Archives For Holiday

Wishing you a great holiday season from all of us here at the Department of Conservation.

Continue Reading...

The Grand Prize for Conservation Week 2013 is an amazing Great Barrier Island holiday package – the perfect summer getaway for you and three others.

Great Barrier Island beach. Photo: Andris Apse.

One of the beautiful beaches on Great Barrier Island

I’ve heard Great Barrier Island described as a remote, tranquil and untouched paradise. My Auckland friends who are lucky enough to holiday there induce jealousy every summer by raving about the pristine beaches, the unique wildlife and the relaxed vibe of the island – if you are reading this I’m still waiting for my invite!

The island boasts scenic mountain biking trails, walking tracks that weave through coastal forests, and isolated coves to snorkel and explore. It’s also perfect for those who want to do a bit of boating, kayaking or fishing. If all that sounds a bit too exhausting, there is always the chance to retreat to the Kaitoke Hot Springs to relax at the end of the day.

Kayaking in a cove on Great Barrier Island.

There are plenty of activities to do on the island like mountain biking and kayaking

All you have to do to win is to make a pledge for Conservation Week, it’s nothing too strenuous. Simply head to the Conservation Week website, choose a nature-related activity for your pledge and fill in the form. Your pledge can be as simple as changing your Facebook cover photo or something ambitious like planning a Great Walk.

Conservation Week banner.

What’s your whānau doing for Conservation Week?

There are also loads of great spot prizes to be given away to those who share their pledges through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest using #pledgefornz. So what are you waiting for? Head over and make your pledge today.

Related links:

Camping is often seen as a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, away from the work phone calls and emails flooding your inbox. But not everyone is so keen to undertake the digital detox and cut themselves off for a week long camping adventure.

Luckily all is not lost for the keen campers who want to stay connected this summer. Technological advances now give you the means to rough it in a tent while still keeping in touch with what is going on in the outside world. Here are three tips to make it easier to stay connected while camping these holidays:

Tent on a beach in New Zealand.

Some still want to rough it and stay connected this summer

1) Check your campsites coverage

The Department of Conservation manages over 200 campsites throughout New Zealand, and while mobile reception can be patchy when you are out enjoying our wonderful natural scenery there are some things you can prepare for. Check up on your mobile carriers coverage before choosing your campsite. All major carriers have detailed maps on what the likely mobile coverage will be:


Mobile coverage signal boosters are also an option and are available online and in some electronic stores.

A low battery screen on an iPhone.

The screen of death for many a summer camper

2) Use alternative energy sources

While a lack of power plugs may limit the life of a smartphone when you are out camping there are plenty of other ways to charge that iPhone or Android mobile. Portable battery chargers, that run off AA batteries, are available from all good electronic stores and as long as you have enough long lasting batteries, they should see you through most camping trips.

Solar chargers are also an option, presuming a plentiful supply of sun is on hand this summer. They are a great, clean and renewable source of electricity to keep you charged.

If you need a bit more of a physical work out while camping there are also hand crank options to keep you powered up while you get back in touch with nature. So long as you have the energy to keep manually charging up your phone this is the perfect option.

A portable solar charger in the sun.

Portable solar chargers are a perfect summer gift

3) Choose a Wi-Fi hotspot holiday 

Yes they really exist. WhananakiCable BayUretiti Beach are to name a few connected campsites but all up there are more than 100 Wi-Fi hotspots in popular summer regions throughout New Zealand this summer, including Northland, the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty Tasman and Queenstown Lakes. This will help keep you connected all summer long.

So what are you waiting for? It is time to start preparing for your first connected camping adventure. Remember though that being connected is not what your camping trip is about – take time to enjoy the surroundings and activities away from your mobile devices and appreciate the beautiful places you get to explore. If the technology fails don’t panic, enjoy camping!

A laptop on the beach.

Stay connected even at the beach

Do you have any other tips for staying connected while camping? Leave them in the comment section below.

