Kaweka Flats Bivouac
Kaweka Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay
In country as precipitous and rugged as the Kaweka Range, there are limited options for family tramping. Happily, one accessible option suitable for school-age children is the track to Kaweka Flats Bivouac. The biv occupies a grassy clearing among manuka, overlooking the craggy main Kaweka Range. Reached after a fairly easy two-hour walk. The track passes through surprisingly lush forest and fords a couple of small streams. The only harder section is the final short climb slope to where the flats proper begin.
The biv has space for three at a squeeze and nice camping spots nearby for larger parties. Kids might enjoy a side-trip to visit the nearby Iron Whare – the oldest hut in the range – which dates back the 1870s, when hardy musterers used to graze sheep in the range. – Shaun Barnett
Access Makahu Saddle, Whittle Road (65km from Napier) Grade Easy-moderate Time 2hr each way
Peach Cove Hut
Old volcanoes often make spectacular places to tramp; nowhere more so than Bream Head, near the mouth of Whangarei Harbour. Monolithic basalt towers rise above verdant forest, with sandy beaches interspersing the seacliffs. Peach Cove is one such bay, lying on the southern side of the headland, and reached on a recently upgraded family-friendly track. The gravelled and benched track climbs steadily through regenerating forest onto the ridge crest, then heads west for 20 minutes, before a steep descent down a series of wooden stairs to the secluded Peach Cove Hut. From the hut, a track leads to the sea, where kids will enjoy swimming or playing in the sand. They’ll also be intrigued by a large pohutukawa growing atop a giant boulder nearby. – SB
Access Ocean Beach Road, Whangarei Heads Grade Easy Time 1.5-2hr each way
Ruahine Forest Park
The track to Rangiwahia Hut provides one of the most accessible routes onto the tops in the North Islandranges. Along with Sunrise Hut Track, it’s one of the Ruahine’s best overnight family tramps. This two-day loop follows a well-benched track through beech forest. Higher up, fine stands of mountain cedar make an appearance. Rangiwahia Hut offers expansive views across to Mts Taranaki and Ruapehu.
Beyond, a poled route along the tops of the Whanahuia Range leads to the summit of Mangahuia (1583m), where the Deadmans Track traverses an adjacent ridge to finish back at the car park. While the exposed tops are no place to take young trampers during poor weather, on a sunny day it makes a fine romp over undulating tops with a smattering of tarns. – SB
Access Renfrew Road Grade Easy-moderate Time To Rangiwahia Hut, 2hr; Rangiwahia Hut to Renfrew Road via Deadmans Track, 5-6hr
Egmont National Park
Three roads penetrate the interior of Egmont National Park, providing access to plenty of tracks. One of the best family-friendly options is the round-trip to Maketawa Hut. Beginning from the North Egmont Visitor Centre, take the North Egmont Summit Track, which follows the 4WD access route to the Tahurangi TV tower. After 60-90 minutes, the track reaches a signposted junction, where a wooden seat provides excellent views of the mountain. From there, the track descends through stunted forest to Maketawa Hut. The following day, take the Maketawa Track through moss-wreathed goblin forest. Tell the kids they’re in Mirkwood. – SB
Access North Egmont Visitor Centre Grade Easy Time 1.5-2hr each way
East Harbour Regional Park, Wellington
This delightful picnic and camping spot has drawn Wellington walkers for generations and provides a retreat into a secluded wee valley dominated by beech forest. Kowhai Track is the most accessible of several that lead into Butterfly Creek.
Beginning from Eastbourne township, the well-graded track climbs steadily onto bush-covered ridges, with views over the harbour and its islands. A short descent leads to the junction with the Mackenzie Track, then it’s an easy stroll through mature forest to a footbridge across Butterfly Creek.
On a sunny summer’s weekend, you can have a picnic lunch and swim at Days Bay, walk into the camping area to stay overnight, then be home again by midday. – SB
Access From Kowhai St (off Muritai Road), Eastbourne Grade Easy Time 1-1.5hr
Kaitoke to Holdsworth Lodge
Tararua Forest Park
The eastern Tararua valleys offer sheltered tramping through fine bush, with a smattering of huts, excellent camping and plenty of swimming holes. During a hot summer, this route makes an ideal family tramp.
