Archives For Camping

Where are the best places to go camping in New Zealand? We asked five DOC rangers to tell us about their favourites, in less than ten words. This is what they told us:

Hot Water Beach campsite, Lake Tarawera

“Hot pools abound, cook in the ground, without a sound.” ~ Manu Rangiheuea, Aquatic Pests Ranger, Rotorua

Hot Water Beach, Lake Tarawera. Photo: Dino Borelli | CC BY-NC 2.0

Hot Water Beach, Lake Tarawera. Photo: Dino Borelli


Pelorus Bridge campsite, Marlborough

“Best swimming hole ever, amazing forest, and long tailed bats!” ~ Clare Duston, Community Relations Ranger, Marlborough

Pelorus Bridge, Marlborough. Photo: Jeff Hitchcock | CC BY 2.0

Pelorus Bridge, Marlborough. Photo: Jeff Hitchcock


Peel Forest campground, Canterbury

“Really good facilities, grass spaces, swimming, shady forest and waterfalls.” ~ Andy Thompson, Recreation Technical Advisor, Christchurch

Peel Forest, Canterbury. Photo: Anne Devereaux | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Peel Forest, Canterbury. Photo: Anne Devereaux


Lake Kaniere campsite, Hokitika

“Cycle trail, swimming, waterfall, bird song, relax or adventure.” ~ Jose Watson, Partnerships Ranger, Hokitika

Lake Kaniere, Hokitika. Photo: Jason Blair | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Lake Kaniere, Hokitika. Photo: Jason Blair


Mavora Lakes campsite, Southland

“In winter, snow, lake, starry skies, mountains. In summer, bliss!” ~ Chrissy Wickes, Biodiversity Ranger, Fiordland

Mavora Lakes, Southland. Photo: Andy Nelson | CC BY-NC 2.0

Mavora Lakes, Southland. Photo: Andy Nelson

Hopefully that’s given you a few ideas for your next camping trip.

Now, are you generous enough to share your favourite New Zealand campsite with us? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and see if you can tell us in under 10 words!

Happy camping everyone.

By Chrissy Wickes, Biodiversity Ranger, Te Anau

Over two days my partner, our child and I biked the Rimutaka Incline outside of Wellington and camped at Cross Creek. DOC and the Wellington Regional Council jointly manage the incline as the Rimutaka Rail Trail.

Phil riding along the Rimutaka Rail Trail with the chariot.

Riding along the Rimutaka Rail Trail

A tunnel on the Rimutaka Rail Trail.

A tunnel along the way

It was fabulous and the surface of the track was excellent for our two and a half year old son Shannon in the chariot. The only rough bit was coming down from the summit where there had been a washout. This was the only section that we had to push the bike and the rest of the way could be easily ridden. The incline was an easy grade as it was originally used by a train.

Camping was great and we were treated to the wonderful call of a passing morepork.

It was an easy trip and you could do a day trip to the summit and back. The western side is the better track.

Chrissy and Shannon outside their tent.

Setting up camp.

There are lots of cool tunnels so take torches to explore and make sure you check out all the neat interpretation signs along the way as there is heaps of historic stuff to look at.

There were quite a few people out there enjoying it, providing plenty of folk to chat with along the way.

Riding along the Rimutaka Rail Trail.

There is lots to explore along the way

By Trish Irvine, Ranger Community Relations

After humble beginnings in January 2009 with only 22 Auckland youth, this year, MAD (Make A Difference) Marine launched its 5th year with a record 48 secondary school students from 25 schools across Auckland.

Marine debris found by the MAD Marine team.

Marine debris

The three day leadership hui held on pest-free Motutapu Island kicked off city-side, at the Voyager Maritime Museum, with a welcome and blessing from iwi, a presentation by marine guru Roger Grace, and a talk about marine rubbish from Sustainable Coastlines. The students explored nearby city streets to identify and photograph rubbish-filled drains.

MAD Marine students working in the Motutapu Restoration Trust nursery.

