim Brandon 27/01/2020 at 9:03 pm

    thank you thank you for caring for the Abel Tasman National park Onetahuti beach. you are awesome volunteers


    I recently stayed at Onetahuti Beach with my daughter. The camp hosts really added to the experience. Keep up the good work!