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October 2020 Issue
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DOC’s best campgrounds

Getting to Whakahoa Bay, inaccessible by car, is half the adventure. Photo: Matthew Cattin

DOC rangers help Wilderness rank the best conservation campgrounds in the country.

Waikahoa Bay, Northland

Located right on the water’s edge, campers can enjoy the secluded beach by day and fall asleep surrounded by kiwi calls at night. “It’s a picture-perfect calm beach with very limited camping numbers, surrounded by some of the best coastline in the world,” says DOC’s Abby Monteith. “You have to walk or boat your gear in, so getting there is half the adventure.”

Port Jackson, Coromandel

Few visitors bother to visit Coromandel’s northernmost tip, which likely suits its regular campers just fine. The long crescent of Port Jackson will excite any beach-lover, and boaties will appreciate its proximity to Great Barrier Island.

Kawakawa Bay, Taupō

Not to be confused with Auckland’s Kawakawa Bay, this hidden gem at Lake Taupō is a popular destination for climbers, who scale the sheer routes behind the bay. “It’s a gentle two-hour walk in, or you can hire a boat,” DOC’s Casey Spearin says. “It’s an epic spot if you like a bit of climbing.” The campground is 50m from the shore, and facilities are basic.

Holdsworth Campsite, Wellington

The unofficial base camp for the Tararua Range, Holdsworth Campsite is one of NZ’s best, says DOC’s Herb Christophers: “At the foothills of the Tararuas and the quickest way to the tops, the campground offers a great launching pad for multiple adventures. The expansive campground can take many people yet feel quite empty, and the short walk to Donnelly Flats is a masterclass in forest ecology.”

Kenepuru Head, Marlborough Sounds

Isolated at the fingertip of Kenepuru Sound, Kenepuru Head provides quiet camping year round in the heart of Marlborough. Trampers can enjoy stretching their legs on the nearby Queen Charlotte Track or climbing Mt Stokes, Marlborough Sounds’ highest peak. Boaties can launch from the beach at high tide.

Kohaihai Campsite, West Coast

If you can deal with sandflies, Kohaihai Campsite is one of the West Coast’s best. Sitting right at the mouth of the Kohaihai River, the site offers freshwater, saltwater and native bush adventures. “You’re right next to the entrance to the Heaphy Track, so nice day walks or a wee coastal jaunt are right there for you,” DOC’s Jose Watson says.

Gillespies Beach, West Coast

A favourite escape for those in the know, Gillespies Beach is a place to blow out the cobwebs, play amongst the endless driftwood and look on in awe at the Southern Alps. Though the water may be too brisk to enjoy, five easy walking tracks show off the area’s reflective lagoons, seal colonies and native flora – and it’s hard to argue with the $8 camp fees.

Purakaunui Bay, Catlins

One of the South Island’s most dramatic beaches, the stunning Purakaunui Bay is a bucket list campsite for any Kiwi. “It has amazing cliffs and rock formations, and you could easily spend a day rock scrambling and tide pool gazing,” DOC’s Casey Spearin says. If visitors tire of the surf, it’s a short drive to Jack’s Blowhole Track and Purakaunui Falls.