MAD Marine students working in the Motutapu Restoration Trust nursery

Once all the gear and food had been inspected for potential stowaways, we set off for Rangitoto Island which is linked by a causeway to the much older, Motutapu Island. On arrival, we walked in the sunshine to Motutapu Restoration Trust’s (MRT) nursery where students carried out various tasks to help the Trust.

Later, at our base (the Motutapu Outdoor Education Camp), there were presentations about marine mammals and ecological restoration on the island, followed by a night walk to see the freshwater ecology.

Day two began with a dawn walk up the hill to the WWII battery, and after breakfast, a beach clean-up led by the Watercare Harbour Clean Up Trust.

The groups really began to bond with each other and the natural environment during the rocky shore id session … “Aaah look at that tiny cushion star … There’s a cat’s eye … Do you see the half crab? … Who wants to hold the kina? … Can you feel its tube feet?”.

Students participate in a beach clean-up.

Beach clean-up

Kayaking proved to be challenging for some students but they determinedly overcame their fears. Snorkeling in the bay’s unofficial marine reserve revealed an underwater world that was less familiar but full of surprises—snapper up close. Auckland Council’s Waicare team introduced some science and the marine planning session encouraged student’s creativity. In the evening, student leaders inspired everyone with the actions they had taken in their schools and communities, outlining the support they experienced, and the barriers they faced and overcame to “make a difference”.

Did we mention the food? Each year, with great leadership from Cate Jessep Auckland Council, we provide food from scratch, with the help of the students. There’s pizza, French bread, pasta, sushi, salad dressings, stewed plums and biscuits!

The students make pizza.

Interactive pizza making

On the summit of Rangitoto, students looked across to the city and contemplated their actions for 2013. Back down the hill, Marian from the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust shared a glimpse of a simpler time, showing students the (award winning) restored Bach 38 museum; how people connected with the land, re-used and salvaged materials to build these humble baches that are now an icon. After hilarious skits from each group we journeyed home exhausted and inspired.

One student kicked off her actions the following day with this blog – Ignore that jellyfish costume! One student’s article was even published in Element Magazine.

And aside from the formal evaluations filled in by students we’ve had some fantastic unsolicited feedback:

Another student:

“It was such an inspiring atmosphere to be amongst. Being surrounded by such motivated and change-making adults as well as young people made me feel a great sense of hope for years to come.

“In a society that focuses so much on the negative and so-called ‘dead-end’ state of the environment around us, it is refreshing to see people not only with the aspirations to make a change, but the motivation to follow through.

I hope to FINALLY implement a successful and efficient recycling system, beginning with a rubbish audit, upon my return to school. Although something more revolutionary would be more likely to fulfil my desire to make a change, I figure it’s best to start with baby steps.”

A parent’s feedback:

Please accept our thanks for providing such a fun and educational excursion. It sounded like it was full on but my daughter returned home with a fresh and perceptive understanding of why it is so important to look after the waterways.

“She has been treated to a rich experience in marine education and I hope this will manifest itself into becoming a responsible and assertive caretaker for the future.”

MAD Marine snorkelling and kayaking.

MAD Marine snorkelling and kayaking

The challenge for students who attend MAD Marine is to take their learning and inspiration back to their schools and communities and “make a difference”. This is just the start of the journey, which is ongoing—with catch up events planned each school holiday where students share knowledge successes and challenges with each other, and participate in another volunteer event.

MAD Marine is a partnership between DOC and the Auckland Council. We share the enormous amount of planning and resourcing that makes this annual event such a success.

By Jack Mace, West Coast Tai Poutini Conservancy Office

Two tents on top of the Price Range near Mt Cloher.

Camping on top of the Price Range

I recently spent the weekend camped on top of the Price Range just north of Mt Cloher. For those who don’t know where that is, it’s in the coastal ranges between the Whataroa and Waitangi Taona Rivers, just north of Franz Josef. This wasn’t a jolly recreational camping trip though – we were up there to work, taking an inventory of plants, birds and mammals.

Our campsite itself was tucked into a snow basin, thankfully almost all of the snow melted. We camped on the eastern side of the ridge, in an area dotted with the bright yellow of snow buttercups (Ranunculus sericophyllus), and with views out over the Perth and Whataroa Rivers as far as the Garden of Eden Ice Plateau.

