Great Summer Camping Spots
As the temperatures start to rise over summer; it’s easy to keep cool in campsites by streams and rivers across the country. Swim, paddle or fish in fresh water and soak up the natural beauty around you.
These three DOC campsites are our picks for great summer camping spots that will get you out and about in some of the most beautiful parts of the country without the crowds. As an added bonus you’ll be able to explore some interesting geological features and connect with some of New Zealand’s fascinating historic sites.
Ohinepane Campsite, Taumarunui (TD #4065)
Here’s a chance to have a taste of a Great Walk experience without having to lug a pack on your back. The campsite is one of four road access points to the Whanganui Journey Great Walk. This means it can occasionally be busy during the Great Walk season (1 October – 30 April) as you share the campground with canoeists starting out on the 145km trip from Taumarunui to Pipiriki.
This is an ideal location to explore the historic Whanganui river, fall asleep to the sound of the flowing river and wake up to the dawn chorus first thing in the morning. Accessible by car and campervan, Ohinepane has 36 non-powered sites available year-round.
Ohinepane is a remote campsite on the banks of the Whanganui river and in a forest setting of rata, rewarewa, rimu, tawa, and kowhai trees. It’s a great place to simply relax and enjoy the river while you look and listen for kereru, tui and fantail.
The campsite offers a great swimming spot in summer along the river. A few kilometres up SH43 towards Taumarunui, you can enjoy Te Maire Loop Track – a two hour walk that’s suitable for people of all ages and abilities.
Te Maire Reserve is a fine example of podocarp forest and is also home to an array of native birds (robins, kereru, grey warbler, shining cuckoo and long-tailed cuckoo), skinks, geckoes, invertebrates and freshwater insects. Dogs are welcome at this campsite but must be kept on a leash at all times. You’ll understand why when you hear the sounds of brown kiwi at night.
This campsite is located on the Whanganui River Road, on SH43, which is also known as the Forgotten World Highway, one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand. The nearest town is Taumarunui (21kms).
Kiriwhakapapa Campsite, Wairarapa (TD #4997)
Located in the pristine Tararua Forest Park, this pretty and intimate campsite is beside lovely Reef Creek and a majestic redwood forest. Old logging tracks in the surrounding area provide a great way to explore this part of the park. Accessible by campervan, car and caravan, the campsite provides a shelter for cooking and has a flush toilet.
Nature and conservation
The forest is home to many native birds, just to name a few: rifleman, kereru, tui, kaka and kakariki. You can also find longfin eel if you are lucky in the nearby stream. This variety of eel is one of the largest in the world – growing up to two metres long – and is only found in New Zealand.
Nestled on the edge of the forest park, there are several walks and tramps that start from the campsite. The one-hour Kiriwhakapapa Loop Walk takes you through regenerated redwood forest, surrounded by beautiful birdsong, and reconnects with the old bush tramline. Mikimiki Tram Track travels from Kiriwhakapapa along an historic logging track, climbs over a saddle and reconnects with another logging trail and leads to the Mikimiki road end. This tramline track is also a grade 4 mountain bike track, for advanced riders. Alternatively, challenge yourself to a steep climb up to the distinctively characteristic Blue Range Hut. Despite the steep climb (two to three hours one way), the breath-taking view at the top of the hill is totally worth it.
Turn off SH2, 15kms north of Masterton, onto Kiriwhakapapa Rd, and travel 7kms to the road end. Note: this includes 5kms of gravel road.
Waiohine Gorge Campsite, Wairarapa (TD #5033)
This secluded campsite is at the top of the spectacular Waiohine Gorge and is excellent for swimming, canoeing, tubing, kayaking, and fishing. Many walking options are available that are suitable for all ages. Waiohine Gorge campsite has easy access, is self-contained with two toilets and the impressive swing bridge – at 124 metres long and 40 metres high – is very popular with kids. It forms a gateway to the Tararua Forest Park.
Nature and conservation
The Waiohine Faulted Terraces are one of the most famous geological features in New Zealand, marking the movement of the West Wairarapa fault over the last 35,000 years. They are partially protected in a scientific reserve on the southeast margin of the Tararua Forest Park.
The campsite is located in the spectacular native podocarp forest. Rata are visible from the road and are amazing during summer. Birds can be seen and you can be awoken by beautiful birdsong from rifleman, kereru, tui, kaka and kakariki.
The ‘southern’ subspecies of the short-tailed bat are also present and of great significance, because the Tararua Range is the only North Island location recorded for this subspecies. Check out the riverside cliffs below the bridge which contains unique flora, if the weather is good.
One track leads from the bridge towards Totara Flats (four to five hours) takes you through some beautiful native bush, including nikau palms and to a setting where the Waiohine River meets Tatara Creek. Take advantage of the excellent swimming hole right in front of the hut.
Another track leads up steeply toward Cone Saddle and the historic Cone Hut (three to four hours). Built in 1946, and restored in the early 1990s, using local totara timbers, with the same construction method, adzed into framing and split into slab walls. It is one of the best surviving examples of a ‘slab hut’ in New Zealand.
From Carterton drive through Matarawa. Follow Moffats Rd, Joseph Rd, then Waiohine Gorge Rd to the end. This road is gravel, narrow and winding in places with two forded stream crossings – drive carefully.