Archives For Campsite

Totaranui campground has held an almost mythical quality for me. I had heard so many people talk about it, how they return every year but I had never been there myself. The ballot system over Christmas implied that, like some private schools, you had to be part of ‘the establishment’ to get to go.

Relaxing outside the tent at Totaranui campground.

A moment of relaxation at Totaranui

But when I heard friends were taking their child out of school to go during the off season, I was quick to gatecrash the party. Nervous about asking for more time off work so soon after Christmas my husband was taken aback when his boss said, “You have to go! Take at least a week, here borrow my kayak!”

Feeling a little nervous about the long drive ahead of us, we left Christchurch at 4 am. The children were so excited but were asleep again by 5 am and we were in Murchison for breakfast.

Kayak on the beach at Totaranui campground.

Use of the boss’s kayak was an added bonus

We arrived at the campsite early afternoon. The colours were extreme – sky was blue; sea was green and the sands were as golden as all the advertising photos promise. It reminded me of cheesecake – the moment when you pour the melted butter into the crushed biscuits – mmmm.

As soon as the tent was up, we were heading to the lagoon for the first of many swims. We were sharing a bay with four other families, all Totaranui regulars. They knew how to make the most of the place, especially at this quieter time of year.

Roasting marshmallows at Totaranui campground.

Roasting marshmallows

Being Totaranui novices we learned a lot from them. They had bought flannelette pyjamas as the days were hot but nights were cool. And as well as solar showers they had bought black plastic boxes which they filled up with water every morning and sat in the sun for the children to wash in after each trip to the beach.

The children were in heaven. There was no mention of the TV or the computer all week. Instead they played and dug in the sand with their new friends, crafting mermaid tails and mini pa sites with driftwood. They learned how to paddle a kayak. They stayed up late to see the stars, cooked marshmallows over an open fire. They explored the rock pools, saw a stingray, hermit crabs, and kina. They built little boats out of harakeke and tested their sail-ability on the lagoon. They got bashed over by big waves and wrote postcards to their cousin.

Children investigating the rock pools at Totaranui campground.

Discovering the rock pools at Totaranui campground

The children all picked up a Kiwi Ranger booklet and earned a badge featuring weka and rata as well as the signature stretch of golden sand. The booklet is a great prompt to take time to explore further – it wasn’t until our third visit exploring rock pools that we spotted red sea anemones come to life under the water! A visit from a juvenile black-backed gull to our campsite meant William grabbed his booklet to quickly sketch the bird and note its features, while his campsite journal entry gave him pause to think and record all the special memories from his trip.

In exchange for a week out of school, he also had to fill in a diary entry each day. Some of his entries were quite poetic; “cutting through the waves in the kayak was like killing the waves and the splashes were like splashes of blood” (a bit dark but that’s boys for you!). Some things he didn’t mention were apparently a secret – like the secret jumping rock (Spoilsport Mum!).

Jumping from the rocks onto the beach at Totaranui campground.

Fun on the beach

The highlight for us all was the night walk to see the glow worms. The sun was setting pale and pink just as we made our way across the lagoon. The kids were all rugged up against the cold night air.  As dusk fell the glow worms appeared under banks and amongst tree ferns, little sparks in the dark. It was better than a class room as they excitedly asked lots of questions.

On the return journey each child was given a glow stick, which dispelled any fears of the dark. A ruru called directly above us and a possum ran up a tree and glared.

The beach at Totaranui campground at sunset.

Totaranui at sunset

It was a trip to remember. Now I know why families go back there every year. Once you have been, you will know too.

Totaranui Kiwi Ranger badge featuring a weka.

Totaranui Kiwi Ranger badge

By Angeline Barnes, Community Outreach Coordinator

DOC's Piripiri campsite sign.

Welcome to Piripiri campsite

Last week, while out with DOC’s Manawatu Area team, I met a young girl named Hannah. She had planned and arranged a camping trip for her group of friends and they were camping at Piripiri, a free DOC campsite, along the Pohangina River.

Cooking on the campfire at Piripiri campsite.

Cooking on the campfire

Along with a little bit of help from her mum she had organised the camping trip. She had developed invitations, food plans, budgets, travel plans, sleeping plans and more.

The kids made gifts from natural materials at the Piripiri campsite.

Making gifts from natural materials

To make it happen they allowed one adult to come, purely for health and safety reasons! But the adult’s attendance (in the form of Hannah’s mother) came with rules – she had to sleep in her own tent ‘outside’ of the campsite territory, which was marked with colourful bunting spread amongst the trees.

The campsite was so lovely – a young girl’s dream  – nature as the backdrop, colourful bunting, tents, friends and lots of giggling.

Making chocolate damper dough leads to messy hands.

Chocolate damper dough hands!

Hannah’s mum was allowed to accompany them to the river where they swam (beautiful swimming spot), jumped off a ledge and had a fabulous time. I went and had a chat to them and they were all so happy – creating their childhood memories.

Crowding around the campfire.

Crowding around the campfire

New Zealand has an extensive history of gold mining. The principal New Zealand gold fields were Coromandel, Nelson/Marlborough, Central Otago and West Coast. DOC has as many as 1000 gold-mining sites on lands it manages, and some of these are currently used as campsites.

Grant Jacobs the author of the blog, “Code for life”, shares a recent experience he had while on a camping trip at a gold-mining era campsite. He writes*:

“[When] camping in New Zealand, small items left lying around are at risk from thieves. I was reminded of this whilst sitting on the foundation stones of what was once an old gold miner’s hut, the iron remains of the roof and perhaps chimney at my feet, reading a novel with my tent pitched on the other side of the clearing where the thief stalked.”

Tent across the clearing at an old gold mining campsite. Photo taken by Grant Jacobs.


Tent across the clearing at an old gold mining campsite

“Some of these camping grounds are now, and probably were then, home to indigenous thieves. As I sat on the foundation of the miners hut, my back against a tree, I became aware that one such cheeky thief was prowling my tent on the other side of the little clearing.”

A weka under the outer fly of the tent looking for items to steal. Photo taken by Grant Jacobs.


A weka under the outer fly of the tent looking for items to steal

“Those not familiar with weka might think that they would only steal food, but stories say that weka will steal seemingly anything portable that attracts their attention. Of the non-edible objects, lore has it that a bit like the gold miners, they prefer shiny things.

Weka have a bit of a reputation for pilfering small objects. They will take the objects to the nearest cover to investigate them. For this reason it is best not to chase weka but to simply watch where they go and retrieve the objects a little later.

Because of its scavenging habit, the weka can be problematic for conservationists. Some subspecies are threatened, but moving them to offshore islands can disrupt other threatened wildlife species. For example, weka released onto Codfish Island, where they haven’t lived in recent times, threatened the viability of the Cook’s petrels there and had to be removed.

Make sure you check out Grant’s full blog post.

*All text and photos from the blog “Code for Life” are copyrighted content of Grant Jacobs.