Beginning on the Kaitoke side, the track climbs steadily through regenerating bush before descending to the pleasantly shady Smith Creek. Smith Creek Shelter is rather unappealing, but a myriad of good camping spots exist on flats in the nearby Tauherenikau Valley. A few hours’ tramp up-valley leads to the well-appointed Tutuwai Hut, while 90 minutes beyond is the historic Cone Hut, a rustic slab hut that gives a taste of old New Zealand.
From Cone Hut, a track climbs to Cone Saddle and descends to the Waiohine Valley, another fine river with camping spots and a large, comfortable modern hut at Totara Flats. From here, a track climbs up Totara Creek to Gentle Annie Track and the route to Holdsworth Lodge. – SB
Access Kiwi Ranch Road end or Mt Holdsworth Road end (return transport required) Grade Moderate Time 3 days
Mt Somers Track
Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury
Unlike most of the greywacke-dominated Canterbury Alps and foothills, Mt Somers comprises rhyolitic basalt – reflecting its origins as a volcano. The Mt Somers Track encircles the mountain, with two huts en route. Kids will enjoy the variety on this tramp; bush, waterfalls, tops, caves and rivers.
From Flynns Road entrance, the track climbs through beech forest in the Bowyers Valley to reach Pinnacles Hut, set beneath the steep volcanic columns of Mt Somers. Beyond, the track climbs over a saddle, past waterfalls, before descending to Woolshed Creek Hut. The final day traverses the western and southern flanks of Mt Somers back to Flynns Road, with a side-trip to the summit of Mt Somers (1688m) possible en route. – SB
Access Flynns Road, Staveley Grade Moderate Time 3 days
Lewis Pass Tops
Lewis Pass National Reserve
The Lewis Pass area offers a variety of excellent family trips but you can’t go past the easily accessible Lewis Pass tops for an introductory above the bush-line experience. A good track, easy tussock tops, a multitude of tarns to camp by and peaks to scramble up provide something for all families no matter how old the kids are.
It’s only a 400m climb to bush-line where a poled route leads to the first high point along the ridge. Here it is gloriously easy walking along a flattish ridge dotted with tarns. For families with young kids, or for those who are new to tramping, these tarns are an excellent overnight destination as campsites and natural playgrounds are abundant amongst the tarns and tussock.
There are lots of choices for families with older children too. If the weather is good and the parents experienced, an unmarked route leads along the ridge to Brass Monkey Biv and down to the Lake Christabel and Rough Creek tracks. – Jo Stilwell
Access Opposite the St James Walkway car park at Lewis Pass Grade Easy-moderate Time 2-3hr to the tarns
Three Mile Pack Track-Okarito Coastal Walk
This walk from the small settlement of Okarito provides some of the best coastal, lagoon, mountain and forest views available on the West Coast.
The route follows a well-graded old gold-miners’ pack track south from Okarito through beautiful rimu and rata forest to the tranquil lagoon at Three Mile. With a boardwalk, a large bridge and coastal boulders adding variety to the pristine lowland podocarp forest, there is plenty to keep children amused. On a clear day, take a detour to Okarito Trig for superb views across the forest to the Southern Alps. Although there is no track beyond Three Mile Bridge, more adventurous families can walk the beach to Blanchards Bluff where a large sand dune provides the perfect location for a game of ‘Go-home, stay-home’. You may also spot penguins and seals here, and if you can brave the sandflies, it’s a great place for an overnight camp for a real West Coast wilderness experience.
Before setting off, check the tide timetable if you’re planning on walking the coastline back from Three Mile – it’s only possible two hours either side of low tide. – JS
Access Track starts at car park by Okarito School House Grade Easy Time 3 ½ hours Okarito – Three Mile return
Lake Peel Loop
Kahurangi National Park
The Mt Arthur Tablelands area of Kahurangi National Park is deservedly busy over summer. While Mt Arthur Hut and Salisbury Lodge are popular destinations for families, if you want to explore further afield and avoid the crowds, consider heading to Lake Peel.
Most families with young children will want to take two days to get there but between the novel rock shelters, Balloon Hut and endless campsite opportunities you won’t have any trouble finding somewhere to stay along the way. The lake sits in a cirque on the Peel Range above the Cobb Reservoir and excellent swimming awaits brave kids.
Return via the Bullock Track and Upper Takaka Track, once again camping along the way if short legs require short days.
Highlights include the rock shelters, spectacular views of the Arthur Range and the Cobb Reservoir, good birdlife and alpine flowers in summer. The route is well tracked and poled and is an excellent introduction to multi-day tramping. – JS