KIWIS HEAD TO THE HILLS 1000 750 The Flyer Magazine

Kiwis head


A combination of travel lockdown restrictions and the push to get out and explore your own backyard is expected to bring an influx of Kiwi campers to the Wakatipu this summer.

It’s all great news for local businesses, especially those associated with the outdoors and stocking up on food and camping supplies.

The country’s weather experts are predicting a sticky, humid summer, muggier than usual with above-average temperatures as La Niña conditions arrive. Predictions from the Niwa National Climate Centre are that we could be in for a similar summer to that of the record-breaking 2017-18.

Getting out amongst it this summer.

As Kiwis are planning to head for the hills in their droves this summer, Department of Conservation staff are getting ready to ensure they stay safe and have fantastic experiences in the outdoors. They’re urging people to plan ahead and book early for DOC huts and campsites where bookings are taken, especially for the Christmas-New Year period and any long weekends. All local DOC facilities are expected to be busy this summer, says DOC Wakatipu operations manager Geoff Owen.

There’s been a real flurry of interest in camping all over the country, despite the international border restrictions and a shorter season locally due to storm damage in February. Looming lockdowns, Covid concerns and budget constraints amid mass job losses all appear to have turned people back to the good old basics of a cheap, Kiwi family camping holiday.

It may not be the dream run for 2020 ‘screenagers’ – teenagers and tweens, who will be forced to separate from social media and mobile phones, off the grid and out of range. However, the moans and protests will likely be forgotten quickly as families hit the popular river and lakeside camping spots for some quality outdoor R & R bonding time.

With many job losses locally due to the Covid crisis, camping offers an affordable family getaway with most of the main, popular DOC camping sites locally costing only $15 a night for adults, half that for five to 17-year-olds and nothing for pre-schoolers. The Diamond Lake site at Paradise is only $8 an adult and half that for a child.

The Twelve Mile camping ground on the way to Glenorchy is hugely popular with 100 camp sites, as is Moke Lake with its 50 main sites, says Geoff.

For the more adventurous who have access to a four-wheel drive vehicle, there’s always an overland to the Macetown or Skippers camp sites. “There are also some nice spots at the top of Lake Hawea, like Kidds Bush, and the Boundary Creek reserve or Cameron Flat site towards Makarora,” he says. For first-time campers should expect simple, basic facilities at most DOC campsites and be prepared to bring their own home comforts, as well as extra hygiene items such as hand sanitiser.

DOC sites only have pit, but sometimes flush, toilets and a water supply, but there’s no power. DOC rangers will be out checking that people have paid, whether sites can be booked online or rely on an honesty box system, keeping sites clean and providing information.  Anybody not used to the outdoors needs to bring plenty of food and water, warm clothes and have a good waterproof tent that’ll handle the winds too, says Geoff. “There’s no guarantee of mobile phone reception on most of our sites. It’s the wilderness but not too far away from town.” However, he says the rewards keep families coming back year after year. “It’s fantastic to see more New Zealanders than ever, taking time in nature and connecting with their world-famous great outdoors.”

Nationally, summer bookings are also up nine percent for the country’s Great Walks, which include the ever popular Routeburn and Milford tracks locally. DOC’s opened an additional 43 campsites and eight huts to online bookings around the country in time for the summer holidays too.

All spaces on the Milford Track were snapped up by Kiwis within an hour when bookings for this summer opened up and Geoff says the Routeburn Track also saw a flurry of bookings, particularly for the peak Christmas-New Year period.

Lakeview Holiday Park in Queenstown is expecting a last minute rush of eager Kiwi campers booking too with the focus off international visitors for now due to the border restrictions. Manager Peter Coppens says Kiwi bookings for camp sites were looking a bit lighter for the peak summer period but he was expecting a late surge with many people hanging off to book in case of further Covid restrictions. If the last school holidays are any indication though Peter says it’ll be extremely busy.

Click here for more information on Responsible Camping and maps detailing where you can and can’t camp.

This summer the district council has eight Responsible Camping Ambassadors roaming the district as the friendly faces of responsible camping – four in the Wakatipu and four in Upper Clutha.

Signage and information boards are in place to ensure campers are aware of where they can and can’t camp, with clear details on what constitutes a self-contained vehicle.


1. Ensure your vehicle is certified self-contained
2. Always use the provided toilets (or your own)
3. Use a designated wastewater dump station for your sewage sink water
4.Use your own facilities for bathing, washing and toileting to keep our environment clean and pollution free
5. Dispose of your rubbish and recycling in the bins provided or at the transfer stations
6. Always park in the areas specifically designated for your type of vehicles