Where are the best campsites on New Zealand’s Great Walks? Wilderness twists the arms of local DOC rangers to find out.
Best campsite: Tieke Kainga
Location: Normally the final night’s sleep before completing this three to five-day epic
Why it’s the best: Tieke was one of the many old pa on the Whanganui River and it’s this cultural link that makes it a standout: “Tieke Kainga is a real highlight – it’s the only spot on any Great Walk where you will be welcomed with a powhiri,” says Les Judd from DOC Whanganui
Best campsite: Korokoro
Location: Night two or three, whether walking clockwise or anticlockwise
Why it’s the best: It really is a case of location, location, location. “Just a few metres away is a white sandy beach which captures the morning sun,” says Brown Elia from DOC Te Urewera. “Above the Whareama Peninsula, you can see a fantastic view of Panekire. It’s also just a 35-minute walk to Korokoro Falls.”
Tongariro Northern Circuit
Best campsite: Oturere
Location: If heading clockwise, this site is most likely where you’ll rest your head after the day of the Alpine Crossing
Why it’s the best: “Oturere offers campers the most spectacular sunrises where rock, dracophylum and tussocks glow red,” says Boyd Goodwin a hut ranger at Tongariro National Park.
Best campsite: Heaphy Hut
Location: The first evening from the Karamea end or the last evening from Golden Bay
Why it’s the best: “Nestled among nikau palms adjacent to the hut and buried Maori pa, it offers a peaceful setting with views across the bush-fringed Lagoon to the Tasman Sea – ideal for those special holiday sunsets,” Mal Hansen, Karamea Field Base
Abel Tasman Coast Track
Best campsite: Mosquito Bay
Location: This remote spot is accessed by kayak and is reached on the first or second day if coming from the south.
Why it’s the best: “This is an isolated, boat access-only, sea kayaker’s camp in a small and well sheltered cove,” says Bill Franklin from DOC Motueka. Added bonus: The bay is situated right on the edge of the Tonga Island Marine Reserve with great snorkelling and seals a short paddle away.
Best campsite: Iris Burn
Location: Virtually the halfway point on this 3-4 day loop track
Why it’s the best: “Situated beside the creek on grassy flats, campers can enjoy watching whio swim past under the watchful eye of Spire Peak,” says ranger Pania Dalley from Te Anau.
Best campsite: Routeburn Flats
Location: Just two hours from the Glenorchy end of the track
Why it’s the best: “It has to rate as one of the most stunning views that the Great Walks have to offer,” says senior ranger Richard Kennett from Glenorchy Field Base. “The North Branch of the Routeburn lies to the north with the imposing Mt Somnus dominating the skyline. The Routeburn Falls drop to the valley floor from the west.”
Rakiura Coast Track
Best campsite: Maori Beach
Location: Two-three hours from the start if heading anti-clockwise
Why it’s the best: “It’s on a beautiful part of the coastline and on an area of historical significance; there was a school and village there in the early European days, “ says Phred Dobbins, DOC Rakiura. “You’ll definitely hear kiwi and it’s relatively secluded – not many people camp there because Port William Hut is just a little further on.”
Nope, the Milford Track does not have any campsites so we couldn’t include it.