By Herb Christophers

Since I was a nipper in the backyard with an old woven mat pegged to the fence line, I have enjoyed camping outdoors! My first real pup tent was demolished in short order. It was like a light bed sheet held up by toothpicks’ – looked good but didn’t work properly!’

Herb's family campsite.

Herb’s family camp site

So, by the time I had been tramping over many years in many places – mostly with just a fly or a small tent, I was a dyed-in-the-wool camper! I did not find it difficult to adapt to a larger canvas tent when a family came along. I just applied the same principles as my lightweight days and accepted that I did not have to carry the load on my back!

Ashley from Greenland learns to turn a steak

Ashley from Greenland learns to turn a steak

My wife would have liked a spiral staircase but they don’t do those in canvas. Even so, I wondered how we used to fill the three rooms of a canvas mansion that spilled out to resemble a small village after the kids had decided that they wanted their own little tents! In spite of this, we have always kept it simple and resisted the temptation to get too high tech which is why we prefer the less well appointed campsites. We enjoy places where making do gives you a real sense of achievement and a healthy respect for the environment and what it can provide.

The kids hang out

The kids hang out

Over the years we have had some great camping holidays and my wife and I still take a small tent away with us to pitch at a convenient DOC campsite.

Coastal areas have always been favourites. The sounds and smells of the sea are so relaxing and even the sound of the wind tugging in the trees is something that keeps me in touch with the forces of nature. I tend to be a bit of a geek too. Out come the binocs – kaka here, dotterel there, heron over yonder by the banded rail… Summer in the sun!

Variable oystercatcher spotted at the beach.

Variable oystercatcher spotted at the beach

So, as summer holidays approach I bust out the tent and all the other paraphernalia, pitch it in the backyard to check it out and think back a few decades to when the adventure began!

Camping near the coast, looking out to Slipper Island.

Camping on the Coromandel coast

By Herb Christophers, 28 December 2011

In the North Island, gold mining was a key part of the Coromandel’s early development. Similarly, in the South Island, Otago was the centre of the gold rush in the 1800’s. Today, both Coromandel and Otago offer great family camping and sight seeing, and a golden opportunity for those who like to get off the beaten track.

Today I’m going to show you around the Coromandel. We’ll head down to Otago on Wednesday.

A little paddler practices in the shallows

Coromandel – Off the grid but on the internet

The sun shines, the surf bubbles on the beach, pohutukawa blossom and people’s minds turn to summer.

Like generations before them, people repeat the summer migration from urban sprawl to that place where priorities get re-ordered. Where meeting old friends is more important than meeting deadlines. It’s a place that has become part of family folklore and generation after generation, the families keep coming back.

These days with technology, ‘coming back’ can start when you let your fingers do the walking on the DOC online booking system. Some Coromandel gems are off the grid—no cell phone reception in some places—but they are on the internet.

Let’s have a look at the great opportunities that beckon from the click of a mouse.


Colville is an interesting place. Not long after you drive through this small settlement, the road turns to gravel, the cell phone drops out and you drive past the last place to get an ice cream! Mind you, there is a truck that does the rounds of the DOC campsites and ice cream is one of their staples.

A left turn, to continue up the western coastline leads to three stunning campsites. A right turn takes you over to the East Coast either up to Stony Bay, or on the circuit back past Waikawau Bay via Kennedy Bay to Coromandel.

Stony Bay

This is the far eastern end of the line for the top of the Coromandel

After you leave Colville, the short climb over the hill to the eastern side of the peninsula leads to a fork in the road. The choice to turn right at the bottom of the hill is the path most taken towards Waikawau Bay. Turning left however, takes you further up the East Coast to the remote beach at Stony Bay.

Stony Bay is a deep inlet, flanked by the bush-clad hills of Mount Moehau. This is the far eastern end of the line for the top of the Coromandel. From the 5-hectare campground, you can drop down to the sea to go fishing or diving, otherwise follow the Coromandel Walkway to Fletcher Bay or loop high up the hill on the mountain bike track (grade: intermediate).