View from camp towards Mt Victoria and the Garden of Eden - (l-r) Chippy Wood, Mike Perry, Anneke Hermans, Pete Doonan.

View from camp towards Mt Victoria and the Garden of Eden – (L-R) Chippy Wood, Mike Perry, Anneke Hermans, Pete Doonan

We spent 3 days working down in some hellish steep and uncomfortable country but were well rewarded. Over 75 species of plant in our 20 metre x 20 metre plot, including Mt Cook buttercups, native foxgloves, eyebrights, alpine cress and several species of prickly speargrass.

Kea swooping around camp.

Kea swooping around camp

We spotted a good number of tahr and chamois through the binoculars, including a few potential trophy heads, and had kea and pipits cavorting around our campsite. We even got see the endangered rock wren and giant alpine weta.

Male rock wren scolding us for intruding in his territory.

Male rock wren scolding us for intruding in his territory

Not bad for a weekend’s work.

The view from the top of Price Range near Mt Cloher.

The view from the top of Price Range

I’ve just returned from a couple of days camping on Matiu Somes Island. Not many people know that you can camp there, so everyone I told before I went over was surprised (except my colleagues at DOC of course). But yes, for a number of years now, you’ve been able to camp in the middle of Wellington Harbour – a short ferry ride away from the bright lights, buildings and bustle of New Zealand’s capital city.

View from Matiu Somes Island.

View of Wellington from Matiu Somes Island

You’ve got to book this campsite in advance, so you can’t really be spontaneous, pick a fine day, and go for it. As a result, the day we went over was, shall we say, sub-optimal. In fact, as far as wind goes, it was just about “as bad as it gets” (using the words of the no-nonsense island ranger, Jo Greenman).

My family at the railway station waiting for the train to take us into town where we would be catching our ferry to Matiu Somes

My family at the railway station waiting for the train to take us into town
where we would be catching our ferry to Matiu Somes

We heeded the advice of the helpful East by West Ferry staff and took the first sailing of the morning (not my preference, but likely to be the only one running that day due to the weather).

The trip to the island was more roller-coaster than ferry ride, much to the delight of the men folk in my family who enjoyed being up top and outside in the spray and splashes.

On arrival, in the Whare Kiore/quarantine building, which is located next to the main wharf, all bags are inspected

On arrival, in the Whare Kiore/quarantine building, which is located
next to the main wharf, all bags are inspected

We’d let Ranger Jo know when we were arriving – as per the guidance in our camp booking confirmation email – and she was there to greet us when we landed.

Since ship rats and other pests were eradicated from Matiu Somes (in the late 1980s) the island has become a sanctuary for native plants, birds, reptiles and invertebrates. For this reason all our gear had to be checked thoroughly on arrival, to make sure we hadn’t inadvertently bought any nasties onto the island with us.

Wind turbine.

The wind turbine, together with solar panels are designed to provide nearly all of the island’s energy requirements

Campers are their biggest risk, says Ranger Jo, as we scrape our shoes, rummage through our bags, and unpack our tent and turn it inside out to shake the blades of dry grass from our last camping trip onto the floor of the Whare Kiore (we really needed to be more thorough with our check and clean at home – if biosecurity had been busier, and there wasn’t the time or space to sort out our tent on the island, we could’ve been sent home).

Once we were given the all clear Jo gave us directions to the island’s campsite and some hints about the best place to pitch our tent so we didn’t get blown away.

There were a couple of trolleys at the wharf to help cart gear up the hill and we used one of these to save us having to pack our tent back up after the biosecurity check.

Trolley for gear.

One of the trolleys available to cart gear from the wharf to the campsite

So, with packs on our backs, children in tow, and trolley full of inside out, unwieldy tent, we headed up the island to set up home for the next two days.

The kids enjoy helping pitch the tent.

