Monday, March 15, 2010

What's Up DOC?

Our visit to Authur's Pass included an introduction to New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) Campsites.  We had yet to find the brochure that listed all of the South Island's Conservation Campsites, so we called in at the National Park's Visitor Center to find out what our local options were.  We learned that we had three choices for the night.
The first, Avalanche Creek Shelter,was conveniently located just across the road and it included toilets and water.  Unfortunately, across the road also meant on the road.  Granted, there wasn't a lot of space with the river, road and rail track running through the narrow pass, but we were disappointed with what appeared to be a large parking lot.  We had envisioned camping in a more natural setting, so we headed down stream to check out our second option.  The setting at Greyneys was a bit better.  It was located in a forested area, but once again it was directly on State Highway 73.  Needless to say, we continued the couple more kilometers to Klodyke Corner.  Here we found a large open campsite that seems to be typical in New Zealand.  The campground, which is located near the junction of the Bealey and Waimakairiri Rivers, consists of a large flat field--which on our visit had been recently mowed.  We were a bit confused and unsure if the mowed area was for caravan or for tents.  At that point we were the only visitors so we had to take a guess.  We ended up playing it safe and followed a light vehicle trail to a remote corner next to the forest.  Our decision provided us with a secluded camping spot that had magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.
As afternoon turned to evening more campers pulled into the camping area.  Like us, many of them seemed unsure of what to do.  A couple of the large vans just pulled over on the side of the road.  A small group of cyclists pulled in, and they headed towards the tree line.
On our subsequent visits to DOC campsites, which unfortunately are not located at all national parks, we learned the etiquette of camping in New Zealand.  Typically, campers are to line the perimeter of the large open area.  We were never in a packed campground, so we never learned if once the outer edge is full if the inner area would be used for camping as well.
Over all our experiences at New Zealand DOC campsites were enjoyable.  We only wished that in a country with so many National Forest there could have been more public campsites.  The several sites that we stayed at offered clean basic facilities for a small fee--we didn't visit any of the full serviced sites.  Most of the locations easily accessible and in a more natural setting.  For those planning a camping trip across New Zealand the Conservation Campsite Brochure is an invaluable tool.


  1. I wouldn't fancy being woken in the middle of the night with something trying to break into my vehicle. We had a bear shuffling around our tent when we camped in the west coast USA!

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  3. Quickroute, I normally would have been terrified, but knowing that NZ has a limited number of predators--pretty much none--I didn't get too worried. Back in New Mexico I used to worry about bear all the time. Fortunately only have had bear encounters on the trail, and none at the campsite.

  4. It was probably a possum. I took a look at the DOC listing to see if we had stayed in any but we did not. I think we stayed in the more formal caravan parks. We didn't have a camper van so we liked staying in the parks with cottages and kitchen facilities.

    I am enjoying your posts and virtually traveling back to the South Island with you. It sounds like a great trip.