As a standard DOC campsite, Stony Bay has good facilities. There is water from the tap, toilets, a barbeque and even a cold shower. That’s a good excuse to take your solar shower.

You can book via the online booking system.

Longitude: 175.4226609
Latitude: 36.5125151

Waikawau Bay

Hungry boys come back from the shop

Waikawau Bay campsite is DOC’s most popular site in the North Island and it’s not difficult to see why—a stunning beach, an open camp site and relative isolation.

In spite of its popularity, it is easy to get away from other campers, if that’s what you want, and the beach, which stretches to the north, is a great place to do just that—you might have to share the sand with NZ dotterels and oystercatchers, they are all busy with nesting around the summer period. Just remember, it’s no holiday for them!

Waikawau Bay campground has undergone a transformation in the last few years as flood prone areas in the camp are retired and others are brought into use to cope with the demand during the peak season.

The camp shop can keep you supplied with essentials.

Longitude: 175.538218
Latitude: 36.6061165

Fantail Bay

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt

Fantail Bay faces west onto the Hauraki Gulf under the giant pohutukawa trees that characterise the coastal vegetation in the Coromandel. The westerly aspect keeps the day warm, and dappled light through the trees keeps the tent sites cool in the hot midday sun.

The fishing must be good because last summer when I was there, some campers I met were throwing back the snapper under 10 pounds (why do fishers still talk in pounds? New Zealand went metric in about 1972).

It was a fishing competition among the camping families who have been coming back for four generations and it wasn’t just the oldies catching the big ones!  Having a boat is a good idea.

Fantail Bay campsite has a toehold to a corner of the Coromandel Forest Park and the track behind the camp leads up towards Mount Moehau. In the evening you can climb up the steep hill track for about 30 minutes and hear kiwi. There are a few pairs up there and the pest control operations by MEG (Moehau Environment Group), local iwi, and DOC allow them to thrive.

Longitude: 175.3283698
Latitude: 36.523345

Port Jackson

With Granddad in front of the campsite

Shoehorned onto the sandy strip between the beach and the road, this long thin campsite is very popular and it is easy to see why.

The safe beach is at the front of your tent, the pohutukawa and dunes are all around you and the northerly aspect means you have sunshine for most of the day. This makes it an idyllic spot to camp and to launch your boat. The sandy beach sweeps east to the Muriwai walkway that begins at the headland and travels along the coastal cliff towards Fletcher Bay. The views from up there are stunning in all directions and recent pest control work has seen the cliff-dwelling pohutukawa trees coming back strongly to provide a spectacular sight in the early summer.

The chances to paddle, swim and fish in this area are countless and with a family friendly atmosphere, Port Jackson makes a great summer camping site that’s away from the madding crowd. If you are missing your phone fix, the northern-most phone box in the Coromandel is outside the camp gate, but obviously you can’t text on it. Just carry on camping.

Longitude: 175.3416975
Latitude: 36.4840486

Fletcher Bay

Eager to get back to playing

It’s the end of the line here. If you go any further east, it will have to be on foot or on a bike around the Coromandel Walkway to Stony Bay.

The old timers will tell you of the days of camping in a sheep paddock. These days, it’s a bit more organised, and a bit more popular. It’s still raw, but with intensive plantings over the last winter, and a bit of subtle landscape management, the place will be stunning in a very short time.

Hardly surprising, the fishing is still good and the location, looking out towards Great Barrier Island, is an image straight off the lid of an old biscuit tin. If you need more salubrious accommodation, there is the backpackers lodge at the back of the campground.