The kids enjoy helping to pitch the tent

There were no tents or signs of campers when we arrived on site. It was when I went to explore the bathroom and kitchen facilities that I met the campers from the night before – a group of teenagers packing up and getting ready to leave. The wind had driven them out of their tent and had them camping on the floor of the small camp lounge room. Their stuff was everywhere. I’d never seen so many sugared breakfast products on one dining room table before! Never-the-less, they were very nice and, more importantly, they were leaving.

I was pleasantly surprised by the campsite facilities. I’d brought a lot of stuff over that I didn’t need to. There was already clean tea towels and cloths, dish washing liquid, dishes, and pots and pans. There wasn’t just a small gas hob on a bench top, as I’d imagined there’d be, but a full gas oven. The lounge had some worn but quite comfy seating, with loads of cushions and a small coffee table. The bathroom was basic but had a vanity, large mirror and flushing toilet. Sweet!

We sat, pleased to finally be there, and ate our packed lunches at the picnic tables provided (including a small kid sized one that my children loved).

Our tent took a while to put up. The wind was determined to see it fly and we were determined to pin it down. Having the added challenge of turning the complicated three room thing in the right way again, in gale-force winds, was… interesting. And yes, it was my fault that we’d bought our big tent over to the island. We have a smaller, and in hindsight much more appropriate, tent at home. It is the one my husband would’ve chosen to bring if I’d let him, but no, I wanted the luxury of three rooms and a standing height stud thank you. Hmmm.

Camping on Matiu Somes Island

Camping on Matiu Somes Island

Anyway, we got there in the end and the kids were, as always, excited to set up our little home with places for torches, clothes, relaxing and sleeping, which the younger kids and myself tested almost immediately (the place for sleeping that is).

We were keen to head out at night to see some of the island’s nocturnal wildlife (little penguins, weta and tuatara) so having afternoon sleeps was necessary for my normally in bed by 7 pm littlies. And my excuse was… I’m on holiday – afternoon siestas just go with the territory.

Admittedly I didn’t actually get much sleep – the wind poked, pushed, pulled, and generally bullied, the canvas of our tent mercilessly. The kids slept like the dead.

Quarantine Station.

Quarantine Station

It was exciting to be at the waters edge at dusk. The waves were crashing right over the picnic table down by the wharf and the seagulls were flying backwards. Unsurprisingly, there was no one else about.

We spent a happy hour or so looking for penguins, playing hide and seek with the wind (it always found us) and enjoying each other’s company in the area Ranger Jo said the penguins could sometimes be seen.

I wasn’t sure how my three year old would cope with the walk, the wind, and the lateness of the hour, but I shouldn’t have worried. Despite not seeing penguins there wasn’t a single complaint from anyone. We had a great time and, miraculously, everyone walked, all the way there and back, without a single “mummy carry” from the little miss.

Master Seven and Little Miss Three playing around the campsite

Master Seven and Little Miss Three playing around the campsite

That night was wild. Stupid, mad wild. I thought the tent might break as the walls bent crazily in on us. The rain started. Needless to say, hubbie and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. The kids, once again, slept like the dead.

The next day dawned fine. We spent breakfast time crowded around the warm sunny dining room table in the campsite kitchen pouring over a map of the island and planning our adventures. The older boys had already explored a fair bit of the island (while we slept the previous day) but were excited to revisit and show us around.

We role played Dora the Explorer with the three year old, to keep her entertained as we traveled  We had a map, a backpack and our list of landmarks that needed crossing off, just like Dora. She loved it. “Lookout, pond, lighthouse, lookout.”

The Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse was the first inner harbour lighthouse in New Zealand

The Matiu/Somes Island lighthouse was the first inner harbour lighthouse in New Zealand

The views from the island were amazing. Spotting kākāriki/red-crowned parakeets flitting in the trees, and skinks sunning beside the paths, brought squeals of excitement from us all.

The weta motel, animal quarantine station and gun emplacements, were highlights for the kids (truth be told I think the decomposing, unidentifiable dead thing in gun emplacement number three was the biggest highlight for the boys!)

Weta motel

Weta motel

The island isn’t big. Spending a couple of hours out and about and then easily being able to get back to base camp for meals, play and relax time, was great.