Longitude: 175.3907775
Latitude: 36.4777358

By Herb Christophers, December 22nd, 2011

Between Picton and Nelson on State Highway 6 in the Rai Valley, a turn off to the north that looks relatively inconspicuous opens up a world of opportunity. For some people in the know, it is an annual summer pilgrimage to access the calm waters of Marlborough Sounds and to get on to the bushy tracks that link many of the less accessible beaches. No wonder the area is popular among those who enjoy time by the sea. It’s all about adventure around every corner and camping opportunities in some lesser known locations. Once you are off State Highway 6 heading north, a turn to the right takes you to Tennyson Inlet (following the main road takes you through Okiwi Bay and beyond to French Pass).

Nydia Lodge Jetty

Elaine Bay

Getting to Okiwi Bay and beyond to French Pass is a journey that many campers take. On the way, there are other less distant camping options. One particular place is Elaine Bay that faces into Tennyson Inlet. This is an ideal place to launch a boat or kayak into the calm waters of the inlet and to cruise around the wider Pelorus Sound.

Elaine Bay

From Elaine Bay to the south east is Penzance which is accessible via a 10km walking or mountain bike track that hugs the coastline around the steep hills.  The views are great out to Maud Island and beyond, and hint of potential adventure around every little bay in the inlet. You can get to Penzance the easy way by road too – it’s that earlier right turn after you leave State Highway 6 in Rai Valley.

Elaine Bay is a standard DOC campsite with water on tap, toilets and other basic facilities for 20 tent sites. Cheap at $6.00 adult ($1.50 child)/night.

View from Red Point near Elaine Bay. Maud Island in the background

Closer in

There are great paddling daytrips throughout the Sounds. There is always somewhere sheltered to paddle and the trip can be as easy or hard as you like, determined by the distances between stops. One option from Elaine Bay would be to paddle out into the sheltered part of Tennyson Inlet to Tawa Bay campsite and explore further down the inlet to Matai Bay or further into Duncan Bay at the head of the inlet.

Duncan Bay

There are campsites at Harvey Bay near Duncan Bay and Tawa Bay. Like Penzance,  Harvey and Duncan Bays are accessible by road.  Tawa Bay is only accessible by boat or kayak. If you decided to stay overnight, there are tent sites at $6.00 adult ($1.50 child)/night.

Further out

Those of you who are a bit more adventurous and well prepared for longer overnight camping trips can paddle out along the Tawhitinui Reach and turn into the entrance of Pelorus Sound. From here it’s a haul to Jacobs Bay campsite which has 8 tent sites tucked in out of the prevailing wind at the sheltered northern end of Fairy Bay Scenic Reserve. After some time in the boat it is a great way to stretch your legs by walking around Dillon Bell Point into Fairy Bay. There is water and a loo at Jacobs Bay campsite and if you don’t want to go for a walk, you can paddle around exploring the adjacent shoreline or just fish off the jetty.

Nydia Track start at Duncan Bay

Next day, it’s a relatively sheltered paddle to Nydia campsite at the head of the scenic bay with further opportunities for walking.  The Nydia Track winds its way from Pelorus Sound to Tennyson Inlet and passes through Nydia Bay. A walk up to Kaiuma or Nydia Saddles will be rewarded with views back into the bay or beyond.

The view of Tennyson Inlet from Opouri Saddle

This is a shared track so don’t be surprised to see mountain bikers taking advantage of the great scenery and riding opportunities.  There are 8 tent sites at Nydia Bay and because there is only boat access or people on foot or bike, you will feel a lot more isolated without vehicles nearby. The campsite is on one side of the bay and Nydia Lodge is opposite. The bookable DOC lodge is particularly popular with school groups who have the chance to get away from the rigors of school life for a bit of time in the outdoors. Sounds good?  Sounds great!

The view into Nydia Bay from the Kaiuma Saddle

If the weather is favourable a paddle out of Nydia Bay to scenic Pipi Beach on the Hikapu Reach is on the cards. Pipi Beach is a great place to stooge around in the kayak and explore on shore and watch the boat traffic coming and going from Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds. There are four camp sites at Pipi Beach and it is at the heart of what it means to get away in the Sounds.

A return paddle north across Nydia Bay to Jacobs Bay will put you in a good place to get back to Elaine Bay the following day.

DOC manages about 40 camping opportunities in the Marlborough Sounds – many not accessible by road.  Much of the information about accessing these facilities is available on the DOC website, and Visitor Centres or i-Sites at Picton and Nelson can provide advice in person if you are looking for a bit of time on the water.

The drive

On the road again...

New Zealand music festivals and summer; it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Once Christmas is over, kiwi boys and girls across the country will be packing their perfect summer outfits, discussing music and snack options, and double checking they’ve got their tickets before heading to various festival locations to bring in the New Year. Whether they’re On the road again, going on their first Roady, or just enjoying The Ride, music lovers will use this time to plan, prepare for, and analyse what will be happening over the course of their summer holiday.

Here are some insider suggestions for those looking to dilute the sometimes heady mix of New Year vino and vibes with something more soothing for the soul.

Just what the doctor ordered...

Getting to Gizzy is not an easy journey. It can be a long, hot drive so stopping for breaks is important. If you’re coming from Napier, grab an ice-cream in Nuhaka and stop at the near-by Morere Hot Springs Reserve (about 40 minutes before Gisborne). Along with a relaxing spa, you can take a 20 minute shaded bush walk through the nikau palms, get your palm read, or buy a $3 healing stone necklace. Bargain! If you’re coming from Opotiki, the Waioeka Gorge has seven stops along the way, with an historical story at each. Make sure you pull over at the Monument swimming hole—it’s a lifesaver when the East Coast sun starts cranking up.

Cooks Cove Walkway


If Gisborne’s feeling a little crowded and you’re looking for a break, pack a picnic, a good sunhat and your togs and drive around the coast to Tologa Bay and the Cooks Cove Walkway. This track goes through farm land and is easy to complete, while still being a decent workout. From the top, the surrounding water is an electric dream blue and shines so bright, and once you reach the bottom you can swim, eat and play in the beautiful Cooks Cove bay.

When you get back to the car, you’ll be ready for another swim and an icecream; luckily, both the dairy and the Tolaga Bay wharf (which is super-fun to jump off) are just around the corner.

Makaretu Scenic Reserve (Rere rock slide and the Champagne pools)

Good old fashioned fun on the Rere rockslide

Often referred to as one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets, the Rere falls are both beautiful and entertaining. They are 50 kilometres out of Gisborne, on the Wharekopae road. You’ll need a boogie board, a rubber tube or something sturdy and inflatable. This natural waterslide is for the brave; you may need to mentally project positive all day to prepare, but after you’ve been down once, you’ll be running back up to the top again and again. If you’re feeling “blasé blasé from last night’s party”, then further down the road are the more tranquil Champagne pools. These are sun-heated, naturally formed rock pools that are perfect for relaxing and swimming in.

The Okitu Scenic Reserve Track and hill

Keep on pushing till you reach the top

Okitu Hill is one of the best places in Gizzy to watch the sunrise from. If you want to head away from town’s main beach, hit State Highway 35 for five minutes until you reach Okitu just past Wainui. There’s parking at the end of Moana Road. The climb to the top is sharp but short—the view is amazing, the kind that reminds you it’s a brand new day today. Over the road, the Reserve has a little track that takes you through a nice 20–30 minute walk in a bush that was developed especially to teach kiddies about bio-diversity and conservation. After that, take a ‘Wainui shower’ and cool off in the sea. This beach is best before the breeze arrives around midday.

Extend the holiday

Stopping for a scenic break on the Waikaremoana Great Walk

For those that plan on making a ‘do more exercise’ resolution, why not add a few days to the trip and do the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk. This takes three days, with five huts and campgrounds (complete with hot showers) along the way. While walking, you can catch up on all the New Years Eve gossip and unwind together, taking in the clean, clear, crisp scenery.

A pearler

If you’re after some relaxation and a great sunbathing spot, the Anaura Bay campground is like an endless summer haze. At only $15 a night, this place is a treat. You can even bring your dog.