I'm not often caught on camera but here I am catching up on some holiday reading

I’m not often caught on camera but here I am catching up on some holiday reading

Sleep was much easier to come by on our second (and last) night, and our last day on the island dawned a picture of perfection.

As we relaxed into a leisurely pack up another family arrived to set up camp (the only others since the teenagers departed).

Enjoying the views from Matiu Somes Island.

Enjoying the views from one of the lookouts on Matiu Somes Island

Down on the wharf the place was bustling with day trippers. Ranger Jo was on the phone to the ferry company. They keep a strict eye on the numbers of people on the island. It was reaching capacity for the day and it looked like they’d have to stop selling tickets soon. Hearing that made me feel happy. It made me happy that people knew about this beautiful island sanctuary and were making the most of it. It made me happy to work for DOC who look after the island on behalf of all New Zealanders (with lots of volunteer help). It made me happy that it was right here – a short ferry ride away from the bright lights, buildings and bustle of New Zealand’s capital city – my home.

Stephen Roberts by the Paringa River.

Stephen Roberts by the Paringa River

Stephen Roberts

Position and office:
A Band Ranger, (Goat Hunter/Whitebait Compliance), Hokitika Area Office.

Are you a Family camper, a Glamper, or a Wilderness wanderer?
Definitely a Wilderness wanderer, there is nothing that could top wandering around the special places like Te Urewera National Park.

Lisa Hamker

Position and office:
Ranger Visitor Information, Paparoa Visitor Centre.

Are you a Family camper, a Glamper, or a Wilderness wanderer?
If it comes to camping, I would definitely see myself in the category “Wilderness wanderer”. Even more so, in the category “Camping in the most impossible spots”. My partner Scott and I spent a whole summer travelling New Zealand and pitching our tent wherever there was a flat bit of ground, discovering the most amazing places to spend the night. We share a tiny one-person tent, but will be upgrading to a two-person tent soon.

Lisa spending the night in the bush at Dusky track.

Lisa spending the night in the bush at Dusky track

Trudi Ngawhare

Position and office:
Trudi Ngawhare, Ranger (Community Relations) Gisbourne office

Are you a Family camper, a Glamper, or a Wilderness wanderer?
A Wilderness wandering Family Camper… the more isolated the better! I am planning a family bike ride from Opotiki to Te Araroa (East Cape) over a couple of days, fishing and diving all the way! Will probably have a ‘My kitchen rules’ camp cook off, marbles, bomb competitions…any competition we can think of.

Trudi at the beach collecting kina.

Trudi at the beach collecting kina

Abby Hamilton in Aoraki National Park.

Abby Hamilton

Abby Hamilton

Position and office:
Ranger, Community Relations, Visitor Centre, Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Are you a Family camper, a Glamper, or a Wilderness wanderer?
A Wilderness wanderer (in a tent or the back of the car), and my goal is to holiday in my caravan in secluded spots, like in the picture below (friends’ and family’s properties in the wilderness, and DOC sites etc..), more often!

Abby's caravan she used to live in.

The caravan that Abby used to live in while studying at Lincoln University

Arna Litchfield

Position and office:
Permissions Advisor, Hamilton Shared Service Centre

Are you a Family camper, a Glamper, or a Wilderness wanderer?
I don’t often get out camping, but did have an awesome long weekend at Matai Bay a few years back with friends. While I could handle the cold showers while I was there, I was a very happy lady when I got home and got back to hot water…. So I would say that I’d have a tendancy to glamp where the opportunity is there 🙂

Arna on Cooks Beach.

Arna and a couple of friends at Cooks Beach last summer

Simon Mazzotti

Position and office:
Ranger, Visitor Information, Mt Aspiring National Park Visitor Centre (Wanaka).

Are you a Family camper, a Glamper, or a Wilderness wanderer?
A mix of Wilderness wanderer (when I’m away on my own) and car-camper (when I have to make a few comfort concessions to convince friends to join in).

Cricket on the Wanaka lakefront.

Simon and his mates play cricket at Lake Wanaka